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.

Great Expectations is not Pop Eye’s story, yet because he is the one presenting it to Matilda and her friends, he has control over Dickens’ tale. He is presenting his own unique interpretation of a classic story, and by telling Great Expectations by way of oral tradition, he is shaping the words of the author. He does not hold this power exclusively- by putting Great Expectations out to a classroom full of imaginative students; he is passing along this gift of storytelling. Matilda relishes this control as she relays the novel’s events to her mother- and like Pop Eye she decides how to present the story. Matilda puts her own spin on Great Expectations, as her understanding of this story is very different to Pop Eye’s. And in these very unique interpretations of the same novel, the story constantly evolves, never in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Lloyd Jones, the storyteller behind Mister Pip emphasizes the importance of voice throughout the novel. In an interview, he reveals that he was not overly concerned with the novel’s plot, but with the voices of his characters. Like Dickens, Jones infuses a playfulness into his work, imagination brought out through the oral tradition of Mister Pip. The voice of each character’s take on the same story is unique because each voice is infused with distinct experiences. As storytellers, authors very often incorporate the events of their own lives into their work- Jones is a highly respected journalist and travel writer whose work is read around the world. His novel Mister Pip, taking place on an exotic island in New Guinea, is thematically centred on the idealism of escape. Dickens’ literary style is also a mixture of fantasy and realism. His fictional character Pip climbs the social ladder when he receives an inheritance. This development stems from Dickens’ own family’s experience, and by including this biographical element, the author marks this version of Great Expectations as his. Matilda chooses to leave out certain details of Dickens’ novel to appease her mother, making this interpretation uniquely hers.

It is no wonder that stories have managed to expand generations when storytelling is examined in this way. Stories would not have meaning without our own personal understanding of them. Authors act as a kind of bridge between the story itself and our own interpretations, giving storytellers both power and responsibility. Both Great Expectations and Mister Pip relay the importance that authority figures have in shaping future generations. The storytellers of the past have the power to shape the stories of the future- a responsibility that, like Pip’s story, counts on the right choice.

By Chantal Strand


3 Comments to “”

  1. I like the idea of the same story being presented and interpreted in different ways. Also the art of storytelling from generation to generation is kind of like the game “telephone” with the original message (often) evolving into something completely different by the end.

  2. Just like Mr. Watts refers to “the parallel world the reader develops from the words on the page” (128). Like Matilda, all kids were engaged by the new insights Dickens provided since it allowed them to explore further from their immediate reality. However, they were only told the story according to what Mr Watts saw fit.
    I would agree that the intention of the author is one, but when it reaches the audience it is interpreted in a variety of ways. Perhaps several points the author wanted to addressed are lost in interpretation but still I think this is a powerful tool since each reader will take whatever appeals to him the most and then interpret it according to his experience. This then allows each reader to relate to stories in particular ways.

  3. Examining the way in which each individual (in this case each character in Mr. Pip) extracts meaning and substance from a story also reveals aspects of their personalities, and gives us the ability to compare their reactions from an outsiders perspective. Jones really doesn’t delve too deeply into explicitly describing the personalities or intricacies of the characters, other than their reactions and opinions of Great Expectations. Dolores feels so threatened by the unknown story and her inability to either relate to it or truly know its significance, that she not only loosens the bond she has with her daughter but also goes as far as to carry out a radical hijacking of the book. Matilda uses the story as an escape and source of confidence and reassurance, despite everything that is thrown her way. As we find out, Mr. Watts manipulates the book to his needs of teaching the children and uses the story as an escape for himself personally as well. The most significant thing that Jones does in Mr. Pip is allow us (as readers) to observe other readers. We are removed from the position of just letting a narrative unfold and affect us, by being forced to observe the implications of someone else doing the same.

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