Mister Pip | Escaping in Literature

by meaganjbrown

An isolated island strife with civil war forced colonizers back to their homelands leaving villagers, like thirteen year old Matilda, without simple belongings and only the hope of a better world. Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip is Matilda’s account of her village’s struggles and small victories in hoping to realize that brighter future.

The children of the small tropical Bougainville village had come accustomed to the simple luxuries of the “white” world that were introduced by their colonizers. However, they struggle to find activities to pass time, since their teachers have fled, and a blockade prevents the “luxuries” from reaching them. All of the villagers are shocked when Mr. Watts, the man the “tribe had forgotten”, and the sole white man left, re-opens the classroom. His eccentric and mysterious demeanour discourages some community member like Matilda’s mother, Dolores. Mr. Watts receives the brunt of opposition from the very vocal and faithful Dolores. She is against his readings and discussions on Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, which happens to be the only lesson he offers. He also invites mature members of the village to teach cultural and traditional wisdom.

The combination of Dolores’ actions out of resentment to Watts’ “white” ideals and the red army and rebels advance on the village leads to a series of devastating events. Despite the tribulation, Mr. Watts’ teachings encourage the children to “reimagine the world, and to see the possibility of change”. Much to her mother’s dismay, Matilda engulfs herself in the captivating Great Expectations. Jones uniquely uses the character of Pip in Great Expectations to effectively parallel with the life of Matilda. Jones’ narrative is raw in dealing with such dramatic content, such as war and merciless killings. His surprising ending leaves the reader sifting their memory in search of any foreshadowing.

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