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Great Expectations. How Does The Relationship Between Pip And Joe Change And Develop As The Novel Goes On? What Is Dickens Saying About Society At The Time?

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Autor:   •  March 30, 2011  •  3,646 Words (15 Pages)  •  1,940 Views

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"Great Expectations" is set in Victorian England. It is apparent when we read the novel that Charles Dickens expressed many of his own views when writing the narrative, using a strong authorial voice. This is particularly clear when he addresses certain issues concerning the social and cultural concerns of the time, and through Pip's desire for social change. The development of the relationship between Pip and Joe is crucial in realising the complexity and importance of their relationship because their friendship is affected by many external factors which are beyond the control of the beholders. In order to explore the change and development I must also consider how society inspired Dickens to write such a powerful novel.

Initially, the relationship between Pip and Joe is portrayed as an artificial friendship, combining two people merely because they have one thing in common; they are both 'fellow sufferers' at the hands on Mrs. Joe. Yet Pip's extreme loving views of Joe provoke the reader to start questioning such ideas,

"He was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going,

foolish, dear fellow - a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in


Pips recognition that Joe has strengths as well as weaknesses is further endorsed when he says;

"...can crush a man or pat an eggshell,

In his combination of strength with gentleness."

The complex range of sentences, and the extreme use of pathetic fallacy in the opening chapters are essential to consider when exploring the relationship of Pip and Joe; they suggest that like the description, Pips and Joe's relationship is also very complex and is not based on such a minor reason; that they are forced together by the fact that they are 'fellow sufferers'.

Right from the start of the novel, we see such an effective use of symbolism that when Mrs. Joe serves Pip and Joe some bread for supper, Dickens deliberately illustrates that the two pieces of bread are equal, and that this routine "never varied" is clearly representative of Pip and Joe; even though their relationship undergoes certain changes, the love between them never really alters. Being rather like a child himself, Joe would always join Pip in a game of comparing their slices of bread and how they both ate it. Pip was never judgemental of Joe's immature nature, so the fact that Pip isn't judgemental is crucial in seeing how their relationship changes and develops, because later in the novel, Pip is extremely judgemental of Joe. For example,


so much more than he ate, and pretended that he hadn't dropped it

...I felt impatient with him and out of

temper with him."

unlike when Pip is learning to write and discovers the only thing Joe can read or spell;

"Why, here's a J," said Joe, " and a O equal to anythink! Here's a

J and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."

Here, Pip is patient and kind towards Joe emphasizing the fact that he is respectful and loving towards Joe no matter what at this point. Another example is when he is describing Joe's clothing, although he recognises that they are shabby and worn, it doesn't seem to matter to him.

When Mrs. Joe receives news that Miss. Havisham (an extremely wealthy woman) would like Pip to go and play at her house, the journey from Mrs. Joe's to Miss Havisham's is a symbolic emotional journey which marks a change in Pip's life. He embarks on a journey through life, and from this point he cannot "retrace the by-paths" the he and Joe had "trodden together". When he first arrives at Miss Havishams he sees it as a gloomy and dismal building rather like a prison,

"...which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many

iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those

that remained, all the lower were rustily barred."

This prison-like building is very much emblematic of Pip's life after he enters the building; he will be cut off from Joe, Biddy and indeed his old lifestyle both physically and emotionally. When he returns, he lies to Mrs. Joe, Mr. Pumblechook and most importantly Joe. It is Joe's astounded reaction to these lies that causes us to feel sympathetic towards Joe and causes an increased dislike for Pip. However, we are pleased to see that for the first time in his life he is in control of a situation, and particularly in control of Mrs. Joe, who he has suffered abuse at her hands for so many years. His attitude towards Joe had also changed, from the extreme affection in chapter six, where Joe is described as the only receptor for Pip's love,

"I loved Joe - perhaps for no reason in those early days than

because the dear fellow let me love him."

to a "mere blacksmith" who was the source of Pip's shameful upbringing. It is also the first time in the novel that we see such a strong authorial voice, where Dickens asks us directly as a reader to think if we have ever felt such a change in our own lives.

However much we are prepared to blame Pip for the drastic changes to Pip and Joe's relationship, we cannot ignore the fact that there are many external characters that provoke a course of events which are completely out of the control of both Pip and Joe. Estella and Miss Havisham being the most prominent, as Pip seems to be completely infatuated by Estella and describes her very affectionately as if she was the one thing in his life he had been waiting for;

"But, she answered at last, and

her light came along the dark passage like a star"

but the arrival of Biddy and Jaggers also form a marked contrast between Pip's two contrasting lifestyles. At first, Pip was quite happy, excited even to become a blacksmith. This tells us a lot about how movement between the social classes was rare and


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