29th September 2017

Mr Pip – Resub for Merit

QUESTION: Analyse how the use of “opposite” or contrasts helped you understand one or more themes in the written text.


In the historical fiction novel of “Mr Pip” written by Lloyd Jones, he uses his experiences of working as a New Zealand journalist in Papua New Guinea during the civil war in the 1990’s. The opposites of the symbolic colours Black and White help the readers understand and get get a better grasp on the idea/theme of Good versus Evil. With the difference of black and white in the skin colours, and their divergent backgrounds, the conflict between Mr Watts and Dolores is largely enforced by the contrasting values and believes. Mr Watts the only white man on the island he is perceived as evil by Dolores and as Mr Watts becomes the teacher on the island, some believe that he is putting white man ideas into the little black children’s heads. The Bougainvilleans believe white is evil as the white Australian funded Papua New Guinea red skins are exploiting the land for copper, being “evil to the local and native black islanders.  


The novel was set against the backdrop of the civil war on Bougainville Island during the early 1990s. Bougainville is a Pacific island with nearly all of the population being natives and black. The Papua New Guinea government wanted a blockade against Bougainville; they wanted to starve the indigenous people of means and wanted to beat and retain control of the island and the resources on the island. Before the blockade, there was a mix of skin colours on the island, but all of the whites left as the blockade was put in place. There was only one White man that remained, Mr Watts. We learn of his marriage to Grace, a native of Bougainville, which explains why he remained long after most white men had abandoned the island.


The effect the Lloyd Jones purposefully creates is it paints a picture of how different the white people are to the natives; giving a direct comparison. With having an inequality of blacks compared to white, this shows us about how the theme of Good vs Evil symbolised  by the colours of black and white. Relating this back to Bougainville, some of the native blacks feel as if Mr Watts (being white) is very different from the rest of them. Matilda narrates; “… whites as the white of your eyes, only sicker”. The word ‘sicker’ is very significant; meaning ill and weak.  “Above all, white is a feeling” – said by Mr Watts, helps the native islanders and the readers understand that just because his race and the colour of his skin is different, his is still a human just like them, and should be treated equally. The Black world is very different with the native and cultural traditions and their way of life, compared to the white world of Mr Watts and the Australians exploiting to ensure the redskins strip the island of resources. This contrasts with Pip’s world in England in the Dickensian times, shown through the novel, “Great Expectation.” In today’s world, black and white are used to contrast against each other. They are used to show us that black world is very culturally different from the white world and vice versa.  This can relate to the rioting in present day in the United States of America and the police brutality against the different race, culture and skin colour of the individuals of the country.

The novel “Great Expectations” authored by the great English writer, Charles Dickens, was read to the native children in school by Mr Watts. Mr Watts become the teacher of the small classroom as he used his white privilege of getting an education in New Zealand, and was the figure of knowledge. Matilda, the main character of the book is 13 years old. In contrast, her mother Dolores is a strong Christian believer and is closed minded as her beliefs are from the bible, and from the native island traditional ideology. Dolores is a self righteous Mother Superior of the village and greatly look up to God in times of need and crisis, especially in the blockade, which is total opposition to Mr Watts. We see a conflict between Mr Watts and Dolores due to their backgrounds. With the Whites causing exploitation in the mines and the blockade of Bougainville. We see that Dolores believes that since Mr Watts is white, he also symbolises the evil of the white man’s. With her daughter, Matilda attending the class that Mr Watts is teaching, she believes that he is brain washing her with by teaching her the wrong White Man’s thoughts ways instead of the Island culture and traditions. Dolores despises Mr Watts and his white man thoughts and especially the book, Great Expectations as it is influencing Matilda by giving her insight of white man’s ideas and nonsense such as Pip, a fictitious character.


Dolores believes the devil can be personified as a person, but Mr Watts doesn’t believe in either as an entity. Mr Watts believes in the power of good and evil He sees it around him all the time (Fighting, rebels, blockade) which is why he tries to distract the children from the atmosphere the civil war, by reading Great Expectations. In Dolores perspective, Mr Watts is seen as the devil because he is expanding the children’s minds and introducing them to new “white mans” ideas to use their imaginations to escape to another world. This causes a conflict as this novel is compromising the already ingrained thoughts of the bible in Matilda’s mind. Dolores feels that Matilda is putting Great Expectations before the bible.  With Matilda’s father not being present, Mr Watts has taking the role of the father figure in her life. With the clash between her mother and Mr Watts, she is torn between the two parental influences in her life. Her mother, being the caring and main parent in her upbringing veruses Mr Watts, the educational influence and a helping of distraction in the time of the blockade. In present, there are childrens still conflicted between divorced parents, with having different influences on their child. Kids of divorced parents find it had to manage time with both parents and to be relient at the same time. Matilda uses Great Expectations as a way to help her be resilient and to cope with the major changes in her life.


“I only feel white around black people”. Mr Watts expresses this thought to the classroom full of black children trying to show us that he feels no different surrounded by others like him, but when around black people, he feels isolated and the tables have turned. If I was in this situation, I would be curious about how it would feel boing the only white man on the island. Dolores and Mr Watts have a poor relationship with each other due to cultural differences and the thought that the “white man” is brainwashing the little kids with large white ideas. Dolores perceiving Mr Watts as “evil” leaves a dark hanging cloud over his head. The theme of good versus evil is shown in the historical novel “Mr Pip” authored by a New Zealand journalist Lloyd Jones by the opposite and contrasts of characters, symbols and themes.

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