Statement of intent

I plan to write an essay which displays my knowledge of the novel Mr Pip. My purpose of the essay will be to explain how symbolism was used in the text to reinforce an idea. My focus will be on how the symbol of God and the Devil throughout the novel emphasised different ideas such as the conflict between the black and white people, Great Expectations and the Bible and characters Dolores and Mr Watts. I will use such aspects as quotes from the novel to reinforce ideas which are represented by the symbol of God and the Devil.


The novel Mr Pip written by Lloyd Jones is set on the island of Bougainville and follows the story of a young girl. Matilda is a 14-year-old, who lives with her strong minded, Christian Mum while her Dad works in Australia. She must endure a violent war on the island, which she does by escaping into a world of literature which is offered by the only white man left on the island, Mr Watts. Mr Watts introduces the novel “Great Expectations” which more importantly establishes a character: Pip. Matilda develops a connection with the fictional character Pip who offers her an ambition to live. Surviving the war Matilda moves to Australia to live with her Dad. In this essay, I will analyse how a symbol reinforces an idea. My focus will be the symbol of colour – black and white –  and how it reinforces ideas like the relationship between Mr Watts and Dolores, good versus evil and Great Expectations and the Bible. I will also include how the symbol of literature can reinforce escapism.

Bougainville is a small island part of Papua New Guinea. The island is rich in copper which has been the main cause of conflict in previous years. In 1964, Australians first started exploring the island for resources. The Panguna mine opened in 1969 and triggered the local indigenous Bougainvillean people to have an uplift in their thoughts and opinions towards the mine over how their land was being handled. The Bougainville people’s relationship deteriorated after the Papua New Guinea government, (funded by Australia), murdered two of the senior Bougainvillean public servants. The indigenous people were shocked by this action. It is one of the main causes for the independence movement. The Bougainvillean people went into a civil war with Papua New Guinea to fight for their independence as an island which would hopefully stop the exploitation from the Australian people.


The symbol of colour was first shown when Matilda is content in her homeland in Bougainville by representing the black island people. She is laughing and playing around with friends at the morning market. Lloyd-Jones creates the image in the reader’s head of the village people crowded around together, enjoying their life. The island is described as the Garden of Eden, luscious and full of life. This scene in the readers head is rudely interrupted when a white individual named “Pop Eye” starts to wander through the crowd. Wearing a red clown nose Pop Eye looks in huge contrast to the indigenous people while he drags behind him a cart which carries a native woman called Grace, who is his wife. Walking through the group of the indigenous crowd the symbol of the colour white on his skin reinforces the idea of the unknown outside world.

Pop Eye’s real name is Mr Watts. Through his white skin colour, he is the symbol which represents where he comes from, another world for the native people. The native people feel he acts superior to them and mistrust him as he has the same white colour skin as the people who exploited their island. The island people, especially Matilda’s Mother Dolores, struggle to see the good in him or any white person after what they have experienced from them, creating the vision of good versus evil which is a reoccurring symbol throughout the book reinforcing different ideas.

We learn from the quote from Mr Watts: “We feel white around black people”, that skin colour is a very diverse topic which continues to present in today’s world. Through the different colours of skin, people are treated differently, unfairly and used against themselves. Racism has been a huge global issue for hundreds of years on earth right through to today. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. Personally, I am a huge believer in this quote because why would you judge someone on their skin colour when it does not change who their character is? The quote was thought of because of the symbol of colour and what it means to different individuals and their own skin may have a major influence on how they perceive colours.

Another symbol shown throughout the text is the literature which reinforces the idea of escapism. The symbol of a book can mean many different thoughts to any different individual because every person will analyse a text differently. Books can open up another world for people with new characters and new imaginative settings. They are also an enormous drive for creativity. In the text “Mr Pip”, by Lloyd Jones, we learn how two different characters both escape mentally into two books. The first example is Matilda. When Matilda is introduced to the book “Great Expectations”, by Charles Dickens she is immediately pulled into the book. She is introduced to characters such as Pip, Mrs Joe Gargery and Miss Havisham. Each school lesson Matilda finds herself escaping into the world of “Great Expectations”, learning more about the characters’ personalities. Matilda relates to the orphan Pip because she sees herself as almost an orphan because her father is lacking in her life after moving to Australia for work. Matilda also finds herself learning new knowledge about the outside world after Bougainville being blockaded from the rest of the world with no foreign supplies. Matilda’s true escapism is best learnt from her quote: “Mr Watts had given us kids another world to spend the night in. We could escape to another place”. We can see different forms of escapism present in today’s world. Some people choose substances like alcohol, drugs or exercise to allow them to escape and relax like Matilda did through “Great Expectations”. It is important for people to be able to escape to other places because it allows them to see the divide between what is reality and what they can fantasise about when “in” these places.


Another example of a character who uses escapism through books is Matilda’s Mum, Dolores. The Bible offers Dolores a safe place to run to when she is under pressure or struggling. She is a very dedicated Christian. This dedication is proven in the scene where she sacrifices her life for God. Dolores states she is “Gods witness” when a Red Skin Solider asked who saw Mr Watts being slaughtered. This results in her own life being taken, just because she was not willing to give herself over to the Devil. The Bible has taught Dolores to believe in God and the Devil, which creates conflict between Dolores’ total belief in the Bible, and Mr Watts who introduces Matilda to the white man’s world in “Great Expectations”. Books are an important symbol in the modern world of 2017 as for years they have not changed who or what they are. Books continue to hold different tales whether they are real or fictional which are personal to each and everyone who reads them. Compare this situation to your life. What aspects from in books, magazines and online do you channel into your life?


In the “Mr Pip” novel by  Lloyd Jones, we are introduced to the symbol of God and the Devil which can be associated with the symbol of colour also. The symbol of God versus the Devil creates the idea of good versus evil. We identify God with hope, safety and religion rituals which the island people associate the colour of black with. While we relate the devil with evil, dreadfulness and punishment and the islaadn people associate this with the colour white. The Redskin Soldiers are also considered evil because of the crimes they carry out. In the text, Dolores character is a committed Christian who devotes her life to the Bible and traditional island practices. Dolores states: “We know the devil because we know ourselves. And how do we know God? We know God because we know ourselves.” From this quote, we learn the clear divide in Dolores head of what she believes is good and bad. From Dolores’s perspective, Mr Watts is the symbol of the Devil. Mr Watts is introducing the children to new ideas, language and culture through the classroom novel “Great Expectations” which all have one common idea through them of the white world. I believe Dolores associates Mr Watts with the Devil because of his white skin colour which represents unknown territory to Dolores which scares her. Dolores also identifies Mr Watts as evil because she feels she has lost her husband to a white world who has moved to Australia for work. Dolores looks at the new ideas inflicted by  Mr Watts as a type of brainwashing. We can compare this to the situation of World War Two where the rising dictator Adolf Hitler brainwashed German citizens into believing the Aryan race was more powerful than any other races, especially the Jewish Race. Dolores must endure the thought of her own daughter being brainwashed and allow Matilda to make some of her own decisions.


Another idea emphasised throughout the “Mr Pip” novel by Lloyd Jones is violence of the war which is symbolised by the escalating violent events. At the beginning, we are introduced to the scene of the village chickens being killed which only seems like a small action at the time, but is the first act of violence in the text. We see the violence escalate when a young black village girl finds her black dog cut open lying dead on the dusty ground after the Redskins have exploited their village. The dog’s name is symbolical: Blacky, which can be seen as a representative of the native island people and the violence which is lying ahead. The girl is devastated with the loss and grieves over the bloody, black dog. The next act of violence is frightening and alarming. Mr Watts hands himself over to the Redskin Soldiers as Mr Pip before being slaughtered and fed to the village pigs. Just after this event, Dolores comes forward as God’s witness and ends up giving her life for Matilda after Dolores has been raped and beaten. All of these acts have come to be because of the war between Papua New Guinea and the Bougainvilleans which can only reinforce how horrible war is. We as the reader, in this modern world, must come to realise these acts of violence, if not worse, continue to take place in what seems like a peaceful and pleasant world.

The symbol of colour can be related to the modern world of 2017. People continue to associate different ideas and cultures with different colours so conflicts which are still arising in today’s world can often have this base cause from the symbol of colour.

Lloyd-Jones had the purpose of writing the novel after going to Papua New Guinea as a journalist but did not make it to Bougainville because of the blockade. Lloyd-Jones has successfully described the symbol of colour which reinforced such ideas as the relationship between Mr Watts and Dolores, good versus evil and Great Expectations and the Bible, also including how the symbol of the literature showed the idea of escapism. We can link this to today’s world and the wars which take place, for example in Syria where Isis is attempting to take over. New Zealand people can relate to this story because New Zealand played a process in the peacekeeping of Bougainville. Overall the novel is an excellent read.

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