Mr. Pip


Lloyd Jones

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Mr. Pip: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

One day between story installments, Matilda caught up with Mr. Watts at Grace’s grave, where he told her a secret: he had organized an escape from the island for the night after the next full moon. He, Matilda, Dolores, and the Masoi family would board Mr. Masoi’s fishing boat and meet another, bigger boat, which would take them away from Bougainville. He asked Matilda not to inform her mother of the plan because he wanted to tell her himself, a plea to which Matilda agreed, though that night she “ached” to tell her, feeling that Dolores needed time to mentally prepare. Taking the matter into her own hands without breaking her promise, then, she told Dolores about Pip’s “readiness to leave behind everything that had gone into making him” when he learned that he was inheriting a fortune and moving to London.
Matilda uses storytelling once again to influence her life, this time employing her knowledge of Great Expectations as a way of emotionally preparing her mother to leave Bougainville. Because Dolores is so closely tied to the island and her way of life, Matilda is aware that she will need to be convinced, but the only way to address the subject without breaking her promise to Mr. Watts is by making use of Pip’s narrative. As such, Jones shows that people can look to literature in times of emotional strife and indecision, using stories to prepare for things they’ve never experienced before.
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Mr. Watts told the rebels and villagers that he and Grace had a spare room in their house. Before Sarah was born, Grace began writing her family history on the walls, a detail the villagers—especially Grace’s elderly relatives—were glad to hear. Mr. Watts did the same, deciding that the child could pick and choose from her parents’ respective cultures. As Mr. Watts described what they put on those walls, Matilda recognized stories and bits of knowledge the villagers had shared in his classroom, as Mr. Watts incorporated their lessons into his tale. He also spoke about the color white, eventually admitting that white people feel especially white around black people. This made his audience uncomfortable, though Matilda suspects they weren’t surprised to hear this. Finally, Daniel broke the tension by saying, “We feel the same. We feel black around white people.”
Mr. Watts uses the combined stories of the village to navigate a real life situation. In doing so, he entertains his potentially hostile listeners (the rebels) while also placating the villagers, lowering the likelihood that they will object to his story (which is, to be fair, largely fabricated) and ruin his credibility in the eyes of the soldiers. When he stumbles on the idea of race—revealing with perhaps too much honesty the extent to which he feels different from black people—Daniel once again steps in with his ability to recognize that race is first and foremost a matter of perspective. In turn, this successfully avoids making somebody from another race into an “other.”
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