Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Joe Gargery Character Analysis

As Mrs. Joe's husband, Joe is a father figure for Pip throughout Pip's childhood and his tender kindness protects Pip from Mrs. Joe's harsh parenting. Joe is the village blacksmith and has no formal education but possesses a deep sense of integrity and an unfailing moral compass. Joe is loyal, generous, and kind, and acts lovingly towards Pip even when Pip's is ungrateful.

Joe Gargery Quotes in Great Expectations

The Great Expectations quotes below are all either spoken by Joe Gargery or refer to Joe Gargery. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Great Expectations published in 2001.
Book 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

"…lies is lies. Howsoever they come, they didn't ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don't you tell no more of ‘em, Pip. That ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap…If you can't get to be uncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked."

Related Characters: Joe Gargery (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip regrets telling a series of lies about his visit to Miss Havisham’s, and eventually confesses what he did to Joe. Joe then reproaches him, pronouncing all lies to be indiscriminately bad.

Joe asserts here a strict and universal ethical framework. He does not differentiate between types of falsehoods as other characters might, but rather claims they are the same “howsoever they come.” Dickens thus casts Joe as the moral center of the novel. Despite his low social status and lack of education, he holds strongly to his principles in a way no member of the middle or upper class ever does. Thus when Pip rejects Joe as he ascends through society, he is also implicitly rejecting these sturdy ethical codes.

These comments prefigure both Pip’s moral decline and his failure to fully assimilate into the upper class. Joe insightfully observes that lying is correlated to Pip’s social ascent, and warns him that this will not be an effective way “to be uncommon.” “Uncommon” means, for Joe, unusual or special, but it also signifies for Pip becoming a member of the elite class instead a commoner. In addition to denying the morality of “going crooked,” Joe also implies that it is an ineffective way of changing one’s social position, particularly with the phrase “you’ll never get to do it.” Thus Dickens subtly equates pragmatism and morality here: whereas for other characters the two are are often opposed—and an evil act can generate selfish benefits—Joe believes that only honest acts can produce positive, honest ends.

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…my young mind was in that disturbed and unthankful state that I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands. I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common things.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Joe Gargery, Miss Havisham, Mrs. Joe Gargery
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

After his conversation with Joe, Pip becomes perturbed at how Miss Havisham and Estella would think of his pseudo-father. Instead of heeding Joe’s advice, he is consumed by anxiety about social class and how others may interpret Joe’s behaviors.

This passage shows how Pip is becoming increasingly aware of and unhappy about his social status. He focuses on specific signifiers of that status—“how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands”—that would allow Estella to observe that Joe performs physical labor for a living. Similarly, he notes that certain spaces, such as a kitchen, as only inhabited by members of lower classes. We can see how Pip is training his own eye to interpret indicators of social class and how important Estella has become to his consciousness. After just one interaction with her, Pip is already filtering his perceptions of even his closest family members through her judgmental eyes.

The retrospective narrator notably implies that these thoughts are unreasonable and negative, considering it “that disturbed and unthankful state.” Dickens indicates that by the time the older Pip is recounting this story, he has realized that Joe was a meaningful and important character—and that he should not have regarded him with this type of disdain. Thus we can guess that Pip will eventually come to hate how judgmental he has become and that the older Pip believes the younger one should regard Joe in particular with more compassion.

Book 1, Chapter 13 Quotes

I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Joe Gargery
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Joe organizes a dinner at the Blue Boar to celebrate Pip’s apprenticeship to Joe—and more specifically the twenty-five guineas offered by Miss Havisham. Pip is distraught at the event, observing that his grand hopes have been unfulfilled, and in fact have left him uninterested in pursuing work as a blacksmith.

Pip’s language here comes across as somewhat exaggerated and ungrateful. “Truly wretched” points both to how upset he is at the apprenticeship and to how his older self considers the reaction unreasonable. That he speaks in categorical statements such as “I should never like” shows a similar absolutist nature that ignores potentially positive aspects of the blacksmith profession. Nonetheless, it is evident that Pip’s experiences with Estella and Mrs. Havisham have left him dissatisfied with his simpler existence as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Pip is aware of how this change is both dependent on recent experiences—“I had liked it once”—and permanent—“I should never like.” That is to say, understanding the cause of his disillusionment is not sufficient to change it: having been opened to the social society of the upper class, he can no longer be satisfied without it.

The Blue Boar celebration thus marks a decisive moment that will reoccur in different ways throughout the novel. The widening of Pip’s “great expectations” only serves to make him less satisfied with his life. Dickens demonstrates how Pip’s development into a more experienced adult will not bring maturation, but rather an insatiable appetite for ever more status and wealth.

Book 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's reproach.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Joe Gargery
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip begins to give Joe weekly lessons. While they might seem to come from a spirit of goodwill, he explains here that they are partially selfish: an effort to be less embarrassed by Joe in front of Estella.

Pip here adopts an increasingly judgmental and patronizing tone. He describes Joe as “ignorant and common” and positions himself as a kind educator. That Pip differentiates “my society” from Joe’s shows just how snobbishly distant he has become from his upbringing. Their respective societies, after all, are not yet different in any real way—but Pip feels them to be so, based off of his education and experiences with Miss Havisham and Estella. His distaste of Joe is thus twofold: the result of how he perceives Estella would react, as well as his own personal dissatisfaction at having to communicate with someone not worthy of his society. Beyond establishing Pip’s increased social snobbishness, Dickens stresses how extensively Pip’s recent experiences have corrupted his moral sensibilities: even actions that seem to be generous carry a hidden motive, predicting the frequent deceit Pip will encounter when he leaves for London later in the novel. There, a whole host of characters will pretend to aid each other with the actual goal of elevating themselves in society.

Book 1, Chapter 18 Quotes

…as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quite gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course I could not be; but it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing it, dissatisfied with myself.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Joe Gargery, Biddy
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pip learns he has come into a great fortune due to an anonymous benefactor, he is at first thrilled. But as the hubbub about the announcement settles down, he grows oddly depressed by how he has responded the events.

Dickens again makes use of the dissonance between the younger and older Pips’ perspectives. The first only experiences the feeling of being “gloomy” and remains unable to pinpoint any precise reason, whereas the older Pip attempts to determine what might be causing the gloominess. He logically rules out that he is “dissatisfied with my fortune” and thus guesses that the frustration is rather with “myself.” The text thus stresses that mental states are determined less by external events or social status and more by self-perception. By all accounts, Pip should be thrilled, and his negative mood predicts the way self-disgust will haunt him throughout the novel.

The passage also indicates that Pip struggles with introspection: he senses a feeling of gloominess, but he is unable to pin it to its source. And even the wise, older Pip cannot quite pin down the origin, as there is an uncertainty conveyed in the phrases “it is possible” and “I may have been.” Thus while Dickens’ narrative structure offers the benefit of elder Pip’s wisdom, the text also clearly maintains that retrospection can only grant partial clarity into one’s mental state. 

Book 1, Chapter 19 Quotes

"Oh, there are many kinds of pride," said Biddy, looking full at me and shaking her head; "Pride is not all of one kind…[Joe] may be too proud to let any one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, and fills well and with respect."

Related Characters: Biddy (speaker), Pip Pirrip, Joe Gargery
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

Biddy and Pip quarrel here about the nature and value of Joe’s profession. In response to Pip’s continued condescension, Biddy points out that there is merit in the way Joe comports himself.

When Biddy says, “there are many kinds of pride,” she is implicitly criticizing how Pip has formed one clear hierarchy of people and professions based on wealth. For Pip, pride is equivalent to the haughtiness permitted by holding a superior social position, but Biddy argues that there are a variety of different forms. She offers Joe’s pride as an example: his is the result of recognizing the best place for himself in the social environment and remaining steadfast in that position. This, she implies, conveys both strength—for it resists the efforts to “take him out of a place”—and self-awareness—for it correctly determines that place which “he is competent to fill.”

That Joe also “fills well and with respect” stresses that he is not only an acceptable blacksmith, but a talented one—and above all one with integrity and care for his profession. Pip, on the other hand, is pursuing a social sphere for which he is deeply unprepared, and his critical stance on himself and those around him means that he does not fill his role “with respect.” In making such insightful comments, Biddy shows herself to be surprisingly aware of the difficulties Pip will face upon going to London. Just as pride is multifaceted, Dickens implies, mental insight like Biddy’s can be found in a variety of forms across many classes.

Book 2, Chapter 27 Quotes

"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man's a blacksmith, and one's a whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith. Divisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine. You and me is not two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but what is private, and beknown, an understood among friends. It ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall never see me no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes. I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th'meshes. You won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe."

Related Characters: Joe Gargery (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

During Joe's visit Pip is deeply embarrassed about the differences between their social classes. Yet when Joe, while departing, gives this moving speech, he shows himself to be aware of Pip’s fears—and to have accepted their separate positions.

Joe’s speech is marked, first and foremost, by a sense of submission: his worldview places people in specific roles—from blacksmith to coppersmith—that define them and that will inevitably lead to “divisions.” Yet whereas Pip would see these divisions as negative, and himself seeks to escape his personal history, Joe accepts them as his destiny. In particular, he rejects the social symbols—the garments of “these clothes” and the physical location “out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’meshes”—that do not correctly conform to his self-assigned social position. The passage recalls Biddy’s earlier description of Joe’s pride as a pride that knows its location in the world and embraces it full-heartedly—as well as Mr. Pocket’s attitude that the flaws in wood should not be covered up with varnish.

Joe seems to have rather rapidly come to a similar conclusion—though he couches it in less ornate language—when he says that his normal appearance would cause Pip to not “find half so much fault.” Dickens thus further positions Joe as the wise, moral center of the tale: he is neither impressed nor corrupted by coming into contact with the wealth of London, but rather notices how it is artificial and does not match his natural identity.

Book 3, Chapter 55 Quotes

For now my repugnance to [Provis] had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Provis (a.k.a. Abel Magwitch) (a.k.a. the convict), Joe Gargery
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

After Provis is imprisoned, Pip’s attitude toward his benefactor continues to become more favorable. He sees him, at last, in a positive, grateful light and without the critical lens of class consciousness that has previously clouded this view.

Whereas before, Provis’s lowly status had been a constant source of anxiety for Pip, here his weakness actually becomes a source of endearment. Though Pip describes his as a “hunted wounded shackled creature”—highlighting the qualities of subservience and weakness—these are no longer character criticisms. That Pip can still identify these qualities without holding a disposition of “repugnance” demonstrates how they are not inherently deplorable features, but rather become so only under an ungrateful eye. Pip transitions into the more grateful perspective, causing him to see that Provis has acted “affectionately, gratefully, and generously.”

Even more importantly, Pip is able to transfer this realization to his readings of other characters. His reference to Joe implies that this new view of Provis applies to people from his home and expresses a belief that he should not have treated Joe with such condescension. Dickens thus portrays a complete transformation in the way Pip thinks about his relationships: from valuing only class distinctions to finding fulfillment in genuineness and care.

Book 3, Chapter 58 Quotes

Dear Joe, I hope you will have children to love, and that some little fellow will sit in this chimney-corner, of a winter night, who may remind you of another little fellow gone out of it forever. Don't tell him, Joe, that I was thankless; don't tell him, Biddy, that I was ungenerous and unjust; only tell him that I honoured you both because you were both so good and true, and that, as your child, I said it would be natural to him to grow up a much better man than I did.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Joe Gargery, Biddy
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

Joe and Biddy have just been married, and Pip gives this moving speech as he prepares to depart. He asks that they not tell their children of Pip’s previous selfishness, but rather only use him as a way to reiterate the goodness of Joe and Biddy.

Pip first compares himself to Joe’s future child, referring to his younger self as “another little fellow.” We have a glimpse here of the way Pip will retroactively narrativize his life through the novel—as well as the confirmation that Joe has been Pip’s father figure and mentor throughout the text. He subtly adds the descriptor “gone out of it forever” to show that he does not intend to return soon to their lives, finally separating in the way Joe had long said they must.

Pip then uses the figure of their hypothetical child to make his final request: he does not want his legacy to be a tale of “thankless” actions “ungenerous and unjust”—which implicitly acknowledges that he has been all these things—for these memories would not actually serve their child’s development. Rather, he wishes for evil to be scrubbed entirely from the tales the child will be told, and for Pip to become a mere foil to highlight how “good and true” Joe and Biddy are. This wish implicitly targets those in the novel—such as Miss Havisham and Mr. Jaggers—who have sought to cultivate and investigate the qualities of evil and selfishness. Miss Havisham, after all, explicitly raised Estella amidst memories of injustice, and thus Pip’s final lesson is an implicit renunciation of what she has done. He hopes that eliminating his misdeeds rather than recounting them will allow Joe and Biddy’s child to have a purer life.

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Joe Gargery Character Timeline in Great Expectations

The timeline below shows where the character Joe Gargery appears in Great Expectations. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 1
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...who never lived out of infancy. He lives with his older sister, and her husband, Joe Gargery, the town blacksmith. They live in southeast England, in "marsh country," near the sea. (full context)
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...spot behind a grave and grabs Pip. When the man learns that Pip lives with Joe Gargery the blacksmith, he warns Pip that he has a friend, the young man, who... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 2
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When Pip returns home, his uncle Joe, the blacksmith, warns Pip that Pip's sister, Mrs. Joe, has been furiously looking for him... (full context)
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...Pip is climbing up to bed, he hears the sound of great guns fired. When Joe says that the sound signals an escaped convict, Pip asks him to explain what a... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 4
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Pip returns home from the marshes and lies about where he's been, telling Mrs. Joe that he's been out listening to the Christmas morning carols. Mrs. Joe is grumpily preparing... (full context)
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...that it is a special Christmas Day service keeps him from doing so. Pip and Joe return home to a house primped for the party and receive the guests: the haughty... (full context)
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Throughout the meal, Pip is terrified that his pantry theft will be discovered. When Mrs. Joe offers Uncle Pumblechook brandy (from the bottle Pip diluted with water after taking some for... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 5
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...the hunt for two escaped convicts and have come to the forge to see if Joe can repair the lock on their handcuffs. While Joe repairs the cuffs, the soldiers mill... (full context)
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Mr. Wopsle, Joe, and Pip follow the soldiers out into the wet, cold, misty marshes while Pip, confessing... (full context)
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...the group that he has stolen some food from the blacksmith. Everyone is astonished and Joe sympathetically tells the convict he was more than welcome to the food. Pip hears a... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 6
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On the way back to the forge with Joe and Mr. Wopsle, Pip is relieved that the convict has taken the blame for his... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 7
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Pip asks Joe whether Joe went to school and Joe says he didn't and begins to tell Pip... (full context)
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Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook burst in after a day at the market and excitedly explain that... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
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Upon returning home, Pip is barraged with questions about Miss Havisham by Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook, who has ridden over for tea. Yet, because he himself has such... (full context)
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Later, Pip confesses privately to Joe that the story was a lie. Joe is aghast and asks Pip what possessed him.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
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After school, Pip goes to meet Joe at the village public house, the Three Jolly Bargeman. He finds Joe with Mr. Wopsle... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 12
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...for Biddy, who expresses concern that, at the time, he did not understand. Meanwhile, Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook enjoy imagining Miss Havisham's future patronage of Pip. One day, Miss Havisham... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 13
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Next day, Joe and Pip set off for Miss Havisham's. Mrs. Joe has insisted on walking to town... (full context)
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Pip and Joe leave Miss Havisham's and walk to Uncle Pumblechook's where Mrs. Joe has been waiting for... (full context)
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Uncle Pumblechook, Joe, and Mrs. Joe hurry Pip to the Town Hall to be officially bound as Joe's... (full context)
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Giddy with delight at the twenty-five guineas, Mrs. Joe insists that they celebrate it with a dinner at the Blue Boar, inviting Uncle Pumblechook,... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 14
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Pip is miserable in his apprenticeship to Joe, internally tormented by the "commonness" of his home, Joe's forge, and of the blacksmith's trade,... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 15
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...still hungry to learn and studies independently. Meanwhile, he tries to share his education with Joe by giving him lessons on the marsh each Sunday, though Pip is discouraged that Joe... (full context)
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During one of these lessons, Pip proposes to Joe that he pay a visit to Miss Havisham. Joe is skeptical, thinking that Miss Havisham... (full context)
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The next day at the forge, Joe's dour, lazy, hostile journeyman Orlick (who lies to the village and tells them his Christian... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 16
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...is convinced he himself must have had something to do with the crime against Mrs. Joe, and that he is the most likely suspect (a guilt he attributes as narrator to... (full context)
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Mrs. Joe sustains severe brain damage. She trembles and is unable to speak. She no longer has... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 18
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It is now four years into Pip's apprenticeship. Pip and Joe are gathered with a group at the Three Jolly Bargeman listening to Mr. Wopsle perform... (full context)
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The stranger requests a private conference with Joe and Pip, who, bewildered, follow the man into a parlor. Pip recognizes the stranger as... (full context)
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Joe and Pip return to the forge separately. Pip breaks a tense silence to tell Biddy... (full context)
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...excited for the future and nostalgic for the past. Through his bedroom window, Pip sees Joe smoking outside with Biddy. Because Joe never smokes so late, Pip infers that he must... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 19
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...lies down at the battery and falls asleep, daydreaming of Estella. Pip is awakened by Joe, who has followed him. Pip tells Joe he will never forget him and, when Joe... (full context)
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Pip regrets that Joe didn't get a chance to learn more in their lessons. Joe disagrees, saying he was... (full context)
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Joe, Biddy, and Pip are all sad at Pip's departure. Pip has asked Joe not to... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 27
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Pip receives a letter from Biddy informing him that Joe is travelling to London the next day with Mr. Wopsle and plans to visit Pip.... (full context)
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When Joe arrives, Pip is painfully aware of his country manners, awkward clothes, and discomfort. Joe calls... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 30
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...to London and, immediately upon arrival, sends "a penitential codfish and barrel of oysters to Joe" to make up for not having visited him. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 35
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...a formal funeral procession and outfits villagers in black mourning costumes in the forge's parlor. Joe confides to Pip that he'd wanted to carry Mrs. Joe on his own, but that... (full context)
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After the ceremony, Pip delights Joe by asking to sleep in his childhood room. He scolds Biddy in private for not... (full context)
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Pip asks to hear the particulars of Mrs. Joe's death and Biddy tells him her last words were "Joe," "Pardon," and "Pip." Pip asks... (full context)
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Biddy tells Pip how much Joe loves him. Pip tells Biddy he will visit the forge often in the future. Biddy... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 39
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...isn't destined for him. He is even more devastated to realize that he has deserted Joe and Biddy for the sake of a criminal, a potentially violent man. Thinking along these... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 52
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...ungratefully neglects "the man that made him," Mr. Pumblechook. Pip is overcome with sympathy for Joe, who never complains and seems "truer" and "nobler" to Pip as he compares him with... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 57
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...sick to move, suffers feverish hallucinations. When he next gains consciousness, weeks have passed and Joe is at his side, having nursed him through his sickness. Pip is ashamed, feeling he... (full context)
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Joe updates Pip on the village news: Miss Havisham has died and left a large sum... (full context)
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Pip and Joe spend the days of Pip's recovery in tender companionship. Pip has lost all pretense around... (full context)
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As Pip grows stronger, Joe becomes less comfortable around him. While Pip was weak, Joe called him "old Pip, old... (full context)
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Pip is eager to thank Joe and to apologize to him. He is also eager to propose to Biddy, whose goodness... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 58
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...back and delighted to see the old familiar landscape. Upon returning home he discovers that Joe and Biddy have just been married that morning. They are overjoyed to see Pip and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 59
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...for eleven years. He comes back to the forge one night in December and finds Joe and Biddy sitting happily at the hearth with their young son Pip. Pip gets along... (full context)