GCSE AQA English Lit - Conflict Poetry, Mr Pip, The Crucible - MR PIPWatch
Summary: Mr Pip is the story from the mind of a young girl, Matilda, during the redskin uprising against an Australian mining company. Matilda's village is caught up in these events with disastrous consequences. Note that the events in this novel happened in real life (to a certain degree), with embellishment and exaggeration in parts to add drama and plot to the novel.
Plot: At the start, Matilda is a young girl, introducing us to her life and introducing us to the main figure (and who's name is eponymous to the title as shown later on), Mr Watts. He is presented as the last white man on the island, and is therefore shown as an outcast instantly. A chapter in, we find that the school on the island is re-opened, with the mysterious, lonesome Mr Watts becoming the teacher to the children. Instead of conventional methods of teaching, Mr Watts instead chooses to read the children a book: Great Expectations. He places great weight upon this book, seemingly obsessed with it, and this obsession is passed on to the children, especially Matilda, who becomes infatuated with the protagonist 'Pip'.
At one point in the novel, a change is initiated, with the redskins coming to the village. They notice the name 'Pip' in the sand on the beach, something Matilda did. Matilda's mother, Dolores, hid Great Expectations, so Mr Watts could not prove that Pip was a character. In response to being 'lied to', the redskins burn down the village, not including Mr Watts' house. Soon after, a group of rebel soldiers return to the village, listening to Mr Watts explain over the course of 7 days his life story, purposely linking his story with Pip's from Great Expectations. Mr Watts' wife had died, and Mr Watts decides to move on, offering Matilda a chance to escape with him on a boat. Before this happens, the rebels flee and the redskins arrive for the second time.
This time around, the redskins kill Mr Watts in one of the most gruesome fashions, and when Dolores stands up for the right cause, she is taken away and raped, although choosing to sacrifice herself for her daughter, and she too is murdered. Matilda gives up the will to live, and, wandering aimlessly, is caught up in a flood, clinging to a branch to survive (she calls this branch 'Mr Jaggers', a reference to Great Expectations). She is saved and moves to Australia, to live with her father. It then cuts to the present day, when Matilda has been digging into Charles Dickens' life, as well as Mr Watts'. She reveals her success as a scholar and also as a teacher, educating children as Mr Watts did for her.
Matilda - The protagonist of this story. She is a young, proud, thoughtful girl, who is forced to choose between Mr Watts and her mother. Throughout the story her obsession and infatuation with Pip grows, seeing him as a friend and an equal although imaginary. Her father left when she was 11, and her mother's attitude is often scorned by Matilda.
Mr Watts - In many ways, the hero of 'Mr Pip'. Known simply as 'Pop-Eye' by many, and as the only white on the island, he is a constant source of mystery and intrigue. He has a dominant, authoritative personality, and has multiple layers to his life and his ideas. He is a strict atheist, although not hostile to religion, as his wife was religious (and a native of Bougainsville). At the end of the novel he sacrifices himself for the villagers, proving himself to be the 'Jesus' figure.
Dolores - Matilda's mother, and a constant source of conflict within the novel. One of the most fanatically religious, she provides a constant stream of opposition to Mr Watts, fighting him as much as possible and attempting to protect her 'precious' Matilda, at all costs. She is controlling and proud, and often reflects on her husband, as she blames herself for driving him away. At the end of the novel she sacrifices herself for what is right, choosing to die a martyr.
Mrs Watts - Shown at the start to be a complete lunatic, she is carted around by Mr Watts dressed in a costume. She dies half-way through the novel, and her past is revealed partially by Mr Watts, and partially by his ex-wife at the end of the novel. She is shown to have become fixated upon the play of 'the Queen of Sheba', and shown by Lloyd Jones to be representative of the power of stories.
Daniel - Possibly the second most important child in the novel, Daniel was naturally inquisitive and, unfortunately, honest. He is the one who accidentally got Mr Watts murdered, and he himself was crucified due to his mental simplicity.
Themes (T), Contrasts (C) and Motifs (M):
M - The Machete - a symbol of violence, as well as development
M - Great Expectations - One of the two important books in the novel
M - The Bible - The second of the two important books in the novel
M - The Sea - A source of freedom, and also life
T - Religion - Is religion dangerous, or can we learn from it?
T - Colonization - Who is more 'educated' and is it wrong?
T - Racial Prejuidice - Whites vs Blacks
T - Conflict - Emotional, Physical, Idealistic (religious)
T - Nature - How much do we rely on nature?
C - White/Black - Mr Watts/Villagers + Australians/Redskins
C - Nature/Technology - Machete/Helicopters/Villages
C - Young/Old - Who learns from who?
C - Atheism/Theism - Can we learn from each? Mr Watts/Dolores
C - Mental Education/Physical Education - Natives/Australians
C - Old/New (Tradition)
1 question, two parts.
A) Answer a passage - In depth - Look at use of language and technique
B) Continue A) but refer to novel as a whole, show knowledge!
Sample A* Paragraph: How does Lloyd Jones present the idea of conflict?
The foremost example of conflict throughout 'Mr Pip' is that of physical conflict between various characters. The story of 'Mr Pip' is narrated by a young woman named Matilda, who is reflecting on her past and recalls the story of a peculiar, wondrous man named Mr Watts, with the context placing both of them on the island of Bougainville amid fatal conflict between the rebels and the redskins. An example of this ongoing fatal clash is when Matilda states "at night we listened to gunfire", which could reveal just how commonplace the sound of deadly weaponry had become for the inhabitants of Bougainville. Through this simple fact, Lloyd Jones could be seen as suggesting that conflict is a fundamental part of human nature, as he uses the example of the Bougainvillians to show how readily and easily we accept violence in our lives. On the other hand, Lloyd Jones could be attempting to suggest the opposite: that we are opposed to conflict as humans, and the use of the word "night" could be the author implying that Matilda was so incredulous at the ongoing suffering and violence that it was impossible for her or for various other members of that community to sleep. Yet another possible explanation for Matilda's aforementioned statement could be that conflict is wholly unnatural, with the residents of Bougainville being extremely scared by the sounds of gunfire- so much so that they were unable (or unwilling) to fall asleep.
REMEMBER, A* STUDENTS NEED:
Discourse markers: Words such as 'Alternatively', 'Additionally', 'Further'
Quotations: No quoting can only get you a maximum C grade.
Alternative readings: More interpretations = more marks.
Linking words: Words such as 'suggesting', 'implying'
A range of ideas: Show you can think!
Close analysis: Look at impact of individual words and phrases
Thanks for reading this, and good luck! (I will make separate posts for The Crucible and Conflict Poetry).