Mr. Watts is a liar whose life is based on half truths. He transforms from ‘Pop Eye’ to an influential teacher and to Matilda and the children on the island, he is a knowledgeable, superior man who brings energy to them. Portrayal is arguably reflective of the structure of the narrative and Lloyd Jones has chosen to tell ‘Mister Pip’ through the eyes of a young, depressed Matilda. Furthermore we receive a biased view on life on the island, which is coming from someone who has possibly suffered from post-traumatic stress.
The character of Matilda is essentially a device used by Jones which demonstrates how memories are untrustworthy and distorted because she is an innocent child who chooses to filter her memories. Also she is a going through puberty so would not necessarily remember some are of things that are happening to her. Jones chooses to base the novel on the island of Bougainville as it is a remote part of the world which is isolated. This allows him to make things up as people are not likely to know what happens there. Throughout the novel Matilda’s view on Mr. Watts changes.
Initially, Mr. Watts is introduced as a cartoon character like, ‘Pop Eye’. Then his triumph on the island is determined by the book, ‘Great Expectations’ as when he becomes the children’s educator, he re-tells an easier version of ‘Great Expectations’ which is essentially injustice to the children as he is holding back their learning. As the story progresses, Mr. Watts becomes referred to as ‘Tom Watts’ a man of deceit and pitiful lies. Matilda meets Tom’s ex-wife, ‘June Watts’ at the climax of the narrative and Matilda discoverers how Tom was a cheating liar.
Lloyd Jones has chosen to use the name Mr. Watts because the word ‘Watts’ suggests power and Mr. Watts is powerful because he is the only white man on the village. The word also connotes energy because Mr. Watts is the energy for the children as he has dedicated himself to teaching the uneducated children to enhance their learning. Mr. Watts is portrayed through the eyes of Matilda as a father like figure. The last white, colonial power left on the Island chooses to sacrifice his last months with his ill, dying wife to become a saviour for the children.
However this is not always her perception of him. As the novel progresses, Mr. Watts goes from being a role model to a man who is ultimately a pathological liar, living two completely separate lives. Matilda’s view on Mr. Watts also changes when she finds Grace dying in Mr. Watts’s arms. Mr. Watts is heartbroken and loveless. When Matilda asks Mr. Watts a question he replies with, ‘‘yes, I think so. ’’ This suggests his mind is somewhere else and he is confused after having the shock of losing his wife. Mr. Watts holds Grace in his arms and covers her eyes with his hands when she dies.
This shows Mr. Watts wants time with the body to let out his thoughts and feelings as he was a loving man. Lloyd Jones uses inclusive pronouns in his novel like, ‘‘we waited. ’’ This line is also repeated several times which creates tension and reinforces the suspense that is being built. Lloyd Jones also uses metaphorical language in his novel. In particular, When Mr. Watts says, ‘‘Yes, I think that gets to the heart of the matter Matilda. ’’ By using the word ‘‘heart, ’’ Lloyd Jones is making reference to the fact that Mrs.
Watts has died, and Mr. Watts is heartbroken. Mr. Watts was a loving and caring man, however behind closed doors this could be seen differently. When Matilda asks for a book and pencil to enter her fragment, Mr. Watts says they are in his jacket pocket which is described as ‘‘grimy. ’’ The word grimy suggests that the jacket is extremely dirty and the reason the jacket is so dirty is because Grace was the one who washed his clothes. This explicitly shows how Mr. Watts depended on Grace and this portrays Grace as a stereotypical house wife. Mr.
Watts has lost self respect and dignity for letting his jacket get so unclean. It is also described as, ‘‘shining with filth. ’’ This reinforces how dirty the jacket is, due to the fact that when clothes are not washed they become waxy which is evidently what has happened to Mr. Watts’ jacket. The word ‘‘slimy’’ which is also used to describe the jacket rhymes with grimy. Lloyd Jones has chosen to use rhyming words as it stresses how dirty the jacket is. Mr. Watts is seen as a disappointment to Matilda. By retelling an easier version of Great expectations, Matilda feels short changed.
He is also a disappointment to Mrs. Watts who ultimately has no feelings or love towards him anymore. When Matilda goes to meet Mrs. Watts, she goes to take Tom’s scrapbook and Mrs. Watts says, ‘‘it means nothing to me. ’’ This explicitly shows Mrs. Watts shows no concern for Tom after he had an affair. Mr. Watts reinvents himself right the way through the novel. He weaves his boring life, (working in publications) into Dickens’ life. He is hiding his life behind a masque. Its clear do not know the real Mr. Watts and its made even clearer Mrs.
Watts didn’t either as she says, ‘‘my husband was a fantasist, I did not know this when I married him. ’’ This reinforces how Mr. Watts is an actor and a scheming liar. Being the only white man on the Island, Mr. Watts is admired by many and is rarely insulted. However one redskin soldier says to him, ‘‘I will fuck you up the arse. ’’ This shows the soldier has dominance and strength over Mr. Watts. He replies with ‘‘you will do nothing of the sort. ’’ By saying this Mr. Watts reasserts his power with language. Arguably Mr.
Watts is the redskin’s only way of proving their power. Mr. Watts and Dolores are constructed in the novel as parallel characters by Jones. They are both dominant. Dolores is a strong woman who relies heavily on religion. This enables her to take on the role of both parents as she is a single parent. By telling the novel retrospectively, we receive a inaccurate recollection of events, from a depressed young woman. Through they eyes of Matilda the reader gets the impression she sees Mr. Watts as someone whose life is full of lies. After all he is an actor.