Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/7322
The novel Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones is set in the early 1990s on Bougainville Island in the Pacific Ocean, in the middle of a civil war. A blockade has been imposed around the island, and the vast majority of non-natives have fled. In a small village, an eccentric old white man, Mr. Watts, has stayed behind with his native, equally eccentric wife. As all the teachers have left, he decides to teach the children what he knows. The only thing he knows, however, is Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations. He reads the novel to them, and the children are greatly affected by it. A chain reaction starts, as the children carry on the story to their parents, and when soldiers from the mainland and rebels invade the village a misunderstanding resulting from the novel leads to the destruction of the village. In this essay I will examine these effects that the novel has on both the villagers and the intruders, and the way they perceive fiction. It is new to the whole society – except to Mr. Watts, who is both an outsider and a part of the village – and they all perceive it differently. The children perceive it with fascination and are open to the idea of the imagination. The parents are intrigued but some feel threatened. The soldiers, as a result of ignorance, refuse to believe it when they are told something is fiction. The rebels, all of them teenagers, do not get to listen to Great Expectations like the village children, but they get a story that is a mixture of the novel and the storyteller, Mr. Watts’s made-up life. Though it is fiction, they believe it to be a true story and are fascinated, reacting just like the village children initially react to Great Expectations.