How does Pip's relationship with Joe change in Stage I?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Throughout the narrative of Charles Dicken's Great Expectations, the orphan Pip seeks a father as signified in the opening chapter as Pip forlornly gazes at the graves of his parents. In Joe Gargery Pip does find a friend and ally against the wrath of Mrs. Joe, but he does not really have a father-figure because Joe is too weak, allowing his wife, Pip's sister, to be verbally and physically abusive.

In Stage I, Joe acts much like a big brother, shielding Pip from Tickler, warning Pip not to "bolt" his food as doing so will incur the wrath of Mrs. Joe, carrying Pip on his shoulders as he and the soldiers seek the escaped convicts.  And, when the convict confesses to stealing the pie and dram of liquor, Joe includes Pip in his comment that his wife did miss a pie:  "Don't you know, Pip."

Pip does love Joe "perhaps for no better reason in those days than because the dear fellow let me love him," and he fears losing his "confidence."  So, theirs is a fraternal friendship.  Then, later when Pip is taught his letters by Biddy at her great-aunt's school, Joe demonstrates a paternal pride in Pip, telling the boy he is "an uncommon scholar."  Moreover, when Joe explains why he tolerates the shrewish behavior of his wife and why he does try to be a "scholar" because Mrs. Joe would not want him to be superior,  Pip acquires "a new admiration of Joe":

I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.

Exerting more parental actions, Joe scolds Pip for having lied to Uncle Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe about his first visit to Satis House.  And, when Pip bemoans being "common," Joe encourages Pip by saying that he is "uncommon scholar."  Besides, Joe continues, "you must be a common scholar afore you can be a oncommon one, I should hope!"

However, when Pip is apprenticed to Joe at Miss Havisham's, Pip becomes ashamed of Joe for the first time as Joe acts very strangely, addressing Pip rather than Miss Havisham herself when she questions Joe.  Then, when Pip notices how Miss Havisham looks at Joe, he is mortified by his association with Joe.

Having become dissatisfied with his job as apprentice to Joe and ashamed of his home, Pip eagerly embraces his new opportunity.  But when he looks out his open window that night, he notices Joe smoking his pipe late at night, as though he wanted comforting.  Still, in his embarrassment for his home and his being ashamed of Joe's ignorance, Pip does not invite Joe to accompany him to the stage that will transport him to London.  Instead, he quickly throws his arms around Joe's neck and departs as he perceives Joe waving and cheering.  As he walks, Pip breaks into a sob at his ingratitude although he does not get down from the stage and return home as he feels he should. Instead, he abandons the man he has admired and loved, parting from him with little remorse as one would a mere acquaintance with only a twinge of conscience.

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