Presentation on theme: "A Post-colonial frame for the Pacific. NZ author (born in Wgtn, 1955) Ex –journalist, consultant; well-travelled; interests – sport and popular culture."— Presentation transcript:
A Post-colonial frame for the Pacific
NZ author (born in Wgtn, 1955) Ex –journalist, consultant; well-travelled; interests – sport and popular culture. Full-time writer. Has written short stories, novellas, essays, sports biographies, and 10 highly acclaimed novels (Mr Pip is 8 th of 10) Awards: the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize 2003 and Montana’s Deutz Medal for Fiction, Commonwealth Writers' Prize Overall Best Book Award 2007, South East Asia and Pacific Prize for Best Book, 2007 Montana Medal for fiction and Montana Reader's Choice Award, shortlist of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers' Residency, 2008 Kiriyama Pacific Prize for fiction, 2008 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, 2008 Arts Foundation Laureate Award and an Antarctica New Zealand Arts Fellowship 2008
Setting Bougainville Island, Pacific
Bougainville is one of the Solomon Islands (geography, language, ethnicity) Historically – possessed by Germany Strategically important island – occupied by Aust,German, US and Japanese in WW1 &11 Australia given governance of B and Papua New Guinea after WW1 Rich in copper (gold?)Aust mining1965 Papua New Guinea became independent from Australia; Bougainville became part of PNG (1/3 PNG revenue from B’s copper) Locals became irate at environmental impact of mine and lack of benefit to Bougainville; sabotaged and closed the mine early1980’s Bougainvillians wanted Independence from PNG. PNG fought back with military support from Australia 1990 -97 (20,000 killed)
In 1990, PNG imposed a Blockade on Bougainville, cutting off food, military and medical supplies Eventually, news of the violence and medical conditions for children leaked out, pressuring Aust who were giving huge finances to PNG NZ became involved, putting political humanitarian pressure-Aust Govt NZ was pivotal - brokering a peace deal between the parties in 1997 (not full independence but for Bougainville Autonomous Province (of PNG) incl self-government) KEY POINT - The setting for the novel Mister Pip is the period in the 1990’s when Bougainville was suffering from the blockade imposed by PNG and Bougainville’s Revolutionary Army (BRA ‘Rebels’) were fighting for Independence against the PNG Defence Force (‘Redskins’)
1. What other texts have you read which use a setting of isolation? 2. What other texts have you read which have a setting which includes war or military conflict? 3. This text can be linked with the movie “Hotel Rwanda” in that both narrate the stories of real events; atrocious violent events which were largely hidden from the public due to the isolation of peoples
Matilda, a bright thirteen-year-old lives on the South Pacific island of Bougainville with her mother. When she was 11, her father left for Australia to mine and her mother is bitter. The island has been blockaded by Papua New Guinea. The villagers suffer economic deprivation, isolation and violence, as local Rebels (guerrilla soldiers) fight against the Redskins (PNG army) for control of the island and its valuable copper mine. Most Europeans have been evacuated (incl. the teacher) but Mr. Watts remains. Married to an Island woman, Grace, he is called Popeye by the islanders who consider the couple strange. Watts, the only white man on Matilda’s island, takes over the village’s school and begins to read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to the children day by day. Matilda’s imagination becomes entranced by the strangeness of GE, its new vocabulary and the characters, especially Pip. The children turn to Dickens’ words to escape the constant threat of unpredictably violent visits from the Redskins and Rebels. The first visit from the PNG Redskins is punctuated by the violent slaughter of the villagers chickens, goats and dogs as the villagers hide in the forest. Matilda’s mother, Delores, a stubborn religious woman feels threatened by the influence of Mr Watts and the GE. To her the novel represents ‘white man’s culture’ competing against her own cultural history and the most important book to her, the Bible.
The conflict over competing cultural values, beliefs and influences develops until a frustrated Delores contradicts her own Christian values by stealing the only copy of GE. Mr Watts helps the children to “remember” and retell the story themselves, adding in fragments of their own culture. Matilda finds the book, but from a dual sense of shame and loyalty, never reveal its location, even when asked by the visiting Redskins who burn the villagers belongings (unknowingly, burning the book also). To save an innocent boy (Daniel) who has misnamed Mr Watts as Mr Dickens, Mr Watts agrees and pacifies them, saying “Pip” is a fictional character; this proves later to be a fatal error. Meanwhile, Mr Watts wife, Grace and two of the village children die of malaria. The Rebels visit the village and Mr Watts retells GE over 7 days to buy time, includes elements of his own life and his marriage to Grace. Mr Watts tells Matilda of his plan to escape the island and take Matilda and Delores along, but asks her not to tell her mother. Sworn to secrecy, Matilda hints to her mother that change is afoot and can be unexpected using the story of Pip’s unforeseen meeting with Mr Jaggers in the marshes. Without warning, the Rebels leave. Soon after, the villagers aid a wounded Rebel soldier known to them to escape; a third more violent visit from the Redskins follows, after they take the Rebel hostage. This is the climax of the novel and is very violent.
The hostage Rebel names Mr Watts as “Pip” and the Redskin Officer, furious at having been previously lied to, orders his Redskins to kill Mr Watts (by machete) and feed him to the pigs. The Officer leadingly asks who has seen this. The naive innocent Daniel says he has. He and his grandmother are murdered in the jungle (Daniel is left strung out high between the branches of trees in a crucifix type pose). Delores, Matilda’s mother, tells the Officer that she is “God’s witness” to the killing and refuses to back down. Delores is raped by the soldiers. The Officer then threatens to rape Matilda, and Delores offers her life in exchange for Matilda not being raped. Delores is chopped up and fed to the pigs also. When the Redskins leave, the villagers kill the pigs and bury them, so that their dead can be buried. Daniel and his grandmother are buried too. Note: These violent events, seen and narrated from Matilda’s perspective objectively (without emotional response) serve to heighten the realism of her experience of war and emphasise the resiliency and strength of character. The Climax
That same night, walking alone amid a storm, Matilda is washed downstream in the swollen river. Thoughts of drowning are superseded by thoughts of her father. She clings to a floating log, naming it “Mr Jaggers” and is rescued.The next day she is taken to the hospital in Honiara, on the neighbouring Solomon Islands. Matilda is flown to Townsville, Australia to be reunited with her father after a 4 year separation. She is surprised how much his clothes make him look like a white man. She attends High School in Australia, rereading GE, and goes on to University where she does a Ph D on Charles Dickens. The novel continues to influence the trajectory of her life. Visiting Wellington, she visits Mr Watts first wife and discovers personal flaws she had not seen and the amateur theatre role which had led to his meeting with Grace. She then visits London and Gravesend, significant places in Pip’s journey, linking Pip’s migration to the post-colonial experience of being an ‘emigrant’. She emerges from a period of depression to write a testimony of her experiences – the novel “Mr Pip.” Finally she visits Rochester, disappointed to discover that the life of Charles Dickens has been cheaply commercialised. The novel ends with her decision to return home (noting that Pip had never managed this).
Matilda – narrator and protagonist/ heroine Mr Watts/ Popeye ( becomes teacher) – education, ‘white’ culture, Great Expectations, Delores (mother) – ancestry, traditional culture, the Bible A Cultural Tug of War
Influenced by Great Expectations Matilda grows apart from her mother & traditional culture Mr Watts helps the children use GE to escape conflict (Rebels vs Redskins) Delores steals GE. Matilda covers for her. Their belongings are burned by the Redskins. Mr Watts and the children use imagination to reinvent GE. Due to Mr Watts contradictory stories, the Redskins seek revenge: Mr Watts is killed, fed to pigs. Unable to be silent, Daniel is killed, crucified in forest. Refusing to be silent, Delores is raped. Delores bargains her life for Matilda not being raped and is killed. Matilda leaves the island for new life and education in Australia. She becomes a writer, to testify to what happened and plans a return to Bougainville. The short version
In Mister Pip, literary interpretation and values are placed in direct and meaningful dialogue with issues of ethics, morals, cultural narratives and personal identity. This is a novel that challenges us to think about ourselves and our own identities, the texts and cultural influences that have fed into who we see ourselves as.
The novelty of Dickens—and of English literature itself—to Matilda and the other Bougainville students forces readers to explore and re-examine assumptions about reading and storytelling that are often taken for granted. The novel helps us consider the function of literature, the relationship between reader and text, the cultural expectations that may accompany certain types of reading and writing, and the ways in which literature can be reinterpreted—or misinterpreted.
By the time Mr Watts reached the end of chapter one I felt like I had been spoken to by this boy Pip. This boy who I couldn't see to touch but knew by ear. I had found a new friend. The surprising thing is where I found him... in a book. No one had told us kids to look there for a friend. or that you could slip inside the skin of another. or travel to another place“ "As we progressed through the book something happened to me. At some point I felt myself enter the story. I hadn't been assigned a part - nothing like that; I wasn't identifiable on the page, but I was there, I was definitely there. I knew that orphaned white kid and that small, fragile place he squeezed into between his awful sister and lovable Joe Gargary because the same space existed between Mr Watts and my Mum.” "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.“ "Mr. Watts thanked Celia. Her comment, he said,provided us with an interesting insight into the parallel world the reader develops from the words on the page." p. 128
1. Exotic Location Bougainville Island 2. Distinct Dialogue (local voice) Villagers’ stories; pigeon English;cockney 3. Technology vs. Traditional Culture Mine, choppers vs jungle, fishing 4. God vs. the Gods Bible, Devil & Truth vs GE & personal stories 5. Racial Images ‘ Red’skins ;whiteness; white man’s clothes; naming Postcolonial texts examine the continuing impact of colonialism
Metafiction is essentially writing about writing or "foregrounding the apparatus,” making the artificiality, constructedness or fictionality of fiction obvious to the reader Metafiction is often employed to undermine the authority of the author as the only one who creates meaning (reader is central to meaning in a postmodern theory approach) Metafiction may include unexpected narrative shifts or breaks in the storyline, stories within stories, a sense of emotional distance, and direct comments on the act of storytelling. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodern_literature
Intertextuality –postmodernism believes that individual works can never be isolated creations, and postmodern texts highlight this influence using intertextuality: the relationship between one text (a novel for example) and anotherintertextuality Critics may see this as postmodernism’s lack of originality (to postmodernism, originality is a myth) Intertextuality in postmodern literature can be a reference or parallel to another literary work, an extended discussion of a work, or the adoption of a style. Some have said Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea is a ‘post-colonial revision of Jane Eyre’ – a rewrite of the original story to include a new post-colonial understanding of themes and characters. Thus, Jones’ Mister Pip can be seen as a postcolonial revision of Great Expectations (a rewriting of Pip’s story using ideas we now think about the world)
Post-modern age is from WWII on; characterised by technological change and changing identity A person in the post-modern era adapts, adapts to change, creates themselves. Major theme in Mister Pip is Personal Change. Matilda, just like Pip, is shown to change, to adapt, and thus like Pip, she recreates herself. In the final chapter, Matilda compare herself and Pip to emigrants seeking a new life in a new land “Each is free to create himself anew”
Where Jaggers & Miss Havisham influence Pip, Mr Watts is the major influence on Matilda’s change. Matilda even tries to explain to her mother, Delores, how unexpected things can happen and suddenly change one’s life. “...to tell her about Mr Jaggers’ visit to Pip in the marshes... The idea that without warning, your life could suddenly change.” Until Mr Watts, the children’s world had been so narrow they had not even imagined such change was possible for them. “[Mr Watts] took us by the hand, taught us how to reimaging the world and to see the possibility of change...” she says, looking back on her change. Like Pip, education (and literature) is central to the changing identity and status of Matilda – this is a familiar theme in Post-Modern Literature (the way for self-improvement = education) “Great Expectations is such a book. It gave me permission to change my life” Mr Watts tells Matilda. Speaking of the school when he first begins to teach, Mr Watts says idealistically, “I want this to be a place of light” Matilda goes to High School in Townsville, then University where she studies literature, completing a Doctorate on Charles Dickens. Later we hear, she has become a school teacher herself, before she tells us she has written her story “Mister Pip.” Clearly, the high level of education, Matilda achieves would suggest that the author’s viewpoint on education is positive and linked to personal change.
1. Which characters in other texts undergo major personal change? 2. What other texts show education as playing a significant role in change? 3. What texts show other characters in mentor roles – influencing change? 4. How do the other texts you have read reflect the thinking of the era they were written in ( about individual identity, social status and change )? 5. Which other texts are Post-Modern texts which reflect PM thinking about the fluidity of identity and how the PM subject reinvents themselves (agency, selection and choice)
Delores is angry at ‘white men’ for the destruction of forest near the mine, and for luring her husband to the Aust mines – the results of colonisation are shown to cause conflict and resentment Mr Watts is appointed teacher because he is the only white man left – whiteness = status. His possessions are the only ones not burned by the Redskins – he is not seen as a villager, despite his marriage. “Above all” says Mr Watts “white is a feeling” –suggesting the power relationships (superiority) associated with skin colour which are remnants of colonisation. In the end, his whiteness is not enough to save him The Papua New Guinea soldiers are called “Redskins” – skin colour is marker of identity and difference (Bougainvillians are very dark skinned like Solomon Islanders in appearance) Matilda is named for the famous Aust song “Waltzing Matilda.” The Rebels model their image on “Rambo.” Traditional culture is subject to the influences of Western colonising culture.
Matilda is aware of cultural difference “A black man is easily spotted in Townsville.” Like her mother, Matilda feels betrayed when she sees her father wearing western clothes: “His transformation into a white man was near complete” The villagers visit the classroom to imbue stories of cultural knowledge – these highlight the way that Matilda (like all PM subjects) is surrounded in multiple competing cultures which offer competing narratives of belief, knowledge and values. The chapter of Mr Watts and Grace writing their ancestry and cultural knowledge on their daughter’s bedroom wall also highlights this “post-structural process of identity” – selecting our identity from multiple influences as a magpie building a nest(bricolage) “The forge was home: it embrace all those things that give a life its shape....” Matilda recognises that although Pip’s home setting is very different to her own, it has the same function –it gives him a sense of identity, it shapes his life, it is a cultural context for him to begin from and add to, to create a new identity
1. What other texts have you read which include cultural or racial difference? 2. What other types of conflicting cultural values have your texts shown? 3. Have any of your texts shown colonisation or post-colonisation relationships?
Delores, Matilda’s mother, has been shown to be a very stubborn, selfish, devout and proud woman throughout In the climax, we see a totally different side to her (char. devpmt) Her actions are ‘redemptive’ – they redeem her previous failings In the face of evil, she shows physical and moral courage, saying “Sir, I am God’s witness” (to the slaughter of Mr Watts and Daniel) She knowingly places herself at risk, and then, following her own vicious rape, she sacrifices herself for her daughter’s safety. With her actions, Delores epitomises Christian sacrifice – she is a Christ-like figure in the novel, much like Simon in Lord of the Flies Matilda later equates Delores’ sense of moral responsibility with Pip becoming a true‘gentleman’ as she remembers Mr Watts explaining that “to be human is to be moral, and you can’t have a day off when it suits”
1. What other texts show characters as Christ like figures of sacrifice? 2. What other kinds of acts of moral courage are shown in the texts you’ve read or viewed? 3. Have any of these texts shown characters who act “out of character” with how they have been previously portrayed? (thus showing character development)