2 Main aspects for study Setting and context Timeframe and structure StyleCharacters (major)ThemesConflictEvents
3 Setting and contextThe island of Bougainville is part of Papua New Guinea, situated in the South Pacific OceanThe island was an important military base during WW2It is mineral-rich and gold deposits led to the establishment of a mine there in the 1970sDisputes resulting from ownership of the mine developed into civil conflict which lasted from 1990 – Francis Ona and his rebels declared war at the Laguna copper mine and a blockade was imposed on Bougainville by the PNG Government in 1990New Zealand contributed to peace negotiations in 2000
4 Timeframe and structure We know that Matilda was eleven when her father went to work in Townsville in AustraliaMatilda is thirteen when Mr Watts begins to read ‘Great Expectations’ on 10 December 1991She calculated that Mr Watts would finish reading on 6 February 1992 (they only finish on 10 February)Matilda loses track of time after the redskins (Government soldiers) burn her calendar along with all the other belongings in the villageThis is important because it shows how the villagers were cut off from the outside worldWe learn from Matilda that the rambos (village rebels) came to the village nearly three years after the mine was closedThe redskins returned seven days later and committed the atrocities that lead to the climax of the bookAfter the climax, Matilda escapes to Australia and finds out that it is September 1993 and she is fifteen years oldThe rest of the story is like an ‘epilogue’ – giving detail of what became of Matilda after her escapeShe attends school and university in Australia and then goes on to do post graduate research on ‘Dickens’ Orphans’We presume she is in her early twenties by this stageThe narrative is developed as a continuum f her own and the story cannot be divided up into tidy little divisionsThe climax of the book is where Mr Watts, Dolores, Daniel and his grandmother are killed
5 StyleLloyd Jones uses a surprisingly blunt tone when he creates Matilda as the naïve (unsophisticated) narrator of the storyHe uses words like ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘redskin’ to cross over racial and cultural lines without causing offenceHe uses the first person narrative perspective – this gives us the idea that Matilda is a witness to the truth (as in her witnessing of her mother’s rape, the graphic description of the dog and people being chopped up and fed to pigs)Jones removes subjectivity and leaves the reader with a sense of Matilda being a removed observer – the purpose of this is to spare the reader the grossness of these eventsMatilda never states emotion or passes judgment – except for accusing her mother of stealing ‘Great Expectations’- the purpose of this is to leave readers to draw their own conclusions on eventsJones also uses ‘Great Expectations’ as a parallel text. It deals with real cruelty, poverty and human heartbreak but it has survived as a popular book for such a long time because readers are able to laugh and suffer with the characters at the same time. What is the similarity to Mister Pip?
6 Character – Matilda Laimo How would you describe Matilda?The novel’s narrator who lives with her mother in the small, isolated Bougainville communityWe pick up on her life when she is thirteen years oldHer father works away from home in Townsville, Australia. Her name was suggested to her father by an Australian mine manager.Matilda is positioned between her mother who rejects the ‘white world’ and her absent father who is very much part of that worldShe is very similar to Dolores – they are both strong characters bent on the truth – they have normal teenage girl-mother conflicts as she seeks to establish her independenceShe develops a very close bond with the fictional ‘Pip’ because she draws parallels between his life and hersMatilda is a strong character, she survives the brutal murder of her mother and by the end of the novel, has grown into a confident and well-rounded young woman (probably largely due to Mr Watts’ introduction to ‘Great Expectations’)
7 Dolores Laimo How would you describe Dolores? Proud, religious, stubborn and hypocritical – she things that she is “too strong” and that she has driven her husband away “…she had the blood of the righteous running in her veins…”Sturdy, she is the counterpoint to the creative and eccentric Mr WattsShe mistrusts the power of ‘Great Expectations’ and the influence of Mr Watts on Matilda. “Some white fellas do not believe in the devil, or God…because they think they don’t have to…” DoloresShe draws strong resemblance to Miss Havisham (for whom time stood still after being betrayed by a man) “My mum didn’t smile enough…she appeared to be angry much of the time.” MatildaSees everything from a simple and moral point of view – she struggles to maintain her cultural and religious beliefs by imposing them on Matilda and the other children, “She thought she could bully us into knowing what she did.” MatildaShe hides the book and this act is the catalyst for all the subsequent atrocities and later her own deathIn the end, she redeems herself by being, “God’s witness”, however, she is given no dignity in death, she dies in a machete execution and is chopped up and fed to the pigs after being raped. She displays courage in the face of evil and sacrifices herself in order to save her daughter.
8 Tom Watts (Pop Eye) How would you describe Mr Watts? He is initially introduced as “Pop Eye”, a mysterious local eccentric – a white man living in the village with his black wife Grace.He is seen as a ‘saviour’ because he wants to protect the children from the war and give them something positive to dream about, “I want this to be a place of light…No matter what happens”.He tells 3 versions of the story: he reads it to the class, then he ‘recovers’ it after Dolores hides the book and finally, he becomes an actor as he totally reshapes the narrative in front of the rambos.In the final telling, his performance keeps the rambos off the “jungle juice” and so, protects the villagers – ironically, his greatest performance also leads to his death as the rambos identify him as ‘Pip’ and he is executed.Matilda later meets his Wellington wife and she retells the story of how Mr Watts and Grace met and how unravels the mystery of the couples odd appearance and behaviour, “The director thought Tom should wear a red clown’s nose, and the Queen of Sheba should stand in a trolley pulled by Tome to show some meeting of the minds had been achieved.”Matilda recalls her memory of Mr Watts, “I never saw him once with a machete – his weapon was a story.”
9 ThemesThere are many themes in this novel, but here are some to think about:That narrative (stories) help us escape to another placeMr Watts reads ‘Great Expectations’ to the children in order to provide an escape from the world they live in. The babies in the village are dying of malaria because there is no medicine and everybody fears the war will catch up with them sometime. So, Pop Eye fills their minds with great expectations. The children begin to attach meaning from Pip’s live to their own. Their imaginations are awakened and this gives them an escape from their miserable lives, “We were greedy for that world. Any world other than this one, which we were sick of – sick of the fear it held.”This theme is important because we begin to understand that this escape from our reality comes at a great price. For Mr Watts, his escape into the character of Pip cost him his life. For Matilda, the escape from her reality meant having to break from the ‘safety’ of her past.
10 Themes That the horrors of war leave lasting scars Mostly, we hear about the war as a rumour that is whispered about by the adults. But then the redskins come and the horrors steadily become a reality; chickens are beheaded, the old dog’s stomach is ripped out, the villagers belongings are burned, then their houses. The horror only escalates: Mr Watts is shot, chopped up and fed to the pigs, Dolores is raped, chopped up and fed to the pigs, Daniel is tortured in the most horrible way and his grandmother murdered.This theme is important, because through it, we come to understand that in times of conflict, people loose their humanity and compassion. In situations of war, people can be driven to commit the most unspeakable acts. However, in the incident of her mother’s death, Matilda recalls the officer, “making that kissing sound as he smoked.” With everything that she had been through, Matilda still found it within herself to think of the officer as human.
11 Themes The loss of innocence As the war escalates, and creeps closer to the village, we begin to see a change in Matilda. Her descriptions (although objective), become more gross in their detail (the incident with Black the dog). She begins to talk in more real terms of the fear and uncertainty around her.Matilda begins to keep snippets of “Great Expectations” from her mother, because as she wanders more and more into Pip’s world, she finds that she is at odds with her own. In her loyalty to her mother she becomes more deceptive, and this signals her loss of innocence. “What made her blood run cold was this white boy Pip and his place in my life”. MatildaWe see Matilda become jealous, “I didn’t like that other teasing girl, Sarah Pocket, eitherFinally, in witnessing so much death around her, Matilda cannot remain an innocent and naïve girl.This theme is important because, we come to understand that in difficult times, we are forced to face realities that we may not necessarily want to. Matilda had to face the reality of her father having another life in another place, and that she was not part of it. She also had to face the reality that Mr Watts was not what his performances made him out to be and that in life, nothing is certain. All these realisations force Matilda to grow up very quickly.
12 Conflict Dolores Dolores vs her husband She disapproves of everything he does. Questioned by Matilda about his happiness, she comments, “Never at the right time, though usually when he had been drinking.”She thought herself, “too strong” for him and, “…did not want to see my father turn into a white man” says Matilda.Every time Dolores thinks about her husband, she gets angry because she is convinced he has deserted her. Matilda thought this was unreasonable and identifies her mother with the unforgiving Miss Havisham in ‘Great Expectations’.Matilda finds evidence in Australia that her father did indeed love his wife.
13 Dolores vs MatildaThis is a very lively mother-daughter conflict. Dolores battles with Matilda over what is going on in her head and this makes Matilda more stubborn. Matilda writing Pip’s name in the sand alongside her relatives caused Dolores to give her a, “look of pure hate.”Dolores transfers much of her anger towards her husband and Mr Watts onto Matilda.Matilda’s resentment towards her mother stems much from her hiding ‘Great Expectations’ and causing the village to be destroyed. Matilda resents her, “not only for what our neighbours had lost, but for the blame placed on Mr Watts door.”Another reason for Dolores’ conflict with Matilda over ‘Great Expectations’ was that she feared what happened to Grace (following her dream) would happen to Matilda.
14 Dolores vs Mr Watts“What made her blood run cold was this white boy Pip and his place in my life. For this she held Mr Watts personally responsible.”MatildaDolores thinks that Mr Watts doesn’t know his ancestors or were he comes from and this makes him ‘lost’ in her eyes.Dolores’ conflict is that she has already lost her husband to the ‘white world’ and she will not risk losing her daughter too.Ironically, Mr Watts and Dolores are fighting the same fight – the protection of the children. Dolores is trying to help them hold onto their past, while Mr Watts is trying to help them create a better present and future.
15 conflict There are many other conflicts you can explore Matilda’s internal conflictMany characters have both internal and external conflictsMr Watts and Grace – the conflict caused by the meeting of two worldsThe villagers in conflict with Western ideasThe redskins and the rambos
16 EventsIn the exam, you might be asked to describe an event (shocking or interesting or surprising etc.). Pick one you can actually describe…Shocking – the first attack by the redskins / the murders of Mr Watts and DoloresInteresting – Matilda visiting Mr Watts’ home / Matilda visiting New Zealand and discovering the truth about Mr WattsSurprising – Matilda finding ‘Great Expectations’ and discovering her mother’s lie
17 The exam Read ALL the questions Pick the question that is a ‘best fit’ for our novelUse what you know about the novel to answer the question – DO NOT twist the question to suit what you know!!Write a solid STAGA introductionAnswer BOTH the DESCRIBE and the EXPLAIN parts of the questionThis means write 3 good PEEL (SEXY) body paragraphsP = topic point that relates to the questionE = provide a valid and to the point explanation to the pointE = give a direct example (usually a quote) from the novel to support your pointL = Link back to the question using words (or synonyms) from the questionWrite a clear and logical conclusion that again addresses the question.Write more than 200 wordsUse good grammar, spelling and punctuationAdopt a formal toneWrite for 30 minutes
Your consent to our cookies if you continue to use this website.