The Book Great Expectations was originally a series of short stories shown once a week, before it became the novel we know today, the book was written and set in 1800 by Charles Dickens. The book is set in two main settings, the marshes where Pip grows up and London where he later goes after inheriting his wealth, the main characters of the book are Pip, Joe Gargery and Pips sister Mrs Gargery, we meet more characters as the book goes on such as Estella, Miss Havisham, Jaggers and of course Magwitch, all of these characters in one way or another are linked to Joe and Pip throughout the story.
Pip Comes from a poor background of little wealth and not much property or money to his name, the only thing he has to look forward to at the present time is inheriting the blacksmiths from his father Joe, now Joe isn’t actually Pips father but ever since Pips mother and father died, he has been put into the care of his older sister, Mrs Joe Gargery who has married the blacksmith Joe.
Joe comes from a very poor background, much like Pips in a way, full of torment and misery, his father used to beat his mother as he drank and was drunk most of his life, this made him short tempered and easily frustrated which set him into angry fits in which he would beat his wife, Joe and his mother had a close relationship as she would attempt to take him to school for him to learn things and make something of life.
This didn’t work that often, he and his mother would have to run away in order for this to happen, but his father would usually find out where they were using large groups of people going round and banging on doors until they were found, he would then beat them and take them home.
The reason for Joe’s life being much like Pip’s is that his sister beat him and insults him on a daily basis ‘its bad enough to be a blacksmiths wife without being your mother’, the reason for this contempt is that she is stuck with him and has to be a mother figure to Pip, although Joe puts up with his wife’s violent behaviour because of the way his father treated his mother, and now he fears that if he turns on his wife and stands up to her, he too might become a wife beater and be like his father, which is the one thing he dreads to happen.
Pip feels much closer to Joe after their talk next to the fire, he feels that he can relate to Joe more, as though he is more of a father to Pip than ever before, he also feels that he needs to help Joe educate himself, for him to be able to help Joe learn to read and write would be a marvellous and rewarding experience for himself.
Pip has changed quite a lot by this time, he no longer feels that his life is adequate for his needs, he wants to become a gentleman, to be rich and have the things that wealthy people have, he has this change of mind after visiting Miss Havisham at her manor when he goes to play, this is where we meet Estella who is nasty to Pip and treats him like dirt by saying how poor and rough he looks ‘And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots! ‘ This hurts Pip and makes him feel foolish in the presence of the upper classes.
When he discovers he is going to come into wealth he is astounded, he can’t believe this is happening, that he is going to have the opportunity to become a gentleman, Joe however does react quite the same as Pip, he is in a way upset at the fact that he is going to leave him, and for the forge to become nothing ‘holding his knees tight, as if he had private information’ this clearly shows that he isn’t as happy as Pip, although further on, Joe warms to the idea and begins to spell it out in simple terms for Pip ‘and went on to express so much wonder at the notion of my being a gentleman’.
This is when Pip begins to have second thoughts about his moving to London ‘but as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quite gloomy’ I suspect the reason for this is because he realises he will be leaving all he knows behind. This is the part where Joe wants to come and visit Pip in London, upon first receiving the letter from Joe, instead of being overjoyed he feels quite unsettled about this notion, ‘Let me confess exactly with what feelings I looked forward to Joe’s coming.
Not with pleasure’ The reason for him being uneasy is because I think he has become used to higher standards and the well spoken man, he has in a way forgotten of the loving father like character Joe who speaks in a distinctive way, he is also in a way embarrassed by this, he feels that Joe won’t fit in here, that he will embarrass him.
After a very unsettling meeting with Joe, Pip feels terrible about himself, after making Joe feel unwanted and hurt, Joe leaves as he receives the mental note from Pip about his not fitting in, Pip realises after their meeting just how horrible he has been to this man that has looked out for him since his parents died, feeling horrible, he runs out into the street to attempt to find Joe, he fails and lets Joe go home feeling unloved, hurt and unwanted.
The word gentleman has many meanings but only one of them is the kind of gentleman you would ever want to encounter, throughout the novel Pip assumes that being a gentleman is being rich, having what you want, having people to look down upon. Once he realises how unpleasant he has been, he finally realises that the word ‘gentleman’ means being a ‘gentle’ man, that you are loving, understanding and selfless.
Pip and Joe’s relationship goes in a full circle, from the start the are very close, they understand each others weaknesses, and as the book goes on Pip begins to dissolve that relationship by being nasty and inconsiderate to Joe. At the marshes, Pip and Joe are as close as can be after their heart to heart, this all changes once Pip realises he has his chance to become the so called ‘gentleman’ he’s wanted to be since visiting Miss Havisham and Estella, this is when he becomes ungrateful and embarrassed by Joe, Joe is hurt by this and assumes that him and Pip wont see each other again. This doesn’t happen, after Pips hospital trip, he realises who his real friend has been all along, Joe, he feels awful about his behaviour towards this gentle man and is determined to re-connect with Joe.
Upon going home, Pip has one intention in his mind, leave London, come home, and marry Biddy, once home he finds out that Joe and Buddy are set to marry after his sister has passed away, Pip feels truly gutted by this as he learns his lesson in the most hurtful way, everything he had, was everything that he wanted. We learn that Pip and Joe’s relationship goes through many stages and that the things you think you want, you may not realise that you have right in front of you.
A lot of things have changed since then, especially attitudes towards people and objects, back then people were poor and there was nothing they could do, they didn’t have all the charities that we have today. I feel that Charles Dickens’ books are still effective to us today as show problems that people face today in life, instead of farfetched problems that only book characters would have.