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. Three qualities belonging to Joe are
his affectionate nature, pride, and his perseverance.
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 made.
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
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.