Love, especially as shown through loyalty or sacrifice is an underlying theme in Great Expectations...Show how this is evident in two characters besides Joe from the novel.

Expert Answers
ajmchugh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though Joe's unwavering love for Pip is probably the most glaring example of selfless love, other characters do show love through loyalty and sacrifice int he novel. 

First, we see Miss Havisham as a scorned lover whose past has completely ruined any semblance of a normal existence for her.  She is cynical, emotionally abusive to young Pip, and she has made it her mission in life to exact revenge on men.  However, amidst her crusade for revenge is her adoptive daughter, Estella.  Miss Havisham, we learn late in the novel, took Estella in when she was an infant, and raised her with the intention of teaching her to break men's hearts.  Though readers may not recognize it at first, Miss Havisham does love Estella--greatly.  In teaching her to break men's hearts, Miss Havisham feels that she is protecting Estella from the same pain that she herself endured years before when she was left at the altar by Compeyson. Miss Havisham provides Estella with jewels, travel and educational opportunities, and even men for her to reject.  She is proud of Estella's beauty, and proud of the cold disposition she has taught her.  And though readers can view Miss Havisham's treatment of Estella as abusive, Miss Havisham genuinely does love her adoptive daughter, and through sacrifice (ultimately, Miss Havisham's sacrifice was her own broken heart and subsequent withdraw from society), she tries her best to prevent Estella from experiencing the same life-altering heartache that she experienced. 

More importantly, readers witness Pip's journey through life, from the time he is a small boy to the time he is in his thirties.  A young Pip is abused by his sister, Miss Havisham, and Estella, and the only person he is able to love (and who loves him back) is Joe.  As Pip ages, though, he becomes ashamed of Joe and the forge.  In his quest to become a gentleman, Pip scorns anyone who he perceives is "common," and develops a maddening sense of superiority that stems from his determination to better himself for Estella's sake.  We see Pip reject Joe during Joe's visit to London, and Pip's bad behavior is at its height when Magwitch returns to reveal that he is Pip's secret benefactor.  At the end of Stage 2, Pip is utterly repulsed by the man who so selflessly gave to Pip, and many readers are left to wonder whether Pip is capable of loving anyone except Estella.  However, by the end of the novel, Pip develops a true love and appreciation for Magwitch, and readers understand that it is Magwitch, not Estella, who teaches Pip what love really is.  Pip is with Magwitch when he dies, and his refusal to leave the convict's side is an act of apology and an act of love.  By the end of the novel, Pip has burned many bridges; he cannot return to Joe and the forge, and his future relationship with Estella is not clear.  He can, however, proceed with his life with the knowledge that selfless love does exist and that he himself is capable of experiencing it. 


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Biddy displays great loyalty, respect, and love for Joe Gargery. For instance, in Stage I as Pip anticipates his journey to London, he asks Biddy to assist Joe in his learning and manners.  Biddy mocks Pip' pompous request,

"Oh, his manners!  Won't his manner do, then?"

"My dear Biddy, they do very well her---"

"Oh! the do very well here?" interrupted Biddy...

 Defending Joe, Biddy asks Pip if he has not cosidered that Joe is "proud," and explains,

"pride is not all of one kind--....He may be too proud to let anyone take him out a place that he is competent to fill, and fills well and with respect."

Pip, then, accuses Biddy of being envious and grudging, but she tells Pip,

"If you have the heart to think so...Say so over and over again, if you have the heart to think so.

She later writes a letter to Pip, informing him that Joe is coming to London to visit.  Biddy includes a personal message which demonstrates her feelings for Joe:

I hope and do not doubt it will be agreeable to see him enen though a gentleman, for you had ever a good heart, and he is a worthy man.

After Mrs Joe is injured, Biddy comes to the side of Joe, showing support for him when Pip says that he will visit:

Are you quite sure, then, that you will come to see him often? [Pip has not visited much since going to London]

After Pip heals from his burns, he determines to return to the forge and propose to Biddy, but he learns that he has come on their very wedding day. Pip says,

"Dear have the best husband in the whole couldn't love him better than you do."

"No, I couln't, indeed," said Biddy.

From Joe and Biddy, Pip learns about loyalty and love.  He, then,applies these lessons in his relationships with Herbert and with Magwitch, whom he attempts to save from the hangman's noose, and later, whose pain he seeks to assuage as the old convict lies dying.  For Herbert, Pip has a fondness grown from their friendship.  After he learns that Herbert is in financial distress, Pip tells Miss Havisham that he has a secret partnership with Herbert, who is her relative.  He has money for Herbert to continue, but it is not enough; so, he asks Miss Havisham to nine hundred pounds.  Thus, Pip saves his friend from financial ruin as he can work in a small branch banking house.  When Herbert visits Pip soon thereafter, he reciprocates this love as he offers to hold a position for Pip.  


lit24 | Student

Love, that is genuine love is a synonym for sacrifice, long suffering and patience. Three  characters who display this kind of sacrificial love are:

1. Biddy: After Mrs. Joe Gargery, Pip's sister is knocked down by Orlick and she becomes an invalid  it is Biddy who patiently attends on her and Joe. Biddy moves into Joe's house and takes care of  all of them:

It may have been about a month after my sister's reappearance in the kitchen, when Biddy came to us with a small speckled box containing the whole of her worldly effects, and became a blessing to the household. Above all, she was a blessing to Joe, for the dear old fellow was sadly cut up by the constant contemplation of the wreck of his wife. [Ch.16]

2. Wemmick: Wemmick looks after his aged father with great care, love and affection. He goes out of his way to pamper the old man to the uttermost:

He took the toasting-fork and sausage from me as he spoke, and set forth the Aged's breakfast neatly on a little tray. Previous to placing it before him, he went into the Aged's room with a clean white cloth, and tied the same under the old gentleman's chin, and propped him up, and put his nightcap on one side, and gave him quite a rakish air. Then, he placed his breakfast before him with great care, and said, `All right, ain't you, Aged P.?' To which the cheerful Aged replied, `All right, John, my boy, all right!'

3. Clara: In Ch.46, we read of how Clara's father bullies and harasses her and how he gives her very little to eat while he eats a hearty meal to himself. But nevertheless Clara never complains and looks after her father very affectionately.

Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question