Great Expectations

Joe Gargery: Ironic Virtue in Great Expectations 8th Grade

Within Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Joe Gargery is presented as the epitome of human compassion and kindness, the moral center of the novel. He is a strange mixture of wisdom, stupidity and generosity, being the most human of all the characters with his strengths and weaknesses, which the readers grasp by reading between the lines of Pip’s description, Joe’s own actions and his interactions. ‘Joe’ is a common name, and Dickens’ clever play with nomenclature instantly makes us see Joe as a short, simple and common man. Dickens’ has presented Joe as a paradox, ‘a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness’, having a gentle nature that contradicts the toughness the blacksmith requires for his job. He is described as physically strong, nevertheless, we are made to see how he suffers through his wife’s physical abuse.

Joe’s manner of speaking indicates his slow brain and illiteracy, calling epileptic fits ‘purple leptic’ and taking time with his speech. His dullness and stupidity is apparent when he keeps talking, stunned by the disappearance of Pip’s bread, staring at him in ‘wonder and consternation’. However, the fact that he is aware that Mrs. Joe won’t be happy if he becomes a scholar for fear he might rise,...

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