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How Does Dickens Present the Character Mrs Joe Throughout Chapters 1-7 of Great Expectations?

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Introduction

How Does Dickens Present the Character Mrs Joe Throughout Chapters 1-7 of Great Expectations? Throughout the first seven chapters, Dickens presents Mrs Joe as the main antagonist. It appears that when she isn?t seeking credit for the fact that she brought Pip up ?by hand?, she has an agenda to make him and the other characters she encounters suffer. Clearly, she is the opposite of the ideal Victorian woman. Mrs Joe is not given a name in these chapters and is known only as ?Mrs Joe?. This makes her relationship with Pip very formal, especially considering that they are in fact brother and sister. It is ironic that Mrs Joe be referred to as ?Mrs Joe? constantly, when there does not seem too much 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. ...read more.

Middle

maternal Victorian ideal she upholds (which is reinforced by the fact that even the guests at Christmas lay into Pip over dinner too.) Her snobbery lets her continue to look down upon Pip and Joe; she believes she married under her class level by marrying Joe, and says to Pip in chapter two "it?s bad enough to be a blacksmiths wife (and him a Gargery) without being your mother." This is a blatant insult to Joe and his profession, and again shows the hatred she has for her life. Mrs Joe would like to be seen as the victim but Dickens presents her otherwise; instead of the reader sympathising with her and feeling inspired by her empowerment in a patriarchal Victorian society, the reader is inclined to immediately dislike her ? if not for the fact that she is physically abusing her little brother who is no more than around seven, than the fact that she lays the same abuse on the lovable puppy of a man that is her husband/masochistic counterpart to her sadism, Joe. ...read more.

Conclusion

This does however present another question ? why doesn?t she want anyone to get close to her? Is it because she is just that mean that she is not capable of human compassion and love? Or is there another reason, perhaps that she is afraid of such things? During these first parts of the story, Dickens? presentation and Pip?s narration of Mrs Joe make the reader more inclined to believe the former. In conclusion, Charles Dickens presents Mrs Joe as the cruel and harsh antithesis of femininity in Victorian England, conforming her perfectly to the ?Wicked Stepmother? trope. However, if she was put in a different scenario (without Pip, or in a situation where her almost comic, but disturbing violence isn?t needed) then she may be seen as a very strong and empowering woman in more modern terms, due to her holding authority (not that it would be seen as authority in current times ? more a basic right to self-expression) over her husband and being the most educated in her household. ...read more.

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