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?




3 Comments to “Faith and Morality in Mister Pip”

  1. In response in question 1: I don’t think it was necessarily Dolores’ responsibility to stand up for Mr. Watts in front of the Rebels. But i think she felt like she had to do it. She had caused so much damage to her home island because of he pride and stealing of that book. I think this was her own way of showing to herself that she respected Mr.Watts now and could their differences away. She has such a strong faith she was probably hoping to that Mr.Watts would see this act in Heaven and hopefully forgive her.

    Question 2: I think it was beneficial for herself that she held on to her pride and religion in the blockade. Dolores’ being a women of Faith, i dont think she could of coped well without her faith and pride. Was it beneficial for her life? no, by her standing up for Mr.Watts is what made her be killed, but also her pride as a mother saved Matilda from being raped.

    This Conflict can relate to Nervous Conditions. It was important that Tambu held on to her homestead values and teachings for her own sake. It made it so she was able to not become sucked up in another world.

  2. I think that Matilda’s mother felt as though it was her responsibility to stand up for Mr. Watts, because she realized how her reckless actions and biased convictions had already led to so much destruction in her community. As much as she claimed to stand up for Mr. Watt’s because she was “God’s witness,” she seemed to be acting more out of internal guilt and less out of faith. I feel that in this moment, Dolores finally realized that in being a white man, Mr. Watts wasn’t responsible for all that she had blamed him with. She used her faith more as a crutch in this moment. It was still all she knew and all that she could fall back on in order to express her sense of remorse. Dolores’ persistence in holding on to her pride during the blockade was just that…pride. Although she called it faith, her actions were far from based on any principles of faith or even being a moral person. Her actions were not beneficial to anyone in the end, since they only propelled the events that destroyed Mr. Watts, the community and even Dolores herself.

  3. IN regard to the first question I do think that Dolores felt a responsibilty towards Watts when she stood up for him, her previous cat and mouse game with him was somewhat frivolous when there was no direct threat to anyone’s life, but once someone was killed the gaiety was definitely lost. Her faith and pride are inextricably linked…she gains pride because of her faith which she believes is real. Her steadfast resolution that “as god’s witness” is supportive in this; she seems to believe that God is watching if not Watts himself and she will act correctly. History has shown us that religion can make people do crazy things (steal great expectations being the least of them) and although her faith led to several disasters, none were as directly connected to her personally as the murder of Watts. I think she felt connected to Watts because of their dual role of teacher to the community…Dolores headed up the religious group while Watts taught. She felt there needed to be a balance to the education of the kids which is important in keeping an open mind, it is just somewhat comical that someone as pious as Dolores may have had the effect of broadening the horizons of the children.

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