A Classics Challenge – February: Joe Gargery

This year I am taking part in a Classics Challenge hosted by Katherine of November’s Autumn. The goal is to read seven classics in 2012 and every month, Katherine will be posting a prompt to help us discuss the book we are reading.

The novel I’m currently reading for the challenge is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and this month Katherine is asking us to answer some questions about a character from the book we are reading. As you would expect from any Dickens novel there are plenty of memorable characters in Great Expectations to choose from – Miss Havisham, Pip, Estella, Mr Jaggers, Abel Magwitch and many others – but the character I’ve decided to write about is one of my favourites, Joe Gargery.

Level 1
What phrases has the author used to introduce this character? What are your first impressions of them? Find a portrait or photograph that closely embodies how you imagine them.

Joe is the brother-in-law of the novel’s narrator, Pip, and one of the biggest influences on his early life. Joe and his wife (Pip’s sister, referred to throughout the novel as Mrs Joe Gargery) have brought Pip up since he was orphaned as a child. Mrs Joe is a hard, overbearing woman who is often cruel to Pip, but Joe is a kind and loving father figure.

Here is our first introduction to Joe, as seen through Pip’s eyes:

Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites. He was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow – a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness.

Level 2
How has the character changed? Has your opinion of them altered? Are there aspects of their character you aspire to? or hope never to be? What are their strengths and faults? Do you find them believable? If not, how could they have been molded so? Would you want to meet them?

I haven’t finished the book yet but based on what I’ve read so far, Joe doesn’t really change over the course of the book and my opinion of him hasn’t altered. The thing that does change is the way Pip views him. After Pip meets Miss Havisham and Estella he starts to feel ashamed of Joe because of his lack of education and refinement. Joe doesn’t have much interest in money, property or any of the other things that are so important to most of the other characters in the novel – he seems happy with his simple way of life and doesn’t have any ‘great expectations’, unlike Pip.

Who are your favourite characters from Great Expectations? What do you think of Joe Gargery?

5 thoughts on “A Classics Challenge – February: Joe Gargery

  1. Anbolyn says:

    I love Joe Gargery! He is a classic good guy character. He loves Pip no matter how Pip treats him and I admire how he stands by his wife when tragedy strikes.
    Miss Havisham is unforgettable, but I’m not sure if she is one of my favorites. I like Wemmick and Herbert.

  2. Karen says:

    Miss Havisham is definitely my favourite. I just think she is a fantastic character. Plus, after reading The Eyre Affair I see her in a whole new light.

    I loved Joe too but the way Pip treated him always broke my heart a little. I usually want to look away at that point.

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