Fishbone Diagram as Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

 "Machili Jal Ki Rani Hai" Fish Poem Animated Hindi Nursery Poem Song for Children with Lyrics. "One of the famous kids songs depicting the story of fish and its life . Hindi Poems Hindi Poem Hindi rhymes 2D Rhymes 2D Rhymes 2D Rhymes English Education preschool SchoolWhat is a Fishbone Diagram?

A fishbone diagram, also called a cause and effect diagram or Ishikawa diagram (named after Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa who invented it) , is a visualization tool for categorizing the potential causes of a problem in order to identify its root causes.

Using a Fishbone Diagram in Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

The Fishbone Diagram Design

The design of the diagram looks much like a skeleton of a fish. Fishbone diagrams are typically worked right to left, with each large “bone” of the fish branching out to include smaller bones containing more detail.

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Fear and Hysteria Quotes in Year of Wonders Explained

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Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders focuses on the lives of the villagers in the plague-stricken town of Eyam in 1665.  As this close-knit community suffers the effects of isolation arising from their rector’s decision to quarantine the town, many of the villagers are overcome by fear and ignorance.  As fear spreads, conditions become worse for the villagers.  However, some villagers do find the strength to deal with their fear and ignorance and try to come to terms with their devastating ordeal.

Brooks reveals that it is the fear of God’s punishment that corrupts the townspeople – as they scapegoat and resort to barbarity to alleviate God’s anger and thus rid themselves of the Plague. Brooks argues that it is religion’s flimsy support that leaves individuals susceptible to superstition and thus causes their own demise.

Fear and Hysteria Quotes in Year of Wonders Explained

“Do not joke sir, for on the turnpike north of London, I encountered an angry mob, brandishing hoes and pitchforks, denying entry to their village inn to any who were travelling from London” (Robert young man from London dining with the Bradfords p.60-61).

The plague of the novel is based upon the Great Plague of 1665 where 20% of the population in London perished.  Eyam was not immune to the contagion carried by fleas that infected people by bites, carried also by rats and in Eyam’s case a bolt of cloth infected.  Out of a village of 350 people 260 died in Eyam by 1666.  Brooks highlights and criticises the wealthy families who were driven by self-interest during the Plague.  She explores the ramifications of ‘noblesse oblige’ that privilege should offer support and leadership to poorer people living under the elite.  In the Bradford’s case they refuse to accept they have any duty to offer support to the villagers and cast off their servants with little care for the fact they have nowhere to go and leave Eyam during the Plague quarantine.

“These times, they do make monsters of us all…” (Jon Millstone the Sexton p. 141)

Brooks depicts the community caught in extraordinary times and the Sexton Jon Millstone is weary of carting so many corpses and he laments to Anna that he is irritated to be called to the Maston house when Mr Maston isn’t dead yet.  In this context the comment suggests that in times of crisis people may act disrespectfully and immorally towards each other because of fear and hysteria.

“My cowardice shamed me” (Anna p.182).

In order to help Merry Wickford hold onto her family mine Elinor and Anna go down the mine facing the greatest fear left to Anna.  During this feat down the mine, Anna struggles with the idea of the feminine that has always restricted her talents and led her to doubt her strength.  However, typically under Elinor’s guidance she overcomes her fear and succeeds in extracting the minerals by this dangerous fire-setting method.  Brooks illustrates the pit as a metaphor for the crisis engulfing the village.  Despite the terrible fear Anna’s courage is rewarded and there is renewed hope for the future for Merry Wickford.  Brooks also provides Anna and Elinor the opportunity to step outside their circumscribed roles and act with unprecedented autonomy.

Mompellion raised his voice to a roar “Oh, yes, the Devil has been here this night!  But not in Anys Gowdie!  Fools!  Ignorant wretches!  Anys Gowdie fought you with the only weapon she had to hand – your own ugly thoughts and evil doubting of one another!” (Mompellion p.95)

Brooks highlights the increasing paranoia and fear of the villagers desperate for a scapegoat to pin the Plague on.  Mompellion lambasts the villagers for their shameful murder of the two women who are killed.  He exposes their hysterical crimes and places the blame firmly on each of the perpetrators.  He accuses them of using “their own ugly thoughts and evil doubting of one another”.  (For this same reason, Anys sarcastically confirms their accusations and admits her “guilt”, born of their own self – doubts: “Yes I have lain with the Devil and he is might and cold as ice to the touch” (p.93).  In fact Mompellion is so indignant that he also challenges them to “gird yourselves, and pray that God does not exact from you the price that this day’s deeds deserve” (p.94).

“She witched my husband into lying with her” (Urith Gordon p.92)

As marginalized females, who symbolically and literally live on the fringes of society, Mem and Anys become convenient targets of the Puritans in the attempt to expunge their fear and horror of the Plague.  The villagers accuse Anys of their sins.  Brooks suggests that Urith, deceitfully, seeks to displace the blame for her husband’s adultery through such accusations and Anna is unable to curb “the frenzy”.

“But it was John Gordon’s fear that led him upon the queerest path” (Anna p.218)

The Puritans see the plague as God’s punishment.  They whip themselves because they believe that they have sinned.  John Gordon’s response is typical of the flagellants who see the Plague as a scourge of God.  He stops eating and subjects his body to cruel punishment, whipping himself with ”plaited leather”.  Defined as a ”solitary” and ”difficult soul”, John Gordon shows the terrible consequences that can occur during such a crisis when people begin to doubt each other.  Through his self punishment, he hoped to purge himself of infection and “allay God’s wrath” (Elinor p.221).

Some other useful Quotes about fear and hysteria for evidence in analytical essays:

  1. “There had been fear here, since the very beginning, but where it had been veiled, now it had become naked. Those of us who were left feared each other and the hidden contagion we each might carry.  People scurried, as stealthy as mice, trying to go and come without meeting another soul” (Anna p.217).
  2. “We greeted our Maying with a mixture of hope and fear; the hope, I suppose, that comes naturally into the human heart and at the end of any hard winter; the fear that the gentler weather would bring with it an increase in disease” (Anna p.216).
  3. “Fear was working strange changes in all of us corroding our ability for clear thought” (Anna p. 227).
  4. “Loneliness, shunning and fear. Fear will be your only faithful companion” (Mompellion p.105)
  5. “Fear took each of us differently” (Anna p.218).
  6. “We were all like wounded animals, our hurts so raw and our fear so great that we would lash out at anyone” (Anna p.243).
  7. “Some slaked their dread in drink and their loneliness in wanton caresses” (Anna p.218).

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Fear and Mass Hysteria in ‘The Crucible’ and Arthur Miller’s Views on the Play

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This resource is for Mainstream English students studying the play ‘The Crucible’ in the Victorian Curriculum for Years 11 & 12

Theme of Fear & Mass Hysteria

An important theme is that of fear and mass hysteria which leads to extreme acts in the play as the human inclination to ascribe blame for pain and suffering to others and then destroy the supposedly guilty party surfaces. In Salem the witch trials are a clear example of mass hysteria, with residents engulfed in a frenzy of accusations.

Context of Fear & Mass Hysteria in Salem

In ‘The Crucible’  Salem is a strict religious community where superstition is rife and scientific explanations minimal. In the puritanical colony of Massachusetts, reading books other than the Bible was forbidden, hence any scientific thinking was unlikely.

Mass hysteria and mob violence can infect the collective consciousness when fear, ignorance and isolation are not countered with universal education.  In Salem, personal vengeance, paranoia and fear, rather than grief and illness, is what escalates the social panic.

Miller writes that because ‘it is impossible for most men to conceive of a morality without sin’ Salem, and analogously his own 1950’s zeitgeist, was ‘gripped between two diametrically opposed absolutes.’ Such binary thinking and absolutism is another catalyst for mass panic or mob violence.

The society in Salem is spurred on to collective hysteria by a dualistic belief that things they don’t understand or can’t explain must be ‘evil’. Satan, when referred to in the Bible, is thought of as the evil one, the tempter, the wicked one. To the people of Salem, the Devil is the adversary of God and an invisible threat. But Miller’s audience sees that it is the villagers’ own inner demons that bubble to the surface and wreak havoc on the town, combined with their irrationality.

Martha Corey has done nothing particularly adversarial, she merely reads books that are not approved of by her neighbours, but she finds herself charged as a witch.

The end of Act One and Act Three of the play show just how infectious a group mentality can be. Close study of Miller’s acting directions in these two sections of the play reveals the range of causes for such a frenzy; whether that be characters offloading their own shame and resentment, or being so fearful of punishment that they will say anything to avoid it.

Briefly What is Causing Fear in The Crucible?

  • In ‘The Crucible’ Abigail and the group of girls spark fear in the town after being accused of engaging in sacrilegious activities while playing in the forest
  • The people in Salem are convinced that the Devil has arrived and must be driven from his conspirators
  • What begins with a handful of girls dancing in the forest manifests within eight days into a society whose feverish desire to rid itself of an unseen evil allows the suspending of human decency
  • Unfortunately fear leads to a rapidly growing series of accusations against various members of the community
  • Innocent people are labelled witches and forced to confess or suffer death

What does Miller Believe about the Spread of Fear?

  • Miller presents the witch hunt then as a consequence of the hysterical fear that grips citizens when faced with social and religious upheaval
  • Miller seeks not only to explore the evolution of mass hysteria but additionally to delve into what causes individuals to abandon personal loyalties in such times
  • Even justice and reason are sacrificed and religion, which should provide a moral and ethical blueprint, is used to fuel the emerging fear and hysteria
  • The theocratic society in Salem and the power of the state is under threat as individuals begin to question entrenched conservative, Puritan religious values
  • Miller explains this as a paradox as individuals seek greater freedom they become a threat to the religious and political status quo

Arthur Miller was interviewed about why he wrote ‘The Crucible’and his thoughts about fear, hysteria and the threat of the Devil in Salem.  See Arthur Miller’s views:

Fear Motivates People to Behave Unscrupulously in The Crucible

As Miller comments (on page 17 of the play in his notes before Act One), that “Old scores could be settled on a plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord”.

  • Personal fears instigate some characters to cry witch
  • Reverend Parris fears losing his job provokes him to cry witch and if Abigail is exposed as the fraud she is he will be punished for supporting an illegitimate court procedure
  • Parris also fears that the rebellion in Andover about the hangings will occur similarly in Salem
  • Abigail uses fear of consorting with the Devil in her motives of vengeance against Elizabeth Proctor to accuse her of witchcraft
  • The group of girls do what Abigail says for fear of getting caught so deflecting blame away from themselves is their only option
  • The Putnams use fear and the hysteria of the accusations for self interest in acquiring land from those about to hang
  • Deputy Governor Danforth uses the fear as a reason for his agenda to protect his reputation, the court and the theocracy it serves

Mob Mentality, Punitive Justice & Binary Thinking

‘The Crucible’ is a legal drama. An entire scene takes place in the Salem meeting house which is now Judge Danforth’s court, but every scene in the play is concerned with the process of arriving at a legal judgement. Because the play is an analogy for Senator McCarthy’s HUAC hearings, the audience is positioned to regard the justice system of Salem as being similarly flawed and equally ideologically motivated. Justice is not delivered by this legal system.

Indeed, the audience is led to the conclusion that the most dangerous person in the play is Judge Danforth. His lack of mercy, his willingness to believe evidence that has no proof, and his preoccupation with his own reputation, all serve to remind Miller’s audience that justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.

In ‘The Crucible’, Elizabeth humbly tells her husband that she cannot judge him; ‘The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John’ (p. 55). Elizabeth believes in the supremacy of the individual’s conscience, of his own accountability for decisions and actions. Miller shows that only when John Proctor explores the depths of his own guilt can he begin the redemptive process.

At the end of the play he dies on his own terms and sees ‘some shred of goodness’ in his decision.  Proctor does not fear death because he has made his peace with himself and is free from self-admonition. His death is a great injustice, but the courage and moral conviction he shows is his legacy and his epitaph.

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Understanding Characters in Texts Years 11/12 English

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Year 11/12 students studying Mainstream English texts in AOS1: Reading and Creating Texts and Reading and Comparing Texts, need to look carefully at the characters in their texts to be able to write an analytical interpretation for their SACs and the final English exam.

Understanding Characters in Texts

Characters generate the action of narratives /plays / films so they engage us as readers / viewers by their roles in the stories and we often become emotionally engaged by their fortunes and misfortunes, their aspirations and challenges.  If we understand the characters we come a long way to understanding the themes and values presented in the text and how the author constructs meaning.

What Do We Need to Know About Characters?

To build an understanding of characters it is a good idea to create a list of information about them that includes:

  1. Their name and age that spans the narrative
  2. If they are a protagonist (main character) or minor character
  3. Where they live or if they move around in the narrative
  4. If there is a description of what they look like (will be able to see a physical appearance if in a play or film)
  5. Their main personal qualities, attitudes and values, decisions and choices made, life experiences (which may change as the narrative develops)
  6. Relationships with other characters and interactions with others
  7. Key allies and enemies
  8. Key events in the narrative that affect their lives ie. crisis points or resolution

How Do Characters Respond at Crisis Points in the Narrative or Change as Events Unfold?

Characters can be tested at crisis and turning points in the narrative and are forced to make choices and decisions, which in turn reveal their true priorities and aspirations.  Difficult choices and decisions that characters make in narrative texts are closely linked to ideas and values.

Like real people characters are not static but develop and adapt sometimes changing dramatically.  Important changes should be noted such as a shift in the way a character thinks or interacts with another, a transformation of the way they think of themselves and a change in their own beliefs and values.

The Importance of Narrative Viewpoint

The narrative viewpoint determines what we know about the characters and how we as readers relate to them.  Narrative viewpoint perspectives are:

  1. First Person Narrative Voice = Where a character uses the first person ‘I’ gives an inside account of events but limits the reader’s knowledge to one person’s perspective.
  2. Third Person Narrative Voice = Where the voice is located outside the text and uses ‘he, she, they’ to give a more detached and objective account. In effect the reader is put in a position of observer rather than participant.  May be an ‘omniscient’ or all knowing narrator which allows the reader to know the thoughts and feelings of as many characters as the author wishes.  This narrator encourages the reader to form their own judgements and see complexities in issues.

Characters in Non-Fiction

In a non-fiction narrative the author portrays real people rather than imaginary ones and so they have to stick to the real facts and may be even have photographs of the characters in the text.  However, the author’s own attitudes towards the characters can affect the way the reader interprets those characters.  In effect readers are subjected to the feelings of the author about the character and sometimes these feelings can be extremely subjective.

Characters in Drama and Films

Characters portrayed by actors in plays and films are obviously conveyed visually and by sound as much as the words in their dialogue.  In this way other elements help to make viewers understand a character either by visual elements such as costumes, sets, facial expressions and body movements.  Conveying meaning can be shown through directors stage directions, mise en scene, camera angles, sound tracks, music as well as the actors own style and how they represent the character they are portraying.

Identifying Themes, Ideas and Values of Characters

It is really important to identify the main themes, ideas and values of characters so you can respond to the perspective of the author through their characters and also explore the ‘big picture’ the text is trying to explore.

  1. What is a Theme?

Themes are more general terms that the author is either showing clearly or inferring by implication repeated throughout the whole text.  These general themes can be perspectives explored in texts such as:

growing up gender issues
love family
injustice prejudice
war power
  1. What is an Idea?

An idea reflects on part of the theme and is the author’s message about the topic.  Think of an idea as part of the big picture that the text uses as its conduit to explore the main theme.  You can discuss different ideas and characters highlighting through their difference how people are and see the world.  Ideas can reflect the discoveries, emotions, conflicts, and experiences of a story’s main character.  They are commentaries about the way the world works and or how the author views human existence.

  1. What is a Value?

These make up our belief system.  Values are beliefs that guide our behaviour. Values define what we accept as good, right or acceptable.  We may have our own personally thought-out and constructed values but many of the values we accept are socially or culturally constructed.  Characters embody values through their thoughts, feelings and attitudes, beliefs and actions.  Values that are generally held by society:

honesty loyalty
patriotism tolerance
integrity justice
equality respect for others
compassion responsibility

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The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga Quotes Linked to Themes

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Themes in The White Tiger

Themes overlap = education / self made man / self improvement / morality / Indian society / family / social breakdown / self interest / corruption / power dynamics / contrasts

Chapter 1            1st Night

Theme                  education / self improvement

“I am self taught entrepreneur”

Theme                  self made man / education / self improvement

“The story of my upbringing is the story of how a half-baked fellow is produced. But pay attention, Mr. Premier! Fully formed fellows, after twelve years of school and three years of university, wear nice suits, join companies, and take orders from other men for the rest of their lives. Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay.”

Theme                  self made man / education / morality / Indian society

“You, young man, are an intelligent, honest, vivacious fellow in this crowd of thugs and idiots. In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals—the creature that comes along only once in a generation?” “The white tiger”.  “That’s what you are, in this jungle.”

Theme                  education / morality / Indian society

“They remain slaves because they can’t see what is beautiful in this world.”

Chapter 2            2nd Night

Theme                  family

“You know how close they are to their families in the Darkness”

Theme                  self made man / education / self improvement

“That’s the one good thing I’ll say for myself, I’ve always been a big believer in education – especially my own”.

“Many of my best ideas are, in fact, borrowed from my ex-employer or his brother or someone else whom I was driving about. (I confess, Mr. Premier: I am not an original thinker—but I am an original listener.)

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“Stories of rottenness and corruption are always the best stories, aren’t they?”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“See, this country, in its days of greatness, when it was the richest nation on earth, was like a zoo… the day the British left—the cages had been let open; and the animals had attacked and ripped each other apart and jungle law replaced zoo law.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“To sum up—in the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India. These days, there are just two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies. And only two destinies: eat—or get eaten up.”

Theme                  self made man/ education

“I absorbed everything—that’s the amazing thing about entrepreneurs. We are like sponges—we absorb and grow.”

Theme                  morality / Indian society

“The Devil, according to the Muslims, was once God’s sidekick, until he fought with Him and went freelance.”

Theme                  power dynamics

“Is there any hatred on earth like the hatred of the number two servant for the number one?”

Chapter 3            4th Morning

Theme                  corruption / self interest / power dynamics

“Now the Great Socialist had been the boss of the Darkness for a decade at the time of this election.  … he was dirty from the start, but he had just fooled everyone and only now did we see him for what he was”.

Chapter 4            4th Night

Theme                  contrasts

“The capital of our glorious nation … The showcase of the republic.  That’s what they call it … the truth is that Delhi is a crazy city”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“We’re driving past Ghandi, after just having given a bribe to a minister. It’s a fucking joke ,isn’t it.”

“The judges? … they are in the racket too.  They take their bribe, they ignore the discrepancies in the case.  And life goes on”.

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / family

“We were like two separate cities—inside and outside the dark egg. I knew I was in the right city. But my father, if he were alive, would be sitting on that pavement… So I was in some way out of the car too, even while I was driving it.”

Theme                  family

“You’re part of the family Balram”.

Chapter 5            5th Night

Theme                  power dynamics

“Do we loath our masters behind a facade of love – or do we love them behind a facade of loathing?”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“The greatest thing to come out of this country… is the Rooster Coop. The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers…They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with human beings in this country.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“… But where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell: no servant can ever tell what the motives of his heart are… We are made mysteries to ourselves by the Rooster Coop we are locked in.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“The Rooster Coop was doing its work. Servants have to keep other servants from becoming innovators, experimenters, or entrepreneurs. Yes, that’s the sad truth, Mr. Premier. The coop is guarded from the inside.”

Theme                  family

“   the pride and glory of our nation, the repository of all our love and sacrifice … the Indian family, is the reason we are trapped and tied to the coop”.

“…without family, a man is nothing”.

Chapter 6            6th Morning

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“The rest of today’s narrative will deal mainly with the sorrowful tale of how I was corrupted from a sweet, innocent village fool into a citified fellow full of debauchery, depravity and wickedness, All these changes happened in me because they happened first in Mr. Ashok.”

Chapter 7            6th Night

Theme                  contrasts

“The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor – they never overlap, do they?”

“Enough to feed a whole family, or one rich man”

Theme                  education / self improvement

“The moment you recognise what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave”.

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“The city knew my secret… Even the road—the smooth, polished road of Delhi that is the finest in all of India—knew my secret.”

Theme                  education / morality / Indian society

“You were looking for the key for years/ But the door was always open!”

Theme                  morality / Indian society

“Let animals live like animals; let humans live like humans. That’s my whole philosophy in a sentence.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“We went from bank to bank, and the weight of the red bag grew. I felt its pressure increase on my lower back—as if I were taking Mr. Ashok and his bag not in a car, but the way my father would take a customer and his bag—in a rickshaw.”

Chapter 8            7th Night

Theme                  self made man/ education

“Now, despite my amazing success story, I don’t want to lose contact with the place where I got my real education in life. The road and the pavement.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“The city has its share of thugs and politicians. It’s just that here, if a man wants to be good, he can be good. In Laxmangarh, he doesn’t even have this choice. This is the difference between this India and that India; the choice.”

“… the worst kind of man … nothing in his mind but taking money from everyone who came to his office.  Scum”.

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“There is no end to things in India, Mr. Jiabao, as Mr. Ashok so correctly used to say. You’ll have to keep paying and paying the fuckers. But I complain about the police the way the rich complain; not the way the poor complain.”

Theme                  self made man / social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“Yet…even if they throw me in jail…I’ll say it was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hours, just for a minute, what it means not to be a servant. I think I am ready to have children, Mr. Premier.”

Theme                  self made man / education

“People in this country are still waiting for the war of their freedom to come from somewhere else…That will never happen. Every man must make his own Benaras. The book of your revolution sits in the pit of your belly, young Indian. Crap it out, and read.”

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Analysis of Quotes I for Isobel for AOS1 Reading & Creating Texts

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Quotes below can be used as evidence in analytical essay interpretation of I For Isobel

Chapter & Page #



1 – p.1 “No birthday presents this year!” May Callaghan.  The significance of this statement in the second line of chapter 1 is to show from the very beginning of the novel how dominant May Callaghan is and the extent of her vindictive power and control she wields over Isobel.  The abuse of Isobel is integral to understanding her struggle as an alienated artist figure.
1 – p.7 “Birthdays, injustices, parents all vanished”. Isobel as narrator.  When Isobel reads Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes she reads to affect an imaginary escape from reality.  The promise of pleasure offered by books counters the unhappiness and deprivations of family life.  The world in her books does not contain personal hardship.
1 – p.15 “It was a present for a real girl”. Isobel as narrator.  Mr Mansell gives Isobel a brooch for her birthday even though she receives no presents from her own parents.  The present represents something a normal, caring parent would give to a child.  At the time Isobel does not completely grasp how different her mother is from other more nurturing mothers.  The emphasis on “real girl” suggests that Isobel does not fit the social requirements of the era due to her parent’s abuse.
1 – p.17 “In one way or another, she would be wearing it all her life”. Isobel as narrator.  Two interpretations of the brooch’s significance.  Firstly, May Callaghan’s reaction to Mr Mansell’s gift of the brooch becomes for Isobel an important awakening.  Even after May slaps Isobel she does not take the brooch which Isobel realises that there are things her mother cannot do.  The brooch is the first step towards her possession of self and power a tiny triumph over her mother.  Secondly, that the brooch is a metaphor for the effects of May Callaghan’s abuse on Isobel’s life.  The long term effects of the abuse are detrimental to Isobel’s whole life.
2 – p.20 “Half the time you don’t know what you’re talking about”. May Callaghan.  Her insistent scepticism about Isobel telling the truth leads Isobel to doubt her own mind.  The constant doubt in turn affects Isobel’s tone of voice.  The complex relationship between what is said and the way it is said is central to many of Isobel’s challenges and dilemmas.  Isobel is constantly trying to decipher what is said in order to grasp the underlying truth.
2 – p.23 “There was no living without the moments”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel’s vivid imagination serves as a powerful survival tool throughout her traumatic childhood and subsequent tumultuous transition into adulthood.  The imaginary friends in Isobel’s ‘moments’ and the books she reads sustains her each night in bed from the reality of the restrictions and conflicts of her daily life.  In fact she is more at ease with her imaginary friends than the flesh and blood people she meets.
3 – p.34 “… the state of grace”. Isobel as narrator.  The ‘state of grace’ is an inner, psychological state that Isobel experiences throughout this chapter.  She aspires to a condition of saint-like tranquillity refusing to be upset by any emotional disturbance and anger of her mother.  May Callaghan wants Isobel to scream but keeping silent is more torture for May as she is powerless.  What ends the ‘state of grace’ is the ripping of the hand-me-down dress.  This is a low point in Isobel’s well being.
3 – p.35 “Then she saw that her mother’s anger was a live animal tormenting her”. Isobel as narrator.  The emotional abuse and power of May Callaghan’s rage was an inner psychotic mental illness that took joy in abusing Isobel.  When Isobel sat silently not reacting her mother is deprived the thrill of the power over Isobel.
4 – p.83 “Isobel, as she listened, tried on each life to see how it would suit her”. Isobel as narrator.  After May Callaghan’s death and Isobel moves into Mrs Bower’s boarding house where she feels happy at her independence which might lead to greater self acceptance of herself.  She even considers taking on a new name and personality, someone poised serene and quietly self-confident traits obviously in direct contrast to her real personality.  At this point Isobel searches for a sense of identity by aspiring to be like other people.  However, as she thinks about other people’s lives in terms of her own uncertain identity she finds that their lives do not suit her at all.
4 – p.120 “Isobel had an idiot in the attic”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel now perceives herself to have a kind of split personality to have an idiot in the attic or in type of mad reality in her mind.  This suggests that Isobel is at the mercy of irrational forces within herself that threaten her.  Isobel resists the instincts of the idiot and helps Madge move out of the boarding house.
5 – p.165 “And for those who hear nothing, the dead in life, her mother and Diana – you could shed a tear for them too”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel realises that the person in her life most like Diana is her own mother, since they both resemble corpses in their rejection of life’s changes.  In contrast Isobel is determined to experience change and in leaving Mrs Bowers boarding house she starts on her journey of self discovery and is somewhat reconciled with the ghosts of her past.
5 – p.166 “… she had discovered a small authentic piece of her lost self”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel’s memory of the sewing class is painful but she follows her own wishes rediscovering her pleasure in embroidery by discovering a piece of her lost self.  Isobel needs to revisit the key settings of her childhood to discover the real truth about who she is.
5 – p.177 “Artesian tears rising from the centre of the earth”. Isobel as narrator.  Once Isobel realises that the anxiety her parent’s caused her over the cat poem were totally false the cruelty of their deception strikes her emotions and her tears are able to finally flow.
5 – p.177 “I am a writer”. Isobel as narrator.  Once her tears are released Isobel gains a new sense of her own identity as a writer.  For Isobel an important point about writing is that compared to relationships or love, is that writing can be performed in solitude and the writing is her true self.  In order to make the self belief and identity real and tangible she buys an exercise book from the corner store to start her writing.
5 – p.181 “I met someone”. Isobel as narrator.  The last sentence of the novel signals an end to the internal tensions and divisions that characterise Isobel’s personality for so much of the novel.  The person she has ‘met’ is her own self and her joyful feeling is due to at last attaining a sense of unity and purpose.

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Creative Essay on ‘The Boat’ short story in Island by Alistair MacLeod

Image result for picture of the boat in alistair macleods short story

Creative Essay on ‘The Boat’ from Island by Alistair MacLeod for Year 12 English on the old VCE Curriculum prior to 2024

Creative Prompt:

Years later, one of the daughters has to tell her daughter about her childhood, the role of the island and why she eventually left Cape Breton.  Refer back to the story in Island ‘The Boat’.


  • Scottish Gaelic names for father = dadaidh formal, dadai = dad or daddy
  • Scottish Gaelic names for mother = mathair
  • Scottish Gaelic girls names = Ainslie, Fiona, Alana, Annis, Morag, Catriona
  • Scottish Gaelic name for island = Innis

Creative Story Based Around ‘The Boat’ Short Story

Looking through my kitchen window over the Cape Cod seashore I heard the sharp laughter of a gull.  The moment was broken as my 15 year old daughter Alana called out “Hey ma, I have to do a literature assignment on our family’s ancestry which is due Friday can you help me with it?”  This middle daughter was just like me and her grandfather.  We all loved literature and reading.  Yet she was tall, willowy with fine facial features set off by long dark hair tinged a reddish copper colour, energetic and beautiful like her grandmother.  “Sure” I called back to Alana as she lopped into the kitchen with her notebook and pen; “What do you want to know?”  “I need information about where you came from, you know ma, the traditional stuff you never talk about”.  I looked at her striking face and my mind wandered back to an old-fashioned kitchen with a wood and coal burning stove next to a heavy table, around it stood five wooden homemade chairs.  Alana said “For instance ma why did you give the three of us girls a weird middle name like ‘Innis’, what does it mean?”

“Innis is Scottish Gaelic for island” I told Alana.  “I wanted to link you and your sisters like a chain of tradition back to my home land of Cape Breton.  It was my way of retaining the custom of someone of the sea like my mother’s people”.  Was that my real reason for calling the girls ‘Innis’ I wondered?  My five sisters and brother Callum were all born at Cape Breton but my three girls Fiona, Alana and Catriona were born at Harwich Port Massachusetts.  Looking over the Cape Cod seashore and the Atlantic Coast, Harwich Port is 848 miles from the bitter windswept island of Cape Breton.  No one at Harwich Port had to carve out an existence as a fisherman or give up their dreams to sustain a family of seven children.  Not like my old father who yearned for a life taken from the imaginative stories in his books away from the sea.

As children we called our father by the Gaelic ‘dadai’ an informal way of speaking to him while he was in his room lying on his bed smoking his handmade cigarettes.  His ashtray overflowed with tobacco shreds and ash as my sisters, one by one, sat on his bed or in a single chair reading his stack of paperbacks.  No one called our mother anything but the more formal ‘mathair’ because we were all scared of her as she would look at us with her dark and fearless eyes.  ‘Mathair’ never thought reading trashy books would help anyone in life.  I remember clearly she slapped my sister so hard she left the print of her hand upon my sister’s cheek just because Fiona was reading one of ‘dadai’s’ paperbacks.  We all knew it was difficult to defy our ‘mathair’ but the call of reading books outweighed our restlessness and we lost interest in darning socks and baking bread.

“So who are your mother’s people of the sea then?” Alana asked me.  I explained the ancestry story as clearly as I could; “The Cape Breton Islanders were mostly families from the Highlands in Scotland who were forced to leave their homes in the 1800’s.  ‘Mathair’s’ family were all inshore fisherman sailing Cape Island boats in search of lobsters, mackerel, cod, haddock and hake.  Her brothers all had large families to sustain.  In fact my uncle Bryce had thirteen children to support while he worked with my ‘dadai’ on our boat the Jenny Lynn”.

Alana was intrigued and followed up with a question about what the people of the sea were like and the importance of the ‘boat’.  As I told her about the boats racing out to sea with their traps I could see in my mind uncle Bryce tall and dark like ‘mathair’, standing at the tiller guiding the boat between the floating pans of ice and my ‘dadai’ in the stern with his hands upon the ropes that lashed the cargo to the deck.  I remember watching from the kitchen window of our old house that faced the sea, while my ‘dadai’ was away fishing in the boat.  We were always working on repairing clothes, preparing food or just looking for the return of the boat.  When ‘dadai’ returned home the first question my ‘mathair’ would ask was “Well, how did things go in the boat today?”

Alana stretched out her long legs and stood up with a yawn and said “OK I know about dad’s family history settling in Boston from 1630, but why did you choose to leave Cape Breton for Harwich Port?”  How do you explain to your own daughter that restlessness that you get at 15 looking for a life elsewhere and the imaginative world that books inspire?  Each of my five sisters felt the need for change from raising hens to growing vegetables.  When the Sea Food Restaurant opened it catered to tourists that flooded the island during July and August.  I got a job as a waitress and met people who were not classified as “our people” according to ‘mathair’, but they were fun, carefree and well educated.  Sometimes my sisters and I would stay out late on hot summer nights and try to dodge ‘mathair’s’ questions about who we were associating with.  ‘Dadai’ understood as we talked softly to him late at night about our ambitions beyond the island while the music of his radio floated up the stairs.

I cleared my throat and said to Alana “Then one day your father and his family came to Cape Breton for a summer holiday.  I was swept off my feet by your father’s brilliant smile and his welcoming family.  I didn’t care that ‘mathair’ believed he was not one of ‘her people’ or that she couldn’t understand I wanted a life outside of ‘the sea’ at Cape Breton”.  “Wow ma that’s why we never see our grandmother but what happened to your ‘dadai’? Alana asked me.

It was long after I left Cape Breton and settled in Harwich Port with my husband and three young daughters when I received a call from Callum to say that ‘dadai’ had drowned at sea.  It seemed nonsensical that my father and my uncles who were all experienced fisherman sailing the Atlantic waters could not swim a stroke.  The news of my father’s drowning devastated all of us.  It left Callum with a terrible choice whether to continue the seafaring tradition of ‘mathair’s’ family or leave Cape Breton for his own dream of becoming a university professor.  In the end the Jenny Lynn left my mother with bitterness that neither her husband nor her son was able to sustain the fisherman’s life.

Answering Alana as best I could I just said “My father drowned at sea during a violent storm when he was fishing with Uncle Callum.  The towering waves hit him as he stood in the stern of the Jenny Lynn and he went overboard”.  As Alana hugged me I did not tell her the details of how my father’s body was found at the base of rock-strewn cliffs where he had been hurled and slammed many times so there was not much left of him physically but for the brass chains on his wrists and the seaweed in his hair.

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