‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell is an Allegory

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What is an Allegory?

An Allegory is a narrative that can be read on more than one level. Allegories are generally understood as rhetorical, and as a form of rhetoric, are designed to persuade their audience.  George Orwell’s Animal Farm is an example of this rhetorical device; as an allegory it extends its representation over the course of the entire novel.

How is this Story Allegorical?

As an allegorical tale about the dangers of tyranny, Animal Farm uses the story of Napoleon, Snowball and Boxer as a form of rhetoric.  In this novel Orwell is using the story of Manor Farm’s animal rebellion to caution people against the encroachment of tyranny.

‘Animal Farm’ Characters as an Allegory of the Russian Revolution

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Critics often consider Animal Farm to be an allegory of the Russian Revolution matching in great details the story’s characters to historical persons.  For example, linking the power struggle between Napoleon and Snowball to the historical feuding between Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky for control of the Soviet Union.  Old Major represents Karl Marx who dies before realising his dream.  Other comparisons include Moses as the Russian Orthodox Church, Boxer and Clover as workers, the sheep as the general public, Squealer as Stalin’s government news agency, the dogs as Stalin’s military police and Farmer Jones as Czar Nicholas II.  The farm’s neighbours, Pilkington and Frederick are said to represent Great Britain and Germany.  While Mollie suggests the old Russian aristocracy, which resists change.

What did George Orwell Believe Animal Farm Represented & Message of Author?

George Orwell wrote in the first edition of Animal Farm in 1945 that his novel: ‘… is the history of a revolution that went wrong and of the excellent excuses that were forthcoming at every step for the perversion of the original doctrine’.

While the animals in the story originally create an equal society, the pigs in charge, namely Napoleon, use their power to oppress the other animals, especially through propaganda and fear.

Orwell ‘s main message in Animal Farm is that power corrupts, even when idealism is at play.

George Orwell uses Satire to expose what he saw as the Myth of Soviet Socialism

In a Satire, the writer attacks a serious issue by presenting it in a ridiculous light or otherwise poking fun at it.  Orwell uses satire in his novel Animal Farm to expose what he saw as the myth of Soviet socialism.  Thus, the novel tells a story that people of all ages can understand, but it also tells us a second story – that of the real-life Revolution.

Background to the Russian Revolution

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Many of the events of Manor Farm in Orwell’s Animal Farm are closely linked to political events in Russia during the first half of the 20th century. In the early 1900’s, Russia’s Czar Nicholas II faced an increasingly discontented populace.  Freed from feudal serfdom in 1861, many Russian peasants were struggling to survive under an oppressive government.  By 1917, amidst the tremendous suffering of World War I, a revolution began.  In two major battles, the Czar’s government was overthrown and replaced by the Bolshevik leadership of Vladmir Lenin.  When Lenin died in 1924, his former colleagues Leon Trotsky, hero of the early Revolution, and Joseph Stalin, head of the Communist Party, struggled for power.  Stalin won the battle, and he deported Trotsky into permanent exile.

Once in power, Stalin began, with despotic urgency and exalted nationalism, to move the Soviet Union into the modern industrial age.  His government seized land in order to create collective farms.  Stalin’s Five Year Plan was an attempt to modernize Soviet industry.  To counter resistance (many peasants refused to give up their land), Stalin used vicious military tactics.  Rigged trials led to executions of an estimated 20 million government officials and ordinary citizens.  The government controlled the flow and content of information to the people, and all but outlawed churches.

‘Animal Farm’ is the Story of an Animal Revolution

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The animal residents of Manor Farm, spurred on by the dream of the pig, Old Major decide they will change their “miserable, laborious, and short” lives.  They overthrow Mr Jones, their master, and take over the management of the farm.  Rather than living under the heel of their human master, the animals of Manor Farm decide they will take control of the products of their labour, working for the good of the farm and other animals, rather than for the good of humans.

Tyranny by any other Name

George Orwell’s Animal Farm and his other novel 1984, are often cited as works that are designed to show the weaknesses of Communism.  These works took aim at the Soviet Union, however Orwell’s larger target was tyranny, in whatever form it appeared.  He was as much concerned with the repression of rights and the injustice of the economic system in his own England as he was about Stalinist Russia.

George Orwell’s 1945 novel Animal Farm is an allegorical indictment of tyranny which utilises the historical events and players of the Russian Revolution and the subsequent rise of Stalin as a cautionary tale of how power corrupts.

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee : A Brief Synopsis

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a Worthy Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1961

Author of To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee, in local coutrhouse while visting her home town.

Novelist Harper Lee

It does not matter how many times I teach To Kill a Mockingbird to Years 7-10 English students, I find a deeper understanding of Harper Lee’s beautiful novel each time I read it.  What’s not to love about this amazing novel?

It’s a story about a man wrongly accused of rape and a lawyer who confronts racial prejudice to defend him in a small Alabama town riddled with the poverty and racial tensions of the American South in 1935.  Yet when you look deeper it also chronicles the journey of its characters to do what is right, no matter what humiliation or consequences plagued them.

The Moral Courage in To Kill a Mockingbird

American actor Gregory Peck, as Atticus Finch, stands in a courtroom in a scene from director Robert Mulligan's film, 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' 1962....

By observing her father, Scout gradually discovers that moral courage is both more complicated and more difficult to enact than the physical courage most familiar and understandable to children.  To Kill a Mockingbird reveals the heroic nature of acting with moral courage when adhering to social mores would be far less dangerous.  At a time in the South when it was outrageous and practically unthinkable for a white person to look at the world from a minority’s perspective, Harper Lee has Atticus explain to Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”.  For Atticus Finch, climbing into someone’s skin and walking around in it represents true courage.  This would have to be my all time favourite quote.

Focus on the Trial of Tom Robinson with Atticus Finch as the Lawyer

To Kill A Mockingbird

The novel focuses on the Finch family over the course of two years, lawyer and father Atticus Finch; his ten-year-old son, Jem; and his six-year-old daughter, Scout (whose real name is Jean Louise).  Scout serves as the narrator of the book.  Her narration is based on her memories of the events leading up to, during, and after her father’s defence of a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell.  Through Scout’s inexperienced eyes (she is only eight at the conclusion of the novel), the reader encounters a world where people are judged by their race, inherited ideas of right and wrong dominate, and justice does not always prevail.  However, by observing Atticus Finch’s responses to the threats and gibes of the anti-Tom Robinson faction and his sensitive treatment towards Tom Robinson and his family and friends, the reader, again through Scout’s eyes, discovers what it means to behave morally.  In fact, do the right thing in the face of tremendous social pressure.

 What I Love About To Kill a Mockingbird is the Other Side to Scout

To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird also chronicles the journey of a girl who challenges gender stereotypes in her determination to remain a tomboy.  Harper Lee clearly explores Scout’s unconventional female characteristics.  Aunt Alexandra tells Scout Finch to act like a lady and wear a dress so she can “be a ray of sunshine in [her] father’s lonely life.”  Scout does not respond positively: she retorts that she can “be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well”.

In fact, Scout does not respond positively to anything feminine, preferring reading instead of sewing, playing outside instead of inside, and the nickname “Scout” to the girlish “Jean Louise.”

On the other hand, the culture that Harper Lee depicts does not respond positively to Scout’s tomboyish inclinations.  Scout lives in Maycomb, Alabama, a rural Southern town, during the Great Depression.  In this setting, society dictates strict gender stereotypes, and people rarely cross the barrier between masculinity and femininity.  Maycomb is a place where “[l]adies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum”. Scout, however, refuses to be a “soft teacake.”

Through her actions, Scout demonstrates a flexible view of gender.  Scout is not born with an innate predisposition to be a tomboy; rather her behaviours define her as a tomboy.  As she consistently repeats unconventional behaviours, she presents her own conception of what gender means.  Harper Lee depicts gender as a standard that alters according to each individual.

Gender Bending During WWII

The twentieth century brought a shift in attitudes towards tomboys.  During the years in which Harper Lee grew up and wrote her novel, America advocated the home as a woman’s domain.  During WWII views changed as women entered the workforce assuming positions previously considered to be masculine.  Michelle Ann Abate in Tomboys: A Literary and Cultural History. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2008 (p.146) refers to Rosie the Riveter as an icon of “tomboyish toughness”.  However, society’s high regard for gender-bending females was temporary, when the war ended, women once again returned to their homes (Abate p.150).

To Kill a Mockingbird also Reflects this Ambivalence Concerning Gender-bending Females

The novel contains characters who both support and disapprove of Scout’s tomboyism.  For instance, Aunt Alexandra wants Scout to wear a dress, while Atticus allows her to wear overalls.  Moreover, other characters paradoxically condemn feminine mannerisms while simultaneously expecting them.  Scout’s brother Jem, for instance, frequently teases her for being a girl, but he also commands, “It’s time you started bein’ a girl and acting right!”.

Scout Stays Resolute

Even though she endures these conflicting principles, Scout stays resolute.  For example, when Jem criticizes her “girlish” fear of the Radley house, she shows masculine bravery and joins him in sneaking into the Radley yard.  On the other hand, when he suggests she “take up sewin’ or something,” Scout replies, “Hell no”.  Reflecting the twentieth-century’s hesitation over the changing roles of women, Jem has shifting expectations for Scout as a female.  Scout, however, remains steadfastly opposed to conventional femininity.

What’s not to love about this amazing book?  I can’t think of anything.

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‘On the Waterfront’ Directed by Elia Kazan Film Techniques

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For Year 11 students studying AOS1 Unit 2 Reading and Comparing Texts, the film On the Waterfront Directed by Elia Kazan with either play The Crucible OR Twelve Angry Men.

It is important to note the film techniques in On the Waterfront when you write your comparative analytical essays.

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Significant Film Techniques from the film On the Waterfront

Film style = black & white, realistic documentary style (film noir)

Mise en scene = setting – not a set but the actual docks of Hoboken New Jersey

Landscape = cinematography – fog, smoke, mist, clouds, smoky grey sky, nature uncivilised & uncontrollable

Lighting = use of dark to represent evil & light goodness like Edie

Sounds & music = diegetic ie. music, soundtrack, non-diegetic ie. sounds like machinery, ships horn, whistles

Costumes = poor clothes for longshoremen, pseudo-business attire of Johnny Friendly & his gang to draw attention to a certain air of respectability that defies and conceals the extent of their entrenched corruption

Camera angles = deep focus, point of view close up shots, low angle to high suggests power, two-shot 2 people at mid-range, low angled single shot of Terry after his beating in last scene Related imageSettings & Visual Style in Detail

On the Waterfront is a black and white film that represented a 1950’s gritty documentary style with a morally ambiguous (film noir) crime film of the period.  Kazan’s use of setting is intended to register the oppression and destruction rife on Hoboken Docks.

Boris Kaufman’s camera distils a skyscape which is menacing, insular, if not claustrophobic.  Dark settings emphasise not only the dream and danger the residents face, but also the labyrinth network of corruption.  The workers exhibit ill at ease, slouched postures in conjunction with the deep and dark urban underbelly.  The shrouded light of day is diffused by cloudy skies and thick fog.  It highlights the uncertainty in relation to obtaining work and also fear.  Kazan’s endeavour was to create disquiet in viewers emphasising the danger and fear that the longshoremen live under and therefore creating tension amongst the viewers.

The dark and seedy interiors, such as the bar, reinforce Johnny Friendly’s power and aggression, while the dingy, shabby and cramped apartments highlight the workers’ desperation. Pa Doyle is one of the most desperate of the workers, caught because of his desire to support Edie’s education. He like many others are psychologically imprisoned by the “deaf and dumb code”. Anyone who breaks the code or is suspected of dubious loyalty is unlikely to receive a work token.

The competitive fight for the tokens on the Hoboken wharf literally shows the “dog eat dog” environment that belittles and dehumanises the men. Kazan uses circus-like music to reinforce their animal-like behaviour as they become play-things of the bosses.

The rooftop symbolises Joey’s attraction to the birds; he becomes one of many pigeons outplayed by the hawks. The pigeon cages reflect the longshoremen’s inability to break out of their prison-like oppressive conditions on the wharf and their basic preoccupation with survival and existence. The hawks symbolically represent Johnny Friendly and his gang. The hawks ‘go down on pigeons’, which reflects the bosses’ philosophy of looking after their own interests.

Landscape / Fog & Smoke in Detail

The location of the docks and the landscape were used by cinematographer Boris Kaufman to make the most of the fog and smoke that were part of the freezing January landscape but also used deep focus to position the characters within the landscape and to emphasise the ever-present connection between the individual and the group.  Depicting the waterfront society connected to the society of the time is a reminder that individuals in this world are locked into a complicated set of relationships with their fellow workers and the powerful people they work for.

Day time scenes the smoke and mist express the mood of uncertainty that prevails in the film.  The constant mist and smoke characterise the mise en scene of the film as a visual clue of the moral choices that people make.  The freezing January is a symbolic power in the scenes on the roof where the character’s desire is to rise above the murky waterfront world below is cast into doubt by the rising mist and the billowing smoke from the chimneys and smoke stacks.

In the majority of the scenes that take place at night, the smoky pale grey daytime look gives way to a highly stylised use of light and dark.  The use of dramatic lighting stresses the claustrophobic nature of the character’s world.  In the scene where Terry and Edie are chased down by a truck driven by Friendly’s henchmen, the lighting creates the impression that Edie and Terry are caught in a narrow tunnel with no way of escape.

Sounds and Music in Detail

One of the memorable aspects of the film is the ambient or background noise.  Sound is used to great effect in the scene where Father Barry persuades Terry to tell Edie about his involvement with Joey’s murder.  The jarring mechanical rhythm of the machinery in the background contributes to our growing awareness that Terry is just one small element of a much larger world over which he has little control.  In a very dramatic moment, the horn of a ship drowns out the conversation between Terry and Edie.

The musical score was written by Bernstein with the soundtrack foreboding, even military sounding.  The opening scene features threatening sounding drums and brass with the fight shots of Friendly met with the sound of a dry saxophone, which foretell not just the murder about to happen, but set the scene for the landscape as one of conflict.  Audiences recognise that the men who are exiting the clubhouse are no law-abiding citizens.  This is accompanied by rhythmic crashes of timpani which register the enormity of the situations.

The other music themes are the gentler strings that typically accompany scenes between Terry and Edie and indicate hope.  In the scene where the mob invade Father Barry’s church, mixed percussion and shrill strings are used to create an atmosphere of confusion and desperation.  The final scene is the most powerful in creating suspense and tension with a tone of unresolved chord in the strings, inferring the struggle is not over, maneuvering audiences to question the fate of the workers.

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‘Maestro’ by Peter Goldsworthy A Brief Synopsis of the Importance of ‘Place’ in the Narrative

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Place is integral to an understanding of the characters in Maestro by Peter Goldsworthy.

In some ways, the cities of Darwin, Adelaide and Vienna parallel the growth of the characters.  In other respects, the character’s attitudes towards the cities reveal their motivations and, in the case of Keller, the mystery of his past.  Darwin and Adelaide exemplify the most obvious and literal examples of the polarity of North and South.

“Up North” Darwin in the 1960’s – a Wild Frontier Town

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“Up North” in the 1960’s traditionally represented the outpost of civilisation in Australia, with Darwin as its wild frontier town.  In pre-Cyclone Tracy Darwin, there were few opportunities for public entertainment or cultural events.  The town’s residents had a reputation for heavy drinking, fast driving and little regard for fine music or the arts.  In 1967 few homes had air conditioning so that Darwin’s wet heat had to be alleviated with iced drinks, ceiling fans and evening sea breezes through louvred windows.  Initially John Crabbe described Darwin’s inhabitants as “wife-beaters, fugitives from justice, alcoholics and maintenance dodgers” (p.17).  Darwin was “the terminus … A town populated by men who had run as far as they could flee” (p.17).

Goldsworthy Portrays Life in Darwin as a Rhythm of Dramatic Contrasts

Life in Darwin is portrayed as a rhythm of dramatic contrasts between day and night, and the Wet and Dry seasons.  Thunder is “the sound of February, of deepest, darkest Wet” (p.4).  The Wet exaggerates nature in every way.  The hard-drinking customers at The Swan where “it was always Wet season” (p.17), provide the background rhythm to Paul’s lessons with Keller and their wrangles over the choices of compositions for his lessons and practice.  The change of season to the Dry marks an important point in the characters’ moods.  Everyone’s mood is lightened and refreshed at the beginning of “seven months of clear, enamel-blue days” (p.28), when meals are taken outside in “a nightly cooling ritual” (p.30).  Throughout the novel, Goldsworthy uses the imagery of night and day, Wet and Dry, sunshine and darkness to symbolise or illustrate his characters’ states of mind.

Darwin confronts the Crabbes with Physical and Mental Challenges

The Crabbes’ move to Darwin, a career promotion for John, confronts all three family members with both physical and mental challenges.  To Paul, Darwin is a tropical paradise; to his parents it is, initially too hot, humid and uncivilised.  John Crabbe declares Darwin is “A city of booze, blow, and blasphemy” (p.9) but Paul loves Darwin from the moment he steps off the plane from Adelaide: “I loved the town of booze and blow at first sight.  And above all its smell: those hot, steamy perfumes that wrapped about me as we stepped off the plane, in the darkness, in the smallest hours of a January night.  Moist, compost air.  Sweet-and-sour air …” (p.9).

Goldsworthy Describes Darwin in Lush Descriptive Passages

Goldsworthy devotes considerable attention to crafting lushly descriptive passages which evoke Darwin’s exotic quality, its multicultural population and the strong emotions of sexuality.  Paul delights in the dense foliage of their garden, at the “unnatural greenness” of leaves, and marvels at the brilliance of parrots, butterflies, huge insects and grubs: “Everything grew larger than life in the steamy hothouse of Darwin, and the people were no exception.  Exotic, hothouse blooms” (p.11).

Darwin for Eduard Keller was an Exile

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For Herr Eduard Keller, the maestro, Darwin was an exile, a self-imposed punishment stemming from his perceived responsibility for the deaths of his wife and child.  Darwin is the maestro’s decision to live as far as possible, both literally and metaphorically from his cultured European background.  Paul vividly remembers his first encounter with the maestro.  He was fascinated by Keller: “I’d seen nothing like him before.  He was short: migrant-height, European height…The hair above that flaming face was white, sparse, downy.  On his red nose he had placed … a pince-nez… Above all, I remember the hands: those dainty, faintly ridiculous hands” (p.5).  Despite Darwin’s oppressive heat, Keller is dressed in a white linen suit, crisp and freshly laundered.  As Paul pushed his way through the drinkers in The Swan each Tuesday for his piano lesson, he found it “easy to place Keller among these fugitives” running away from things they chose not to remember.

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Construction of Meaning and Author’s Agenda in ‘Ransom’ by David Malouf

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This Resource is for students studying ‘Ransom’ as a single text in the Victorian VCE Curriculum OR for Year 12 students studying the comparative texts of ‘Ransom’ with ‘The Queen’.  The resource will be useful for both studies.

Construction of Meaning and Structure of Texts

When reading texts to construct meaning, readers increase their understanding by recognising the craftsmanship of the writing and the choices the author made to portray the topic in a certain way.

Genre of ‘Ransom’

Narrative fiction.  A novel that uses the final section, Book 24 of Homer’s The Iliad an epic poem, to tell the tale of Hector’s slaughter and Priam’s subsequent visit to Achilles to plead for his son’s body.

Malouf takes some of the generic features from the classical epic and re-makes them in a less formal novel.  The character of Somax is Malouf’s own creation.

Historical Context

The story of Achilles, Hector and Priam and Troy date back to 70 BC.  The novel Ransom is set during the Trojan War but begins after Agamemnon called on Achilles to surrender Briseis to him and Achilles refused, withdrawing his Myrmidon forces from the latest battle against Troy and creating an open intended insult.

Malouf begins his narrative of Ransom with the brooding Achilles pondering his options after revoking his support for the Greek cause and insulting Agamemnon.

What Malouf does is he re-works Homer’s epic of the Trojan War with its heroes and brings to life another side of both Achilles and Priam that requires them to face emotions and overcome dilemmas by acting in more honourable ways.  The narrative allows the characters to liberate themselves from a crisis of personal values and a loss of self-esteem, something quite different from the view of human action in The Iliad.

Structure & Narrative Perspective

The 5 chapters of Ransom focus on different perspectives of key characters set in separate settings associated with each character.

The Introduction of the conflict told through Achilles’ thoughts in part 1 leads to the complication in part II of Priam deciding to ransom Hector’s body.  Priam’s journey with Somax to Achilles’ camp further the action of Priam’s quest and adds a contrasting pastoral interlude in part III.

The meeting of Achilles and Priam in part IV is a dramatic climax.  A short conclusion in part V describes Priam’s journey back to Troy as the truce begins.  The closing focus on Somax as an aged storyteller offers a miniature epilogue to the action and is a lighter more comic ending.

The narrative is told in the present tense through a third-person voice, which does change to first-person or third-person limited perspective to reveal the thoughts and feelings of a particular character.  The shifts in narrative voice allow the text to convey each character’s thoughts and reflections on events, characters and settings round them.

Language Style & Shifts in Narrative

Malouf’s language style, sentence construction and vocabulary choices often reflect the action or atmosphere of the narrative paying close attention to the character’s thoughts, actions and the features of the world in which they find themselves.  For example the description of Hector’s dead body trailing behind Achilles’ chariot spans most of page 26.

Descriptions are at other times precise, realistic, economical and evoking character’s moods.  For example Somax’s pikelets explain a simple world that Priam is discovering a fresh way of appreciating the small experiences he can enjoy that were absent from his formalised life of a king on page 118.

At some times he chooses more evocative complex words that carry connotations that enrich the narrative as when Achilles feels the notes of the lyre and this emits a dreamlike quality.

Malouf often uses word patterns of imagery like he does in his poetry, such as the way water, earth, air and fire are connected with different characters in Ransom.  He connects bodies and minds in these terms.  His words share feelings in the reader so that the reader can experience a specific theme in the novel.  Water is an element that moves in waves but is also described as ‘shifting’ and ‘insubstantial’ on page 4.

Shifts in the narrative point of view give characters an individual presence in the reader’s mind.  By changing the narrative focus Malouf gives value to diverse views.

Tragedy & Comedy

While the novel is predominantly tragic, Malouf invites the reader to consider comic moments in part III when Priam and Somax travel together and meeting Hermes on their journey to the mildly ridiculous description of Somax’s affection for his mule.  These occasions of humour present the reader with brief but vital moments of reprieve amid the violence and brutality inherent in the narrative.

Tragedy is evident in the human loss and failure in a world where characters face harsh consequences for their actions.  Nothing about Achilles ritual rage and the speed of his chariot carrying its macabre cargo are positive.  The reader gains a sense of tragedy and horror as Achilles turns into almost a mad man mistreating Hector’s body over and over again for 12 days.

Imagery & Senses

Malouf uses sensory imagery to encourage readers to envisage and imagine the events and changing moods within the narrative.  For example he utilises appeals to the senses of sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing to engage the reader in Priam’s childhood experiences as Padarces.

Voices are combined with images of the sea combining vision and sound at the beginning of Ransom “The sea has many voices” (p.3).

The elements of water, air, earth and fire show the vital connection between humans and the natural world helping to define how characters think and feel.

Animal imagery is used to present Achilles as wild, barbaric and merciless.  As a warrior he is imbued with ‘an animal quality he shares with the wolves …” (p.35).

Concept of the Journey

The concept of the journey in the text allows the characters to experience a range of settings, including places they “never till now even considered” (p.192).

Malouf describes the journey into the landscape brutalised by war that Priam has never seen.  Across the Scamander River Priam and Somax see a landscape which is “one of utter devastation” (p.155).

Unfamiliar settings are also described when Achilles goes to the laundry tent in the Achaean camp to see Hector’s dead body being washed by women.  These are elements that are strangely alien yet familiar to him as he thinks of his mother (p.192).


Taking a chance, choosing action = Priam acts in an unexpected way to achieve a positive goal when he decides to follow chance rather than passive customs.  The novel invites us to ask questions about our own beliefs if we should believe in fate or chance.

Pity and compassion = Priam pleads with Achilles to release Hector’s body.  He appeals to humanity and in doing so raises the question of what is means to be human.  The novel questions the values of basic respect for each other and showing compassion.

Gender roles and power = The novel is set in a world where political power belonged to men and the role of warriors fighting each other was a key aspect of men’s identity.  The role of women is limited and the influence is second to men.  Yet Malouf does explore the feminine side of his characters when he talks about the ritual actions of local women in the story and Somax’s daughter in law and granddaughter.  Achilles softer side is more to do with his mother the sea goddess Thetis that allows him to embody a duel self.

Storytelling = The nature of stories is an important theme in the novel.  Malouf blends the relationship between stories, history and myths which is how he was able to give fresh life to ‘crevices’ found in Homer’s ancient tale.

Family / father & son / friendships = Affection for family and friends is a central value in the novel.  Love for family is at the centre of both Priam and Achilles actions and values.  When Priam asks Achilles for Hector’s body he appeals to Achilles to remember his love for his son Neoptolemus and Peleus’ love for him.  Close male friendships like Achilles and Patroclus and father-son loyalties are important in Ransom.

The Author’s Purpose and Agenda

The reasons why authors write are called the Author’s Purpose or Agenda.  Depending on the purpose, authors may choose all different sorts of writing formats, genres and vernacular [language].  There are 3 main categories of author’s purpose:

  1. To Persuade = the author’s goal is to convince the reader to agree with them
  2. To Inform = the author’s goal is to enlighten the reader about real world topics and provide facts on those topics
  3. To Entertain = authors write to entertain with a goal of telling a story.

Malouf is interested in the “untold tale”

In reinterpreting Homer’s Greek classic, the Illiad, Malouf alerts readers to the fact that he is more interested in the “untold tale” found in the margins.  Malouf says of Ransom in his afterword that “its primary interest is in storytelling itself” and the reason that stories are told and often changed.  In this case, the change becomes of paramount importance in Ransom as King Priam dares to re-imagine his role by stepping outside convention and inventing a different path.  In this retelling, or retold story, Malouf foregrounds the central act of ransom and refashions a novel for our times.

This focus on storytelling is evident from the opening line of the novel, when he has his narrator observe that “The sea has many voices” (p.3).  Just as Achilles needs to listen carefully to discern the voice of his mother amongst the many voices of the sea, so the reader needs to attend carefully to the different voices in Ransom.  Malouf gives voice to Achilles and Priam, well known from Homer’s Iliad, but he also gives voice to Somax, the simple carter, his own invention, as he appropriates a section of Homer’s tale for his own purposes.

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SOI Requirement for a Year 11 or 12 Oral & POV using FLAPC

 Image result for picture of writing a speechFor Year 11 and 12 students studying AOS 2: Presenting Argument

Year 12 students will be required to write a Statement of Intention (SOI) along with their Oral presentation.

Year 11 students will also be required to write a Statement of Intention along with their Point of View (POV).

The easiest and most comprehensive approach to the SOI is to use FLAPC = Form / Language / Audience / Purpose and Context.

The SOI can be written in 1st person / future tense = “I will choose to present my speech” because you have not said your Oral yet. The SOI is your plan for your decisions/purpose about writing the speech.  The word limit is determined by each school =  but is normally between 300-500 words.  Always check the SAC criteria for AOS2 from your school to make sure of the SOI word limit.  The SOI is worth 10 marks.

While the format for FLAPC states Form first in the line up, it is a good idea to put Context first when writing your SOI so it outlines the ‘big issue’ at hand in your Introduction.

See below FLAPC explained with example sentences for your SOI using a Speech as the form:


Type of form = a speech is a persuasive style“I will choose to adopt a persuasive style of speech that allows me to express my ideas in a logical order while assuming a sophisticated tone”


Either formal or informal / 1st person or 3rd person perspective.Language strategies can be humorous, sombre or authoritative in tone

Establishing supporting explanations and evidence for your arguments using different types of language such as anecdotes / rhetorical questions / statistics / expert opinion / repetition / figurative language such as metaphors, similes, idioms / appeals / attacks / rebuttal

“I will choose informal language, adopting 1st person perspective to demonstrate a comprehensive speech.  I will incorporate a variety of language strategies such as inclusive words “we” and “us” to allow me to connect with my audience”


A target audience who would be realistically interested in your topic and you intend to pursuade them to agree with your point of view.“My speech will be intended for people associated with xxxx who would gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the ideas and arguments in my speech and subtly position them to agree with my opinion”


What’s the message you want to send your audience?  Discuss your main contention and arguments regarding your topic with reasons why you are trying to position the audience.“The purpose of my speech will be to demonstrate that there can be different outcomes from xxxxx (topic).  Firstly, I will explore how xxxxx (argument 1) will change people’s understanding of xxxx (topic).  Secondly, xxxx (argument 2).  Thirdly, xxxx (argument 3).  Fourthly, xxxx (rebuttal).  Finally, my conclusion will xxxx to show the audience that I had considered the issue from different angles and that therefore my viewpoint was reliable and worth considering”


The big issue of the topic at hand.“Societal concerns over xxxx (the big issue) have been discussed at length in the media.  My speech will aim to discuss the complexity of the issue and will allow my audience to understand the arguments that I will present in a logical manner and in turn they will agree with me.  Moreover, my speech will also allow them to critically reflect on their own opinion of xxxx (the issue) after evaluating my arguments”

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Analysing and Presenting Argument

For Mainstream English Years 11 & 12 students studying Analysing Argument and Presenting Argument under the Victorian VCE Curriculum

Scope of the Task for Analysing Argument

Students analyse and compare the ways in which verbal and non-verbal (including visual) language of specified texts is used to persuade readers and viewers to share the point/s of view being presented. 40 marks are allocated to this task with a suggested 800-1000 word count.

Analysing Argument Basics

What are you trying to Analyse with the articles and visuals?

3 Basic Elements

  1. WHAT = What is the argument the author/s are making?
  2. HOW = How are techniques used by the authors?
  3. WHY = Why do the techniques used by the authors affect the audience? What is the Intention of the author to make the audience:
    1. THINK SOMETHING = LOGOS = a logical response = the author uses techniques like appeals to logic / expert opinions / research / reputable sources / statistics / graphs (these are some logical techniques)
    2. FEEL SOMETHING = PATHOS = an emotional response = the author uses techniques like appeals to emotion / attacks or praises / emotive language / figurative language such as idioms, cliches, alliteration, hyperbole, connotations, loaded words / inclusive language / rhetorical questions / appeals to family values (these are some emotional techniques)
    3. DO SOMETHING = ETHOS = an ethical appeal to act responsibly = the author wants the readers to actively lobby governments to act / call to action

Analysing Argument What You Need to Identify in the Articles & Visuals

  1. Identify and Annotate the Main Contention & Arguments
  2. Identify the Language and Techniques used to Persuade
  3. Identify the Intention of what the author wants the audience to Think/Feel/Do Something
  4. Identify the Audience & Tone
  5. Identify the Link between the Visual and Written Piece

Analysing Argument How to Identify Tone in Articles & Visuals

Tone refers to the mood or feeling of the language used by the writer conveying their attitude towards an issue, argument, individual or group.  In an article tone is created by word choices which have 3 main tones:

  1. Positive = reactive / amazed / astonished / quiet / calm / composed / thoughtful / approving / hopeful / caring / compassionate / sympathetic / lively / cheerful / enthusiastic
  2. Neutral = formal / authoritative / balanced / blunt / factual / frank / honest / serious
  3. Negative = passive / apathetic / dejected / apologetic / judgmental / pessimistic / uncontrolled / agitated / alarmed / fearful / forceful / accusing / angry / condemnatory / sarcastic / hateful

Presenting Argument Scope of Task : Oral Presentation

Unit 4 Outcome #2 Presenting Argument students will deliver a 5 minute individual Oral Presentation conveying a sustained and logical line of argument in response to a topic from the media worth 30 marks. 

Students should also write a Statement of Intention to articulate the purpose and intention of decisions made in the planning of the Oral which is worth 10 marks.  The SOI format should follow F/L/A/P/C = Form/Language/Audience/Purpose/Context.  The word count is determined by each school but is normally between 300-500 words.  See my Post on SOI requirement for years 11 & 12 for the full details on the FLAPC format.


Students must deliver a 5 minute Oral Presentation demonstrating:

  • An ability to present a sustained and logical argument supported by a range of evidence from a variety of sources
  • An understanding of the power of language to persuade
  • An ability to address and convey the complexity of your chosen issue
  • An awareness of and ability to engage an audience
  • Submit a transcript of your speech and complete a bibliography
  • Produce a Written Statement of Intention articulating the intention of decisions made in the planning process of the oral presentation and how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language
  • The SAC will be worth a total of 40 marks = 30 marks for the oral + 10 marks for the SOI

 A few tips on writing your speech:

  • Have a CAPTIVATING introduction sentence; use a short, clear and powerful sentence. You can even ask a rhetorical question of your audience to make them think right at the start.
  • Make sure your MAIN CONTENTION is clearly spelled out at the start.  If you are vague about what you are trying to argue then the listeners (the Teachers marking the Oral) will not know what your Oral is about and will mark you down.
  • RELATE to your audience so that it keeps them interested so they actually WANT to listen.
  • If you are taking on a persona, firstly study and UNDERSTAND your character. (A persona is how you present your speech, ie. in a friendly voice, a business type strictly formal speech or using lots of colloquial phrases).
  • Don’t forget your persuasive techniques. Use repetition and rhetorical questions, emotive language and inclusive language.
  • Remember that you are delivering a SPEECH, not an essay. Instill your oral with emotion, varied tone and sentence lengths.

A few tips on your performance:

Memorise your speech

Practice as much as possible; in front of anyone and everyone including yourself (use a mirror).  Keep practicing until you can recite it.  Use your timer on your mobile phone to make sure you keep within the 5 minutes. As for cue cards, use dot points.  Remember to number the cue cards for safety so if you get nervous during the Oral and unfortunately drop them, at least you can pick up the cards and put them back in the right order.

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Dissecting Prompts in Comparative Texts

 Image result for picture of someone reading a bookThis Resource is for Years 11 & 12 Mainstream English students under the VCE Curriculum studying AOS1  Reading and Comparing Texts

Comparative Texts Prompts have 3 Categories:

Using the example of comparative texts of 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory

  1. Character-based prompts:

    1. ‘How do characters in both texts explore the idea of belonging?’
    2. ‘Compare the ways in which individual and collective memory affects the lives of characters in both texts’
  2. Thematic prompts:

    1. ‘Compare what the two texts suggest about racial discrimination’
    2. ‘How do the authors of 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory explore the idea of identity?’
  3. Views and values prompts:

    1. ‘What is the impact of one group assuming mastery over another both on attitudes and lives in 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory?’
    2. ‘Both 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory argue that individuals cannot escape the roles that society imposes on them’.

What to do first

  1. Choose a prompt you CAN answer
  2. Dissect prompt words and look them up if needed (use your dictionary)
  3. Is the prompt character based / theme based or a value prompt?
  4. Take the basic idea/message from the prompt and break it down
  5. What are the authors trying to demonstrate about the subject matter?
  6. If the prompt has quotes, work out who said them and in what context and the quotes plus explanations must be included in one or other of the body paragraphs
  7. Look for similarities and differences in the messages of the texts
  8. You need at least 6 quotes to cover ideas in the prompt as your evidence (3 per text per body paragraph) that must be embedded into sentences and not great slabs of quotes by themselves without explanation

Using Comparative Texts Pair Example = 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory

Prompt: ‘Compare what 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory say about injustice’

Comparative Text Essay Structure

  1. Introduction = Main Contention & Message of Author/Director
  2. Body Paragraph 1 = Cause/Accept Prompt / Topic Sentence / Text 1 Evidence & Explanations / Transitional Sentence from Text 1 to Text 2 / Text 2 Evidence & Explanations / Link back to topic
  3. Body Paragraph 2 = Response/Develop Prompt Further / Topic Sentence / Text 1 Evidence & Explanations / Transitional Sentence from Text 1 to Text 2 / Text 2 Evidence & Explanations / Link back to topic
  4. Body Paragraph 3 = Consequences / Topic Sentence / Text 1 Evidence & Explanations / Transitional Sentence from Text 1 to Text 2 / Text 2 Evidence & Explanations / Link back to topic
  5. Conclusion = Sum up briefly / Message of Author/Director

What is the Context for injustice?

In both texts the notion of racial superiority, whereby skin colour correlates with intellectual and moral capacity, is a form of justification for both slavery in the American Deep South and the marginalisation of Indigenous Australians in Australia.

What are the Authors Value Statements about injustice?

Both authors demonstrate that injustice is detrimental and its effects are long lasting even generational.  They promulgate the idea that entrenched racism is not merely physically harmful but emotionally devastating as well.

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Ransom by David Malouf

Brief Synopsis of Ransom by David Malouf 


This Resource is for students studying Mainstream English in the Victorian Curriculum with Ransom as a single text. OR students in Year 12 studying the comparative texts of Ransom with The Queen. Year 12 students can use these notes as background information to understand the narrative written by David Malouf.

Ransom by David Malouf is derived from the final section of Homer’s The Iliad

Drawn from a section of the Ancient Greek poet Homer’s The Iliad, David Malouf’s poignant novel Ransom explores the themes of revenge, redemption and fate during the Trojan War.  The common theme of all Greek mythology concerns powerful gods, heroes, mythological creatures and humans. These myths have had major influences in art and culture, and even during modern society today with its teaching of our beginnings, history, morals and lessons for our daily lives.  While The Iliad is heavily focused on the gods and the battles fought amongst the people, Ransom explores a new avenue of human relationships through two main characters: Achilles, the greatest warrior and hero of the Trojan War and Priam, the elderly king of Troy who has lost his son in battle.

The Historical Action of Ransom

David Malouf structured the characters and events of Ransom during the 9th year of the legendary Trojan War in The Iliad (around 1100 BCE).  Where as-yet untold stories might emerge, Malouf created an inner life for his main characters Achilles and Priam that are not told in the Iliad.  The novel plays out over one full day and the following morning, although Malouf has allowed his characters flash-backs and flash-forwards that weave significant events into the narrative.  Ransom commences on the 12th day after the death of the Trojan hero Hector, son of Priam King of Troy who is slain by the famed Greek warrior Achilles in revenge for the death of his loved step-brother Patroclus.

The Human Action of Ransom

In Ransom both Priam and Achilles must face and overcome dilemmas.  Each questions the role he has been playing.  The narrative allows the characters to liberate themselves from a crisis of personal values and a loss of self-esteem, something quite different from the view of human action in The Iliad.   Malouf presents his main characters with moral and imaginative courage in choosing to act beyond the bounds of their normal roles.  Both Priam and Achilles come to a new understanding of what it means to be human.  Priam, dressed simply and with no weapons or crown, pleads with Achilles to release Hector’s body.  He appeals to his humanity and in doing so raises the question of what it means to be ‘human’.  Are the characters ruled by animal instincts, by the influence of the gods or by human reason and feeling?  A blend of all these facets suggests the permeable, open nature of human beings in the novel.

The Importance of Family Affection and Father-Son Relationships

Priam reminds Achilles of the importance of family affection and the closeness of father-son loyalty.  They are both fathers and sons before anything else.  They are also mortals where death is always present.  Priam begs Achilles “… as a father, and as one poor mortal to another – to accept the ransom I bring and give me back the body of my son” (p.182).  Priam wants Achilles to act as both their “… fathers and forefathers have done through all the ages” to show that they are in effect “men, children of the gods and not ravening beasts” (p.183).

Pity and Compassion

Even in the long, harsh war between the Trojans and Greeks, enduring human values emerge.  Malouf has allowed his main characters to express compassion and pity that we see goes beyond social class and political beliefs.  Priam pleads with Achilles as one human to another, since they all die in the end, he argues they should feel each other’s sorrows now and be compassionate.  He asks Achilles to think of his son Neoptolemus, and his father Peleus “Would you not do for him what I am doing here for Hector?  Would your father Peleus, not do the same for you?” (p.184).  Achilles’ personality is influenced by its origins.  We see this in flashbacks in the novel of Achilles expressing his love for his son and his father.  Priam has made Achilles contemplate Hector’s body and his own death with fresh respect.  In pitying Priam as a father, Achilles is reminded of his own son Neoptolemus and changes his view of Hector.  Achilles allows Priam to take the body of Hector in exchange for the ransom of gold in the wagon.  In a key moment between the warrior Achilles and the king Priam, their physical gesture of reconciliation is shown “Quietly, as they ate together, he and Achilles had discovered a kind of intimacy; wary at first, though also respectful” (p.198).

Taking a Chance – Choosing Action

The concept that humans have free will to act and should take opportunities as they come was foreign to the ancient Greeks, who believed that human life is governed by larger powers such as greater destiny or supernatural beings.  Malouf’s narrative allows each of these approaches to work in the story.  We see some of the characters decide to risk action and take a chance, yet they still accept the workings of fate and the interferences of the gods.  The novel invites the reader to ask questions about our own beliefs.  Should we believe in fate or chance?  How should a person decide?

Priam acts in an unexpected way to achieve a positive goal when he decides to follow chance rather than passive customs.  In doing so he must oppose those close to him who expect the king to always be predictable to “… follow convention, slip his arms into the sleeves of an empty garment and stand still”.  Instead Priam steps “… into a space that till now was uninhabited and found a way to fill it” (p.208-209).  He feels “bold” and “defiant” rather than passive and dismissive “sure of his decision” (p.49) to retrieve the body of his dead son Hector from the camp of his enemy Achilles.

Achilles’ reputation, well known throughout the territory, was capitalised by Patroclus to frighten the Trojans and inspire the Greeks to fight on.  Despite the years spent earning this reputation, this would not be what Achilles would be remembered for.  Malouf shows us the raw emotional side of Achilles with his grief for the death of Patroclus.  In fact by dragging the dead body of Hector each morning behind his chariot, Achilles “… breaks daily every rule [his men] … have been taught to live by.  Their only explanation is that he is mad” (p.29).  Achilles tells himself his “half-blind rage” is for Patroclus “But it is never enough.  That is what he feels.  That is what torments him” (p.33-34).  Releasing Hector’s body to Priam is his greatest challenge and act in the novel.  It is Achilles acceptance of his role as a hero-warrior that brings him peace in Part IV.

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Reputation as a Theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible

‘Reputation’ as a Theme in The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.  One of the most important themes in The Crucible is reputation.

In a theocratic society like Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same, reputation plays such an important role.  Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem much fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names.  Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations.  The protagonist John Proctor’s desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement.

Quote of John Proctor in Act IV:

Because it is my name!  Because I cannot have another in my life!  Because I lie and sign myself to lies!  Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name?  I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”

Explanation of Quote:

Proctor utters these lines at the end of the play, in Act IV, when he is wrestling with his conscience over whether to confess to witchcraft and thereby save himself from the gallows.  The judges and Hale have almost convinced him to do so, but the last stumbling block is his signature on the confession, which he cannot bring himself to give. In part, this unwillingness reflects his desire not to dis-honour his fellow prisoners: he would not be able to live with himself knowing that other innocents died while he quaked at death’s door and fled.

More importantly, it illustrates his obsession with his good name.  Early in the play, Proctor’s desire to preserve his good name keeps him from testifying against Abigail. Now, however, he has come to a true understanding of what a good reputation means and what course of action it necessitates—namely, that he tell the truth, not lie to save himself. “I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” he rages; this defense of his name enables him to muster the courage to die, heroically, with his goodness intact.

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