Dickens presents Joe as the opposite of what pip yearns to be, serving as Pip’s reminder of what he hates in himself, slowly driving an underlying conflict between the two. Joe represents the common man, with a “dullness’’ and ordinality that Pip develops to be more and more intolerant of, as his aspirations come into fruition and his lifestyle detaches from Joe and his hometown. Despite this, they both care for the other, and their bond is never truly broken.
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A key moment in which Pip is made self-conscious of being common is Estella belittling him, pointing out his “coarse hands’’ and “common boots’’, which he mentions he had never been troubled by them beforehand. He then expressed his wishes of Joe being brought up more “genteelly’’, as well as himself; this is when his resentment for his social class, and in turn Joe, starts to foster. Joe embodies these characteristics – even while Pip was young, he recognised Joe to be a “larger species of child’’, despite this being commented in an endearing manner, Dicken used this to display a condescending perception of Joe, later playing a role in exacerbating the shame Pip feels about how Joe acts.
Due to Joe being “awful dull’’, Dickens keeps his character stationary throughout the novel, always adhering to his way of being and lifestyle, and happily accepting of his place in the world. This stagnant nature becomes incompatible with Pip, as he expresses a need for change and a desire to become a gentleman – he sets out on a journey in hopes of eradicating that side of him and wooing Estella, leaving Joe behind in the process. In the extract, Pip refers to Joe “not getting on a little more’’ as a “pity’’, while Joe resorts to his concrete perception of self and explains he does not see it that way. Pip has good intentions in attempting to qualify him for a “rise in station’’, as he believes it would be best for Joe, but again he is displaying a resentment for his way of being, seeing it as something Joe should try to amend about himself.
This subconscious lack of acceptance for Joe’s character, based on his commonness, makes their relationship slowly degrade. Joe, when visiting Pip in London, repeatedly calls him “sir’’, exhibiting an awareness for the new class divide between them, and is shown to feel very awkward and out of place in that situation. Dickens uses said encounter to set forth the idea that Pip and Joe are no longer as comfortable with one another, primarily because of Pip’s distain regarding Joe’s behaviour, such as getting embarrassed by how Joe was eating while at lunch with Herbert.
Despite this, Dickens creates an undeniable tenderness and love between the two, stemming from a co-dependent relationship they formed due to the abuse they suffered from Mrs. Joe. They relied on each other and were very close during Pip’s childhood – at the time, both very excited for the “larks’’ they would have while Pip would be indentured to Joe. Although Pip later is displeased by the idea of being a mere blacksmith and holds said intolerance for Joe, their bond is preserved nonetheless, with Joe coming to London to take care of Pip while he was unwell, effectively showing Joe’s unconditional love. Dickens makes this the moment their relationship was reborn, as Pip wakes up and feels ashamed about how he’s treated his “dear fellow’’, and perhaps finally accepts him for who he is.