Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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How does Pip's guilt over stealing for the convict affect his relationship with Joe in Great Expectations?

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Pip's sense of guilt has an adverse effect on his relationship with Joe in these early chapters. Joe has always been very good to him but Pip still feels quite unable to confide in him. During dinner, when Pip feels obliged to secretly store away some food to take to the convict, he is terribly uptight and therefore unable to respond to Joe's usual friendliness. Joe is puzzled by this, and even more by the fact that the food Pip takes is disappearing very fast. He thinks Pip is gorging himself. This  makes for some comedy, but in the main Pip's secret sense of fear and shame dominates these pages. Pip feels even more guilty as he has to steal a file belonging to Joe, at the convict's request.

Shortly afterwards, the family have Christmas dinner, inviting odious Uncle Pumblechook as a guest. Pip feels no easier during this occasion, as he is terrified that the pork pie which he stole part of to give to the convict, will be missed. He is still unable to confide in Joe. His terror rises to a climax when the pork pie is about to be fetched to the table, but at this moment, luckily for him, the local police arrive in their search for the convict, and engage Joe's help. Pip also goes along, but he is still in a state of miserable fear - even although the convict, when he is found, doesn't give him away, but merely remarks that he stole the food and file himself.

So, Pip's awful secret is not revealed, the convict has been apprehended, and he is relieved. However, even now, he is uncomfortable at the thought of telling Joe the whole story and his own part in it. Although he feels no remorse at the thought of stealing from Mrs Joe - his unpleasant, unloving, much older sister - Joe is quite a different matter.

I loved Joe -- perhaps for no better reason in those early days than because the dear fellow let me love him -- and, as to him, my inner self was not so easily composed. It was much upon my mind (particularly when I first saw him looking about for his file) that I ought to tell Joe the whole truth. Yet I did not, and for the reason that I mistrusted that if I did, he would think me worse than I was. (chapter 6)

Pip, then, suffers from a deep feeling of guilt; he thinks Joe will be very disappointed in him if he reveals the whole truth about how he helped the convict. He generally appears as a very insecure child, which is not really surprising as he has no mother or father, and a very unsympathetic sister who is raising him and considers him a burden. Therefore, Pip is not accustomed to confiding in grown-ups, even nice ones like Joe.

It is not until a good many months after his encounter with the convict that Pip starts feeling entirely at ease with Joe again - just before he is whisked off to Miss Havisham's where his life will change forever. 

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