In the book Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones, Jones illustrates the idea that great novels can have a profound effect on our lives. Novels such as Great Expectations and the Bible are contrasted throughout the book in the context of good and evil. They act as a divide between characters creating opposites and conflict. We watch different characters relate to the books and how they play a part in their lives. These features are then related back to the real world in dramatic events on the Pacific island. This theme of good and evil is also revealed through other aspects such as the Redskins in contrast to the rebels and white versus black.
Lloyd Jones wrote the book in 2006 about his travels to Papua New Guinea. He visited the country as a journalist before becoming an author. On his journey through the island, he witnessed violence, poverty, and tragedy. He observed the great difference between a ‘white and black life’, showing him how racially differentiated we are as cultures and people. Although he was prohibited from visiting the island Bougainville because of the blockade. He portrayed what he saw in a book, this book is called Mr Pip.
The book Mr Pip, is about the life of a small village girl called Matilda, living in Bougainville. She is retelling her existence on the island as an adult. The dialogue of the book could be described as having a vague monotone. It can be assumed that Matilda communicates feelings of trauma causing a lack of emotion in her storytelling.
In the book a blockade has been put in place, straining island life and forcing those who have not departed to be trapped in a prison like life. The island starts to be invaded by Papuan government forces, otherwise known as the ‘redskins’. Named this because of the contrast between their skin and the people of Bougainville’s. These forces are opposed by the rebels; groups of Bougainville men.
Only a handful of locals are left in the villages, anxiously anticipating the arrival of the red skins. But whilst they wait, a white man named Mr Watts takes over the school classroom and introduces the children to “Great Expectations”; a novel written by Charles Dickens, set in England in 1840. Matilda becomes fond of Mr Watts and is transfixed by the great novel. She begins to drift away from the real world and into the imaginary world of Great expectations, where her thoughts can run wild.
Dolores, Matilda’s mother, begins to notice her transfixion towards the book and is jealous of her daughter’s new interests. Matilda’s mother’s interests lay in the contents of the Bible, which gave life and sustenance for the villagers. As they read those first few pages and visualize the beautiful Garden of Eden, they began to imagine their own island as a ‘Garden of Eden’. This symbolized to the villagers that the book was all that was good in the world. Ways of life began to revolve around the book, giving impact and belief to the island. Every village had a church, prayer buildings, crops and lived by the rules of the Bible. Dolores saw the Bible as a book of honesty. Providing morals and truth to those who read it, giving her the view that all other books are misleading, in fact, you could go as too far say that she saw Mr Pip as symbolizing the devil.
The technique of pictorial storytelling created by Charles Dickens, allows readers to be captured by its contents, enabling the young island folk to experience Victorian England and escape from the horrors of Bougainville. Many are engulfed by this sweet attribute, but most of the adults are stricken by their child’s interest in this foreign book, and begin to believe the book is constructed on sin. They assume that the book is providing the children with inferior thoughts. Dolores believes that they are learning useless information to face life with, therefore adding no contributions to their survival on the island. This is shown within the classroom where Dolores boldly decides to give the children a religious lecture and the deter the children from the information they are learning. In her speech, she quotes “religion is like oxygen, it keeps you afloat at all times”. We also witness this when Dolores finds out that Pip is stealing from his sister, she believes this is immoral and becomes concerned about Mr Watt’s intentions.
As an act of retaliation, Dolores decides to hide the book. When the Redskins come looking for a man named Pip, they can’t provide evidence that he is a fictional character and this causes consequences for the island. For example, the people’s homes and belongings are burnt, Mr. Watts is killed by this act of defiance and Matilda’s mother is left feeling guilty and killed as a tribute for Matilda. The book clearly shows that one’s beliefs and obsessions can lead to terrible consequences; in this case the untimely and savage death of Mr Watts, who told the red skins he was the fictional character, Mr. Pip.
The book contrasts opposing beliefs and worldviews eg. Dolores perceives the bible as good and the basis for life whereas Mr Watts sees the bible as misinformed and fundamentally untrue. Dolores sees Great Expectations as typically ‘evil’, deceiving those who read it, whereas Mr Watts sees it as a classic source of English literature that transports the reader into another’s life.
In our modern world today, the symbolism in Mr Pip is more relevant than ever. The belief that one person or a group is right and another is wrong is everywhere. We see it in Donald Trump’s beliefs that America must be “great again”. His policies are not concerned with climate change or the needs of starving people across the world. His belief is that America comes first. The opposing belief is that the world needs to address climate change and immigrants need to be given hope and a place to call home. These opposing beliefs have caused conflict within America today with violent riots taking place across towns and states.
Lloyd Jones successfully portrays the symbolism of literature and the Bible and Great Expectations, reinforcing the theme of ‘’good of versus evil” in the terms of Dolores and Mr Watt. In his book Mr. Pip, Jones exploits the ordeals created by the red skins and rebels, Jones expresses that these two Novels symbolize a different boundary of thoughts, each affecting its audience in its own way, causing conflict. Dolores, even though she believes she is righteous, it is her actions that condemn Mr Watts and bring her own untimely death upon herself. After all, we still witness these similar events in the world today, showing to us that as humans today, we still tend to judge one an other’s opinions and beliefs for the worse. Accentuating the representation “Good versus Evil”. Ultimately these circumstances portray the theme of good versus evil and are used to foreshadow the arising violence in Bougainville and its apparent relevance to our modern world today.