As tensions rose between Bougainvilleans and the “redskins” in neighboring villages, Dolores doubled down on her mission to teach Matilda their ancestry, forcing her daughter to write their family tree in the sand. At one point, Matilda wrote “PIP” next to the tree, which upset her mother, prompting her to scream, “He isn’t a blood relative!” Matilda tried to argue that, though he wasn’t a relative, she “felt closer to him than the names of those strangers [her relatives],” a sentiment for which her mother blamed Mr. Watts and his teaching of Great Expectations.
Once again, Dolores exhibits her strong commitment to the traditions in which she was raised. The thought that Matilda might part from these traditions is for her an unspeakable injustice, especially because Matilda is investing herself in something Dolores doesn’t understand: a fictional white boy from nineteenth-century England. Nothing, it seems, could be further from what Dolores views as relevant to their lives on the island of Bougainville. As such, she rejects the notion of combining these two worlds, thinking that any addition to her way of life will diminish rather than enrich her beliefs.
The village parents became aware of the fact that Mr. Watts was not teaching the Bible in class and that he didn’t believe in the devil. Not long afterward, Dolores burst through the schoolhouse doors and addressed the class, telling them to “pack the teachings of the Good Book” into their lives. “That way you can save Mr. Watts because I am not going to be the one,” she said. Mr. Watts waited politely as she spoke, even allowing her to follow up her rant with a brief contemplation of braided hair, a lesson she seemed to improvise, reveling in the fact that the students were interested in what she had to say. Before long, though, she lost their attention again by allowing her discussion of braids to yield once more to the notion of morality, saying that the two strands represent the relationship between God and the Devil.
This is the first time in Mister Pip in which Dolores and Mr. Watts’s conflicting beliefs are openly acknowledged. While this doesn’t seem to bother Mr. Watts—who graciously allows Dolores to argue her point of view—Dolores appears unwilling to accommodate Mr. Watts’s viewpoint. In other words, Dolores uses Mr. Watts’s secularism against him (making him into an “other”) while Mr. Watts embraces the idea that a community should allow for the intersection of multiple beliefs.
On Christmas day, a young man emerged from the woods with a wounded leg. He was a rebel soldier who used to live in Matilda’s village. The town summoned Mr. Watts, who helped pull three “redskin” bullets out of the boy’s leg. Two weeks later, Gilbert’s father Mr. Masoi took the young man out to sea in his fishing boat, which had a motor he didn’t use because he was trying to save fuel. After three days, Mr. Masoi returned looking different. All alone, he dragged his empty boat onshore. Matilda writes that she never saw the young man again.
In addition to adding tension and mystery to the novel’s plot, this occurrence shows the indirect involvement Matilda’s village has with the Bougainville Civil War. Although they would perhaps like to be completely untangled from the conflict, the fact that some of their former neighbors are members of the rebel factions implicates them in the war. Furthermore, the seriousness with which Mr. Masoi removes the wounded soldier from the village shows the extent to which the townspeople fear any affiliation with Bougainville’s guerilla forces. In other words, the village wants to occupy a gray area in an otherwise black-and-white conflict.