Forms and Functions of Intertextuality in Llyod Jones' "Mister Pip" and Intermediality in Andrew Adamson's "Mr. Pip"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2018

19 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. The Key Concepts
2.1. The Concepts of Intertextuality and Intermediality
2.2. The Concepts of Appropriation and Writing-back

3. Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in Papua New Guinea
3.1. Great Expectations as intertextual reference in Lloyd Jones' Mister Pip
3.2. GreatExpectations as intermedial reference in Andrew Adamson's Mr. Pip

4. Conclusion

Works Cited


1. Introduction

In his novel Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones uses Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations frequently as a reference, which is introduced by the character Mr. Watts in the Pacific context of the novel's narrator Matilda. This reference is as well adopted by the novel's movie adaptation Mr. Pip directed by Andrew Adamson. Thus Great Expectations becomes an intertextual reference in the novel Mister Pip and an intermedial reference in the movie Mr. Pip, as well. This paper will deal with the intertextuality in the novel and the intermediality in the movie in order to find out which function the reference to Great Expectations take up in both media. So it can be measured whether the occurrence of Dickens' novel can be seen as a means of appropriation or writing-back. Therefore the terms of intertextuality, intermediality, appropriation and writing-back will be explained at first so they can be applied to first the novel Mister Pip and following the movie Mr. Pip afterwards. So that at the end it will be stated what function the intertextuality/intermediality takes up in novel and movie and also if these are means of appropriation or writing-back.

2. The Key Concepts

In this chapter, the key concepts underlying the analysis of this paper will be explained. Starting with the concepts of intertextuality and intermediality. Following thus it will deal with the concepts of appropriation and writing-back.

2.1. The Concepts of Intertextuality and Intermediality

The concepts of intertextuality and intermediality both refer to the occurrence of one medium within another. In the case of intertextuality the first medium is a text, in the papers concern the novel Mister Pip, and the medium within is another text, in this case, another novel, Great Expectations. In thus the term intertextuality “[...] refers to the way in which one text echoes or is linked to other texts either by direct quotation and allusion or simply by being a text” (Coyle 175). Intermediality, however, denotes the reference of one medium, the movie Mr. Pip, to another different medium, the novel Great Expectations. So to put Coyle's words on intertextuality differently, intermediality refers to the way in which one medium echoes or is linked to another different medium.

Nünning gives for both phenomenon the following definitions:

Intermediality (Intermedialität): umbrella term for the interaction between literature and other artistic forms [...].

Intertextuality (Intertextualität): networks of thematic and formal references between texts; [...]. (189)

Moraru has a more straightforward definition of intertextuality and also adds another aspect to the concept:

Intertextuality refers to the presence of a text A in a text B. A is the ‘intertext' if one stresses the textual precursor, the ‘pretext' absorbed by a later text. Or, one could call B the intertext if one lays emphasis on the text incorporating a previous text and thereby becoming intertextual. (256)

Following his train of thoughts, it is also important how the intertextual reference is used in order to decide which text is the intertext.

Also, Nünning's definition of intermediality stresses only the interaction of literature with other media, but it is not only literature that can interact with movies, songs or pictures, for example. The latter can also interact with each other and therefore Rajewsky's broader definition of intermediality seems more accurate: „Intermedialität - Mediengrenzen überschreitende Phänomene, die mindestens zwei konventionell als distinkt wahrgenommene Medien involvieren.“ (13).

In post-colonial contexts the concept of intertextuality serves as a means for post­colonial writers of writing-back (cf. Weir 1) with that they “[...] can provide a framework within which to situate postcolonial narratives as they function to develop not only an examination of postcoloniality but also the politics and performative nature of the postcolonial present” (Weir 1).

Closing this chapter it can be noted that intertextuality and intermediality both refer to the interaction between media. While intertextuality deals only with the interaction of different texts, intermediality covers every interaction of at least two different media.

2.2. The Concepts of Appropriation and Writing-back

The concepts of appropriation and writing-back are part of post-colonial theories and deal both with the way in which post-colonial texts deal with aspects that belong to the coloniser's culture.

The term appropriation is used in cases where “[...]post-colonial societies take over those aspects of the imperial culture - [...] - that may be of use to them in articulating their own social and cultural identities” (Ashcroft 15). Another reason for post-colonial writers to use aspects of the coloniser's culture is seen in the possibilities for the post-colonial societies to reach a broader audience than they would reach by using aspects of the culture they share solely with their society (cf. Ashcroft 16). In the definition of appropriation Ashcroft uses the example of appropriating the imperial language as part of the culture and states there that with it the “[...] post-colonial societies are able, [...], to intervene more readily in the dominant discourse, to interpolate their own cultural realities, or use that dominant language to describe those realities to a wide audience of readers” (16). So appropriation deals with how post-colonial texts use the coloniser's culture to describe their own culture and society to a broader audience that might not solely share their cultural background.

The concept of writing-back is linked to the counter-discourse, as one is send to this entry in Thieme's glossary. Whereas in Ashcroft's key concepts there is not even an entry for writing-back. Therefore the definition of writing-back in this paper will be based on what in both works can be found under the entry of counter-discourse.

In post-colonial studies, the term counter-discourse is seen as an analogy to the attempts of “[...] nineteenth-century French authors [...] to distance themselves from the bourgeoisie [...]” (Thieme 62). It is “[a] term coined by Richard Terdiman to characterize the theory and practice of symbolic resistance” (Ashcroft 50). This symbolic resistance in post-colonialism happens “[...] through challenges posed to particular texts, and thus to imperial ideologies inculcated, stabilized and specifically maintained through texts employed in colonialist education systems” (Ashcroft 50). Furthermore “[t]he concept of counter- discourse within post-colonialism thus also raises the issue of subversion of canonical texts and their inevitable reinscription in this process of subversion” (Ashcroft 50). According to these notions, a text that engages in the counter- discourse uses texts of the imperial canon to challenge them and therefore challenge the whole imperial ideology that is forced on the colonies' societies.

3. Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations in Papua New Guinea

The following chapter will deal with the references to Great Expectations that are frequently used in both Mister Pip, the novel, and Mr. Pip, the movie. It will start with the intertextuality in the novel Mister Pip which is widely researched and will following use the findings in the novel to analyse the intermediality in the movie Mr. Pip. It will use these analyses to evaluate which role the references to Dickens' novel in both media play and to then also take the post-colonial concepts of appropriation and writing-back into consideration. At the end of the chapter, it should get clear if both media engage in the same concept or if there are changes in the adaptation that change the purpose of intertextuality/intermediality in one medium.

3.1. Great Expectations as intertextual reference in Lloyd Jones’ Mister Pip

By giving his novel the title Mister Pip Jones already plays with references to Great Expectations, whose narrator is named Pip. One could see the title already as an intertextual reference to the Victorian novel because “[o]n the shelves of a bookstore a title like Mister Pip would be most likely to attract the attention of a reader familiar with Charles Dickens' Great Expectations'” (Korkut-Nayki 43). It is the title that attracts the reader's attention first and by hinting at Dickens' novel in the title already, Jones plays with the significance of the Victorian novel. Therefore it can be argued that Jones uses the reference to Great Expectations in the title to attract a broader audience than a title with reference to the Pacific context and the political situation in Bougainville would have attracted. Following in that Ashcroft's definition of appropriation.

Lloyd Jones introduces Dickens' novel into his novel through the only white man left on the island of Bougainville, Mr. Watts. Mr. Watts chooses Great Expectations as a story to read for the children in school when he becomes their teacher. At the first day of school he reads the first chapter of the Victorian novel to his pupils and after that declares Great Expectations “[...] the greatest novel by the greatest English writer of the nineteenth century, Charles Dickens” (Jones 18). By that he seems to introduce a western vision of the literary canon and the reader might get the impression that in Mister Pip Dickens' novel is unquestioned and that the children would adopt the western view on Great Expectations. This, however, is not the case.

For the children, the reading of Great Expectations is their possibility to escape from the island. To imagine another world and by that flee from the desperate situation they are in (cf. Jones 131). Mr. Watts gave the children “[...] another country to flee to” (Jones 80) and with that saved the children's sanity (cf. Jones 80). “It is in this way that Dickens' world of nineteenth-century England is transported into an entirely different setting to be appreciated by native children who have not experienced life outside their island” (Korkut-Nayki 46). The Victorian novel is the first book that is read to the children in English and since the blockade, they do not have any books (cf. Jones 17), so Mr. Watts reading of Great Expectations is a new sensation for them. It becomes a daily routine they appreciate not because of the teacher's introduction, but because the novel “[...] contained a world that was whole and made sense, unlike [theirs]” (Jones 58). So through his reading of the Victorian novel to the class Mr. Watts enables “Dickens's story [to open] their horizons beyond their little island; through it, they discover a new world and appropriate new cultural and geographical realities” (Latham 27). Therefore it can be said that the intertextual reference, in this case, has the function of enabling the children to imagine another world and encounter another culture.

The reading of Great Expectations to the class as well changes the lives of all the children and most of all that of Matilda, the novel's narrator (cf. Kossew 282). Matilda starts to perceive and see her world through the world of Pip and Great Expectations, she makes sense of the people around her with the help of Dickens' characters. “She identifies herself and people in her environment with the characters from the novel, though she may allocate the roles of the different literary characters to different people at different times” (Maack 331). So she assigns the role of Miss Havisham to her mother Dolores, who seems to be stuck in an argument she had with her husband before he left the island to go to Townsville, (cf. Jones 49) as well as her teacher Mr. Watts, who Matilda fears to get stuck in time after he loses his wife Grace (cf. Jones 126). But Matilda sees her mother also as Pips sister Mrs. Joe, before she encounters Miss Havisham (cf. Jones 49) and in the way she behaves towards Mr. Watts Matilda hears Estella (cf. Jones 114). Likewise, Matilda sees her teacher Mr. Watts as different characters of Dickens' novel. In the beginning, she sees Mr. Watts as Joe Gargery the counterpart to her mother, as Mrs. Joe, and Matilda herself being Pip in the space between those two characters (cf. Jones 40). Similarly, Matilda understands the character Mr. Jaggers as saviour and someone who brings change into the lives of people. Throughout the novel, Matilda assigns this role to two characters. Firstly she sees the Mr. Jaggers figure in her father's life as his boss (cf. Jones 130), who enabled him to move to Australia before the blockade. The other time Matilda assigns the role of Mr. Jaggers to a log she holds on to after she fell into a river (cf. Jones 185 f.). At this point, Matilda also poses the question of what one should call a saviour and as she only knows one that is called Mr. Jaggers, she naturally calls the log that name (cf. Jones 185 f.). Considering these instances of intertextuality it can be noted that the references to Great Expectations are used to describe Matilda's reality with the help of the Victorian novel.

Furthermore, Matilda uses Pip's story as a model for her own life. She enters the story (cf. Jones 40) and perceives Pip's story as her story (cf. Jones 219). Therefore she uses Pip as a model for her own life. So she feels “[e]ncouraged by Pip's example [and] trie[s] to build a picture of [her] dad” (Jones 22) and she “[...] know[s] things [can] change because they had for Pip” (Jones 44). Through Pip's example Matilda understands what home is “[...] it embraced all those things that give a life its shape” (Jones 46) and thus “[...] because [of] identifying and empathising with Pip's relationship to Joe Gargery she learns to revalue her island environment as her true home” (Wilson 230). But at the end of the book, Matilda decides to outgrow Pip's example by learning from his mistakes and tries to return home (cf. Jones 219). Hence it can be said that “[t]he neo-Victorian impulse to look back as a way of going forward, as a way of making sense of the world, could [...] not be more applicable to Matilda's circumstances” (Shiller 95). She uses a Victorian novel as a consultant for her own desperate situation, learns from the characters and uses Dickens' novel to explain and order her own reality.

It is, however, not the case that Great Expectations is adapted by the novel without any challenge because “Matilda's mother challenges the authority of Great Expectations at every turn, [...]” (Taylor 101). Matilda's mother Dolores values most practical knowledge that helps the children master their lives (cf. Jones 127). Dolores believes that “[s]tories have a job to do [and] [...] can't just lie around like lazybone dogs. They have to teach [people] something” (Jones 74) and thus does not like Mr. Watts' reading to the children. To her Dickens' story is just “‘fancy nancy English talk'” (Jones 195), hence for Dolores, the English canon does not have any value and Matilda knows that the study of Great Expectations does not help her mastering her life on the island (cf. Jones 127). That also brings Dolores to the fatal decision to hide Mr. Watts' copy of Great Expectations (cf. Jones 93) but “[...] the book as material item plays a crucial role [as] its sudden disappearance causes catastrophic consequences” (Begerow 127). Therefore it should be noted that the intertextuality in Mister Pip is not used to assure an unchallenged supremacy of the English canon.

Because Matilda built a shrine to Pip (cf. Jones 59) the Redskins believe Pip to be a rebel the villagers hide (cf. Jones 81 f.) and one of Matilda's classmates, Daniel, leads them to Mr. Watts, who he thinks to be Mr. Dickens to whom Pip belongs (cf. Jones 84). Mr. Watts takes on the role of Mr. Dickens (cf. Jones 85 f.) and later also takes the role of Pip in front of the Redskins (cf. Jones 139). But “[...], his chosen identity as Pip turns out to be fatal when he confronts the redskins” (Maack 335). The Redskins kill Mr. Watts and feed his corps to the pigs (cf. Jones 173). This brutality shows a “[...] tragic love of the English classic that leads the hero of Mister Pip to such extremes of identification with Dickens's narrator, that he loses his life” (Martiny 2) and with that Jones chooses to let go neo-Victorian wish-fulfillment (cf. Martiny 4 f.). In having the school teacher killed by the Redskins who have no knowledge of Dickens and Great Expectations the novel shows that “[p]laced in an entirely ‘foreign' context with an entirely different set of conventions, Great Expectations and the fictional world it evokes cannot ‘perform' properly, in the way intended” (Korkut-Nayki 54). Firstly the performance fails with Daniel who still misunderstands the way in which Mr. Dickens, Mr. Watts, and Great Expectations are connected to each other because he probably never came in contact with books before and therefore cannot grasp their connection. The second failure happens with the Redskins who do not know about the novel and therefore do not believe that Pip is a character in a book after it cannot be found (cf. Jones 88). And finally, the performance fails with the rebels to whom Mr. Watts introduces himself as Pip (cf. Jones 139). The school teacher chooses to mix the story of Pip with his own and except for the children, no one notices the references to Great Expectations he uses (cf. Jones 142). On the one hand, the rebels' lack of knowledge about the Victorian novel saves Mr. Watts' life and prevents him from being caught making up a story. On the other hand, it signs his death sentence when the Redskins return and catch a rebel who “[p]oint[s] out [...] the one who is Pip” (Jones 172). Therefore it can be noted that the intertextual references to Great Expectations also “[...] explore[] the potential misunderstandings and misreading that can emerge from [a] position of innocence” (Kossew 283), meaning the innocence of hearing an English story for the first time and thus misunderstanding the connection between literary and the real world (cf. Kossew 283).

Moreover, it is not only Matilda's mother and the fatality of Great Expectations that integrate a critical view on the Victorian novel, it is Matilda herself who as well starts to question it. Her questioning starts when she discovers that Mr. Watts had not read the original version of Dickens' novel to the class (cf. Jones 193 f.) and “[t]he more sophisticated she gets, [...], the more she comes to question her teenage idolisation of Great Expectation” (Bauder-Begerow 130). For Matilda the disillusionment happens, when she discovers Dickens' past (cf. Jones 212 f). She declares that with growing older “[...] [she had] fallen out of love with his characters (Jones 217). So not even Matilda remains in her state if idolising the Victorian novel and criticises it, leading her to abandon her scholarly work on Dickens' literature (cf. Jones 216). What remains with her voice and “[the] ability to tell the story of one's life - to believe one has a story worth telling - becomes crucial to Matilda” (Shiller 93), which she discovered through Mr. Watts guidance (cf. Jones 219). Her teacher used the example of Dickens' Great Expectations to teach the children in his class that lesson (cf. Jones 107). Therefore the perception that the Victorian story would not teach the children something they could use for their later lives, proves to be wrong as it has a huge impact on Matilda's future.“Reading Great Expectations also yields her decision to return home, to the island of Bougainville” (Maack 336). Matilda sees Pip's story as her story and she decides to “[...] try where Pip had failed. [She] would try to return home” (Jones 219) and with that, she outpaces Pip showing that “[...], Jones [...] grants Matilda more authority than Pip in crafting her own life” (Shiller 100).

There is as well another aspect that connects Mister Pip with Great Expectations that does not have anything to do with direct quotations from or references to the Victorian novel. It has something to do with Matilda's declaration that “Pip is [her] story, [...]” (Jones 219). There are several parallels between Jones' narrator and that of Dickens. Connections Matilda herself draws throughout the novel, connections that have something to do with the plot structures and character constellations. But it is also the character of Jones' novel itself that echoes Dickens' novel. Both novels are written from the point of view of a character that looks back at his/her past (cf. Lanone 23) and “[l]ike Great Expectations, Mister Pip relates a coming-of-age story, [...]” (Taylor 100) following the narrator's of both novels in growing up, witnessing the changes that happen in their lives and that lead to them leaving home (cf. Latham 36). Although Mister Pip lacks “[...], the conventional signals of retrospective insight, such as the interjection of a more sophisticated vocabulary showing the narrator's maturity of judgement relative to her earlier self, [...]” (Lawn 159).

Considering all the intertextual references in Mister Pip it should be noted that the intertextuality does not show means of writing-back or counter-discourse. Jones uses the intertextuality as a way of appropriating the Victorian novel. Kolonowska sees in the novel a special kind of appropriation, the hybridisation which combines contemporary and earlier texts to create new works. (229). Great Expectations is transformed in many different ways throughout Jones' novel. Starting with Mr. Watts' simple version, over the children's retelling at home and their remembering of the story after it is lost in the redskin attack, and resulting in Mr. Watts' borrowings to tell his own life story.

The various transformations and functions of the Dickensian text, combined with the Pacific context, create a hybrid novel which is simultaneously a story made of Great Expectations, about Great Expectations, and a contemporary novel of its own. (Kolonowska 231)

Jones, however, does not only appropriate Dickens' novel into a Pacific post­colonial context, through integrating the fatal ending of Mr. Watts' love for the Victorian novel the author as well makes a critical statement towards the Western canon and the idea of a universality of literature. [...] Mister Pip, as a novel about the performative quality of literature, also draws attention to this issue, suggesting that literature in general and great works of the canon in particular are far from representing universality and that there is an essential and intricate relationship between the ‘acts' literary works may perform and the contexts in which they are received. (Korkut-Nayki 54)

The intertextuality in Mister Pip thus functions as a means of appropriation and combining a canonical English text with a Pacific context as well as a criticism on the perception of a universal quality of the Western canon.

3.2. Great Expectations as intermedial reference in Andrew Adamson’s Mr. Pip

In Andrew Adamson's movie adaptation Mr. Pip the reference to Dickens' novel is made in the first scenes already. It shows Matilda visiting Satis House (cf. Adamson 00:01:57) and entering a Dickens museum where a quote from Great Expectations, “‘It is the most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home...'”, is used to blend into her past in Bougainville (cf. Adamson 00:02:32). Making thus clear from the beginning that Great Expectations plays an important role as an intermedial reference in the movie and has a connection to Matilda and her home.

Similar to the book Mr. Watts starts to introduce the Victorian novel to the class by citing the first lines of it (cf. Adamson 00:12:06) however he does not praise the novel in quite the same way. In Adamson's movie, he refers to Dickens as “the greatest English writer of the nineteenth century” and nothing more (00:14:36). Therefore the impression of a western view is not so pressing with Mr. Watts' introduction of the novel to the children in his class, suggesting that the references to Great Expectations are not there to assure a high status for the western canonical texts.


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Forms and Functions of Intertextuality in Llyod Jones' "Mister Pip" and Intermediality in Andrew Adamson's "Mr. Pip"
University of Wuppertal
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forms, functions, intertextuality, llyod, jones, mister, intermediality, andrew, adamson
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Anonymous, 2018, Forms and Functions of Intertextuality in Llyod Jones' "Mister Pip" and Intermediality in Andrew Adamson's "Mr. Pip", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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