Joe is Pip’s sister’s husband and is Pip’s initial hero. Joe is a blacksmith and has little education. His father was an alcoholic, and prevented Joe from going to school. He had to go to work at a young age to help support his family. Joe loves Pip as though he were his own son, but, as Pip gets too big for his britches thanks to his fortune, Joe becomes less and less a part of Pip’s life.
Joe is proud and we hear his life’s philosophy in the advice he gives a young, humiliated Pip. Joe tells Pip that if he wants to be extraordinary, he has to be ordinary first. He tells Pip that every king has to learn the basics first. In essence, everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. When Jaggers tries to buy Pip from Joe, Joe nearly knocks his block off. Unlike Pip, Joe cares nothing for money. Joe can fight a man like Orlick, but he also cries at the drop of a hat. Pip says of him, "I have often thought him since, like the steam-hammer that I can crush a man or pat an egg-shell, in his combination of strength with gentleness" (1.18.93). Joe is embodied with both strength and softness, abrasiveness and gentility.
Joe is out of place in London and calls Pip "sir" instead of "Pip." He knows that Pip is beyond his reach, and so never visits Pip ever again. Joe has a powerful understanding of his place and role in society, and leaving that role is a very difficult thing. Joe loves Pip unconditionally, and is a beacon of friendship and loyalty throughout Pip’s life. It is this steadfast love that seems to really break Pip’s heart.