Consider the role and presentation of women in Great Expectations and their influence on Pip.

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Consider the role and presentation of women in Great Expectations and their influence on Pip.

The novel Great Expectations is a first-person narrative, ostensibly by Philip Pirrip who as a child was renamed Pip. The novel is also a bildungsroman, which means that the main theme of the novel is the education and experiences of one person, in this case Pip. Throughout the novel Pip comes into contact with four main women, all of whom have a significant influence on Pip, his life, and emotional feelings. Each of these women is portrayed in different ways throughout the novel as aggressive and unloving, fantastic and eccentric, cold and beautiful, and patient and warm-hearted. It is these women and their influences on Pip that cause his emotional development and thus his problems.

In the novel we are first introduced to Mrs. Joe, Pip's sister and effectively his surrogate mother, as Pip is an orphan from a young age. She is presented as antagonistic and violent towards her husband and Pip. She is "...hard and heavy handed, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me." She often beats Pip with a cane she has playfully nicknamed tickler, described by Pip as "a wax ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my body". When Mrs. Joe first enters the novel her initial reaction is to beat Pip for being out late. She treats him as an inferior. She shows no compassion for Pip as her brother as she refers to him as a "monkey" whilst stamping her foot. These acts of brutality and cruelty towards Pip are frequent throughout the first part of the novel. Pip knows that her violence towards him is unfair: "I had known, from the age I could speak, that my sister in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me."

The phrase 'by hand' usually implies love and care, but in Mrs. Joe's case means the very opposite. She is proud of having brought Pip up "by hand" and this confirms she has no guilt or remorse about beating Pip. Her main influence on Pip is through this violence and abuse, which is primarily responsible for Pip's insecurity and guilt. Ultimately she makes Pip sensitive, as he says: "My sister's upbringing made me sensitive." It is because of Pip's sensitivity that he is vulnerable to Estella's malice and verbal abuse.

We do know that Pip is terrified of Mrs. Joe. A clear and obvious example of this is early on in the novel when Pip has stolen a pork pie for Magwitch the convict. The terror that Pip feels as Mrs. Joe goes to get the pork pie seems to match the fear that he felt in the presence of Magwitch: " I have never been absolutely certain whether I uttered a shrill yell of terror, merely in spirit, or in the bodily hearing of the company."
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Mrs. Joe isn't a good-looking woman and Pip describes her early on in the novel as "having a prevailing redness of skin, that I sometimes used to wonder if she washed herself with a nutmeg grater." So even Mrs. Joe's appearance is unloving and harsh which should have no effect on her actions but this is the manner in which she behaves.

Another example of Mrs. Joe's ruthless conduct in the novel is when Pip attempts to hold some bread back for Magwitch and is accused of "bolting his food" which surely cannot be considered a serious ...

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