In the novel Mister Pip, the characters are stripped of all luxuries, which expose their innermost beliefs and their conflicting personality, causing disruption between the different characters. This essay will examine intense personal relationships between Matilda, Dolores and Mr Watts that lie at the heart of this novel and will argue that the relationships lying at the heart of Mister Pip are both intense and intricately wound into the story with a purpose of either driving the plot forward or getting an important idea across to the reader.
Matilda has a common mother-daughter relationship with Dolores and often doesn’t agree with how her mother does things. As Mister Pip is written from Matilda’s point of view in first person, the readers gain an interesting perspective on her relationships with others. Matilda states things without being emotionally charged, which Jones has done so that the readers are positioned to empathise with Matilda. Mothers and daughters do not always have the best relationship, and so we as readers are caught up in their arguments, the plot is driven forwards.
Matilda understands that Dolores is jealous of how interested she is in this new book Great Expectations rather than her heritage but she is too stricken by the book to stop reading it. Jones shows this when Matilda says, ‘What made her mother’s blood run hot was this white boy Pip and his place in my life’. This shows the reader that Dolores clings on to Matilda because she sees Matila as all she has left in the world. Dolores shows her hatred and fear of anything “white” as she doesn’t understand white people and doesn’t want Matilda to get hurt.
Dolores has a fear of her daughter entering a different world, often a fear for mothers as their children grow up and no longer do they have the control over their lives that they used to. Although we are lead to dislike Dolores, we see how much Matilda really used to look up to her when she finds out that Dolores stole Great Expectations. When she finds the book, she is so angry and confused, showing it was the worst time ever in their relationship.
It is hard to put into words my feelings of betrayal at that moment’ shows that although Matilda is frustrated by her mothers religion, she trusted Dolores to do the right thing and although she understands why her mum took the book, she loses this trust in her mother to be morally responsible. She also realises how desperately Dolores wants to keep Matilda close and protect her, but she is so betrayed by her behaviour that this pushes her away from her mother even more. Dolores and Mr Watts have the most controversial relationship in this novel.
Mr Watts stands for everything that Dolores didn’t believe in, as she was extremely religious yet he was an atheist. They are two completely different people that are forced together when Mr Watts becomes Matilda’s teacher. While Dolores is adamant that Matilda should live a life alongside ‘The Good Book’, Mr Watts focuses more on what it means to be a gentleman, an idea completely idyllic to Matilda. Although this is a significant aspect of his teaching, his teachings were more about change.
Conflict stems from Mr Watts being a white man; Dolores hates white men because of their effect on Bougainville through the mines and blames them for the loss of her husband. This idea is used to drive the plot forwards, as the reader learns alongside Matilda about a whole new world and way of being. Mr Watts teaches the young Bougainvilleans that ‘A gentleman is a man who never forgets his manners, no matter the situation’, and ‘a gentleman always does the right thing’.
This is an interesting concept, as although both Dolores and Mr Watts have a high regard in doing the morally right thing, Dolores despises Mr Watts for teaching Matilda values that she sees to be immoral. The author shows that this may be because it gets across the idea that Dolores doesn’t understand the world outside of Bougainville, the ‘white’ world. This shows the intensity of the relationship between Dolores and Mr Watts, as eventually Dolores shows she is the paramount ‘gentleman’ when she sacrifices her life for Matilda’s virginity and essentially gets raped for defending Mr Watts.
The idea of conflict from being ‘white’ and ‘racism’ between Dolores and Mr Watts is mentioned many times throughout the text. Dolores is hostile towards all white people, as she sees them responsible for the civil war “there were white people crawling over Panguna like ants over a corpse”. The children say ‘We had grown up believing white to be the color of all the important things, like aspirin, ice cream, ribbon, the moon’.
This shows that Mr Watts does not only fascinate the locals, but racism really comes to be a part of this novel, as the older generations are influencing the thoughts of the younger children. Jones shows the intensity of this relationship when Dolores goes into the schoolhouse to preach to the children – she sees Mr Watts teachings as infiltrating their innocence, and believes that the bible is the only way to live by. This is another contradictory idea though, as although Dolores swears by the bible, she breaks one of the Ten Commandments when she steals the book.
This shows that her urge to protect Matilda’s innocence and to do what she believes is morally right is greater even than her Christianity. Dolores has one redeeming feature, which is her love for Matilda. When the soldiers say they are going to rape her, Dolores says ‘She is my only girl. Please. I beg you. Not my darling Matilda’. This is when the reader really learns that Matilda is all she has left, and is willing to give her life to make Matilda’s a little easier and to preserve her innocence.
The thoughts that Matilda had on Dolores as being ‘the bravest woman’ were at the end, so it is only after the death of her mother and when Matilda was older that she completely understood her mother. In Mister Pip, the relationships between Dolores, Mr Watts and Matilda were very intense. Jones showed these relationships had two purposes, which were either to drive forward the plot, or to get important ideas across such as being a gentleman, and the ‘white’ world. The reader would clearly see that these deep and personal relationships shaped the novel, and the path that Matilda’s life took.