In Great Expectations, Joe is both father and friend to the orphaned Pip. He is protective, shielding Pip from the wrath of Pip's sister, his wife, who rushes at Pip with "Tickler," a switch with which she whips Pip. He carries Pip with him on the marsh, throwing him on top of his broad shoulders; he holds Pip tenderly by the fire as Pip works on his letters, complimenting Pip's efforts. Early in the novel, Joe indicates his tenderness and love for Pip as he relates his meeting of Mrs. Joe:
'When I offered to your sister...to be asked in church, at such times as she was willing and ready to come to the forge, I said to her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless the poor little child,...there's room for him at the forge.'
After this evening with Joe, Pip declares,
Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from that night. We were equals afterward, as we had been before; but afterward, at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.
When he returns from his first visit to Satis House, Pip complains to Joe that he is "common," as Estella has labeled him, and that he wishes he were that common. Disturbed by hearing Pip's words, Joe tells him,
'As to being common, I don't make it out at all clear. You are oncommon in some things. You're oncommon small. Likewise you're a oncommon scholar.'
On the occasion of Pip's being apprenticed to Joe, they go to Satis House together where Miss Havisham, who has requested that Joe bring Pip's indentures with him:
It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview, Joe persisted in addressing me instead of Miss Havisham. It was quite in vain for me to make him sensible that he ought to speak to Miss Havisham. the more I made faces and gestures to him to do it, the more confidential, argumentative, and polite he persisted in being to me.
Joe's behavior in this scene indicates his feelings of inferiority to Miss Havisham. Like a commoner in the presence of royalty, Joe does not directly address Miss Havisham out of respect for her higher social status. Instead, he speaks through Pip. This action also indicates that he perceives Pip as socially higher than he, now.
Joe's integrity, however, is insulted when Miss Havisham implies that he wishes a "premium with the boy." "Cutting me [Pip] short as if he were hurt," Joe responds,
..."which I meantersay that were not a question requiring a answer betwit yourself and me, and which you know the answer to be full 'No.'"
Joe Gargery's love and loyal friendship for Pip know no bounds as he continues to love Pip even when the snobbish Pip neglects him. Rushing to his aid after he is burned, Joe tenderly nurses Pip back to health, mitigating Pip's apologies for his behavior with his signature phrase, "Ever the best of friends, Pip, ol'chap!"