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Great Expectations is the story of distortion expectations cause to judgment. Pip was by nature more inclined towards the stable and moral nature of Joe. It took a long journey of life with some very interesting interludes to make him realize that the influence of Mrs. Havisham was a passing cloud while the influence of Joe was the bellwether that defined the values he can identify his life with. It is an established fact that Dickens uses very obvious doubles and symmetry-building coincidences in his novels. But in this context, it can be argued that Dickens has created two antithetical characters that define the dilemmas of Pip.
Joe and Mrs. Havisham can be considered antithetical in almost all respects. In gender, in temperament, in the ways that they handle the hand dealt by fate and the way they go about spreading their life’s philosophies. They are diametrically opposite and this causes the under-current of the Yo-Yo effect experienced by Pip through out his life. In the end it turns out that Joe’s influence on Pip’s character is stronger and that enables the young man to acquire and maintain equanimity in the face of severe odds.
It is important to understand the motivations of the two primary characters that have influenced Pip’s perception of the world around him. In his initial days he was Je was his best friend. In spite of his lowly station in life of a blacksmith and the misfortune f beng tied to a shrewish wife, (Pip’s sister), Joe could retain a sense of contentment with his life and he instilled the pleasures of small gestures of Joy in human life and the value of honest, and dedicated effort towards one’s vocation.
Where as Mrs. Havisham is stuck in a time warp and insists on having all the clock’s the “Satis House”, her mansion stuck at twenty minutes past nine, the same time she learnt that she had been unceremoniously dumped on the day of her wedding. She clings to the fading wedding dress more to remind herself of the injustice her bride groom inflicted on her. Further she adopts Estelle, only to groom her to break men’s hearts and grow insensitive to the possibility of true and faithful love.
This is a basic difference in the characters of the two primary influences on young Pip. To the young mind of Pip, the melancholy haunting of the Satis house and the perennial mourning of Mrs. Havisham carry more romantic appeal than the robust and lively philosophy of his brother-in-law. While Joe advocates the cheer of accepting the cards dealt by destiny, Mrs. Havisham chooses to make her misery the constant chant of her life and the driving motivation.
In the first stage of expectations, Pip is enamored with Estelle and he sees acquisition of a higher standard in life surrounding the existing class system and the presence of money power to be a prerequisite to happiness. He goes on to forget his station in life until a rude reminder comes in the form of Mrs. Havisham’s instructions that he should be taking up apprenticeship with Joe. This rude jolt leads Pip to unreasonably resent the kind hearted Joe and his own low living standard.
He then discovers that he has been left a sizable fortune and leaves to London to be groomed to become a gentleman. It is here that he meets people like Brentley Drummle, who remain brutish in spite of the inherited wealth and apparent grooming and culture. This stage in the expectations for Pip is marked by the absence of Joe but it is the influence of Joe’s grooming that he is constantly plagued by guilt when he learns that his benefactor is the same convict who had induced him to steal form his own house when he was a kid.
The reference points for the values to be followed in life, in the case of Pip are steeped in the common justice notions of Joe. Towards the end of the novel, however, Mrs. Havisham recognizes her folly and confesses to Pip that in her hunger for revenge, she inflicted the same pain as she had experienced on Pip by making Estelle be aloof to him and ultimately marry Drummle. It is worthy to note that the confession comes at a time when Pip is highly disturbed by his aspiration of a higher standard in life and the attached disappointments ad uncertainties he experiences in its quest.
If he is able to forgive Mrs. Havisham and even make a heroic effort to save her from fire, it is the rustic goodness instilled in him by Joe, not through long lectures but by example of a fruitful life, led with contentment in the service of others. The reconciliation at the end of the novel, the second and the most popular ending (the characteristic happy ending of Dickens). Mrs. Havisham lives all her life by the terms of remorse, revenge and recrimination.
While Joe leads his life in an uncomplicated way to enable people around him to blossom on their own. This during the early years of Pip helps form the moral core that makes Pip a heroic character. It is important to notice that the two characters or the two major influences are majorly contradictory. Mrs. Havisham mourns while Joe makes peace with his world. Ms. Havisham wants revenge, while Joe would rather forgive and forget. Mrs.
Havisham is ready to sacrifice another life to further her dearly held wishes of retribution on male species, while Joe still retains faith in his ability to love even after having a shrewish wife in whose care he leaves no stone unturned. After her death and without undue haste he remarries Biddy reaffirming his faith in human goodness. Pip’s actions and his motivations of kindness towards the convict, Mrs. Havisham, and later towards Estelle in the end of the novel speak more about the positive and warm influence of Joe Grager, his brother-in-law, than the scheming or desolate influence of Mrs. Havisham