Question: Analyse how Symbolism was used to reinforce an idea in the written text(s) Note: “idea” may refer to a character, theme or setting.
Statement of intent: My statement of intent is to write an essay based on the novel Mr Pip by Lloyd Jones. My essay is based on symbolism and how it is used to reinforce an idea. I want to formalize a strong essay structure using strong English vocabulary and by using S.E.X.Y paragraphing.
Lloyd Jones in his novel “Mr Pip” uses the symbol of Great Expectations and the Bible which, themselves are symbols of escapism for the characters to use. Matilda, a 14-year-old native black skinned girl who lives on the island of Bougainville with her mother Dolores along with other villagers. Matilda is introduced to the book ‘Great Expectations’ where she has an immediate connection with the themes, character, and language of the book, whereas Dolores has the same connection but with the bible. These 2 books in the novel are used as a portal of escape for the current events happening on Bougainville.
Bougainville is an island situated in the Papua New Guinea district, housing more than 175,000 people to this day. It is currently the only copper mine that can be seen from space because, it is that big. In 1988 there was a blockade of Bougainville leaving the island totally stranded and helpless. This meant the islanders had to produce all their own food, water, and supplies. Before the blockade was introduced the villagers, white and black people were offered a chance to leave Bougainville to Papua New Guinea and start a new life there. All the white skinned villagers left all but one. This left the remaining natives on the island to cater for themselves and their family.
Violence on the island was a reoccurring event, leaving the surviving villagers to live in fear. In the novel there are 2 competing armies one based on the island protecting the villagers and the other terrorizing the innocent villagers. The one based on bougainville are fighting for their own economic rights and their independence and the other army from Papua New Guinea is trying to killed the other opposing army. This is because one of the armies, called the Rebels, are native Bougainvilleans but they are fighting because they have been exploited by the Australians as the Australians have used their copper mine to produced a massive amount of money and used it for themselves and not giving any profit or compensation to the Bougainvilleans. The other army called the Red Skins are Papua New Guinean soldiers that are a government force that has a higher/superiors stand over the villagers. They are funded by the Australian government meant, this money went towards the helicopter that would fly them over to the island to terrorize the villagers. They would do this by killing innocent people to try to get information is see if any more of the young men have joined the Rebels to fight against them.
The definition of escapism is ‘the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy’. This is the main underlying theme of this novel. The distraction of the literature on the island allows the Bougainvilleans to expand their minds so they are able to understand others ideas through the use of words. Mr Watts allows this to happen, all the while through the Island war, as he can see what it is doing to the children – they needed this distraction.
The first symbol introduced to us is the ‘Great Expectations’ Great Expectations is about a white orphan on his way fighting for his love, back in the Dickensian era. Matilda is read this book every day by her teacher, Mr Watts, the only white man on the island. Matilda has an immediate connection with the book and especially with the main character being Pip. With being read the book everyday Matilda is able to escape. Matilda is saturated in the fantasy world where there is no wars or killings. Through this Matilda expresses that she does not enjoy living on the island because of these wars and all she wants to do is ‘escape’ to another place where it is peaceful and calm. Through the literature of Great Expectations she is able withdrawal from her current set of mind and escapes the horrors temporarily on the island of Bouganville. The book gives Matilda security for when she is in the face of war. A quote by Matilda “Mr Watts had given us kids another world to spend the night in, we could escape into another place.” This whole quote gives us as the reader the overall meaning of the book for Matilda. Also, Matilda didn’t want to be too immersed in the book as when she escapes the to another world, she becomes worried she will be disappointed when she comes back to reality on the island of Bougainville. Another quote in the book by Matilda says that “It is always a relief to return to Great Expectations. It contained a world that was whole and made sense, unlike ours.” This really helps with the understanding of what effect the book has on Matilda.
Matilda’s mother Dolores, on the other hand, had different views on Great Expectations. Dolores is an overzealous Christian believer and is narrow-minded as she lives only by the bible and her beliefs which comes from the native islands traditional ideology. Dolores displays an immense amount of distrust towards Mr Watts and his curriculum in the classroom. Thus making weekly visits to the classroom to see all the other ways Mr Watt is polluting her own daughter’s mind. Compared to Dolores and the other parents, the other parents believe he has a good influence on the students and thinks he is a great man for giving their children an education on the island. She believed that with Mr Watts was brainwashing the knowledge of the island’s traditional ideology and of the bible out of Matilda. ‘ Great Expectations came between us’ – quote by Dolores. We see the Dolores and her daughter Matilda are slowing fading and separating due to this book. Dolores only wants to be close to her daughter and to have a strong bonded relationship, as all mothers and daughters should. Because Dolores feels like her daughter is being indoctrinated by a white man she steals the book. When The Red Skins come and invade their island, they find the name ‘Pip’ written in the sand. The army thinking that he is a spy hiding from them, as no-one steps forward to say that they are Pip. Kindly Mr Watts explains that Pip is a fictional character from the book Great Expectation, and goes tell Matilda to get the book for the classroom. To her belief, the book is not there and she returns empty handed. By the removal of the book, this leads the destruction of the village and the death of Mr Watts and Dolores. This Book reinforces the idea of symbolism. This is because to Matilda the Book ‘Great Expectations’ means one thing which is a good and happy object and feeling whereas the book for Dolores is an evil white man’s influence, that is coming between her and her daughter.
Dolores being strictly Christian, the bible is everything to her, she gets offended when a white man steps in to teach her daughter using another book, that it not by the bible. “My mom… didn’t know anything outside of what she knows from the bible,” Matilda fights with her mother because of this reason. She won’t let anything new in her life, and she just lives by the old traditional ways. The old ways being, living by the bible and the island stories. These traditional stories were told by the parents of the students. One of the stories were, when the crabs go down into the sand it is going to rain. These stories would have been passed down many generations to get to the generation today. A lot can be learned by your ancestors I know this because I have learned many things from my parents who have learned it from their grandparents and so on. To Dolores, I believe the book is a symbol of security and hope. I believe this because that is what has been brought up knowing. So when Dolores are in a mind of stress or anger she refers back to the bible so she can relax and have the weight of stress relieve her shoulders. Nowadays escapism comes in many forms, not just literature. With the help of technology and improvements, we are able to remove ourselves from the reality of things to de-stress and to cope with the real world. For example, we are able to escape by the use of social media. There are many more other portals such as: Facebook, snapchat, Instagram, twitter. Music is another way to escape, by listening and losing yourself in it, you are able to just leave your presences and go to a mentally better place. So in the novel ‘Mr Pip’ by Lloyd Jones the symbol of literature (the books) to emphasise the allowance of escapism and how it helped Dolores endure the indoctrination of her daughter by a foreign white man
Matilda’s outlook on the Bible is completely different to Dolores. This could be because she is more open minded and allows new changes in her life, whereas her mother doesn’t. By Mr Watts bringing the book into Matilda’s life it has influenced her. Matilda now puts Great Expectations before the bible in relation to her day to day life. But with this there comes the conflict between Mr Watts and Dolores, ultimately resulting in the death of both of them. The different object in the book has different value to everyone, as for Matilda the Book ‘Great erections’ has a positive impact on her and provided her with a type of security with freedom. On the other hand for Dolores, Great expectations means that the man’s way induced her daughter in the way she doesn’t want her to be influenced, it has caused conflict between her and her own daughter and ultimately ends in death.
Lloyd Jones, the author of ‘Mr Pip’ had his reason for writing this book. In the 90’s Jones was a journalist traveling to Papua New Guinea, reporting on the conflict. The struggles that Jones witness affected him in a way that compels him to write this novel so others around him can gain an insight on this historical period. Not a true political story, but it still has some underlying political themes of conflict and contrast. Between “Redskins and rebels”, as well as the conflict between characters of Matilda and her mom. Other themes of conflict are between faith and beliefs of white western ideals and Pacific Island culture clashing, also conflict between with Dolores and Mr Watts. Lloyd Jones wrote with a purpose, the purpose is the power of reading a novel can allow an individual’s mind, thoughts, and feelings to escape the truth of reality, and I believe this purpose was achieved after reading this. You are able to immerse yourself in the words to become lost and to forget the harsh existence of the real world. This is the true meaning of escapism.
To conclude many themes are shown to us in the novel “Great Expectations’ by Lloyd Jones but the underlying theme is escapism through the novels of Great Expectations and the Bible where, themselves are symbols of literature. We can see escapism in life today with through our music, phone, the internet and most of all our books. Mr Watts sets a distraction for the children in Bougainville to lead them away from the idea of war. The symbols of the Bible and Great Expectations has a different meaning for each and every child and parent on the island. Through the novel, Lloyd Jones shows us the opposing views on the symbol of the literature and he tells it through his own personal experiences giving us a real insight of this event. We as the readers have now gained enough understanding to never allow this terrible event to be repeated in the future again.