Matilda’s curiosity about Mr. Watts grew alongside her love of Great Expectations. One day she saw him on the beach dressed in shorts instead of his usual white linen suit. When he stopped to say hello, he saw her “PIP” inscription in the sand, saying, “A shrine. […] Pip in the Pacific.” Matilda told him that she didn’t like the fact that Pip seemed to be changing now that he had moved to London in the book, and she asked him why the character changed his name to Handel. Mr. Watts responded by telling her that Pip is “like an emigrant” and that he is “in the process of migrating from one level of society to another,” meaning that “a change of name is as good as a change of clothes.” He also explained that his own wife, Grace, had changed her name many years ago to Sheba because she was “at a time in her life when she needed to make changes.” Emphasizing that this must be kept secret, he went on to tell Matilda that he hoped Grace might someday grow into her new name.
Matilda finds herself unnerved by Pip’s drastic transformation because it threatens to make him into an “other,” a person to whom she won’t know how to relate. There are limits, it seems, to how far she can project herself into unknown worlds. Mr. Watts helps her overcome this fear when he says that sometimes people need to change in order to reflect what’s going on in their lives. Here again emerges the idea of adaptability and evolution, which speaks to Matilda because the circumstances of her war-torn village seem to necessitate a similar kind of flexibility.