Mr Pip Essay example

Analyse how symbolism was used to reinforce an idea in the written text(s). Note: “Idea” may refer to character, theme, or setting.

In the novel Mr Pip, writer Lloyd Jones uses several symbols to effectively reinforce ideas. As a New Zealand journalist in Papua New Guinea during the Bougainville civil war and blockade, Jones was driven to write the novel from what he had seen and learnt from this experience. Jones uses the symbols of books – The Bible and the novel Great Expectations – to reinforce the idea of escapism through literature, as well as good versus evil. He also uses the symbol of the island as the Garden of Eden and the exploitation and environmental destruction of the island by Papua New Guinea and Australia (the white man) to reinforce the idea of good versus evil.

The symbols of the books Great Expectations and The Bible reinforce the idea of literature being a form of escapism when times are hard. Nowadays, people may escape with music, the internet, alcohol or drugs but during the blockade Matilda escaped into the world of Pip in Great Expectations. She travelled to Dickensian London and formed a strong bond with the boy Pip who was in some ways like her…QUOTE. Matilda was able to cope with the violence and evil she saw by thinking about Pip, and when she almost drowns at the climax of the story it is the thought of Pip that saves her in the form of a log. In contrast to Matilda’s escaping in to Great Expectations, her mother Dolores relies on the Bible. This also creates a conflict between Dolores who believes strongly in religion and the traditional island ways, and Mr Watts the teacher, who to her is bringing evil with his white man’s ideas QUOTE.

Another symbol used by Lloyd Jones is that of the island representing the Garden of Eden. At the beginning of novel the scene is set, describing the island as having an abundance of fish, fruit and fresh water. As the novel progresses the theme of good versus evil is developed when we see evil infiltrating the island paradise in the form of the redskins’ violence, and we learn of the exploitation of the islanders by the white man through mining copper on the island, as well as the Australians funding the PNG government, allowing them to buy helicopters which are used to murder the island rebels by dumping them at sea.

Furthermore, the colours black and white are used to symbolize the clash of cultures, with the conflict between Dolores and Mr Watts. Dolores (black) clashes with Mr Watts over his white man’s beliefs, believing he is bringing evil to the island children and is taking away her daughter. This conflict is emphasized through the two different texts, Dolores believing in the Bible as the good book and Mr Watts introducing Great Expectations and allowing Matilda to escape to the white man’s world….

The epigraph to Mr Pip is ‘Characters Migrate’, and this is seen through numerous characters in different ways – Pip migrates to London; Matilda migrates in to Dickensian England, and later to Australia; Mr Watts migrated to Bougainville; Matilda’s father migrated to Australia to work in the mines. This migration is used to emphasise several contrasting symbols and themes in Mr Pip – .

To get a Merit or Excellence you need to discuss the author’s purpose, what they want to portray to the reader, and relate ideas back to societal issues/experiences.

For Mr Pip we can discuss:
The New Zealand author Lloyd Jones wrote the novel Mr Pip after working as a journalist in Papua New Guinea covering the civil war in the 1990’s. Although he was unable to travel to Bougainville because of the blockade, the atrocities he heard of encouraged him to write the story of the horrors occurring to the Bougainville islanders at the hands of the PNG redskin soldiers, who were financed by Australian aid. Jones also wanted to emphasise the themes of exploitation (as the Australian mining conglomerate had desecrated the island with their huge copper mine); violence and fear of war; conflicts between black and white cultures; good versus evil. As a reader we learn of this war occurring in New Zealand’s back yard, and that New Zealand played an important role in the peace process, and is still involved today. A referendum will occur in 2019.

Posted by Tracey Hames

Teacher of English at Mount Aspiring College, Wanaka, New Zealand.

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