“In Praise of Pip"
from The Twilight Zone
Child neglect is the theme of The Twilight Zone
episode "In Praise of Pip". On the surface, the story is a simple one: Max Phillips, an absentee
father, rues the poor relationship that he had with his son Pip and gets another chance to amend that which he regrets.
The complexity involves the literary sources that writer Rod Serling draws upon and the cinematic touches that he employs
to tell the tale.
"In Praise of Pip" borrows from two literary giants - O.
Henry and Charles Dickens. In both "In Praise of Pip" and O. Henry's "A Retrieved Reformation",
men who are involved in illegal activities find redemption through the love of those dear to them. Pip
from Dickens' Great Expectations is an orphan who in spite of his deprived background develops into a trouble-free
youth. Pip Phillips is somewhat of an orphan: He has no mother (denying him the strongest link with love)
and a father who occasionally extends to his son one hour of his time on weekends. Pip could have been
involved in criminal activities like the wayward George; in fact, George and Pip have similarities. Both
have blond hair and cleft chins (seen when George enters Max's apartment and looks to our right at Max whose extended body
covers the left photograph of Pip and the older Pip looks to our left). George uses Max's expression "to
laugh" in a like-father like-son fashion. It is not until the final scene, that we learn that Pip
lives up to his name (pip means wonderful) when he remembers his father with affection.
though Max mourns both the loss of Pip and the loss of quality time, it is evident that there is link between them in spite
of their geographic separation. A jump cut establishes the connection between two people who experience
pain: Pip's is physical; Max's is emotional/spiritual. When Max awakens, he looks at the picture of his
son on the dresser. Max saves George from his criminal employer Moran, a life of crime and time in prison
as a means of atoning for the guilt feelings he has for his son. Max's dying thoughts concern Pip.
In the end, Pip speaks well of his father.
To illustrate how much of a rut Max's
life is (drinking, working for Moran, and guilt), circles are present in the story. The wheels of the gurney
and the overhead lights in the operating room are round. The metalwork of the doors to the amusement park
curve around. The rides in the amusement park are circular - from the ferris wheel to the carousal to the
shooting gallery where the ducks move around. Max gets cotton candy which is spun around a paper cone.
There are holes in the metal bars in the House of Mirrors. The name Pip is a palindrome.
The palindrome “pop” is on a vane-like apparatus which spins around in the episode’s closing image.
To illustrate the lack of quality time that Max spent with his son, the concept of part is evident in many forms.
The following body parts are heard: abdomen, head, back, face, eye, heart, carcass, jaws, (the name Phil)lips.
Max describes Pip as "the good part of me, the clean part, the part I was proud of". Max
last sees Pip in a piece of the wall length mirror which shatters. Pip is a part of Phillips.
Moran mocks sentimentality when George pleads for the return of the money: "You're tearing me to pieces, kid."
The number two is used throughout the story. It not only gives meaning (and foreshadow) Max's need
to have a second chance with his son, but it suggests the separation between the Max and Pip; they are not together.
They are one physically when they meet at the amusement park when Max hugs, gives a piggyback ride to, and puts his
arms around Pip when he fires the rifle.
1. The story is set in two countries: Vietnam
(which was divided
into North and South) and
the United States.
2. Two men carry a stretcher which
Phillips (who has two P’s in his full name).
3. The doctor describes Pip's injuries: shrapnel
abdomen and extensive tissue damage.
4. The doctor has two wishes for Pip - that he
live a long
life and that he has someone to
turns two lights on.
The opening narration contains two
combinations of adjectives: "drab
undistinguished" and "shiny and clean".
7. Max's relationship
with Pip was tarnished by
alcoholism and his involvement in illegal
occur in two apartments: Max's and
Moran's. Both have two visitors: Max is
visited by his landlady and George; Moran is
visited by Max and George.
9. Two characters who are lying down react to
pain - Pip
10. There are two
pictures of Pip on Max's
dresser; there are two lights about Max's
and two pictures about Moran's couch;
there are two bottles of beer on Moran's.
Max's landlady comments that his room smells
Max uses two bottles: alcohol and scent to
smell of the other. He drinks
coffee, a second liquid.
12. Max expresses a love for both his landlady
and her astute observations.
Max asks George if he has two cigarettes.
14. Max says that George has a "second
Max reclines and waxes philosophic about
George's financial problems
in both his and
16. Max returns the money twice to George.
In Moran's hotel room,
a. Moran accuses Max of "double crossing" him.
b. Max sits at two different chairs at the
c. Max threatens Moran and his bodyguard.
Moran's bodyguard intervenes for his
Max intervenes for George.
Both Max and the bodyguard are mortally
stomach injuries in Moran's
apartment. Both George and Moran will live.
18. Max makes two imprecations
to God, both of
which apply to Pip; the first involves
and seeing his son.
19. There are two scenes in Vietnam.
The amusement park which has two gate doors
comes alive twice.
As he moves unsteadily,
two places (“Shops Restaurants”) are
21. Pip asks for cotton candy and
to have fun
on the rides.
If Pip appears when he is 10 years old, then
it can be assumed
that the soldier Pip is 20.
Max does tell Moran that he should have quit
10 years ago because it interfered with his
Pip whose relationship
with his father was
negatively affected at age 10.
23. Max asks Pip to excuse him for being drunk
and being used as a shill.
24. Expressions are heard twice: "It's to laugh",
"I mean it", "What's to do?", "No" and "Thank
you", "... is dying", "I've been waiting",
"You're ten years old .... I don't
understand", "Sure we can", "What's
matter?", "You have to understand", "I
you", "The hour's up", "Why?", "Hey, God",
25. Pip shoots from two rows of ducks.
Mirrors which produce a second image is
evident in Max's room
and in the amusement
park. Max loses Pip twice in the House of
Max humbles himself before Pip (as he sits
on the floor and Pip stands above him) and
God (as he lies face down in the street
with his arms extended).
28. Max tells God that he is aging
Max saves the lives of George and Pip.
30. Pip appears twice at the amusement park.
Pip uses rifles twice in the story.
32. In the second scene set in the amusement
park, Pip has two memories of his father:
"Work the gun, not the
jaws" and "Who's your
33. In the closing narration, "the ties of flesh
are deep and strong".
Obviously, much thought went into this story which was meant to touch the viewer on many levels. This
was, indeed, Rod Serling at his best.