English / 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?

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:  anton  30 March 2011
Tags:  Expectations,  Relationship,  Between
Words: 3646   |   Pages: 15
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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

weakness.”

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,

“…dropped

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 that society dictated how a persons life should be conducted, but it has always been evident that Pip would one day want to better himself and explore new horizons, because of the caged childhood he endured. He describes the marshes in such detail because his enclosed lifestyle denies him any access to the outside world;

“the marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I

stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal

line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row

of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed.”

It is therefore, not surprising that such an imprisoned lifestyle would one day provoke him to explore new horizons and become a gentleman. Yet even throughout these turbulent times, Joe remains loyal to Pip’s growing snobbery, who, when asked by Jaggers if he would want any money to compensate his loss of Pip who will go to London to become a gentleman, refused and appeared mortally offended to be offered such money. Biddy’s arrival is also crucial when exploring the character of Joe and the change and development in Pip and Joe’s relationship, because for the first time, Joe is able to share his affection of Pip with someone. The six days that Pip is counting down until he leaves for London are very different for both Pip and Joe. Where Pip is counting down the days until he goes and cannot

wait, Joe is anxious and dreading Pip’s departure. At this point Biddy is a fairly neutral figure, she represents a mid-point between Joe’s views and Pip’s views, although excited for Pip she is concerned that he may become pretentious and arrogant, but she also is optimising the views that people at that time believed you shouldn’t better yourself, with such comments as;

“…but don’t you think you are happier as you

are?”

She represents his old life, and the kind and loving side to Pips character, where Estella is representative of his new self, the arrogant and snobbish Pip. But Estella is almost like a drug to Pip, he feels that he must become a gentleman, unsure of whether it is to spite her or to win her over. However much he wants to ignore it though, he knows that Miss Havisham has destroyed his relationship with Joe and describes her using the particularly effective simile;

“like a destructive missile, and scatter my wits again.”

As the novel progresses we see more evidence that Pip and Joe’s alliance is a mutual, common bond, with such an understanding of each other that not only does Pip rely upon Joe for protection, love and support, but Joe is entirely dependent

upon Pip for his love and friendship because he is so used to people treating him badly. During Christmas dinner, Mr. Pumblechook, Mrs. Joe and the other guests are cold and spiteful towards Pip and more importantly towards Joe. This emphasizes the fact that they are “fellow suffers”. Pip had earlier stolen a pork pie, from the pantry after being forced to give it to the escaped convict, Magwitch, whom he met in chapter one. When he returns to the graveyard to give it to Magwitch, he feels extremely guilty and refuses to believe it was Joe’s in the first place - he never thought of it as stealing from Joe as he never imagined any of their belongings as his. This is unusual because in the 19th Century, the men dominated the household. During the Christmas dinner, much tension is build up where Mrs. Joe boasts to her guests of this magnificent pork pie. This tension is build up by the use of direct speech and the range of complex and simple sentences.

‘ “You must taste,” said my sister…“you must taste, to finish with, such a delightful and delicious present of Uncle Pumblechook’s!”…

Must they! Let them not hope to taste it!’

The abuse that Joe receives from Mrs. Joe allows us as a reader to feel sympathetic and compassionate towards Joe and therefore makes him a much more likeable character, much like the early, younger Pip. Dickens uses strong metaphors to portray their companionship. A quotation to exemplify this point would be;

“…there was Joe beneath me, charging at the ditches

like a hunter.”

This confirms our ideas of Pip’s young perceptions of Joe, as a hunter has connotations of bravery and strength and proves that Pip really respects Joe. The pathetic fallacy and great deal of description;

“…there was no break in the bleak stillness of the Marshes.”

proves that the views that Pip has of Joe are unending. In light of this, and the fact that Pip is so nasty towards Joe in the later parts of the novel, one must wonder; does Pip’s love of Joe ever really leave him? The cyclical structure of the novel would of course suggest not.

Their relationship takes a slight turn in chapter 7:

“I didn’t see; but I didn’t say so.”

this simple difference of opinion between Pip and Joe, is crucial in observing the turning point in their relationship, because not only is there a difference in their opinions but in their characters also. The symbolism used by Dickens, in many places, uses a strong authorial voice;

“Whether the flower-seeds and bulbs ever wanted of a fine day to break out of those jails and bloom.”

This is clearly indicating that Pip’s life is rather like the flowers; he has been born into a social class and jailed there until he has the ambition to better himself, rather than just letting him grow where he is planted. I feel Dickens is saying to the reader that it is a good thing that Pip is bettering himself and that we should not blame Pip for trying to get a better quality of life.

Right from when Jaggers, explains to Pip hat he has “great expectations” in store for him, we immediately wonder, are these Pip’s expectations that he would have set for himself? Are they Estella’s maybe? One can only speculate. Although Pip reveals that he “had always longed for it”, I feel that this is not true. This certainly upsets Joe and when Pip arrives home he finds that Joe had “locked the front door”. I think this is symbolic of Joe’s feelings, he has locked Pip out when he thinks Pip has always longed to be away from the marshes, and away from him. Pip counts down the days before he leaves for London with excitement and anticipation. He parades around in his new clothes and convinces himself it is “for their delight”, we see much arrogance in Pips character.

“Saturday night”, said I, when we sat at our supper of bread-and-

cheese and beer. “Five more days and then the day before the day!

they’ll soon go.”

He says this without caring at all about the feelings of Biddy and more importantly Joe. This plays on the emotions of the reader and it causes increased dislike of Pip, but when he goes to bed that night he describes it as an “uneasy bed”, one could assume from this that Pip is maybe unhappy about his new life in store for him or maybe that his old life is now the uneasy one, much like the bed. It is difficult to conclude anything about Pips feelings at this point because we see so many juxtaposing and contrasting ideas, however, the juxtaposition of “Biddy and Estella” is extremely clear, as Biddy represents his old life and Estella represents the new, he clearly chooses Estella, and indeed the new life.

The letter received by Pip from Biddy and Joe is a clear device for the reader to differentiate between Pip’s opposing lifestyles. Firstly, the letter is split into two sections - the main letter and the post script. Where the main part of the letter is of a formal tone and a marked contrast to how Biddy would usually converse with Pip, the post script is much more informal, where Joe had deliberately made a last attempt to save their suffering relationship. It is ironic that this comes in the post script because it is almost like an after-thought. This change in tone between the two parts of the letter is also representative of the change in his lifestyle. It is Pip’s reaction to the letter which is so thought-provoking; Pip explains that he has been bound to Joe by “so many ties” which introduces a completely new dimension to their relationship as “ties” has negative connotations of being forced together, and not really having anything in common - completely opposing the mutual relationship of the “fellow sufferers” that we saw so clearly in the earlier parts of the novel. He goes on to use such emotive and hyperbolic language as “mortification” and “disturbance” and says;

“If I could have kept him away by paying

Money, I certainly would have paid money.”

This is not the character which we knew in the early stages of the novel, he seems so obsessed with his new found wealth and prosperity that he feels it is the answer to everything.

When Pip reluctantly allows Joe to visit him, Joe is “stiff from head to foot”. It makes the reader feel extremely uncomfortable when Pip is so judgemental of Joe. From the way he eats his food, the way he wipes his feet, to the way he talks Pip criticizes Joe. Furthermore, when Joe places his hat on the mantle-piece, and it keeps falling down, Pip gets extremely out of temper with Joe. The hat, rather like the post-script of the letter, represents Joes final efforts to save their relationship - each time it falls he catches it and restores it to how it was. Yet eventually the realisation that Pip has changed sets into Joe and he leaves, but not before telling Pip his purpose for being there;

“Miss A., or otherwise Havisham…‘would you tell him, then,’ said she, ‘that which Estella has come home and would be glad to see him.’ ”

This has an artificially positive effect on Pip and Joe’s relationship because Pip realises that if he had have known the purpose of his visit, he should have been nicer towards him. It is here that we can see that Pip knows he is being nasty towards Joe, yet chooses to do nothing about it. When Joe leaves, Dickens uses emotive language to portray the virtually non existent state of their relationship and play on the emotions of the reader:

“he was gone.”

The changes that Pip undergoes and the changes that he makes to his relationship with Joe, seem so much more selfish when we see that he hasn’t adjusted his relationship with Miss. Havisham whatsoever. As a reader we start to question the character of Pip, with such questions as, what has Joe done to him to deserve such treatment? And what has Miss Havisham done to gain his respect? And of course is comes down to materialistic values because, needless to say, it is Miss. Havisham whom Pip suspects to be his benefactor. Here, Pip rapidly looses much of any of the remaining respect the reader would have for him, because after all, Joe has given him much more than Miss. Havisham or indeed his real benefactor ever has - in the form of friendship, protection and love.

When Pip develops a fever towards the end of the novel, he thinks he is hallucinating that Joe is there taking care of him, he thinks he is deluded and is seeing things; even though Joe is actually there. I feel that subconsciously, Pip knows he had been so unbearable to Joe and doesn’t think Joe would be there to take care of him because of this. When he finally discovers that Joe is there taking care of him, he is filled with guilt and remorse and exclaims;

“Don’t be so good to me!”

When Joe replies “you and me was ever friends”, Pip is genuinely grateful to him. The cyclical structure of the novel suggests that they are now back to having their mutual loving relationship and one can assume that the quotation “we both felt happy” suggests Pip is aware of Joe’s feelings once again. Evidently we see that Joe has learned to write; his efforts to write his own name are representational of his efforts to save their relationship, rather like with the hat and the letter, both of which he failed to succeed in - but his success in his writing proves that their relationship is convalescing. While he is writing, he is sitting at Pip’s “own writing-table” which illustrates Joe being finally accepted into Pip’s life again, though still remembering his past by “choosing a pen from the pen tray as if it were a chest of large tools”.

The changes that Pip and Joe suffer, to themselves and indeed to their relationship are very much apparent from the beginning of the novel; the descriptive metaphors not only suggest complications but also because these are dark and brooding images which suggest a miserable and threatening future for them both. This can also be seen through Dickens’ style of writing which is neither poetic nor flowing.

“The weather was miserably raw.”

Whether Pip becoming a gentleman is Dickens’ way of showing Pip’s path to self discovery and for him to discover what he has by almost losing

it first is purely for the reader to speculate, yet Charles Dickens’ authorial voice is at times so strong that we are extremely confident that we are sure of what he is saying. For example;

“So, throughout

life, our worst weakness and meanness are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.”

Here, his subtle and sophisticated change from first person to second person, shows that he is talking to the reader directly, and telling us to learn from Pip’s mistakes. For Charles Dickens, Pip is a functional character to communicate his views on society in the 19th century, and his views of the absurdity of the lack in change between the social classes. Conclusively, we must ask the questions, who was to blame for the change and development to Pip and Joe’s relationship? And where was the turning point in their fellowship? It could have been Pip’s initial visit to Miss. Havisham’s and his first encounter with Estella, after all, it was she who influenced his judgemental views of Joe and encouraged him to be a gentleman. Likewise it could have been as late in the novel as when Jaggers announced that Pip was to become a gentleman, this was the ultimate conclusion to Pips arrogance and determination to become a gentleman. However, one could argue that the turning point in the novel is as early as the first chapter, where Pip meets Magwitch for the first time and agrees to steal from Mrs. Joe and more crucially, from Joe. From these examples, one can deduce that there is not a significannot

turning point in the novel; for it is not definite that Pip ever looses his feelings for Joe. A love so strong for Pip to say

“I loved Joe… because the dear fellow let me love him…”

cannot be lost, just merely masked by Pip’s fascination with Estella and indeed by his new found opulence, which one day will be unveiled to show Pip how much he already had from Joe and how he very nearly lost it.



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