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Conflict can occur in both large and small ways. Conflict has the ability to impact the life of anyone at any age. Conflict is capable of being the most influential power in one’s life. However, when youth are forced to face these disputes they must learn to mature and their opinions and outlooks on various subjects will change. Matilda Laimo, the protagonist in Lloyd Jones’ novel Mister Pip, lives on a secluded island in the midst of a civil war. Matilda is exposed to a dark side of her beloved island and she needs to grow up quickly as the stark differences between black and white tear her world apart. In the novel, the colours black and white are used to symbolize conflict in Matilda’s island life, inner thoughts and her own family and they depict how when youth are exposed to conflict they attain a certain level of maturity and new opinions arise.
Matilda’s island home is riddled with conflict represented through black and white. The villagers are intrigued by the mysterious white man living amongst them. Matilda “had grown up believing white to be the color of all the important things” and the white man, Mr. Watts was no exception to what she deemed important. He ignites conflict and arouses the village simply by being a white man. He holds higher power in the eyes of the outsider world than the rest of the villagers combined. His authority and prejudice is put on centre stage when his house is spared after all the rest are burned by the redskins. The problem lies because all villagers believe “The redskins wouldn’t do anything to cause white displeasure” and this angers the villagers because they feel that it is unfair and they hold Mr. Watts responsible. They point their fingers at Mr. Watts because he was the one who introduced Great Expectations to the village which soon became another source of conflict for the island. The book provides a glimpse into the white world and opens the villagers eyes to concepts that were previously unheard of because “It contained a world that was whole and made sense, unlike theirs”. The book changed everyone’s life whether they knew of Pip or not due to the severe consequences for the village it carried with it.
The confusion the novel brought to the redskins led to the annihilation of everything in the village showing how the white world represented by Mr. Watts and Great Expectations c lashed with the predominantly black village and sparked a horrid conflict within that changed Matilda’s life forever. Years later, she determined that “Mr. Dickens was easier to understand than Mr. Watts” which summarizes the impact both men had on her life, through story and teaching, and how the effects of the conflicts both men presented her life with were carried with her for years after they occurred (246). The introduction of the white world was so unlike the world the people of the island were accustomed to and the unfamiliarity naturally resulted in the conflict that greatly influenced Matilda. With Mr. Watts and Great Expectations representing the colour white and the village representing black it is made clear as to how the two colours tie into the conflicts caused by Watts and the book. The colours then subsequently lead to Matilda growing and developing due to the conflict they represent that took over her life which shows how conflict has the capabilities to mature youth and change their opinions.
Conflict rages on in other ways in Mister Pip. It stretches so deep that it plagues Matilda’s inner thoughts through conflict represented by black and white. The main sources of conflict that affect Matilda’s thoughts are stemmed off of her changing opinion of Mr. Watts and Great Expectations. Prior to Mr. Watts becoming her teacher, Matilda views “Pop Eye” as “a source of mystery” because he lived a very private life and she knew very little of him. After the conflict erupted on the island Matilda’s opinion of Mr. Watts develops into one that is more mature. Once she has left the island it “occurred to her only recently that she never once saw Mr. Watts with a machete – his survival weapons was story”. Her adult outlook on life shows how the conflict made her change and see Mr. Watt in a new light and she realized how different he was from the people from her village who would have resorted to violence with weapons during conflict but, Mr. Watts sought a more peaceful approach that involved his mere words and imagination. Great Expectations also severely influenced how Matilda thought later in life due to the conflict it brought with it. A noticeable change in her thinking patterns is evident from the time when she originally reads the book to when Matilda reads it again. When she was a young girl she felt “It was always a relief to return to Great Expectations” but, once she devoted her life to Dickens’ works she felt as if the book was “an act of magic”. As a young girl Matilda thought of the novel as a sanctuary and an escape from the conflict around her, a route to the white world. After the conflict passed, young adult deemed the book as a revolutionary work and recognizes how much of an impact it had on her showing how the conflict made her less naïve. Matilda’s transition from innocent adolescent to woman shows how the black and white conflict in Mister Pip shows support for the fact that when a child experiences hostilities they will undergo change in their identity and opinions.
One of the most critical ways conflict is shown by black and white is through the quarrels in Matilda’s family. Her father’s absence from her life is a big part of her identity. She explains that before her father went away she had an “ignorance of the outside world” and her father’s postcards were how she gained knowledge of the white world. Everything he learned about the white world before he left for his new job conflicted with what their family knew and it led to her parents “arguing like roosters” over the differences between the two worlds. The way the black people did things was extremely different from the way the white people did them and it confused Matilda’s mother, Dolores showing how black and white represent conflict in the novel. Another source of conflict for Matilda’s family is Dolores’ strong religious views opposing to Mr. Watts’ lack thereof and how it affects Matilda. Dolores took matters into her own hands and decided to “pick a fight” with Mr. Watts because “‘her lovely Matilda. . . tells [her] she does not believe in the devil. She believes in Pip’”. Dolores’ beliefs counter what Mr. Watts is teaching the children about the white world and Dolores starts getting overprotective because she feels like the white world is stealing Matilda away from her and she holds Mr. Watts responsible. Dolores combatting Mr. Watts over Pip and religion shows just another way black and white clash to formulate conflict in Mister Pip. The pressure this all puts on Matilda results in her forming her own opinions like believing in Pip and not the devil because “‘she cannot hear the devil’s voice. She can hear Pip’s’” even if it contradicts her mother’s religious views. By conceiving an opinion that counters her mother’s she is proving how the conflict in her family led to her making her own opinions and maturing. The information her father provides her with about the white world and the unique new concepts taught to her by Mr. Watts that both conflict with how her mother likes to do things represent the white world having influence on Matilda’s family typical black lifestyle showing how black and white depict conflict in the novel. Both family conflicts result to Matilda blossoming into a more mature human with her own values and opinions which exhibits how conflict causes youth to mature.
As youth get older and they experience more struggles in life their opinions develop and change as they learn to deal with the problems going on around them. In Mister Pip said problems are represented by black and white and highlight the conflict in the protagonist’s island life, inner thoughts and family which causes her to grow up and become a more thoughtful young lady because of her perseverance past the conflict. The island is rocked by Mr. Watts and his book and how the redskins avoid messing with him since he is white and the anger that ensues in the village afterwards. The divide between white and black even enters Matilda’s mind and disrupts her thoughts and beliefs leading to massive changes about how she views her childhood. Matilda’s family influences her from birth and conflict enters there in the form of racial tension about the way things are done. Conflicts occur in all different varieties and have the ability to impact anyone and they will forever be influencing and change the minds of individuals everywhere. Literature is just a mere fictional representation of problems that can occur in real life and the long lasting emotional stress and effects that conflict can place on people. It shows how undergoing stressful situations can be a life altering experience and conflict is a very influential concept.
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