Mister Pip

by joeyjddavis

“Everyone called him Pop Eye.” However, this character named Mr. Watts, who would also come to call himself Mr. Pip, was far more than the young children in a small Bougainville village could even begin to imagine.  Mister Pip is a brilliant novel that portrays a crucial growing period of a young girl named Matilda in a small island village, and shows how her life was so profoundly changed and influenced by an old white man who had volunteered to teach in times of conflict.

Much to the enjoyment of the village children, Mr. Watts takes it upon himself to teach about Charles Dickens and his famous novel, Great Expectations.  Contrary to the reaction shown by Matilda’s very religious mother, this lesson plan is met with such appreciation and positive reception from the young children because in a sense it enables them to escape the hardships taking place around them.

This novel carries a theme of isolation that is portrayed in various ways.  The village itself is isolated because of a blockade and civil conflict, and this isolation disables the villagers from escaping to a safer environment.  At the same time, we see a kind of self-imposed isolation on the part of the young children, and especially Matilda.  Mr. Watts has opened a door into a world far different than the one the children are faced with in their lives, and Matilda finds this so exciting that she almost imagines Dickens’ characters into life, especially Pip.

This novel provides overwhelming sadness and emotion and counters it with the sense of hope and happiness discovered through the story of Pip in Great Expectations. However, a lesson is learned through Matilda’s escapism, and that is that the place for embellishment “belongs to life – not to literature.”

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