Mr. Pip

Tom Watts (Pop Eye) Character Analysis

The last white person in Matilda’s village, whom everybody refers to as Pop Eye. The community doesn’t know what to make of Mr. Watts, who is married to a native woman named Grace. Having met in New Zealand while Grace was on a dental scholarship, the couple keeps to themselves, occasionally leaving the house in an eccentric display, in which Mr. Watts wears a red clown’s nose (along with his characteristic white linen suit) and pulls Grace behind him in a small trolley, a scene that—unbeknownst to the townspeople—references a theatrical production of the Biblical story The Queen of Sheba that he and Grace acted in while still living in New Zealand. Despite the jolliness of the fake nose, though, Matilda describes Mr. Watts as “someone who had seen or known great suffering and hadn’t been able to forget it.” After the official schoolteachers leave the island, Mr. Watts agrees to teach the children, though he admits that he has very little to contribute in the way of knowledge. Still, he brings kindness and curiosity to the classroom, encouraging the children to bring in their family members who might be able to share some wisdom with the group. As such, he enhances the village’s sense of community while also providing the children with a new imaginative outlet by reading them Great Expectations, his favorite novel, aloud each day. After a time, parents begin to worry about the fact that he is an atheist, a point of tension that leads to misunderstanding and a clash of values. For Matilda, Mr. Watts is a very influential figure who instills in her an appreciation of the mind’s inner worlds. Believing that he is a fugitive rebel named Pip, “redskin” soldiers shoot him and cut him to bits with machetes, a catastrophic event that affects Matilda into adulthood.

Tom Watts (Pop Eye) Quotes in Mr. Pip

The Mr. Pip quotes below are all either spoken by Tom Watts (Pop Eye) or refer to Tom Watts (Pop Eye). 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 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

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 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
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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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Tom Watts (Pop Eye) Character Timeline in Mr. Pip

The timeline below shows where the character Tom Watts (Pop Eye) 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... (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. Dressed in this... (full context)
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...Matilda writes, “it could turn a rare thing into a commonplace thing.” She explains that Mr. Watts and Grace lived without children in the old minister’s house, which had been engulfed by... (full context)
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...piece of cloth to wipe food from his mouth. Matilda herself admits that other than Mr. Watts and several Australian mine workers, she saw very few “living whites” as a child. (full context)
Chapter 2
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...going to school because their teachers had left the island for good. Surprisingly enough, though, Mr. Watts didn’t join his fellow white people in fleeing Bougainville, a fact that confounded the villagers... (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, the schoolhouse had been overtaken by flowering vines... (full context)
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After the class cleared the room of its creeping vines—creating light and open space— Mr. Watts said, “I want you to understand something. I am no teacher, but I will do... (full context)
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The next morning, Mr. Watts was the only white person in the classroom. The children strained their necks, looking out... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...them to meet new people and live foreign lives. She found herself completely immersed in Mr. Watts ’s readings, especially when he varied his voice to portray new characters, as he did... (full context)
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As Mr. Watts ’s reading of Great Expectations progressed, Matilda got to know Pip more and more and... (full context)
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...class wasn’t focusing on Great Expectations, it became clear that there were large gaps in Mr. Watts ’s knowledge. Still, he told them about England, explaining that it is comprised of multiple... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 6
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...couldn’t help feeling like her mother’s insistence on religion and faith was intended to challenge Mr. Watts ’s beliefs. When school let out that day, Matilda and her classmates went down to... (full context)
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...like the divide between Pip’s difficult sister and his kindhearted uncle—there was a gulf between Mr. Watts and Dolores, and she began to intuit that she would have to choose between the... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...included “sea gods” and “turtles,” along with human relatives, too. She told her daughter that Mr. Watts descended from a “shining cuckoo,” a bird that Matilda had seen flying away from Bougainville... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...the “money will be used to turn [him] into a gentleman.” Inspired by this idea, Mr. Watts explained to the class that a gentleman always does the right thing. When one of... (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 him on the beach... (full context)
Chapter 11
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...than the names of those strangers [her relatives],” a sentiment for which her mother blamed Mr. Watts and his teaching of Great Expectations. (full context)
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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.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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Mr. Watts ’s readings of Great Expectations continued. Once again, Dolores returned to the classroom, this time... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...more, Matilda’s classmate Daniel raised his hand and asked, “What’s it like to be white?” Mr. Watts responded by telling the boy that being white on the island of Bougainville was “lonely... (full context)
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Along with Daniel, the “redskin” soldiers fetched Mr. Watts from the schoolhouse, demanding to know who he was. Mr. Watts picked up on the... (full context)
Chapter 14
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...might cheer her up—Matilda took it down and unrolled it. In doing so, she found Mr. Watts ’s copy of Great Expectations stashed covertly in the middle. Although she felt betrayed by... (full context)
Chapter 15
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As Mr. Watts shouldered the blame, the town went about rebuilding beds and other amenities. One day, Mr.... (full context)
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...cooperate, he doused everybody’s homes in gasoline and lit them on fire. The schoolhouse and Mr. Watts ’s home were the only buildings left standing, and this time none of the villagers... (full context)
Chapter 16
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In class Mr. Watts thanked everybody for coming, saying that he hadn’t been sure even he was going to... (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,... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...by yet another unsuccessful prayer. Soon the audience started passing around stories about Grace, telling Mr. Watts what she was like as a child. As they shared their memories he smiled and... (full context)
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...as they had all expected her to do. “Instead of a dental nurse we got Pop Eye ,” Dolores told Matilda. “We did not know anymore if she was black or white.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Only several days after Grace’s funeral, Mr. Watts was back in the classroom encouraging his students to summon their memories of Great Expectations.... (full context)
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...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 his wife loved Great... (full context)
Chapter 19
The rebels found Mr. Watts the following day. One particularly drunk soldier jumped up and threatened him, yelling, “I will... (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 Pip was an orphan, though this... (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 had organized an escape from... (full context)
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Mr. Watts told the rebels and villagers that he and Grace had a spare room in their... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Mr. Watts continued with his story. Back in the spare room, he and Grace filled up the... (full context)
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Mr. Watts ’s story endeared his listeners to him, especially with its multiple anecdotes and tales that... (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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...heavy thunder. She wanted to visit Grace’s grave to tell her what had happened to Mr. Watts , but she never made it beyond the river, which was rushing and wild in... (full context)
Chapter 25
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...Great Expectations. When she sat down to read it, she realized with a shock that Mr. Watts had read her class a simplified version of the novel, omitting wordy sentences and even... (full context)
...a thesis about Dickens and decided to visit New Zealand to better understand the life Mr. Watts led before he came to Bougainville. (full context)
Chapter 26
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...the phonebook, leading her to June Watts, who lived in the very house in which Mr. Watts met Grace. Apparently, Mr. Watts had failed to mention that he was already married to... (full context)
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Before Matilda left, June showed her photo albums of Mr. Watts and Grace acting in amateur theater performances. One of the pictures depicts them in a... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...up the front page of her thesis, turned it over, and wrote, “Everyone called him Pop Eye .” (full context)