Mr Pip Overview for Revision

Background and plot synopsis


In 1990 the government of Papua New Guinea decided to blockade Bougainville. Bougainville is tropical and fertile but it also contains the richest copper mine in the world. The villages were the victims. They lost their power, their medical supplies, their doctors, their schools. They were abandoned by Australia. They waited for the ‘redskins’, as they call the soldiers from Port Moresby, in a hopeless silence. Nor could they expect help from the ‘rambo’ rebels, even though they counted boys from the villages among their numbers, as these lads, filled with ‘jungle juice’, proved to be intoxicated also with the power and thrill of fighting.


After the blockade of Bougainville in 1990 young men have left to join the rambo rebels. The village in which this story is set has been left to fend for itself. There is fish and fruit in abundance but no medicine, doctors or teachers. The villagers wait stoically and bravely for the inevitable.

The only remaining white man is a bizarre, somewhat incongruous fellow, Mr Watts – Popeye to the villagers, who often wore a red clown’s nose and trundles his apparently crazed black wife in a wooden trolley. He decides to reopen the school. With no teaching qualifications and no texts save a copy of Great Expectations, he decides to read it in daily instalments to the entranced village children. One of these is Matilda who narrates the story. Pip and the other characters of the book lend a new dimension to the children’s world. The characters become their friends. They enter a whole new world—the world of the imagination.

Their mothers enter the school to add their wisdom and another perspective to the world with their stories of seeds and fish and colour. It is Matilda’s mother, Dolores, who is hostile to Mr Watts and to Mister Pip as she feels they attack her faith.

Matilda writes ‘Pip’ on the sand, marking it with shells and this is seen and misunderstood by the redskins, who come to find this apparent rebel leader, Pip. When Mr Watts cannot prove that Pip is only a character in a book, because Matilda’s mother has hidden the book, the soldiers retaliate by dragging their possessions onto the sand and burning them. On their return a few weeks later their houses are destroyed and the book is burned. The children are encouraged to rewrite the book through their memories. Piece by piece they sew the story together again.

In such a world there can be no fairytale ending. As the terribly sick and exhausted soldiers return, Mr Watts declares himself to be Mister Pip and his subsequent death, along with that of his former adversary, Dolores, is an atrocity.

Miraculously, Matilda is saved from a raging river, taken to the Solomons and from there to Townsville, where her father lives. Her later research leads her to New Zealand and England, to the home of Pip and her Mr Watts and to the realisation that her voice is special and unique and that it could take her home to tell her story.

About the author

Lloyd Jones was born in New Zealand in 1955. Mister Pip won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was shortlisted for the 2007 Booker Prize. His other works include The Book of Fame, winner of numerous literary awards, Biografi, Choo Woo, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance and Paint Your Wife. He lives in Wellington.


The characters in this book are presented very visually. We know Dolores is angry because of the green scarf she wears like a bandanna. The very first page of the novel grasps our attention with its vivid colour and its quick delineation of a character. We also learn about the characters from what they say and from their tone of voice. Voice is an important element of this book. The children are told they must find their own voice. We are told the story through Matilda’s voice so there is no third person to tell us what a character is thinking. Therefore you must read this book watching and listening.

How do the characters move? What are they saying? How are they saying it?

Mr Watts

Our first impressions of him are almost as a bizarre figure. He is a source of mystery and a figure of fun because of the way we see him. His eyes bulged ‘like they wanted to leave the surface of his face.’ (p1) Some days he wore a clown’s nose on an already big nose. And when he wore the clown’s nose, ‘you found yourself looking away because you never saw such sadness.’ (p1) ‘He is white as the whites of your eyes, only sicker.’ p3. He had long hair and a long beard – almost like an old-fashioned picture of God. He was ‘too large for the room.’ (p13) Yet he wore an old white suit in the classroom and shorts on the beach and ‘he looked like a skinny old vine.’ (p59)

Despite his unprepossessing appearance, he has a tremendous sense of presence. He even quelled the drunken rambo who threatened to rape him.

Mr Watts is seen as alien, mysterious and yet important by the villagers. How is this shown in Chapter 1?

 He was a consummate story teller, a conjuror who whipped stories and ideas out of the air. ‘When he spoke we shut up.’ (p15) He gave their lives substance in a very brutal and uncertain world. He was able to instil a sense of future where the only certainty seemed to be the arrival of the soldiers bearing death, destruction and atrocity. He said of the classroom that ‘I want this to be a place of light.’ (p14) He believed that ‘with your parents’ help we can make a difference to our lives.’ (p15)

Mr Watts treated all of the villagers with respect. He wanted to know their names and he addressed them as individuals. He had an understanding and tolerance of humanity with all its foibles. He agreed Estella was mean but reminded Matilda that there may have been a reason for her behaviour that we don’t as yet understand. He teaches Matilda why Pip should be forgiven for his treatment of Joe Gargery.

‘It is hard to be a perfect human being, Matilda,’ he said. ‘Pip is only human. He has been given the opportunity to turn himself into whomever he chooses. He is free to choose. He is even free to make bad choices.’ (p 61)

Did you think Mr Watts made the wrong choice in staying in Bougainville? Give your reasons for this.

Matilda sees him as ‘stuck.’ He is a white man in a black man’s world. p50. He was certainly an unknown quantity because they could not imagine where he came from even after he told his story. Dolores certainly saw him as a heathen and therefore never to be trusted, especially when he denied the existence of the devil. And yet he had a very strong sense of morality. He claimed that to be human is to be moral ‘and you cannot have a day off when it suits.’ (p181)

Nowhere is this shown more than in his taking responsibility for the pillaging and later burning of the houses.

‘Pip is a confusion that I failed to see coming until it was too late. I am so sorry.’ (p93)

‘Even after the redskins burned all the houses he still maintained that what was left was of most value.’ (p107)

And so he gave them all ‘another room to lounge round in. The next stage was to furnish it.’ They were to do this by retrieving Great Expectations through their memories. They would recall it piece by piece and stitch it together again. This way they might get themselves another life.

Dolores would have been pleased with Mr Watts’s explanation that ‘we know the devil because we know ourselves. And how do we know God? We know God because we know ourselves.’ (p164)

In these chapters Matilda says that Mr Watts ‘was shining our experience of the world back at us.’ He was giving the villagers something of themselves back in the shape of a story.

Why do you think Mr Watts told the soldiers that he was Mr Dickens and then, in that terrible fatal scene, that he was Mister Pip?

When Matilda visits New Zealand as an adult we discover that Mr Watts had come to the stillness, colour and beauty of Bougainville from Wellington which had ‘the shock of brick in every direction,’ and he had lived in one of many ‘cold, wind-bashed houses with dried up gardens’. It is a place of guarded windows, of antagonism and even of a ‘resentful cat.’ There were no parrots where Mr Watts came from, just ‘an empty life’, ‘dead air’ and ‘a deadly drag on the heart.’ (p204) We learn of his amateur acting, the origins of the red clown nose and the rumbling trolley on which he carried his wife. We learn, too, that there were no parrots where he came from just silence and ‘dead air.’ (p208)

Read p144–169. What new facets of Mr Watts’s life do we learn from his story?

 What does he mean when he says that he had ‘the hungry eyes of an explorer seeing new territory for the first time‘? (p148)

 Why did this idea encourage Matilda to think that perhaps her father wasn’t lost after all?

 What do we learn of Mr Watts’s inherent tenderness from his life story?

 What does Mr Watts mean when he says that the only hope for Grace is for her to reinvent herself?

 What do you think is the meaning of the mayfly story?

 At the end of the story why does he seek out Dolores with a smile?


Grace Watts is at first a complete enigma. Is she crazed? Is she ill? To the children she is an exotic, towed along by her husband on a rumbling trolley. The two of them are like a procession. She is proud and holds aloft a blue parasol.

It is only at her funeral that we learn from the villagers that she was clever and won a scholarship to Australia, that she was loved by many. It had been convenient to think of Grace as mad, but we learn later from her husband’s story that she suffered from profound depression following the death of their baby daughter from meningitis. The lists she wrote on the spare room wall portray her as wise, poetic and ironic. Matilda was very aware of the spunkiness and humour that was on the wall.

‘Don’t ask your father about hell,’ she tells her unborn child. ‘His geography is limited.’ (p161)

It is Mr Watts’s sparring partner, Dolores, who enlightens us all on why Mr Watts reinvented Grace as Sheba.

‘The Queen of Sheba was a very wise black woman who sought out Solomon to see if she could match his legendary wisdom with her own.’ Then reciting from the King James bible she said,

‘She communed with him all that was in her heart….and there was nothing hid.’ (p169)


Dolores is a central character of the novel in as much as she typifies the high moral ground of the fundamentalist Christians of the village. She is feisty and will not give way in an argument even if she may be losing it. She has a frightening authority when she visits the classroom.

She is also the unwitting but unrepentant cause of the burning of the villagers’ possessions and later their houses because she has hidden the book which is the only proof for the soldiers that Mister Pip is not a rebel, but a character in a story.

She is a bitter and hostile woman who is ‘angry all the time,’ possibly because her husband is safely tucked away in Townsville, protected from her lonely and uncertain life. Matilda says she had a beautiful smile but she hardly ever used it. Instead she was the epitome of anger with ‘lips like slits.’ This anger terrified the other children. Matilda believes that Dolores is like Miss Havisham, stuck in a time that has past and gone.

Matilda tried to ‘colour in’ the world of Great Expectations for her mother but Dolores was profoundly suspicious of both Mr Watts and Mister Pip. She feared for the morality of her daughter. For her, morality was black and white and she would never condone Pip’s stealing food for the convict.

‘She worried that she would lose her daughter to Victorian England.’

Her other issue with Mr Watts was that he was a white man and white men had stolen her husband. You feel that she harbours bitterness for Grace because Grace won a scholarship to Australia in order to capture a white husband.

For her, faith was an intensity of belief and her beliefs could not be shaken. When she came to speak at the school her subjects were faith and prayer so when Mr Watts confessed to not believing in the devil she stormed to the classroom, believing she could bully him into accepting what she believes. (Read again her story of the devil woman on pp 75–77.)

A terrible fight ensues between mother and daughter when Matilda confesses to believing in Pip but not in the devil. (p78) But the beginning of the real rift between mother and daughter came when Matilda found the missing Great Expectations in the ceiling of their house. Matilda felt betrayed. She realised that her mother’s silence was designed to destroy Mr Watts even if it meant the destruction of the village. She also realised her mother was ‘stuck’. She could not speak up because it would be an admission of her theft.

Does your sympathy lie with Dolores or Matilda? Give your reasons.

She now has to share her mother’s guilt because she could not betray her mother. Her silence cost the villagers their homes.

Every now and then, Matilda was granted a glimpse of a Dolores who was ‘her own self.’

‘Or possibly what she was looking for was floating on a sea of hope.’ (p13)

At last in her defence of Mr Watts after his brutal death, her determination to defend the truth leads her to bravely step forward and testify to seeing Mr Watts chopped up and fed to the pigs. She knows only too well that by doing so she will suffer the same fate.

‘He was a good man. I am here as God’s witness.’ (p176) When she is raped, ‘her face had come loose with fear.’ Nevertheless she sacrificed her life to save her daughter from rape. She would not allow her to speak.

In the midst of the gross immorality of the soldiers we are reminded of Mr Watts’s words that ‘to be human is to be moral and you cannot have a day off when it suits.’ ‘My brave Mum had known this when she stepped forward to proclaim herself God’s witness to the cold-blooded butchery of her old enemy, Mr Watts.’ (p181)


Matilda is the narrator. Although an adult when she recounts the story she is 13 when the story unfolds. She is a faithful narrator and we have already learned a great deal about her from the way she reveals the events and the way she interprets the story. We see the other characters through her eyes. Trapped by a frightening blockade, she cannot understand the war at that age. How could they be sealed off? She was ripe for the promise of a change in her life, for a story that could enthral her and transport her away from the death and horror that threatened her young life.

It is seen that Matilda is

  • Sensitive
  • Highly intelligent
  • Precocious
  • Highly observant
  • Wise to the subtle innuendos of adult behaviour
  • Open to new ideas
  • Able to be herself


There are many themes in Mister Pip but before they can be discussed we must consider two points:

  • the integrity of the book rests on the probability of remote islanders responding to a story set in nineteenth century England and
  • the morality of attempting to impose an alien culture on the children of Bougainville in a world which has reverted to the one which existed before white man came.

Firstly, Mr Watts sees the need to distract the children from an atmosphere of brutality and fear. But the world of the marshes and Victorian London that Pip inhabits is equally as foreign to young New Zealand teenagers, and yet visionary teachers have read the book aloud to children who became entranced by the story. There is nothing improbable about his action. Anyway, all other teaching aids had gone with the blockade. This book offers an escape into another world.

Secondly, readers may worry about the fitness of Mr Watts bringing a foreign and very white culture into the lives of black children. However the feisty villagers prove that they are their own people. They will not be pushed into new ideas against their will. These people have integrity. In any case they had already been exposed to missionaries, foreign technology and it would appear that the young men who called themselves ‘rambos’ had been open to television, for good or for ill. The villagers appear resilient and able to defend themselves against alien ideas of which they do not approve.

The cultural diversity works in two ways. The mothers who visit the school bring with them their wisdom to share. They open eyes to the beauty of their life, the colour blue, songs and remedies, what may be learnt from crabs , the traditional way of cooking turtles and pigs, their morality and thoughts about sex, their own views of the world. There may be anger on Dolores’ part that Mr Watts does not believe in the devil, but he loves his wife who also believes in the devil. He is tolerant of Dolores’ belief although he would like to argue with her, but she is not open to debate.

The power of books and words

Matilda found a new friend in Pip. Through Pip she had learned to enter the soul of another. Most importantly she had discovered that other people in another time and another place had suffered as she did. Neither she nor Pip had known their fathers since the age of eleven. Pip knew death as the village children did. Just as Pip seemed squashed between his awful sister and Joe, so did Matilda feel trapped between her hostile mother and Mr Watts. She learns that things can suddenly change as they had for Pip. There would be no warning. This is borne out in the dreadful changes that come to the village through the actions of both the soldiers and the rebels.

The children are transported to another time and another world but they learn the universality of good literature. The people in Dickens’s work know suffering, too. The children can understand only too well the fear of Pip in the foggy marshes, his sense of being abandoned, the insensitive needling of Mr Pumblechook. Books stop us from being alone. They help us to realise that there are other people in the world who understand our feelings. They also help us to know ourselves and why we think and act as we do. By questioning the behaviour of Pip in London we learn to question our own behaviour and thinking and that of those with whom we live. Books open the imagination to another world and to the minds and souls of other people. To the people who live in this brutal and abandoned world it is a possible means of redemption. As they rebuilt Great Expectations the children were rebuilding themselves a new life. P128

Stories may be stored in the memory and recovered. They may be lived over again. Once read, they cannot be destroyed.

‘But you know, Matilda, you cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames. For me, Matilda, Great Expectations is such a book. It gave me permission to change my life.’ (p 135)

Mister Pip shows how books can change lives. It opens windows to a new world where you can meet new people.

‘When you read the work of a great writer,’ says Mr Watts, ‘you are making the acquaintance of that person.’ (p18)

‘Mr Watts had given us kids another world to spend the night in.’ (p20)

Mr Watts read slowly so that they could ‘feel the shape of each word.’ (p18)

But he is not the only one on the island who understands the power of words to express our innermost spirit. Dolores, although seeing Great Expectations as the word of the devil, was not immune to the power and beauty of language.

‘And God said, Let there be light. And there was light. There is no sentence in the world more beautiful than that one.’ (p38)

Daniel’s frail and brave grandmother says she knows nothing about Egypt. But she does know about the colour blue. And we see she knows about the power of language.Lyrically she tells us that,

‘Blue is the colour of the Pacific. It is the air we breathe. Blue is the gap in the air of all things, such as the palms and iron roofs. But for blue we would not see the fruit bats. Thank you God for giving us the colour blue.’ (p51)

And Gilbert’s father says,

‘At night the blimmin’ dogs and roosters chase after dreams and break them in two. The one good thing about a broken dream is that you can pick up the threads of it again.’ (p52)

The Rambo rebels show little poetry in their drunken, dangerously aggressive behaviour. Yet they too are subdued for seven nights while Mr Watts charms them with the story of his life. It did not last long for them. However at the end of the story they melted away.

‘All that story had got up and run off into the night.’ (p172)

However, stories can be subversive. They may be dangerous when taken literally. Dolores is sure of this in terms of morality while the soldiers see Pip as a supreme threat to their cause without having the faintest idea who he is and without wanting to listen to any explanation.

 Living in war

The people of Bougainville live in a tropical paradise, lush with fruit and vegetables and with a sea thick with fish. Yet they live in a state of suspension, forever waiting, listening for the helicopters, hiding and knowing that inevitably they will be found. Their peaceful, innocent lives are shaken by brutality and unspeakable atrocities. Babies die of malaria because of no medicine; they have been abandoned by the white people.

‘White men were to blame for the mine and the blockade. A white man had given us the name of our island. White men had given me my name. By now it was also clear that white men had forgotten us.’ (p41)

The waiting for the worst to happen is endless. It feels like a rehearsal for the ultimate and inevitable horror that has to come. They are trapped. There is no physical escape, only the escape into the world of the imagination.

‘This is what happens, you wait and wait. Until you wish the redskins would just come so that the waiting can be over.’ (p82)

Courage and bravery

Grace’s funeral (pp122-3) shows the compassion of the villagers as they recall the Grace they knew, filling in a picture of Mr Watts’s dead wife that he had never known. They speak of her with respect and admiration.

When the villagers lost all their possessions, they found ways to console themselves by remembering that the fruits were still in the trees and the fish were still in the sea. They had lost irreplaceable things but ‘you never knew a single coconut could have so many uses.’ (p96)

When they lost their houses a few weeks later, they lost their memories, their privacy and their sense of containment but they did what they could with what they could find. They maintained bravely that they still had the sea and the sky and the beautiful air that they breathed. The children courageously built up, phrase by phrase, fragments of the book which had been burnt. They would not let the book become extinct. They willed themselves to remember.

When the ever slow Daniel admitted to seeing the barbaric treatment of Mr Watts, his frail grandmother went with him when the soldiers took him into the jungle to his death.

How did Mr Watts and Dolores show great courage when faced with the soldiers on pp173–181?

The idea that people migrate

Mr Watts – New Zealand – England – Bougainville {Personal transformation: you can recreate yourself -Mr Watts a whole new story.}

Matilda’s father – Australia {Material change – economic, Matilda’s father, broke up family (against tradition)}

Grace -New Zealand – Bougainville {Effect on sanity and mental health – Grace}

Matilda – Australia – England – ? {Education- Matilda}


Literal (Matilda’s father, Matilda, Mr Watts and Grace)

Metaphorical – Mr Watts teaches the children

Migrate – power of imagination. To go from this world to:

  • Overcome fear
  • Escape from civil war
  • expand their lives
  • important to the plot
  • shows that the redskins do not understand this (lack of education)
  • transform oneself eg., Mr Watts
  • Matilda can become someone else (Pip)

People can “move” in their minds:

  • Using the power of imagination
  • Importance of literature
  • Great Expectations
  • The children can escape fear
  • Find new friends

Clash of cultures – White v Black:

Mr Watts/Dolores

Great Expectations/Bible


Way in which war effects people:

Redskins’ atrocities

Villagers’ compassion

Mr Watts and Dolores’s bravery


The symbol of the heart seed
Matilda identifies herself with Pip as he migrates as she will.
The writer also links her with the symbol of the heart seed which Mrs Kabui talks about. “It floats on the water. The next day it has washed up on the beach. The next week the sea breeze and sun has dried it to something light as a husk. The next month sees a wind turn it over and over till it reaches soil. Three months later a sapling grows out of the earth. Nine months later its white flowers open and glance back to the sea whence it came.”

From this we see the theme of change and migration. Later when Matilda is being swept out to sea clutching the log that she dubs Mr Jaggers, she thinks “I was one of those heart seeds us kids heard about in class. I was at some earlier stage of a journey thst would deliver me to another place, to another life, into another way of being. I just didn’t know where or when.” Like the heart seed, she has no control over where she lands. Later she lives in Australia, graduates from university there, goes to England to discover the Dickens connection for herself, writes her recount of the events on the island and then decides to “return home” – like the heart seed.



The importance of the book Great Expectations on the children:

“Mr. Watts had given us kids another piece of the world. I found I could go back to it as often as I liked.”

“No one had told us kids…that you could slip inside the skin of another. Or travel to another place with marshes.”

“Great Expectations came between us” (Matilda’s thoughts about her relationship with Dolores)

At some point I felt myself enter the story. I wasn’t identifiable on the page, but I was there…I knew that orphaned white kid and that small, fragile place he squeezed into… because the same space came to exist between Mr. Watts and my mum. And I knew I would have to choose between the two.”

“I picked up a stick and in big letters scratched PIP into the sand. I did it above the high-tide line and stuck white heart seeds into the groove of the letters of his name.”

“I knew things could change because they had for Pip…we learned how a life could change without any warning.”

“…we would still have another country to flee to. And that would save our sanity.”

“Now I knew fear as Pip had known it when Magwitch threatened to eat his heart and liver…I felt singled out by this darkness that had descended over our lives.”


Importance of literature

“I do not know what you are supposed to do with memories like these. It feels wrong to want to forget. Perhaps this is why we write these things down, so we can move on.”

Integrity / heroism

“A gentleman is a man who never forgets his manners, no matter the situation…A gentleman will always do the right thing.”

Mr. Watts pretending to be Mr. Pip “He had taken that identity to protect Daniel.”

“He said that to be human is to be moral, and you cannot have a day off when it suits. My brave mum had known this when she stepped forward to proclaim herself God’s witness to the cold-blooded butchery of her old enemy, Mr. Watts.”

Identity / Memory

“These losses, severe though they may seem, remind us of what no person can take, and that is our minds and our imaginations.” (Mr. Watts)

“No one in the history of your short lives has used the same voice as you with which to say your name. This is yours. Your special gift that no one can ever take from you.”

“I suppose it is possible to be all of these things. To sort of fall out of who you are into another, as well as to journey back to some essential sense of self. We only see what we see. I only know the man who took us kids by the hand and taught us how to re-imagine the world, and to see the possibility of change, to welcome it into our lives.”

“He was whatever he needed to be, what we asked him to be. Perhaps there are lives like that – they pour into whatever space we have made ready for them to fill. We needed a teacher, Mr. Watts became that teacher. We needed a magician to conjure up other worlds, and Mr. Watts had become that magician. When we needed a saviour, Mr. Watts had filled that role. When the redskins required a life Mr. Watts had given himself.

Emigrant experience – ideas of change

“Pip is an orphan who is given the chance to create his own self and destiny. Pip’s experience reminds us of the emigrant’s experience. Each is free to create himself anew. Each is also free to make mistakes…” (Mr. Watts talking)

Effect of white culture on Bougainville:

“There were white people crawling over Panguna like ants over a corpse”

Matilda and Dolores:

“What would you do, girl? If a man was hiding in the jungle and he asked you to steal from me. Would you do that?”

“She had kept silent when she could have saved the possessions of the village. But now I saw her problem, because if was also my problem. ..To do so would be to betray my mum…she was stuck and now I was stuck too. I had no choice.”

“Now I knew some of the moral confusion my mum had experienced….I said nothing and did nothing.

Here is how a coward thinks. If I stay inside my house I won’t have to witness the ransacking of the Wattses house. I won’t have to know.”

The end

“Pip is my story, and in the next day I would try where Pip had failed. I would try to return home.”

The will to survive

‘…it was the thought of my father’s pain that drove me back to the surface. Now I felt a responsibility to live.”

“I was one of those heart-seeds us kids had heard about in class.”

Aspects of style


Possible NCEA 2.1 extended text question:

“Analyse how language techniques were used to deepen your understanding of the author’s purpose”

This question requires analysis of language used, so key ideas would be:

First person narrative – sincere voice of an innocent teenage girl as an eye witness to horrific events. She records the facts as she sees them.

Matilda records thoughts but is quite non-judgemental

Matilda captures the diction of herself, her mother, Mr. Watts and the redskin officer which brings these characters alive. (You would need some quotes for this)

Simplicity of language but descriptive language using the imagery of the natural world

Symbols – the heart seed. The storm.

The influence of the novel Great Expectations and its characters – (Matilda begins to interpret her life through Pip’s life)The novel Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones examines the effects of war on a sensitive and impressionable girl called Matilda aged 13 -15 on the island of Bougainville in the early 1990’s. Written in first person narrative, Matilda is the story teller and she writes in a vernacular style as an eye witness to the events that occur when the island is blockaded from the outside world. Her style is quite straight forward and unsophisticated, reflecting the innocence of a sheltered Pacific Island youngster, yet there are lyrical descriptions of the physical world that reveal her sensitivity. She relates facts without expressing emotion or passing judgement, except when she discovers her mother’s theft of the book “Great Expectations”. She uses descriptive language of metaphors and similes to draw on the simplicity of the natural world of the island. One particular symbol of the heart-seed is used to express the idea of migration and change “I was one of those heart-seed kids…I was at some earlier stage of a journey that would deliver me to another place, to another life, into another way of being.”

The language of 13-year-old Matilda is captured in the simplicity of sentences and descriptions. In the opening description of Popeye she uses short, simple sentences and repetition to capture a girl’s curiosity at an eccentric and unusual white man who becomes her teacher. “Some days he wore a clown’s nose. His nose was already big.” “His large eyes in his large head stuck out further than anyone else’s.”

The effect of this simple style is to get the reader to trust that Matilda is an honest storyteller who keeps to the facts as she sees them.

When she speaks of the poverty caused by the war and blockade, the simple sentences and simple vocabulary stress her courage and optimism.

 “We had fish. We had our chickens. We had our fruits. We had what we always had. We had our pride”.

Her sense of ordinariness and child-like innocence is captured in the phrase “… us kids” – Listing simple things and then linking them to pride.

Despite her naivety, Matilda can see the damage done to the island by the larger nations. The style shows irony and anti-climax in the sentence, “Port Moresby was dependant on Australian aid which came in many forms – teachers, missionaries, canned fish, and even the helicopters used to drop the rebels out to sea.” There is irony in the thought that her island needed canned fish when their traditional fishing has fed them for generations. The use of anti-climax “used to drop the rebels out to sea” shows that outside aid has brought death. Her understanding of the greed of white people is evident in the simile that associates death with the mine, “there were white people crawling over Panguna like ants over a corpse.”

Later when fear enters the village from the soldiers’ helicopters, her simple style of short sentences creates tension. “No one spoke. We waited and waited. We sat still. Our faces dripped sweat.”

When she sees the dead black dog, her style becomes more reflective “To stare at that black dog was to see your sister or brother or mum and dad in that same state.” This reflection shows that her innocence is being eroded.

It also acts as a foreshadowing of death to come later in the book. Her language begins to become figurative as she transfers her confusion and fear onto the natural world. “You saw how disrespectful the sun could be, and how dumb the palms were to flutter back at the sea. The great shame of trees is that they have no conscience.”

Matilda transfers her feelings of outrage and injustice to the natural world through the use of personification. It also shows her confusion or loss of trust in the adult world. While this seems child-like, the reader sees that Matilda is losing her innocence and is expressing the deeper idea of injustice and the isolation that war and fear brings. The horror of war is beginning to alter her enjoyment of the beauty around her.

She uses metaphors from the natural world to describe the events of the story. She shows the power of the Redskin soldiers over the villagers when they arrive. “We were being pecked at – the way a seabird will turn over a morsel of crab with its beak.”

This image of predator and prey suggests the villagers’ helplessness in the face of the soldiers.

When the Redskins see the white teacher, Mr. Watts, Matilda uses the metaphor of the sea, “Once more we saw what a strange fish had washed up on our shore.”

When the soldiers leave, Matilda likens their movements to animals. “His soldiers followed like a pack of dogs after their masters.”

Later when they re-appear she says, “they came upon us like cats.” Perhaps the similes and metaphors make it easier for her to face the inhuman behaviour of the soldiers. To describe them like animals suggests that they have lost their humanity. To think of the soldiers as animals might explain some of their inhuman behaviour. It is too shocking to think that such behaviour could be carried out by humans.

After all the villagers’ homes and belongings have been burned, Mr. Watts encourages the children to re-construct the story of Pip. Matilda draws on the imagery of the villagers’ livelihood of fishing to describe how essential this activity was to give them hope. “In the past when we still had our nets and lines we would divide up the catch on the beach. That’s what we set out to do now with Great Expectations.”

At the climax of the story when Matilda’s mother is killed, Matilda’s style becomes very blunt and emotionless. “They took my mum to the edge of the jungle, to the same place they’d dragged Mr. Watts, and there they chopped her up and threw her to the pigs.” She follows this description with a simple yet powerful reason for writing the story. “I do not know what you are supposed to do with memories like these. It feels wrong to want to forget. Perhaps this is why we write these things down, so we can move on.”

Here is part of the author’s purpose and that is to suggest that writing one’s story is an important way to record significant experiences and to help make sense of horrific events.

She follows this with a rhetorical question “would my rape have been such a high price to pay to save the life of my mum? I do not think so. I would have survived it.”

This also is part of the purpose of the book, to focus on survival and to examine what inner strength people have to survive violent experiences. The theme of sacrifice and true heroism is expressed in the account of Matilda’s mother, Dolores, giving her life for her daughter.

When Matilda is traumatised by her mother’s brutal murder, she loses the will to live. The story then includes a storm which causes a flash flood in which Matilda is caught. This narrative device of pairing an emotional crisis with a physical crisis is a stylistic device to intensify the climax.

The turmoil in the natural world reflects the turmoil within Matilda. The wind is described as “shrill, it went mad with a thousand furies…” , “heavy rolling thunder of such violence that you thought it would bring the skies tumbling down.”, “rip of lightning”, “a shiver passes across the sea…the rain dropped down like flung stones.”

The violence of the storm reflects the violence of her mother’s death. “It could catch me and I wouldn’t care. I wouldn’t care because everything dear to me had been taken away…the flood picked me up as it had other bits of flotsam and fed me into the river.”

The storm is a symbol of the chaos of her own emotions. The flash flood symbolises her loss of hope and her loss of will to live. But the flood brings her a “Saviour” in the form of a log. She must ride out the storm to be rescued. Once she has made up her mind to survive the rescue, the narrative moves quickly with other minor characters stepping into the story to take her away from Bougainville.


Student presentation: Similarities between the theme of education in Mister Pip and Great Expectations

Similarities between education in ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Mister Pip’

Education in Mister Pip is about far more than academic learning and teaching. Mr Watts and the elders of the village educate the children about means of survival and escapism from the brutality of the war. It is only in the later stages of the book we see Matilda really blossom with academic education when she moves to live with her father in Townsville. Here she starts high school and wins the senior English prize before pursuing education to a higher level by graduating from Queensland University.

The Bougainville residents are educated in many ways. One of the themes that emphasises tension in the book is the theme of learning. Mr Watts reads ‘Great Expectations’ as a form of escapism from the brutality of the island the children live in. But he also has the elders of the village come into the school and share their wisdom.

This causes conflict between him as a formal Western educator, and Dolores – a strong proponent of island “wisdom”. Matilda is taught mainly from four factors: the context she is in, ‘Great Expectations’, the island’s “Wisdom” and The Bible.

Victorian education and Bougainville: Lack of Resources

Both Pip and Matilda’s initial lack of education

 I believe Matilda learns a lot from her surroundings in Bougainville. Quote 1 is a quote from Matilda regarding the red skins. It shows how Matilda has learnt of their authoritative power over her and the natives via association; perhaps due to the fear they inflict upon them. With reference to quote 2, we are told the full extent of the cruel environment Matilda had been brought up in, due to the fact that she learnt of an atrocity such as of demise from first-hand experience.

‘Great Expectations’

I believe the biggest influence of education in Mister Pip is the use of Dicken’s ‘Great Expectations.’ Mr Watts retains the hope of reigniting a generation’s erudition through the treasure trove of Dickensian literature. Quote 5 highlights Mr Watt’s passion for the author. Watts slowly inculcates within the children the idea of a future world as one where they could enter and leave and will. Identifying with Pip’s orphaned status the children relate their being uprooted from their homes in the same context. Quote 3 illustrates Matilda’s full indoctrination and absorption as Mr Watts read from it. Quote 4 further emphasizes the books hypnotizing power over the children. With the phrase “back into our bodies” indicating the sense of escapism the children feel from reading the book. The book is therefore teaching the children how to isolate themselves for a short time from their harsh way of life. Using quote 6 we can understand that the story of Pip has encouraged Matilda to follow his adventure, in her own discoveries. I believe quote 7 is very poignant and symbolic of the story of Mister Pip as a whole. It relays that Matilda learns of her own hatred towards her home through reading the book. The fact that Matilda refers to Bougainville as her “island” instead of home, exaggerates her feelings of shame of her home, due to its brutality and harsh ways.

Teachings of the Islanders

We hear of various stories throughout Matilda’s schooling years, all of which are stereotypical island tales. They all bear the teachings of the uneducated inhabitants, lacking any structured academic content, but having practical relation to nature and survival on the island.

Dolores’ use of the Bible

Dolores has an obvious disregard for Mr Watt’s use of ‘Great Expectations.’ She is a very devoted Christian, who thinks Pip stealing from his family is wrong and that the story must be immoral. She is concerned Mr. Watts is corrupting the children. In spite of this she preaches stories from the bible to Matilda. Dolores shows a lack of respect toward Mr Watts as she categorizes him under “some white fellas”. This also bares Dolores’ deliberate segregation of Mr Watts from the rest of the natives: “the rest of us”. She does this to undermine him, reiterating to Matilda how his minority influence is debasing her. Matilda follows the teachings of Mr Watts and ‘Great Expectations’ over her Mother’s as the fictive nature of her mother’s words contrast the educationally stimulating words of Dickens.

Miss Havisham guardedly teaches Pip to love Estella. Her repetitive words emphasise her forceful tone. We see her manipulating Pip’s thoughts and answers. She is prompting a correct answer out of him by her vindictive but cunning use of questioning.

The witty use of questioning is mirrored in Dolores’s speech to Matilda, “Would you do that?” Her questioning is again prompting a correct answer. Her overpowering nature is exposed in, the phrase “she thought” indicates her failure in trying to make Matilda believe in the same things as she does.

They both desire educational Improvement

In Mister Pip the primal reason for improvement is to better the children’s poverty and violence-stricken lives. “We were greedy for that world. Any world other than this one, which we were sick of – sick of the fear it held.”

Better education is also seen as a sense of freedom, Mr Watts’ has the intention and wish to provide a place of solace for the children. Matilda states “I had found a new friend.” This phrase is particularly poignant as Matilda only has an imaginary character to support her and to confide in.

The wish for educational improvement is also present in ‘Great Expectations’ but the need is for a much more sinister, egotistic reason. Pip desires it for his own social ambition of becoming a gentleman in order to mirror the class of Estella, his love. We see Pip’s self-centered nature as he uses his best friend Biddy, draining her of her academic knowledge in order to prevail in his bid to become a gentleman.

In Great Expectations Pip learns most of his academic knowledge from his best friend and fellow orphan – Biddy.

In Mister Pip, Mr Watts teaches all of the educational information Matilda acquires. He very successfully simplifies Dickens’s language. The anecdote of the bird flying out of the window on qualifies as to why Mr Watts is so highly regarded by his students. It shows his caring, kind-hearted nature as the quote not only explains the word, but puts it in a context that leads to ideas of freedom – a crucial dream shared between the children.

In Great Expectations, Joe Gargery teaches Pip his morals and manners. He explains to Pip that kindness is more important than class and social wealth. His kind-hearted nature is shown when he is explaining to Pip that having social mobility is no excuse for being immoral. In Mister Pip, Mr Watts mirrors Joe with his teaching of morals and kindness. Mr Watts is brutally honest about the lack of resources available to him.

“We had no books. We had our minds and we had our memories and according to Mr Watts, that’s all we needed.” This encapsulates Mr Watts’ positivity and his belief in the power of the children’s minds.

In Mister Pip education is viewed very much as a tool of survival. The elders of the village share knowledge with the children such as ‘To kill an octopus bite it above its eyes.’ Which may seem a little far-fetched but Mrs. Masoi clearly believed it was a hunting technique to hunt food to survive. Similarly the red skins and rebels use their knowledge of hunting and the forest to outwit the Redskins and survive the war. In addition to this Matilda also uses her knowledge of swimming taught to her by her Father to survive the flood. Education as a tool of survival is also relevant to Pip in Great Expectations; using the education Herbert Pocket & Biddy have given him as a platform to survive Greater London.

Education as a tool of survival

When Matilda moves to a Townsville in Australia to be with her father she is enrolled into a proper high school where it is clear she is not educated to a satisfactory standard for her age. However, here she furthers her love for both literature and Dickens before going on to receive the “senior English prize.” This is in contrast to “Great Expectations” as when given the chance of a formal education Pip throws it away and does not go on to achieve anything of great intellectual significance.

Education in Townsville

Towards the end of Mister Pip Matilda states that she ‘graduated from the University from Queensland’ and that in Brisbane she was a “relief teacher in a Catholic high school for boys.”

Here we learn of the power of Education as it seems through Education Matilda is the first person to really escape the brutality of the island and its cycle of life. Here she’s seen breaking free in to the real world and gaining a degree, a good job and the freedom to do as she pleases in addition to becoming skillful enough to enable her to educate others.

Here we see Matilda succeed where Grace failed in completing her education and becoming free; freedom is displayed by portraying Matilda’s successful escape and freedom, in contrast to Grace’s education that fell short. She ended up back where she started, back on the island. It is clear Lloyd Jones sees education as the key to freedom.

Towards the end of the book in the final section when Matilda moves to be with her father in Townsville we learn of the restriction of education on the Island. This becomes apparent when Matilda goes to the school library to take out Great Expectations and is unfamiliar with the content; “Mr Watts had read a different version to us kids. A simpler version. He’d stuck to the bare bones of Great Expectations.”



 There are several different techniques used in various parts of the book. However, there are three main techniques used that you can incorporate fairly easily into any essay on this book.

SYMBOLISM: Many aspects of the story are symbols, representations and foreshadowing of events.

  • The “shining cuckoo” (p.41), which Dolores uses to describe Mr Watts, is a bird that lays its eggs in another bird’s nest, having first destroyed the eggs already there. “The chick of the shining cuckoo never meets its mother.” Dolores uses the symbol of the shining cuckoo to try and convince Matilda that her family tree should be respected more than Mr Watts – he has no history and therefore no validity or importance. He has not received the wisdom of his ancestors and therefore anything he has to say is suspect. However, he also represents for Dolores the white colonialists who are the root cause of all Bougainville’s problems. “White men had stolen her husband and my father. White men were to blame for the mine, and the blockade”. Matilda sees a “kind man”; Dolores sees a symbol.
  • The spare room is a symbol of everything the Watts thought was important and also represented the differences between them, including their cultures. Grace wrote about her family and would often trail off, leaving her sentences incomplete. This was Grace’s free spirit (“What would you rather do? Sit with your feet dangling off the end of a wharf?” – p. 158) and annoyed Mr Watts. The interesting thing about how Matilda remembers the lists on the wall of the room is that it is clear that she remembers mostly Grace’s lists/words. The Watts had intended their daughter to read the lists and “choose” her world. However, resentment simmered beneath the surface when they realised there were “ideas and positions of their own they wanted their daughter to inherit, and some which were opposed to one another” (p. 162). The room symbolises both their differences and their efforts to find common ground.
  • Colour (black, white, blue). Jones uses these as symbols in several ways. White not only symbolises colonialization and all the difficulties faced by the Islanders as a result, but as Matilda says, “We had grown up believing white to be the colour of all the important things like ice-cream, aspirin…” (p.4). Later, Mr Watts discusses black and white with the rambos when he tells the story of the spare room. “White is next to cleanliness. Cleanliness is next to Godliness” he says (p. 156). But “above all, white is a feeling”. When Mr watts says this, the entire group of listeners is silent, waiting for a further revelation from Mr Watts. His cryptic remark that “We feel white around black people” has less to do with colour than it does culture, understanding, tradition and life experience. Blue is a recurring symbol of the sea and sky, representing the Bougainvillean world (“I miss the colour blue” – Grace, p. 160), as well as a symbol of life itself to the Bougainvilleans (see p. 51). The lesson by Daniel’s grandmother on the colour blue has a profound effect on Mr Watts and he shows respect for her imagination: “While we may not know the whole world, we can, if we are clever enough, make it new” (p. 52). This is, of course, what Mr Watts is trying to achieve by reading Great Expectations to the children.
  • The devil: Mr Watts and Dolores clash over ideas of God and the devil; good and evil. Mr Watts doesn’t believe in either as an entity but he believes in the power of good and evil – he sees it around him all the time, which is why he tries to take the children away from some of the evil in the world by reading his modified, sanitised version of Great Expectations. He tries to convey this to Matilda’s mother in the story of the May Fly (p.165) but this could also be an admission that, after listening to all the lessons taught by the adults in the village, he has learned something himself and come to respect their beliefs, even if he can’t adhere to them.


The first person narration of this story is further made complicated that the author is a middle-aged man, writing as a postgraduate adult woman, about the experiences of a 13-year-old girl. We see only what Matilda sees and know only what she is thinking. She also often uses the voice of experience to explain and interpret the things she heard, thought about or experienced at the time, which means that we have a duality about our understanding of events. When she recites the stories of the island women, she is authentically 13-year-old Matilda, which is reinforced by the use of the plural 1st person (“we). For example, “We all felt uncomfortable because Mr Watts had been made to feel uncomfortable” (p. 53). This voice is authentic because it has the selfishness of youth – the collective “we” when we have no guarantee of what anyone else is feeling and there is no mention of the kids discussing their feelings. It also serves to reinforce the difference between the island children and Mr Watts (“we”/”he”). However, we see the adult Matilda poking her head up several times on Bougainville – for example, when the Redskins are asking the villagers to produce “this man, Pip” and Matilda realises that the book cannot be produced, her observations are very adult. “Under these circumstances, silence among such a large group of people is an uncomfortable thing to experience. Guilt is malignant” (p. 103). This is followed almost immediately by a 13-year-old’s words: “It had not occurred to me before to think of the ocean as a dumb useless thing.” What are we to make of this? How does it help you to interpret the novel? What does it make you think about the author’s intention?

PARALLELISM: There are many instances of the text of Great Expectations being paralleled in Matilda’s story. Dolores is likened to Miss Havisham by Matilda (p. 49). Miss Havisham was left at the altar by her fiancé and now spends her days among the rotting finery of her aborted wedding. Similarly, Dolores has not been able to forgive her husband for abandoning her and has been unable to move on. As with both characters, the actions of men they were supposed to be able to trust affects the rest of their lives and the lives of those around them. Mr Watts takes on the persona of Pip, the protagonist of Great Expectations. Although he does this to save the villagers from the rambos, it ultimately leads to his downfall by the redskins. He likens himself to the orphan Pip when he says that “he is like an emigrant. He is in the process of migrating from one level of society to another” (p. 61). This is a reflection of Mr Watts’s status as an outsider and as we learn more about Mr Watts, we can equate him increasingly with Pip as a stranger in a strange world. However, we can also see parallels between Matilda and Pip – they both go through huge changes, are the narrators of their respective stories and have had hard starts in life. Also, the lack of resources and facilities in Bougainville is very like the hard times faced by many lower class citizens in Dickens’ England – children died in infancy and adults died young, just as happens in Matilda’s village (“…two more children died of malaria…” – p.43).

Apart from these, there are several examples of general techniques used. Otherwise, you would be advised to look at specific passages you want to write about and judge whether techniques/literary devices help you to analyse your ideas about them. Some examples are:

Idiolect: This is a type of dialect (language specific to an area) that is unique to the people speaking it and helps us recognise them by its features. It includes things such as accent – e.g., “Ged up, Matilda!” – Dolores, p. 12. Specific words are also common – e.g., “blimmin’” (p. 22) – a corruption of the British “blooming”. Syntax shows that although English is spoken by the people, it is a pidgin form, such as when Mrs Masoi says “Fat ones. Fat ones is good. Skinny no bloody good” (p.33). This highlights the differences between both Mr Watts and the villagers (e.g., “Jolly good” – Mr Watts, p. 33) and Matilda and her own people, as when she speaks it is with grammatically correct English.

  1. Figurative language: both Mr Watts and the islander use a wide variety of figurative speech, indicating a literary background in Mr Watts’ case and an oral tradition in the islanders’ case. Mr Watts uses sophisticated language structures often to great effect (“a change of name is as good as a change of clothes” – p. 61; “Once again, Dolores, you have provided us with food for thought” – p. 68”; “”…how might we recognise this creature? Does he have horns? Does he produce a business card? Does he have a lipless mouth? And no eyebrows? Do his eyes have a wanton quality?” – p. 164). This last quote, as Matilda says, helps Mr Watts to “create a devil before our eyes”. His power over language is what makes him both different and compelling. The islanders use great imagery in their language, as they have a tradition of using what they know/can touch/understand to explain the things they don’t – e.g., “At night the blimmin’ dogs and roosters chase after dreams and break them in two” – Gilbert’s uncle, p. 52. This excellent example of personification expresses beautifully how the barking of dogs and crowing of roosters wakes you up with a start.
  2. Foreshadowing: this device is used when the animals are killed early in the book. “An old dog had its belly ripped open” – p. 34. The brutal words, reported in such a calm manner, foreshadow the events to come and we can see that they will be reported in the same matter-of-fact way that makes them all the more horrifying. The fact that this passage seems to come out of nowhere, with little variance from what has gone before, emphasises the hardship of life in the village at the time, where nothing can be taken for granted and things can change in an instant. Compare this with the deaths of Mr Watts and Dolores.

What is your first response to the characters? What are they like? How do we find out?





·         Very Observant

·         Open Minded

·         Intelligent

·         Thoughtful



How do we find out (eg actions, what others say)


·         Matilda notices Mr Watts’ clothing and his mood by the look on his face.

·         She is open and enthusiastic about learning things from the European world from Mr Watts. She does not disregard the way of life in other countries due to where she lives being different.


Quoted evidence


·         He wore the same white Linen suit every day. (pg 1)

·         For the first time we were hearing that the future was uncertain. And because this had come from someone outside of our lives we were more ready to listen. (Pg 14)

·         Who was Mr Dickens? And why, in a village of less than 60, had we not met him?

·         It was 10 December 1991, I quickly calculated, we would not know Mr Dickens untill Feb 6 1992.

Mr Watts


·         Intellectual

·         Honest

·         Outcast

·         Open Minded

·         Respectful






·         Mr Watts is an outcast due to him being the only white person left on the island. He is alienated not only because of the colour of his skin but his odd way of dressing and introverted characteristics

·         He was the first adult to be honest with the children. He did not lie to them saying the future was certain and everything would be fine. He did not withold information from them

·         Mr Watts allowed the parents to teach the children their beliefs. He did not believe in religion as Dolores did but he still listens with interest.

·          He treated all of the villagers with respect. He wanted to know their names and he addressed them as individuals. He had an understanding and tolerance of humanity with all its foibles. He agreed Estella was mean but reminded Matilda that there may have been a reason for her behaviour that we don’t as yet understand.

·         He is white as the whites of your eyes, only sicker.

·         He was invisible for most the time pg 9

·         Mr watts was more of a mystery because he’d come out of a world we didn’t really know pg 9

·         I want this to be a place of light, no matter what happens pg 14

·         When we needed a saviour, Mr Watts had filled that role. When the redskins required a life, Mr Watts had given himself.

·         It has occurred to me only recently that I never once saw him with a machete



·         Religious

·         Closed minded

·         Authoritive







·         Dolores was one of the characters who relied on religion as her strength. She was very passionate about it and the way she portrayed her beliefs often came across as intimidating

·         She had grown up in a small segregated world therefore the outside scared her. Mr watts represented the great unknown that had taken her husband therefore she was very bitter towards it and closed minded. She had very strong veiws on the white society and whites because of it.

·         She did not like boastfulness. She liked even less the thought that she might have been caught out, or made a fool off. Pg 6

·         “A Prayer was like a tickle. Sooner or later God would have to look down to see what was tickling his bum.”

·         That’s what prayers are for—practice, children. Practice.”



Describe the setting in time and place Bougainville of coast of Papua New Guinea

· In 1990s just after a civil war broke out

·  Segregated from society through a blockade and also through cultural differences




How does this setting affect the characters?

·  Due to the location of Bougainville and its obvious segregation from western society many characters have little knowledge of society

·         They are their own community and live much simpler lives also very different culture

·         This difference in culture is one of the reasons the civil war broke out. Characters share very different interests from the white

Quoted evidence



  1. “He looked like someone how had seen or know great suffering and hadn’t been able to forget it.” (pg. 1)
  2. “Some days he wore a clown’s nose.” (pg. 1)
  3. He pulled a piece of rope attached to a trolley, on which Mrs Pop Eye stood.” (pg. 1)
  4. “I know some of you call me Pop Eye. That’s okay too. I like Pop Eye.” (pg. 15)
  5. “Pop Eye should be teaching you kids proper behaviour,” she said. “I want to know everything that happens in that book. You hear me, Matilda?” (pg. 23)
  6. “A rimy morning was the phrase I decided to bring home with me” (pg. 28)
  7. “It was always a relief to return toGreat Expectations. It contained a world that was whole and made sense, unlike ours.” (pg. 58)
  8. “I was troubled by what I had detected to be a shift in Pip’s personality now he was in London. I didn’t like his London friends. I didn’t take to his housemate Herbert Pocket, and I couldn’t understand why Pip had, and it worried me that he was leaving be behind. Nor could I understand why he had changed his name to Handel.” (pg. 60 and 61)
  9. “He isn’t a blood relative! she yelled. Well, no, Pip wasn’t a relative, I explained, but I felt closer to him than the name of those strangers she made me write in the sand.” (pg. 66)
  10. “Well, the first Devil I met was back then. I’ll tell you kids this just in case I am intersected by a redskin bullet because you need to know what to look out for, and maybe in this specialist are Mr Watts is no blimmin’ good.”  (pg. 75)
  11. “My mum’s silence meant that while Mr Watt’s copy ofGreat Expectations was saved, her beloved pidgin Bible went on the bonfire.” (pg. 96, 97)
  12. “Now I knew some of the moral confusion my mum had experienced….I said nothing and did nothing.
  13. Here is how a coward thinks.If I stay inside my house I won’t have to witness the ransacking of the Watts’ house. I won’t have to know.”  (pg. 100)
  14. “We have all lost our possessions and many of us our homes,” he said. “But these losses, severe though they may seem, remind us of what no person can take, and that is our minds and our imaginations.”(pg. 107)
  15. “My mum’s pidgin Bible had gone up in flames, so at night, while I tried to summon passages fromGreat Expectations she did the same with her Bible.” (pg. 120)
  16. What does he mean when he says that he had ‘the hungry eyes of an explorer seeing new territory for the first time‘? (p148)
  17. “Sir, I saw your men chop up the white man. He was a good man. I am here as God’s witness.” (pg. 176)
  18. “It was the only thing we could think to do to give a decent burial to Mr Watts and my mum. We buried the pigs” (pg. 182)
  19. “He was whatever he needed to be, what we asked him to be. Perhaps there are lives like that – they pour into whatever space we have made ready for them to fill. We needed a teacher, Mr. Watts became that teacher. We needed a magician to conjure up other worlds, and Mr. Watts had become that magician. When we needed a saviour, Mr. Watts had filled that role. When the redskins required a life Mr. Watts had given himself.” (pg. 211)




Posted by Tracey Hames

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

Leave a Reply


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: