Discuss the Pip-Joe relationship in Great Expectations. What bearing does it have on the theme of the novel?
In terms of the theme of loneliness, Pip and Joe find companionship in each other, against Pip’s sister (Joe’s wife). They are a beleaguered pair, holding on to each other in the face of the physical, verbal, and psychological abuse from Mrs. Joe. She berates them constantly with what she sees as their worthlessness. They both remain strong, however, mainly because of their friendship and father/son-like love for each other.
As for Pip’s search for identity, the underlying thread of the novel is that Pip’s true self, which he mistakenly believes is to be found in London in the life of a gentleman, is ultimately found in his appreciation of Joe Gargery. While he does not end up in partnership with Joe in his blacksmith shop, Pip still must come to terms with Joe’s worth, overcoming the shame he felt when his eyes were turned upon his “great expectations.” Joe’s love for Pip is founded on his love for who Pip is on the inside, not on the outside. Joe does not seek to have power over Pip, but freely lets him go, even at the risk of losing him. It is the strength of their relationship, however, that leads Pip back to where he belongs.