The first mother to visit Matilda’s class told the students about a plant called the “heart seed,” informing them that its seeds blow landward from the ocean and that burning their stamens keeps mosquitos away. When she finished, she stayed to listen to Mr. Watts read from Great Expectations. Matilda paid close attention to Mr. Watts’s narration, knowing that Dolores would want a full account of that day’s installment. “I liked to surprise my mum with a new word she didn’t know,” she writes.
That night, Dolores was skeptical when Matilda told her of Pip’s decision to steal his sister’s pork pie for Magwitch, the escaped convict. When she asked Matilda what Mr. Watts had to say about this, Matilda replied, “Mr. Watts said it is best to wait until all the facts are known,” though Mr. Watts hadn’t actually said anything about this particular moment. Later, she used a phrase she had learned that day, quoting Pip by saying, “It was a rimy morning.” She knew, of course, that her mother wouldn’t know the word “rimy.” She herself hadn’t even known that the word means “frosty” until Mr. Watts told her earlier that day. Narrating Great Expectations to her mother in the dark, Matilda waited for Dolores to ask what “rimy” meant, but the question never came. Matilda notes that this was the last night Dolores ever asked to hear about Great Expectations. For this, Matilda blames her use of the phrase “rimy morning.”
Although storytelling is a relational act in Mister Pip, Matilda misuses her knowledge in this moment, using it to flaunt her power over her mother instead of offering the story to her in a kind, well-meaning way. When she revels in her superior vocabulary, she ceases to foster a collaborative storytelling environment that encourages a give-and-take relationship between the teller and the listener. As a result, her mother turns away from Great Expectations.