Pip and Joe Gargery have a special relationship. Although Joe is married to his sister, and is therefore a parent figure to him, Pip considers Joe his equal. “I always treated him as a larger species of child, and as no more than my equal.” Joe is a simple, good-hearted man, and Pip views him as a “fellow-sufferer” of Mrs. Joe. Pip’s constant use of the term “by hand” is also revealing. Pip is convinced that Mrs. Joe must have forced Joe to marry her “by hand.” His sister, who is cantankerous and not pretty, seems to have found a spouse who is her complete opposite in both looks and personality. “I had a general impression that she must have made Joe Gargery marry her by hand.”
Pip sees Joe as a slightly older child, one old enough and strong enough to protect him from Mrs. Joe. When Pip returns to the house, Joe warns him his sister is on the “Ram-page” and suggests where Pip should hide. Mrs. Joe is the formidable force in the house. Pip, for example, does not think of taking bread from the house taking from Joe. “I never thought I was going to rob Joe, for I never thought of any of the housekeeping property as his.”
Joe sometimes takes the role of the father; in this chapter, the food bolting episode is a good example of this. When Pip hides his bread, Joe notices it has disappeared very quickly. He thinks Pip has eaten too fast, and he gives Pip a lecture. “You know, old chap,” said Joe, looking at me, and not at Mrs. Joe, with his bite still in his cheek, “I Bolted, myself, when I was your age — frequent — and as a boy I’ve been among a many Bolters; but I never see your Bolting equal yet, Pip, and it’s a mercy you ain’t Bolted dead.” Joe does not want to get Pip in trouble, but in this instance, his concern for Pip overrides his usual tendency to protect him from Mrs. Joe.
The nature of Pip's and Joe Gargery's relationship is one of the protective properties of love.
The orphaned Pip comes to live with the older sister, Mrs. Gargery, who abuses him, both physically and psychologically. Joe tries to shield Pip as much as possible from "Tickler," the instrument with which Mrs. Joe whips both Pip and Joe. He also tries to intervene for Pip if Mrs. Joe's wrath is triggered. Further, Joe offers his love and friendship to the boy, carrying the child on his shoulders after the search for the convicts in an early chapter. In Stage I, Pip explains his feelings for Joe,
I do not recall that I felt any tenderness....in reference to Mrs. Joe....But I loved Joe--perhaps for no better reason in those days than because the dear fellow let me love him....
After Pip attends Biddy's great-aunt's school, he learns his letters and numbers; so, he endeavors to teach Joe. But when Mrs. Joe displays resentment, Joe tells Pip that she fears he will rise above her like a "rebel," so he should not teach him. Pip narrates, "I had a sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart" because he is touched by Joe's kindness. When it becomes time for Pip to be apprenticed, Miss Havisham gives Joe money for Pip and he keeps none, instead handing it to Mrs. Joe. There is little doubt that Joe is devoted to Pip, and is very unselfish.
Joe Gargery is Pip's sister's husband and so, in fact, he is his brother in law. Pip describes him as:
"a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish dear fellow-a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness."
However, in reality, Joe is his foster father and guardian angel and boon companion throughout the novel. One common factor which helps them to bond so closely in spite of the big difference in their ages - Pip's sister is older than him by more than 20 years - is that both of them are always at the receiving end of Mrs. Joe's vicious temper and tantrums. Pip remarks ironically and good humouredly that both of them were "fellow-sufferers," and together they had formed a secret union like the free masons to counter her physical abuse.