Mr. Pip

Mr. Pip Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After Mr. Watts’s story about Grace and the Queen of Sheba, Matilda followed him into the woods and asked if he had told her mother about his plan to escape the island. When he told her he hadn’t yet done so, she suspected that he didn’t intend to let Dolores in on the plan after all. Later, when the villagers woke up on the seventh morning of Mr. Watts’s story, the rebel soldiers were gone. Suddenly, “redskin” forces emerged from the jungle with the drunken rebel as their prisoner. When the lead officer asked the drunk to identify Pip—who he still believed was a rebel fugitive the village was hiding—the drunk pointed to the schoolhouse. The “redskins” then went into the building, shot Mr. Watts, dragged him outside, chopped him to bits with machetes, and fed him to the pigs.
Since Mr. Watts is wise and intelligent, it feels likely in this moment that he purposefully martyred himself by telling the rebel soldiers his name was Pip. He knew that if this information got back to the “redskins,” he could clear up the misunderstanding entire misunderstanding revolving Great Expectations, assuming Pip’s identity and thereby eliminating the soldiers’ suspicion that the village was harboring a rebel. As such, he saves the villagers, considering the fact that the “redskins” had already destroyed their houses and would likely grow increasingly bloodthirsty if their demands weren’t met. By telling a hybridized story of his own life, then, Mr. Watts uses narration as a defensive tool that saves multiple lives.
Themes
Storytelling Theme Icon
The Other Theme Icon
Hybridity Theme Icon
Matilda and the villagers looked at the ground in disgust and horror. “Look up,” barked the “redskin” officer. “Who saw this?” he asked them. “I saw it, sir,” Daniel said, happy to have “beaten his classmates with the answer.” Two soldiers took him into the jungle. When it was silent again, Dolores stepped forward. “Sir. I saw your men chop up the white man. He was a good man. I am here as God’s witness.” The officer approached and hit her across the face, but again she said, “I will be God’s witness.” He fired shots in front of her feet. “Sir, I am God’s witness,” she said. She was then hauled away by a group of soldiers.
In this scene, Dolores has a change of heart while also reaffirming her own beliefs. On the one hand, she finally recognizes Mr. Watts’s kindness and generosity (perhaps because she sees that he martyred himself to save the village). On the other hand, she acts on this realization by doubling down on her original commitment to God and religion. Therefore, she stands up for Mr. Watts on her own terms, an act that finally admits the validity of merging her ideas with his, though it is unfortunately too late at this point, considering that he has already died.
Themes
The Other Theme Icon
Hybridity Theme Icon
When the “redskin” officer discovered that Matilda was Dolores’s daughter, he had her taken to the huts, where a group of soldiers were raping her mother. Seeing her daughter, Dolores pleaded with the soldiers, begging them not to touch Matilda, eventually bargaining by telling them they could kill her as long as they didn’t rape the girl. The officer consented to this deal, holding Matilda back and standing with her while his men dragged Dolores over to where Mr. Watts had been killed. They cut her up into pieces and fed her to the pigs. In this moment, Matilda saw “how sick [the officer] was with malaria. How sick of everything he was. How sick of being a human being.”
The “redskin” officer is perhaps the only person in Mister Pip who is unable to step outside the single-mindedness of his own beliefs: he carries out his duties as a soldier without compromise. In turn, Jones shows that this kind of fixed worldview has the power to deplete and destroy a person. For the officer, his narrow-mindedness makes him “sick of being a human being”; he seems to understand the error of his ways, but stays committed to his task of asserting Papua New Guinean dominance, a tension that sucks the joy out of his life.
Themes
The Other Theme Icon
Hybridity Theme Icon
In retrospect, Matilda wonders how things could have gone differently. If her mother hadn’t spoken out, perhaps they both could have survived. But she also remembers what Mr. Watts taught her about “what it is to be a gentleman” and a moral person. She notes that Mr. Watts told her a moral person never ceases to be moral. “My brave mum had known this when she stepped forward to proclaim herself God’s witness to the cold-blooded butchery of her old enemy, Mr. Watts,” she writes.
Matilda’s consideration of what it means to be a “gentleman” and moral person further emphasizes the moment at which Dolores and Mr. Watts’s worldviews came together. Although they each believed in different kinds of morality—religious versus secular—one gets the sense that Mr. Watts would have done the same thing Dolores did when she stepped out as “God’s witness.” Perhaps he would have framed his motives differently, but his actions would have been the same. In this way, Jones offers a moral convergence between the two characters.
Themes
The Other Theme Icon
Hybridity Theme Icon
Get the entire Mr. Pip LitChart as a printable PDF.
Mr pip.pdf.medium