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Joe St. George is the posthumous main antagonist of the 1992 novel Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King, as well as its 1995 film adaptation. He is the abusive, alcoholic husband of the titular protagonist Dolores Claiborne and the father of Selena St. George.
In the film, he was portrayed by David Strathairn, who also portrayed Noah Vosen in The Bourne Ultimatum.
In the film, Joe is depicted through various flashbacks of his life at home with his wife and daughter whom he both mistreated unfairly. The first sequence shows him coming home from work to being greeted with dinner and homemade tapioca pudding (his favorite dessert) from his dutiful wife Dolores and 14-year-old daughter Selena. He is greeted first by Selena complimenting her on her inheriting his St. George family "smile", claiming that she looks just like his mother. As he heads to the kitchen, he slowly begins to disagree about his not wanting to sell the boats he owns to higher buyers for money and his wife Dolores wanting to sell just so they could have sufficient money to live on. After Dolores makes a point, Joe looks at her with disdain and then becomes silent. He then walks a few feet away and after Dolores giggles from pointing out that his pants are ripped at the bottom, he pulls the rips in his pants apart and flashes her his underwear, joking to her that he's got a "big smiley moon" for her. As Dolores laughs at this, Joe seems polite and asks her if she wanted to see the dark side and she she turns away for a moment cooking, Joe then inexplicably hits her violently across the back with a large wooden log from the counter, causing her a great deal of pain. As Dolores slowly bursts into tears from the pain inflicted from her, Joe just walks away from her indifferent and then proceeds to blame her for his striking her in the first place, asking her why did she make him do it, even though she was innocent and had no cause for it. As Dolores cries in pain, Joe just ignores her and sits back in his big chair at the television set drinking his soda cans.
As the days go on since the attack, Joe sits at his big chair watching television continually drinking down soda cans which he secretly fills with vodka liquor to fuel his alcoholism. Dolores sit at the table left immobilized from the pain unable to cook dinner and perform tasks with ease like she used to, leaving her no choice but to have her daughter to finish her tasks instead, much to Joe's complaining. As Dolores answers to Selena's question what is wrong with her with the false answer that she is only sitting because she is a little tired, Joe stares at her evilly from his chair keeping watch on her and making sure she doesn't let slip the truth of the actual cause of her pain. After Selena leaves, Joe says to himself that his wife is just all "plum-tucked out", taking mockery of her immobile state and laziness despite his being the direct cause of it. Later that evening, as Joe finishes more liquor filled soda cans, Dolores tries to pick up the dishes from the dinner table quietly only to accidentally break one of them causing Joe to yell at her. Joe yells at her for breaking one of his mother's precious China dishes and threatens to break her for it. Joe continues to complain about the situation as well as his marriage to Dolores as he finds her unattractive, calling her "fat ass" and other such vile names in comparison to the beautiful women he ogles on the television. As he takes another drink of his vodka soda and continues to mock her, he is struck upside the head with a glass dish filled with his favorite dessert tapioca pudding. Bloody and shaken, Joe looks up and is surprised to see Dolores fighting back at him, telling him she isn't tired no more. Fired up with rage, Joe reaches for his ax and prepares to strike at Dolores with it for her smashing a glass dish on his head. Dolores stops him, asking him to go ahead and kill her but do it quick so Selena doesn't see the mess he's made. As Joe seethes at her in anger and covered in his own blood, Dolores tells him that he can insult her, hate but warns him if he ever struck at her physically again, only one of them would be going to the "bone yards". Hissing his breath and angry, Joe reluctantly agrees, then tells her to get him a towel as he complains about his bleeding all over his favorite shirt. Since then, he never stuck at her physically but for a while continued to maintain his verbal and emotional abuse on her while she tried to work to support her daughter.
As Dolores works for Vera Donovan earning what ever money she could to store away in the bank for her daughter Selena's collage fund, Joe decides to break into the bank and take the money all for himself. Joe gets to the bank and lies his way to the accountant to successfully obtain the money and because he was married to her, he was allowed to withdraw the money from their account without her consent or asking. After taking the money, he goes to the hockshop and buy back his prized late mother's cameo necklace which he gives to Selena to wear not just she was a St. George woman but also for being his daughter whom he doted on. A little too much as discovered in a flashback. After giving Selena the cameo as a present, Joe secretly basks in his newfound wealth that he stolen from his wife whilst hiding it form her to the point of successfully spending all the money so that she wouldn't get one cent of it. However, this wouldn't go unnoticed for long.
One night, at the family dinner table, Joe eats his dinner with his wife and daughter (who is quieter than normal) and immediately takes notice of Dolores staring at him coldly. Feeling her resentment towards him for stealing the money and abusing her all their years together, Joe speaks out loudly commenting on Dolores staring, telling her to not to say a word. This causes Selena to cower in her seat in fear. While Joe ignores her and Selena, Dolores takes notice of Selena's poor hygiene and not touching the food on her dinner plate and feeling that Joe is responsible, asks him if he looked at Selena's report car from school noting that she's gone from A+'s to C_'s in less than a couple weeks. Joe denies this and rebuffs the matter, claiming the St. George family members are naturally smart on their own and don't deserve to be in school studying to get better grades or to get anywhere in the world. Joe also puts down Dolores, calling her a "know-it-all" and accuses her of being better than the rest of the family, however such isn't truthful. As the couple argue, Selena begins to withdraw from the both of them and asks to be excused. Dolores denies her excuse only to be bashed by Joe who calls her out of her supposed "bad parenting". As Selena asks for a second time to be excused so she could go to her room, Joe consents to her needs and politely grants her permission to be excused. Selena just looks at him awry then leaves to her room while Joe and Dolores just stare at each other coldly while he drinks his beer.
The following afternoon, Dolores and Selena spend time together taking the ferry across the lake to their destination where Dolores tries talking to Selena who is more quieter and withdrawn than usual. As Dolores tries to talk to Selena and get her to open up, Selena rebuffs her and pushes her away leading to a one-sided argument between mother and daughter. During the argument, after saving Selena form nearly falling over the boat, Dolores notices the cameo she's wearing around her neck and asks her where she got the necklace, knowing for sure that such was in the hockshop for money. Selena becomes more notably scared and frightened at the matter and continues to push her mother away, clutching the necklace causing Dolores to fear the worst: Selena had been molested by Joe and he gave her that cameo necklace as a gift for allowing such to happen. This causes Dolores to break down crying to her friend and boss Vera Donovan, who asks her about the state of her husband's sexual abuse towards his daughter, asking frequently how far has he gone with her. When Dolores answers are unclear due to her own lack of knowledge about such matters, Vera asks Dolores loudly and concerned if he's had sexual intercourse with her. Dolores replies that he hasn't had sex with own daughter but also tells Vera her fears of such, meaning that he just because he hasn't had sex with his own daughter didn't mean he wasn't going to try. This prompts Dolores under Vera's advice to kill her husband but also stage such to look like an accident took his life, in an attempt to protect herself and save her daughter from his abuse.
On the day of the eclipse, Dolores arrives after work to her home to greet her husband Joe. Joe, sitting outside on the porch drinking and complaining to himself as usual, asks her what has gotten into her, immediately noticing that she's approaching him in a much nicer mood. Dolores denies his questioning by telling him that she's only doing what she does best: try to please her husband and daughter and gives him fruit, cheese and a bottle of wine as a treat which Joe complies. After managing to finish off his meal and get drunk from drinking his entire bottle of wine, Dolores then questions his about his relations towards his daughter, asking him if he's ever touched her inappropriately. The drunken Joe is in shock and anger at her questions and denies such allegations, lying to her by claiming that he loves Selena and that he would never hurt her. Knowing he's not a good liar and how he's treated her with abuse over the years, Dolores asks him if he's never "touched' Selena, then how come he's got that guilty look on his face like the Devil's reached into what little male genitalia he's got left in his pants and touched it. Joe is enraged by this insult from Dolores and angered at her knowledge of his molesting Selena, tries to kill her. Joe lungs at her, knocking her to the ground with both his fists around her neck trying to strangle her to death. As Dolores and Joe fight, Joe tries to kill her only to be blinded by the sunlight coming from the solar eclipse and then knocked over by Dolores who runs from him. After stumbling for a minute, Joe sees Dolores trying to escape him and follows after her, and just as he's almost had his hand around the back of her neck, Dolores jumps to avoid her trap in the ground set for him and Joe falls through the loose ground into the hole near an old well, which has some loose wood boards and a deadly drop to below. Fearing for his life, Joe pleads for her help only for Dolores to ignores his pleas for help and just watch him suffer. Joe figures out that she intentionally meant for him to fall into her trap and threatens to kill should he manage to get himself out of the hole, which he fails at. Eventually, Joe loses his grip and falls to his death, leading to his body being discovered by the search party and the police framing Dolores for his death despite her innocent and self-defense which leads to the events taking place 30 years after Joe's death.
In the present when Selena is ordering herself a hot chocolate, this brings back a rather long repressed memories between herself and her late father Joe. In the flashback, Joe is ordering two hot chocolates for both him and Selena which he then brings to her. As Joe stands close by Selena who sits on a bench within the ferry to home, Joe takes the lid off her hot chocolate for her to drink and then sits close by her. With leering eyes, he checks to see if anyone else is around them and then gets closer to Selena. Seeing Selena withdrawing from him, Joe reaches out to her and shows her the necklace he has given her as a gift: his late mother's prized cameo that he bought from the hockshop with the money he stolen from his wife's bank account. He then gives her the necklace especially meant for as the necklace cameo has been a traditional value in his family, particularly the St. George women (those who were St. Georges by blood, not those women who were St. Georges by marriage). After giving her the necklace, Joe then does the unthinkable to her. Reaching through his unbuttoned jacket, he unzips his pants and asks Selena for her hands. Taking notice of her hands being cold, he offers to help get them warm. Already aware of what he intends to do to her, Selena tries to move away from him and keep her hands to herself by holding onto her hot chocolate for warmth but Joe urges her to consent his offering. As Joe continues to pressure her to let him hold her hand, Selena refuses more and more, warning him that her hot chocolate will spill which she accidentally does if only a little bit. Joe is surprised by what little hot chocolate was accidentally spilt and offers to hold her hand and keep it warm for a little bit, even taking her hand to demonstrate how to "keep him warm". Selena still refuses, becoming more scared and frightened from his actions towards her and Joe becomes more incensed and frustrated, leading him to take control of the situation. Grabbing her hand, Joe urges Selena to show him how he taught her how to keep him "warm", moving her hand towards his unzipped pants as he does so. As this happens, Selena is reluctantly pressured into giving her father a handjob. Having finally accomplished his task, Joe then guides his daughter's hand down his pants continually stroking himself with it until he reaches his point of arousal and sexual release while the traumatized Selena is left to suffer from the unwanted molestation inflicted on her. As Selena stares into the abyss to mentally block out what is happening to her in that moment (leading to the attack being a repressed memory), Joe relishes in his being masturbated by Selena by being genuinely doting and affectionate towards her, kissing her forehead and telling her he loves her over and over in his state of ecstasy and sexual satisfaction. Back in the present day, the rediscovery of this repressed memory and the sexual abuse is enough to make the adult Selena vomit uncontrollably in the nearest bathroom and then slowly start to suffer from a sort of dissociation with her surroundings.
- During the fight scene between Joe and Dolores, Dolores threatens Joe with a stay in Shawshank prison. Shawshank prison is the primary setting for The Shawshank Redemption, another novel written by Stephen King.
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