Archive for March, 2009

March 31, 2009

Mr. Pip – An Enthralling Tale of Hope

by serafina88

Mr. Pip –
By Lloyd Jones
Reviewed by Joan Gauthier

“Mr. Watts said it is best to wait until all the facts are known”. Matilda tells her mother one night. At the time little did she realize the importance of this statement in the events that were yet to unfold.

Matilda lives with her mother on Bougainville, a mineral rich island in the South Pacific, and as Lloyd Jones begins his tale, we find the island in the centre of a civil war with red-skinned soldiers buzzing around in helicopters, searching for the “Rambo” rebels who have taken to the jungle to hide. The villagers have been left to fend for themselves as all those who could, including their teacher, left on the last boat to the mainland. Out of necessity, the villagers find themselves slowly reverting to the old way of living before the British came. The only remaining white man, whom the village children have always considered an oddity, steps up to open the school again and armed with no text-books other than one copy of Dicken’s Great Expectations, becomes their self-appointed teacher.

As he reads the story of Pip to the enthralled group of children, they are transported to another time and place but where the lives of the characters have a similar parallel to their own. As we see Magwitch hiding in the graveyard from those in authority, so we see Matilda and her mother hiding in the jungle from a different, but just as frightening group of people in authority. Matilda develops a strong affinity with Pip, and like Pip is forced to make certain choices, and like Pip, suffers both the consequences and rewards of those decisions.

When she is able to clear up a misunderstanding with the visiting soldiers, by simply producing the novel Great Expectations she chooses not to, in order to save her mother from the embarrassment of admitting that she had stolen it Matilda will forever have to live with the fact that had she chosen differently she would have saved her village from the unspeakable punishments inflicted on them by the soldiers.

David Lloyd has set his novel in a place where atrocities happen amid the most beautiful of settings. His story is a testament to the human spirit, which is able to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and keep going. I completely bought in to concept of the narrator being a young girl and I found myself surprised at the end of the book when his photograph reminded me that it had been written by a man.

Even given some of the more disturbing events that took place I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to engage in a book where the characters are captivating and indulge in an entrancing read.

March 31, 2009

Mister Pip

by jenniemacphee

by Jennie MacPhee

Lloyd Jones’ acclaimed novel Mister Pip is a captivating story full of emotion set in a quiet and nearly abandoned island in the South Pacific.  Written as a first-person narrative, a young girl named Matilda leads the reader through her life on the island that has been shattered by war and the dangerous consequences of childhood imagination.

Matilda is one of the few citizens to remain at her home while all of the school teachers and  most of the families have fled.  One man who chooses to stay behind is the mysterious and eccentric Mr. Watts, who happens to be the only white person on the island.  He opens up the schoolhouse and volunteers to teach the children, and the only lesson he has to offer is reading his copy of Great Expectations by Mr. Dickens.  As the children, quickly followed by the entire village, become enthralled by a young character named Pip, the novel begins to delve into the human conditions of imagination and obsession.  As we explore these conditions through the island people, we see that Jones is also presenting several difficult moral situations for us to consider.  Their imaginations grow wild as they dream of a bigger, more fulfilling world outside their own.  But during a time and place where daily survival is the only objective and there is little time for fun and games, we are reminded that sometimes imagination, even for children, can come with very dangerous consequences.

Although the life of a teenage girl is being told by a 50-something year old male, Lloyd Jones writes in a style that is believable and compelling.  The way in which Jones describes how Western culture has and continues to affect indigenous cultures makes Mister Pip a very convincing story.  It is sometimes easy to forget that this is a novel and not a personal memoir.  However, the simplicity of how he describes the atrocities that take place, including the murders of Mr. Watts and Matilda’s mother is more than an understatement.

March 31, 2009

Narrative Focus?

by benjamin73

A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid, is about her view of her birth place and home until she moved at the age of seventeen. The tiny island of Antigua, in the West Indies, was her birthplace and her home until she immigrated to New York at 17. She later worked for The New Yorker magazine where she became well known. This book draws the reader in with the curiosity of the island, and encourages you to try and decipher the literature Kincaid writes.

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March 30, 2009

Faith and Morality in Mister Pip

by haleywilliams

Haley Williams

English 213

Throughout Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, there is a struggle between the two supporting characters that have a major influence upon the life of the protagonist.  Matilda’s mother, Dolores, and the second character Mr. Watts, who is the only white man left on the island after the blockade, end up in a conflict that causes the impressionable Matilda to struggle with the different ideals and cultures that she is presented with.   Dolores creates an enemy out of Mr. Watts as she sees him as merely another white man imposing upon her people and spreading ideas that she does not relate to.

Throughout the blockade the villagers are cut off from the surrounding world and must survive with what the island can provide.  They are left with only basic food supplies, but as Matilda remarks; “we had our pride” (10).  The villagers also had faith and the notion of spirituality plays an important role throughout the novel.  The faith in the old ways, like the wisdom of crabs and filefish, is discussed as is faith in Christianity which Dolores attempts to pass on to her daughter and the other students.  When sharing her knowledge she states that “faith is like oxygen. It keeps you afloat at all times.  Sometimes you need it. Sometimes you don’t.  But when you do need it you better be practiced at having faith, otherwise it won’t work” (44).

It is faith in God that finally allows Dolores to put aside her differences with Mr. Watts and proclaim herself God’s witness to his murder at the hands of the rebels.  This defiance of the rebel commander’s power leads to her rape and following murder. 

Matilda relates this series of events to the teaching of Mr. Watts on what it means to be a gentleman, from Great Expectations by Dickens, and how as humans we have moral responsibilities.  As a moral person, “you cannot have a day off when it suits you,” and that this was something that her mother knew “when she stepped forward to proclaim herself God’s witness to the cold-blooded butchery of her old enemy” (210). 

Questions for Discussion

1.       Was it Dolores’ responsibility to stand up for Mr. Watts in front of the rebels? 

2.       Do you think that it was beneficial for Dolores to hold on strongly to her pride and faith throughout the blockade?  How does this relate to other conflicts presented in previous novels discussed?



March 29, 2009

Out With the Old, In With the New

by christinahall2

by Christina Hall

To assimilate is to absorb, integrate, adjust, include, or adapt a new way of thinking, acting, or living.  Often it is the ideas, values, and or ways of life of a culture (the dominant culture) that are taken up by another.  It is a process that was accelerated during colonization, and kept alive through globalization.  It can be used as a tool to escape or to belong; it can be forced on the unwilling or welcomed with enthusiasm.  It is a word wrought with contradictions…out with the old, in with the new.

Our early teens are formative years when youth can be found searching out new ways in which to assert their independence within their worlds.  It is also a time when many children disregard against what their parents or elders have taught them and look to redefine themselves with the popular, dominant culture.  It is a process we came across with Tambu in Nervous Conditions, and it comes to us again with Matilda in Mister Pip.

In these novels, both girls choose to bring the colonial culture into their lives; Tambu seeks it out through education, as does Matilda.  In both cases their mothers are the embodiment of the culture they are trying to escape from, yet feel tied to by duty.  For Matilda it is her mother’s mental bullying that pushes her to turn to the story of Pip, and his England:

“…she returned to her other preoccupation, testing me with the names of relatives and fish and birds from our family tree.  I failed miserably.  I could think of no reason to remember them, whereas I knew the name of every character I had met in Great Expectations…[they] were more part of my life than my dead relatives, even the people around me.” (75)

Her mother’s stubborn resistance to Mr. Watts and his teaching of Great Expectations, eventually becomes a source of embarrassment for Matilda as the novel progresses:

“My mum was so eager for us kids to know what she knew, but she didn’t know how to plant it in our heads.  She thought she could bully us into     knowing what she did.  Did she notice that whenever she got onto God and the devil, every kid’s face dropped?” (80)

Her mother’s vain attempts in teaching her important and valuable knowledge, in fact only works in pushing her daughter further away, and into dreams of a far away land and a new life.

I think it is interesting that assimilation of the colonial culture is looked at in distain by the majority of adults in the works we have looked at, except in The God of Small Things where it is actually aspired towards.  It starts with Pappachi’s goal of Anglicizing the family, and continues with Baby Kochamma forcing the twins to speak English.  Also interesting is the twins denial of the dominant culture; they’re rebellion is to continue speaking the traditional Malayalam.

Questions to ponder:

1.    If the Dolores had not tried to force her traditional knowledge on Matilda, and had not been completely adamant in her dislike of everything having to do with the white man’s world, do you think Matilda would have been as enraptured with the story and other world of Great Expectations?

2.    What other forms of assimilation can we see portrayed within Mister Pip?

3.    –  Does the act of assimilation always have an element of force connected with it?

–  Is something always ultimately lost when someone is assimilated, or is there a gain?

–  Is it possible to be free from assimilation in today’s global world?

(Do not feel like you need to limit yourself to Mister Pip in the answering of these questions)

March 25, 2009

“Mister Pip” Discussion Blog

by meaganjbrown

Mister Pip Discussion Blog

By Meagan Brown

In Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, several characters struggle to reconcile their cultural identity in a village in post colonial Bougainville. This island was infiltrated by white miners who scraped the land of resources and introduces the islands inhabitants to the luxuries of the “white” world. They left almost as fast as they came, leaving behind polluted land and conflicted peoples.

Matilda is a teenage girl who was originally educated by the colonizers and introduced to the wonders of lands beyond the shore of her isolated island. She is caught between two colliding cultures as she tries to please her traditional mother, while embracing the hope and prosperity her instructor, Mr. Watts, gives her. Her mother, Dolores, is strongly tied to her faith and cultural roots. She opposes Mr. Watts’ teaching of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, but her resentment towards “white culture” is far deeper than that. On the other hand, Mr. Watts is not a man of faith, and is the only white man left in their village. He is accepting of their faith and traditional practices, as he invites the mature generations of the village into his classroom to present traditional wisdom.

Dolores’s husband left Bougainville, for a promising life in Australia. She is determined to protect Matilda from being brainwashed by the “white culture”. She lashes out against the teachings of Great Expectations and goes as far and stealing the novel. She refutes the fact that Mr. Watts teaches the children “how to reimagine the world, and to see the possibility of change, to welcome it into” their lives (245). The novel brings hope and inspires imagination, yet is the cause of such great devastation in their village. Dolores carries on challenging the teaching of Mr. Watts, and never admits to having hidden the one thing that could have prevented the villagers belongings and homes from being destroyed. It isn’t until Mr. Watts’ brutal death that Dolores admits “he was a good man. I am here as God`s witness” (205).


Questions to Consider:

1.      To what extend does the conflict over Great Expectations deepen Dolores’s “white” resentment? Or, is it merely a symbol of her established attitude towards “white” culture?

2.      Do you think Matilda`s choice to follow her mother’s lead in not to bring forth the book to the soldiers is justified?

3.      In the end, Dolores stood up for Mr. Watts, when she could have kept quiet like she did when the soldiers asked for Great Expectations. Why, after his death, does Dolores stand up for Mr. Watts despite all their disagreements? Does this surprise you?



March 25, 2009

by chantalstrand

Discussion Blog Post

 Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

The Storyteller:

In creating a meaningful experience for an audience of readers, the author has a powerful role as a storyteller. A writer crafts their work in a way to encourage certain responses- they have the power to make us feel emotion and to make us ponder thematic ideas by prompting us with underlying questions. The author drives our journey from the opening paragraph to a story’s final words. Yet we are not limited to the path they lay out for us- as readers we are free to take their lead and come up with our own interpretation of what the story means. After a writer puts their work out to the world, their story is in a sense, out of their hands. They have set free their control of what will happen next.

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March 16, 2009

To What Extent Have Things Really Changed in a Post Colonial Era?

by auro909

Previous novels we have read only allowed us to remain as outsiders in the stories. Yet, in “A Small Place” Jamaica Kincaid provocatively opens blaming us for the harm cause to the island. Kincaid accuses us not only of being a tourist, but also an ugly thing, a bad mannered empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish. She further accuses our ancestors of teaching corruption and tyranny, of murdering, of stealing and imprisoning people. Kincaid’s provocative and harsh words integrate us to her story.  She reminds us that the major obstacles that developing countries face are man-made and we are the responsible.

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March 13, 2009

Design in “The God of Small Things”

by cristinamoody

Cristina Moody

In “The God of Small Things” the imagination of two small twins brings to life the magical world of a family in Ayemenem, India, where one finds “the green river of the quiet deep-swimming fish, and the gossamer wings of the dragonflies… in the sun” (pg 141). Rahel and her twin brother Estha experience “little events, ordinary things” in their daily lives but “suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story” (pg 32). India’s rigid caste system serves as the “bones” to the story and is the source of the family’s conflict.

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March 11, 2009

What is Human?

by deniseahking

By Denise Ahking

If you want to know what “The God of Small Things” says, you just have to read the first chapter. However, if you want to know what it means, you’ll have to read the book in its entirety, and then some. It is the story of the events shaping the lives of fraternal twins, Estha and Rahel, in Ayemenem, India. It is semi-autobiographical, as Roy herself is from India, brought up by an educated mother and a labourer father. It is worthy to note that Roy’s political ambitions also extend past the main themes of this book; she is a strong advocate for anti-globalization and critic of neo-imperialism. Roy dives into the issues of the Caste system and position of women, but the major theme of the book is not “what is Indian?” rather, “what does it mean to be human?”

The story does not follow the traditional structure. It is sort of a kaleidoscope of storytelling: from the same story, different views. Seen through the eyes of the many characters and their many different natures; the non-linear plot of present day and their brief, yet fateful, childhood, “things can change in a day”; and the twins, different aspects of the same person. Roy challenges society’s practices and norms and zeroes in on the small things, “where do old birds go to die?” and “what does it mean to be human?” The story is nothing new to us; fateful yes, but she doesn’t invent any new circumstances or ideas, she tells it as it is. Roy investigates what is all too familiar of love and loss in the mundane life. It is these loves and losses that define what it means to be human.

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