Joe Gargery might not be the smartest or wisest of
Dickens' characters, but he is definitely one of the kindest
and most humane. Although Miss Havisham gets much
attention for being different, I think that you will soon be
convinced that Joe, however simple he may be, is definitely
a unique character. It is my opinion that Dickens made an
effort to raise the readers respect for Joe by the sharp
contrast between him and his wife.
belonging to Joe are his affectionate nature, pride, and his
When Joe asks Mrs. Gargery to marry him, he
especially insists that she bring her young orphaned
brother, Pip, to live with them. Joe never reminds Pip of
this fact, except when telling Pip how much he thinks of
him. Mrs. Gargery, on the other hand, is constantly
reminding Pip to be thankful of her "raising him by hand".
At one point, Pip decides he will teach Joe to read.
Although Joe has no real aspiration for this, he humors Pip
and lets the boy instruct him. As mentioned before, Mrs.
Gargery is a very cruel person. One would think living
with her would drive even a saint to kill. Even so, Joe
never says a harsh word about his wife and treats her with
the utmost respect. Pip's decision to go to London has a
greater impact than most readers think. Not only was Joe
losing a set of hands around the forge, but he was also
saying farewell to a boy who must have been like a son to
him. Joe knew that once Pip left they would never have the
same relationship. It was clear to Joe that this was Pip's
dream, so not once did he question the decision Pip had
When Pip is asked to come to Miss Havisham's and
"play", Mrs. Gargery and Pumblechook are driven crazy
wondering what gift she will give Pip for his service. Joe,
on the other hand, pays no attention to their high hopes.
His pride is also evident when he turns down the money
Jaggers offers him for Pip's indentures. It is not that Joe
couldn't use the money, after all he is losing Pip's help in
the forge and his wife is bedridden.
Joe proves to be a man of great perseverance. He
manages to run a smithy, be married to a wife with a
temper that makes a rabid dog seem tame, and be a father
and friend to Pip. To have the responsibility of any one of
these would be enough to put a great deal of stress on any
individual, much less all three.
I think that Dickens might have used Joe in connection
with Biddy to represent the opposite of Miss Havisham
and Estella. Whatever the case, I feel that Joe exhibits the
three qualities mentioned and many other gratifying ones.
Be it today or a century ago, I believe that Joe Gargery is a
unique character because of his philanthropic ways.
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DIRECTORY: CHARLES DICKENS