Mr. Pip

Matilda Laimo Character Analysis

A girl from the island of Bougainville and the narrator of Mister Pip. For the majority of the novel Matilda is in her early teenage years, turning fourteen shortly after Papua New Guinea’s “redskin” army arrives in her village for the first time. Matilda lives with her mother, Dolores, and is one of Mr. Watts’s students. Although her mother doesn’t like to talk about Matilda’s father, Matilda often thinks about him and how he left the island for Australia when she was eleven. This is one of the reasons she is so taken by Charles Dickens’s character Pip—an orphan—when Mr. Watts introduces her to the author’s penultimate novel, Great Expectations. Matilda relishes the escape Dickens’s work provides her, often thinking about Pip and feeling as if she knows him personally. This fascination troubles her mother, who is suspicious of Mr. Watts and the useless outsider’s knowledge he introduces to the village’s children. In this way, Matilda intuits that there is a divide between Dolores and Mr. Watts, a clashing of worldviews that will one day require her to choose one over the other. When “redskin” soldiers demand evidence that Pip is not a rebel soldier, she must finally decide whether or not to remain loyal to her mother, since Dolores stole Great Expectations, rendering it impossible for anybody to explain to the soldiers that Pip is a fictional character. In the end, Matilda proves herself a faithful daughter by choosing to let her mother keep the theft a secret—though the disastrous results of this decision come to haunt her.

Matilda Laimo Quotes in Mr. Pip

The Mr. Pip quotes below are all either spoken by Matilda Laimo or refer to Matilda Laimo. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Dial Press edition of Mr. Pip published in 2008.
Chapter 1 Quotes

He pulled a piece of rope attached to a trolley on which Mrs. Pop Eye stood. She looked like an ice queen. Nearly every woman on our island had crinkled hair, but Grace had straightened hers. She wore it piled up, and in the absence of a crown her hair did the trick. She looked so proud, as if she had no idea of her own bare feet. […]

Our parents looked away. They would rather stare at a colony of ants moving over a rotting pawpaw. Some stood by with their idle machetes, waiting for the spectacle to pass. For the younger kids the sight consisted only of a white man towing a black woman. […] Us older kids sensed a bigger story. Sometimes we caught a snatch of conversation. Mrs. Watts was as mad as a goose. Mr. Watts was doing penance for an old crime. Or maybe it was the result of a bet. The sight represented a bit of uncertainty in our world, which in every other way knew only sameness.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye), Grace Watts
Page Number: 2
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Chapter 2 Quotes

What I am about to tell results, I think, from our ignorance of the outside world. My mum knew only what the last minister had told her in sermons and conversations. She knew her times tables and the names of some distant capitals. She had heard that man had been to the moon but was inclined not to believe such stories. She did not like boastfulness. She liked even less the thought that she might have been caught out, or made a fool of. She had never left Bougainville.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Dolores Laimo
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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The weeks passed. Now we had an idea of what our time was for. It was to be spent waiting. We waited, and we waited for the redskin soldiers, or the rebels, whoever got here first. It was a long, long time before they came to our village. But I know exactly when they did because that’s what I had made up my mind to do—I had decided I would keep the time.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker)
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

“I want this to be a place of light,” he said. “No matter what happens.” He paused there for us to digest this.

When our parents spoke of the future we were given to understand it was an improvement on what we knew. For the first time we were hearing that the future was uncertain. And because this had come from someone outside of our lives we were more ready to listen.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye) (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

There was also a lot of stuff I didn’t understand. At night I lay on my mat wondering what marshes were; and what were wittles and leg irons? I had an idea from their sound. Marshes. I wondered if quicksand was the same. I knew about quicksand because a man up at the mine had sunk into it, never to be seen again. That happened years earlier when the mine was still open and there were white people crawling over Panguna like ants over a corpse.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker)
Related Symbols: Great Expectations
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:
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This was the first time I had been in a position to tell her anything about the world. But this was a place she did not know about and hadn’t heard of. She couldn’t even pretend to know, so it was up to me to color in that world for her. I couldn’t remember the exact words Mr. Watts had read to us, and I didn’t think I would be able to make it possible for my mum to slip into that world that us kids had or into Pip’s life or some other’s, that of the convict, say. So I told her in my own words about Pip having no mum or dad or brothers, and my mum cried out, “He is lost.”

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Dolores Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye), Pip
Related Symbols: Great Expectations
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 5 Quotes

He smiled. “Matilda is a nice name, too. Where did you get such a pretty one?” he asked.

“My father.”

“And he…?”

I anticipated his question. My dad had worked with Australians up at the mine. They had given him the name Matilda. He had given it to my mum. And she had given it to me. I explained all this.

“A sort of hand-me-down.” Mr. Watts glanced away with the thought. Suddenly he looked gloomy. I don’t know why.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye) (speaker), Dolores Laimo, Matilda’s Father
Page Number: 33
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

The trouble with Great Expectations is that it’s a one-way conversation. There’s no talking back. Otherwise I would have told Pip about my mum coming to speak to the class, and how, seeing her at a distance—even though only two desks back from the end of the room—she had appeared different to me. More hostile. […]

Whatever I might say about my mum to Pip I knew he wouldn’t hear me. I could only follow him through some strange country that contained marshes and pork pies and people who spoke in long and confusing sentences.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Dolores Laimo, Pip
Related Symbols: Great Expectations
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 7 Quotes

In our village there were those who supported the rebels—my mum included. Though I suspect her support was nourished by the thought of my father in Townsville living what she called a “fat life.” Everyone else just wished the fighting would go away, and for the white man to come back and reopen the mine. These people missed buying things. They missed having money to buy those things. Biscuits, rice, tinned fish, tinned beef, sugar. We were back to eating what our grandparents had—sweet potatoes, fish, chicken, mango, guava, cassava, nuts, and mud crab.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Dolores Laimo, Matilda’s Father
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 8 Quotes

I watched his face and I listened to his voice and I tried to hear how his mind ticked, and what he thought. What was Mr. Watts thinking as our mums and dads, our uncles and aunts, and sometimes an older brother or sister came to share with the class what they knew of the world? He liked to position himself to one side as our visitor delivered their story or anecdote or history.

We always watched Mr. Watts’ face for a sign that what we were hearing was nonsense. His face never gave such a sign. It displayed a respectful interest…

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye)
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 10 Quotes

Sometimes as he read we saw him smile privately, leaving us to wonder why, at that particular moment—only to realize yet again that there were parts of Mr. Watts we could not possibly know because of our ignorance of where he’d come from, and to reflect on what he’d given up in order to join Grace on our island.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye), Grace Watts
Related Symbols: Great Expectations
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I expect another one will grow.”

“So that’s okay,” I said. “Nothing’s lost.”

“Except that particular toenail,” he said. “You could say the same about a house or one’s country. No two are the same. You gain as you lose, and vice versa.” He stared off distantly, as if everything he’d parted with trailed out to sea and over the horizon.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye) (speaker)
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 12 Quotes

I know […] you have been hearing some story from Mr. Watts, and a story in particular, but I want to tell you this. Stories have a job to do. They can’t just lie around like lazybone dogs. They have to teach you something. For example, if you know the words you can sing a song to make a fish swim onto your hook. There are even songs to get rid of skin rash and bad dreams.

Related Characters: Dolores Laimo (speaker), Matilda Laimo, Tom Watts (Pop Eye)
Related Symbols: Great Expectations
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 16 Quotes

The sound of my name took me to a place deep inside my head. I already knew that words could take you into a new world, but I didn’t know that on the strength of one word spoken for my ears only I would find myself in a room that no one else knew about. Matilda. Matilda. Matilda. I said it over and over. I tried out different versions, dragging the word out and expanding that room. Ma til da.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye)
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17 Quotes

Because for as long as I could remember, Grace Watts was not really included in the village. She lived with a white man, a man whom our parents didn’t especially warm to. It was partly that, and partly the strange sight of her standing in that trolley towed along by Mr. Watts wearing a red clown’s nose. We did not understand the reason for this, we had no idea what it meant, and so it had been convenient to think Mrs. Watts was mad.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye), Grace Watts
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 21 Quotes

And now, to the startled ears of all us kids, we began to hear all the fragments that our mums and uncles and aunts had brought along to Mr. Watts’s class. Our thoughts on the color white. Our thoughts on the color blue. Mr. Watts was assembling his story out of the experience of our lives, the same things we had heard shared with our class. But Mr. Watts introduced new information as well […].

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye)
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 25 Quotes

My mum said she had no problem with stating the obvious. The problem was that silly blimmin’ word insensibly. What was the point of that word? It just confused. If it hadn’t been for that silly bloody insensibly, she’d have gotten it the first time. Instead, insensibly had led her to suspect it wasn’t so straightforward after all.

Related Symbols: Great Expectations
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 26 Quotes

I suppose it is possible to be all of these things. To sort of fall out of who you are into another, as well as to journey back to some essential sense of self. We only see what we see. I have no idea of the man June Watts knew. I only know the man who took us kids by the hand and taught us how to reimagine the world, and to see the possibility of change, to welcome it into our lives.

Related Characters: Matilda Laimo (speaker), Tom Watts (Pop Eye), June Watts
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:
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Matilda Laimo Character Timeline in Mr. Pip

The timeline below shows where the character Matilda Laimo appears in Mr. Pip. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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“Everyone called him Pop Eye,” Matilda Laimo writes, describing a man who used to live in her village on the island... (full context)
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On some days, Matilda explains, Mr. Watts used to wear a white linen suit and a red clown’s nose.... (full context)
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During these outings, Grace carried a blue parasol to shade herself from the sun. Matilda remembers how she and the other children loved this touch, wondering but not asking about... (full context)
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Matilda considers her village’s first contact with white people, saying that when her ancestors saw the... (full context)
Chapter 2
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Before beginning, Matilda says that she believes her story results “from [the villagers’] ignorance of the outside world.”... (full context)
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Just when Dolores determined to move with Matilda to Australia, Francis Ona (the leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army) declared war on the... (full context)
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News about the war reached Matilda’s village in fragments, bits of information passed along through “hearsay” and “rumor.” Cut off from... (full context)
Chapter 3
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After a spate of aimless days, Matilda returned to school, this time with Mr. Watts as her teacher. Like the minister’s house,... (full context)
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...were certain Mr. Watts was the only white man in the village. Later that night, Matilda told her mother she was going to meet this Mr. Dickens the following day, and... (full context)
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...their necks, looking out the window to see if Mr. Dickens was on his way—like Matilda, each student bore his or her own request for the mysterious white man, messages passed... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Matilda was quickly swept away by Great Expectations, feeling she had “been spoken to by this... (full context)
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As Mr. Watts’s reading of Great Expectations progressed, Matilda got to know Pip more and more and realized she had certain things in common... (full context)
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...first time I had been in a position to tell her anything about the world,” Matilda notes in regards to her narration of Great Expectations to Dolores. When her mother learned... (full context)
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...explaining that it is comprised of multiple different parts. This was a difficult concept for Matilda and her classmates to grasp, especially because most of them had never left the island... (full context)
Chapter 5
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The first mother to visit Matilda’s class told the students about a plant called the “heart seed,” informing them that its... (full context)
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That night, Dolores was skeptical when Matilda told her of Pip’s decision to steal his sister’s pork pie for Magwitch, the escaped... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...Papua New Guinean (or “redskin”) helicopters appeared overhead, searching the village for its inhabitants. Fortunately, Matilda and the rest of the townspeople heard them coming and were able to escape into... (full context)
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...the “redskins” came upon their homes once more. This time the helicopters actually landed, and Matilda and the townspeople barely made it to the jungle in time. When the coast was... (full context)
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...regarding how to foresee weather patterns by studying the movements of crabs in the sand. Matilda couldn’t help feeling like her mother’s insistence on religion and faith was intended to challenge... (full context)
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As Great Expectations progressed, Matilda began to feel sorry that Pip couldn’t fully enter her world. She laments that she... (full context)
Chapter 7
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Matilda explains that the previous visit by “redskin” soldiers influenced village members in different ways. While... (full context)
Chapter 8
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Matilda considers the effect of the Civil War on her village, writing that two babies died... (full context)
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Matilda writes that she herself hoped only for “hope itself,” knowing that “things could change because... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...prophetic powers of weaving. A woman from Dolores’s prayer group emphasized the importance of innocence. Matilda’s mother picked up on this idea when she returned to deliver another lecture. This time,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Matilda’s curiosity about Mr. Watts grew alongside her love of Great Expectations. One day she saw... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The class finally finished Great Expectations in February. Matilda found herself somewhat disappointed with the ending and unsatisfied by the idea that, when they... (full context)
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...names. After assembling this roster, he asked the village why there were no young men present—Matilda notes that he surely knew the answer to this but that he wanted them to... (full context)
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...was unlikely to believe such a strange answer. To clear up matters, Mr. Watts asked Matilda to run into the schoolhouse and retrieve Great Expectations, which he told her was sitting... (full context)
Chapter 14
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When the “redskin” soldiers left, Matilda returned home before her mother and found that the only item left in their house... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...amenities. One day, Mr. Watts and Grace appeared with their trolley, clown’s nose, and parasol. Matilda writes that it was a shock to see this procession again, especially since she had... (full context)
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...none of the villagers rushed to even the score. Returning to school several days later, Matilda noticed that there were only half the number of students in attendance because many of... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Matilda committed herself wholeheartedly to the task of remembering the lines and scenes of Great Expectations.... (full context)
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During this period, Dolores’s criticisms of Mr. Watts intensified. Although Matilda would normally have avoided hearing such malicious things said about her teacher, she discovered that... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Before Matilda was about to fall asleep one night, her mother told her that Grace Watts died.... (full context)
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At home that night, Dolores told Matilda that Grace was the smartest child in school. The village, she explained, had high hopes... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...the classroom encouraging his students to summon their memories of Great Expectations. At this point, Matilda recounts the circumstances that led to her father’s departure from Bougainville. As an employee of... (full context)
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Matilda likens her father’s Australian sponsor to Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer who serves as a middleman... (full context)
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On her way to a creek where she liked to wash her clothes, Matilda came upon Mr. Watts at Grace’s grave. Standing next to him, she asked him if... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...in excess and hooting. On their first night, Dolores worried they would come to retrieve Matilda, afraid that what they wanted were girls with whom they could have their way. (full context)
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Dolores pulled Matilda away from the rebel soldiers and ran to the beach, wanting to get away from... (full context)
Chapter 20
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At first, Matilda refers to the protagonist of Mr. Watts’s story as “Mr. Watts’s Pip,” who like Dickens’s... (full context)
Chapter 21
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One day between story installments, Matilda caught up with Mr. Watts at Grace’s grave, where he told her a secret: he... (full context)
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...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.... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...especially when one concept contradicted another, as was the case when it came to religion. Matilda points out that Mr. Watts finally confessed to being a godless man as he stood... (full context)
Chapter 23
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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... (full context)
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Matilda and the villagers looked at the ground in disgust and horror. “Look up,” barked the... (full context)
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When the “redskin” officer discovered that Matilda was Dolores’s daughter, he had her taken to the huts, where a group of soldiers... (full context)
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In retrospect, Matilda wonders how things could have gone differently. If her mother hadn’t spoken out, perhaps they... (full context)
Chapter 24
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After the “redskin” soldiers left, Matilda and the village were in a daze. Daniel was eventually found crucified in a tree.... (full context)
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After floating on Mr. Jaggers in the rainy night, Matilda came upon Mr. Masoi’s fishing boat. After hoisting her aboard, Mr. Masoi told her to... (full context)
Chapter 25
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Matilda traveled from the Solomon Islands to Townsville, Australia, where she reunited with her father. She... (full context)
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Matilda explains that she attended the local high school in Townsville, Australia. On her second day,... (full context)
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Matilda won the Townsville senior English Prize and eventually graduated from the University of Queensland in... (full context)
Even though Matilda says she never pushes Great Expectations on anybody, she admits that it was a useful... (full context)
Chapter 26
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In New Zealand, Matilda called all of the Wattses in the phonebook, leading her to June Watts, who lived... (full context)
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Before Matilda left, June showed her photo albums of Mr. Watts and Grace acting in amateur theater... (full context)
Chapter 27
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Matilda visited London to research Dickens more extensively, going to the British Library to look at... (full context)
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Before leaving England, Matilda decided to visit Rochester, a place from which Dickens borrowed several landmarks in the composition... (full context)