Setting and context
 Timeframe and structure
 Style
 Characters (major)
 Themes
 Conflict
 Events
The island of Bougainville is part of
Papua New Guinea, situated in the
South Pacific Ocean
The island was an important military
base during WW2
It is mineral-rich and gold deposits
led to the establishment of a mine
there in the 1970s
Disputes resulting from ownership
of the mine developed into civil
conflict which lasted from 1990 –
1997. Francis Ona and his rebels
declared war at the Laguna copper
mine and a blockade was imposed
on Bougainville by the PNG
Government in 1990
New Zealand contributed to peace
negotiations in 2000
We know that Matilda was eleven when her father went to work in Townsville in Australia
Matilda is thirteen when Mr Watts begins to read ‘Great Expectations’ on 10 December 1991
She 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 village
This is important because it shows how the villagers were cut off from the outside world
We learn from Matilda that the rambos (village rebels) came to the village nearly three years after the mine
was closed
The redskins returned seven days later and committed the atrocities that lead to the climax of the book
After the climax, Matilda escapes to Australia and finds out that it is September 1993 and she is fifteen
years old
The rest of the story is like an ‘epilogue’ – giving detail of what became of Matilda after her escape
She attends school and university in Australia and then goes on to do post graduate research on ‘Dickens’
We presume she is in her early twenties by this stage
The narrative is developed as a continuum f her own and the story cannot be divided up into tidy little
The climax of the book is where Mr Watts, Dolores, Daniel and his grandmother are killed
Lloyd Jones uses a surprisingly blunt tone when he creates
Matilda as the naïve (unsophisticated) narrator of the story
He uses words like ‘black’, ‘white’ and ‘redskin’ to cross over
racial and cultural lines without causing offence
He 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 events
Matilda 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
Jones 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?
How would you describe Matilda?
The novel’s narrator who lives with her mother in the small, isolated Bougainville
We pick up on her life when she is thirteen years old
Her 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 world
She 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
She develops a very close bond with the fictional ‘Pip’ because she draws parallels
between his life and hers
Matilda 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’)
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
Sturdy, she is the counterpoint to the creative and eccentric Mr Watts
She 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…” Dolores
She 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.” Matilda
Sees 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.” Matilda
She hides the book and this act is the catalyst for all the subsequent atrocities and later
her own death
In 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.
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
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.”
There are many themes in this novel, but here are some to
think about:
That narrative (stories) help us escape to another place
Mr 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
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
Other illustrations of this theme are the stories that the village women
tell the children at school and the life story that Mr Watts relates to the
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.
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”. Matilda
We see Matilda become jealous, “I didn’t like that other teasing girl, Sarah
Pocket, either
Finally, 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
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.
Dolores vs Matilda
 This
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
 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.
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
 Dolores 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.
There are many other conflicts you can explore
 Matilda’s
internal conflict
 Many characters have both internal and external
 Mr Watts and Grace – the conflict caused by the
meeting of two worlds
 The villagers in conflict with Western ideas
 The redskins and the rambos
 Shocking
– the first attack by the redskins / the
murders of Mr Watts and Dolores
 Interesting – Matilda visiting Mr Watts’ home /
Matilda visiting New Zealand and discovering the
truth about Mr Watts
 Surprising – Matilda finding ‘Great Expectations’
and discovering her mother’s lie
The setting of a novel is more than a backdrop to the text, it takes
centre stage.”
To what extent do you agree with this view?
 “Writers provide glimpses of other worlds, giving readers opportunities
to reflect on their own world.”
To what extent do you agree with this view?
“Characters and how they interrelate is the main focus of a novel.”
To what extent do you agree with this view?
“Novels present flawed character(s) in challenging environment(s).”
To what extent do you agree with this view?
Read ALL the questions
Pick the question that is a ‘best fit’ for our novel
Use what you know about the novel to answer the question – DO NOT twist the
question to suit what you know!!
Write a solid introduction
Answer ALL parts of the question
This means write at least 3 good TEXTER body paragraphs
T = topic sentence that relates to the question
E = provide a valid explanation of the point you are making
X = give a direct example (usually a quote) from the novel to support your point
T = label the technique(s)in the quote to show your understanding of the writer’s craft
E= explain why the technique was used and its effect
R= explain what you lean/feel/understand. Make links to themes.
(S) = a final sentence that summarises and links back to the question using words (or synonyms)
from the question
Answer ALL parts of the question
Write a clear and logical conclusion that again addresses the question.
Use good grammar, spelling and punctuation
Adopt a formal tone
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