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Father of Water - Joe Gargery


Georgiana Mary Gargery née Pirrip;

Joe Gargery; Biddy.


Great Expectations

    While technically Philip Pirrip's brother-in-law, Joe Gargery is really more of a father-figure to Pip. He is consistently kind and loving towards Pip, even when Pip is rude and uncaring to him. As the older narrator Pip looking back describes him: “He was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow,—a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness.” As Joe says to the older Pip, grown snobbish and embarrassed of Joe: “you and me was ever friends.” He is a big man with big hands and a bigger heart. He is more comfortable in the country than the big city, and is far more a gentleman than most “gentlemen” will ever be. As his second wife Biddy says of him, “he ever did his duty in his way of life, with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart.”


 Joe's first wife was Pip's sister, Georgiana Maria Pirrip, or simply Mrs. Joe. She is an angry, unapproachable, resentful harridan who, as Pip's mother-figure, sets him up to be romatically susceptible to a young woman such as Estella. As the dialectical opposite to Joe's unconditional love, Mrs. Joe's unconditional rancour makes Pip acutely aware of the injustice done him -



“Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts, and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid and very sensitive.”


 As if smote by fate, Mrs. Joe is struck down by an unknown assailant, leaving her paralyzed and unable to speak. Pip, as if it were the work of his subconscious, blames himself for the violent attack on his sister. It is later revealed to be the work of Dolge Orlick, a large malicious journeyman from Joe's forgery, who is in some ways Joe Gargery's evil shadow. As Joe openly accepts and forgives everything Pip does, so Orlick hates and resents the boy, even blaming Pip for his own admitted thrashing of Mrs. Joe. Orlick teams up with Compeyson, the mortal enemy of Pip's other father-figure Magwitch, and makes unwanted sexual overtures to Biddy. In a gruesome scheme presaging The Mystery of Edwin Drood's John Jasper, Orlirk also threatens to incinerate Pip alive with lime.


 Joe's second wife Biddy, meantime, is in ways Estella's virtuous shadow. She helps with Mrs. Joe after her attack, tutors Pip, and eventually opens her own school. She is poor and kind like Joe, but unlike him she is intelligent. In the end, rather like Orlick, Pip arrogantly believes she will accept his proposals, but it is instead the forbearing and steadfast Joe Gargery she chooses to share her life with. It is with Biddy that Joe establishes a loving family, raising two children of their own - one girl and one boy - the latter named Pip.


 All told, Joe is a simple man, but a good an loyal man. He stands in stark contradistinction to Pip's impurities and disloyalty. Before he quietly pays Pip's debts and disappears from Pip's life so as not to embarrass him further, Joe tells Pip and us in his own way the theme of Great Expectations as he sees it:


 “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. Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come.”



Shorthand : the proverbial gentle giant – warm – patient – loved if not always respected – easy to take for granted – forges lasting relationships – shy – works humbly behind the scenes – gormless – all heart – forgiving - possibly too giving – paralyzed by his own goodness.

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