Great Expectations

Great Expectations

The importance of Mrs. Joe in Great Expectations has two major

parts: the significance of the character, and the symbolism of the

character. The signifance of Mrs. Joe is to complete the figure of Joe

The symbolism of Mrs. Joe is actually the physical manifestation of

Joe's fears in combination with his desire for a commanding

father-figure. First, Mrs. Joe's reign of terror is obviously

necessary for Joe's existence. In the beginning of Great Expectations,

Joe requires identification as a major character. Without the weakness

that Mrs. Joe instills in Joe via her reign of terror, Joe never

develops to a major character. Joe is identified as a compassionate,

sensitive character, and the most direct way to display this feature

is to have the character appear vulnerable. Mrs. Joe serves as the

tyrant for which Joe is made helpless. Joe, unless he is a scared

character, does not recognize the friend he has in Pip. Without Joe as

a major role in Pip's life, Pip also seems very incomplete. Second,

Mrs. Joe also serves as the comical interlude of an otherwise sombre


"When she had exhausted a torrent of such inquiries, she threw a

candlestick at Joe, burst into a loud sobbing, got out the dustpan --

which was always a very bad sign -- put on her coarse apron, and began

cleaning up to a terrible extent. Not satisfied with a dry cleaning,

she took to a pail and scrubbing-brush, and cleaned us out of house

and home,..." Truly, a frightening creature is that that may destroy a

household by cleaning when anger besets her. Third, the comedy also

has a serious side, though, as we remember our mothers exerting their

great frustrations upon the household tasks of cleanliness. So,

Mrs. Joe serves very well as a mother to Pip. Besides the age

difference and the motherly duties of housekeeping for Pip and

Joe, the attitude of a scornful mother is also apparent. This, of

course, draws Joe even closer to Pip, by relation. Mrs. Joe serves as

link to make it so that Joe appears very much to be the father of Pip.

In addition, Joe, although terrified of Mrs. Joe, is a very honorable

man and would never consider divorcing his wife. Through this

condition, however, Joe appears to be even a more honorable man to

choose to preserve the sacred marriage rather than seek his comfort.

It is ironic that Mrs. Joe be referred to as Mrs. Joe constantly when

there doesn't seem to much a part of Joe in her. The main purpose it

serves is probably to characterize Mrs. Joe as a more masculine, and,

therefore, typically more commanding, character. In the tradition

of marriage, the wife usually gives up her last name to show that she

is "property" of the man, therefore it is especially ironic that

she be called Mrs. Joe when it is clear that Joe, rather, belongs more

to her than vice-versa. It is also ironic that Joe be the one that

seems to be stuck in tough situation in his marraige. Often, in this

time, women suffered from the abuse of their husbands and expected to

keep the marriage together regardless. However, Joe is clearly the one

being abused in this story and he also is the only one decent enough

to care enough about the marraige to try and keep it together by

enduring the abuse of Mrs. Joe. Fifth, through love, Joe shows the

audience that truly he is not just a very timid man but a

whole-hearted man. Truly, it takes a loving man to stay in love with

such a woman as Mrs. Joe. No kissing ever took place between Joe and

Mrs. Joe (much less child birth), and it becomes clear to the reader

that the relationship between Joe and Mrs. Joe is a very "one-way"

relationship. It would seem that Joe cares enough for Mrs. Joe, though

Mrs. Joe never once seems to show a bit of compassion for Joe.

Illustration of this can be seen in Mrs. Joe's numerous dorogatory

references to being married to "a lowly blacksmith." Surely, after

Mrs. Joe dies, Joe reflects upon how he was treated and what he will

do differently in the future. With Mrs. Joe gone, a piece of Joe's

life is again freed up and