Legacy and Message of Author Christine Piper in ‘After Darkness’

For Year 12 Mainstream English Students studying the VCE Curriculum ‘After Darkness’ by Christine Piper, these resources are useful as revision of ‘Legacy and Message of Author’ which is critical for you to include in analytical essays.

After Darkness by Christine Piper.

‘Historical Amnesia’

The two nations that figure in Piper’s novel, Japan and Australia, were enemies in WWII, yet the ‘war’ is merely a backdrop to the narrative’s ideas.  Piper interrogates two cases of ‘historical amnesia’.  In Japan, a national reluctance to acknowledge and investigate the cruel testing on live humans of biological weapons by its Army Medical College in China in the 1930’s.  In Australia, a silence about internment of ‘enemy aliens’.


When dark things have been done in the name of any nation, there is a national decision or choice to be made, either to acknowledge the wrong and reconcile with the victims, a form of atonement or contrition [remorse] that is likely to ‘release’ perpetrators from their sense of guilt.  Or to keep silent and pretend that the immoral or unethical actions did not happen.  In Germany after WWII there were the Nuremberg trials and a long process of acknowledging the nation’s dark history.  However, in Japan there were no such trials, and authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge atrocities.  The contradiction between Japanese memory of wartime past is a struggle between forgetting and remembrance, tradition and progression.  

National Identity, memory, forgetting merge with individual identity and belonging

The novel questions national identity, memory and forgetting that merge with questions about individual identity and belonging.  Piper suggests that this conflicted Japanese war memory is personified in Dr Ibaraki, whose psychological struggle with his conscience, his sense of duty and his memories about his time at the Laboratory in Tokyo echoes Japan’s wider struggle to reconcile its three wartime identities of atomic bomb victim, protector of Asia and cruel aggressor.

National pride and national self-respect

The larger idea here is that there is a difference between national pride and national self-respect.  A self-respecting nation can acknowledge cruelty and violence perpetrated in its name, whereas an overdeveloped sense of national identity, national pride taken to extremes of insensitivity, indifference and sometimes contempt for the rights of the people of other states and nations, can generate, intensify and prolong deadly conflict.

Coercive notions of conformity, discretion & secrecy

Piper shows how coercive notions of conformity, discretion and secrecy can intensify and prolong conflict and cruelty, and how these can lead to shame and guilt for the perpetrators and rebellion or depression for the victims.  Piper explores, how the bones of Shinjuku are still silent, waiting to reveal their truth.  By not investigating the bones by Japanese authorities, is a failure to confront the truth about Japanese history, a denial of the past, a pretence, whereas investigating the bones is an act of coming to terms with the nation’s past, and an act of contrition and honesty.

Conflict of culture between personal feelings and public façade

Piper outlines in her novel the conflict between personal feelings (hone) and public façade (tatemae) which can lead to people being so restrained, reserved and discreet, that they do not have the courage and personal agency to speak up against corrupt superiors, nor to reconcile and forgive.  We see this contrast between the Japanese character of Dr Ibaraki who is exhorted [urged] by his superiors in Tokyo to be discreet and to take the secret of the Laboratory “to the grave” so he keeps his inner feelings to himself throughout his time and aims not to bring shame upon his family.  But the character of Johnny Chang, a half-caste Australian/Japanese, is a personable character ready to stand up for himself and his mates, with an assertiveness like rebellion, but he is honest and openly challenges the power, corruption and cruelty he sees in wartime Australia and at Loveday.

Piper’s play of light and darkness & the title

Piper’s descriptions of the light and darkness of Australian landscapes convey to the reader her ideas about the moral dilemmas that challenge both nation and individual.  Australia’s silence about incarcerating people can be seen in the dead trees “I glimpsed the contours of a wide river, its surface glittering white.  Dead trees haunted its edges, their limbs stretching skywards, as if begging for forgiveness (p.3).  She also describes the threat of Japan’s moral compromise in “a thick bank of clouds” as an overcast day throws “sombre light on … Kimura’s face” (p.120). 

The novel’s title seems to pose the question: What comes after the darkness?  Piper implies that the light of truth, honesty, openness, reconciliation and forgiveness comes after the darkness.  That to journey from one to the other, we must remember rather than forget, and share ourselves with others rather than withhold ourselves in secrecy or silence.

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‘After Darkness’ by Christine Piper a Brief Synopsis

Image result for after darkness by christine piper book cover

This Resource is ‘A Brief Synopsis’ only for Mainstream English Year 12 Students studying After Darkness by Christine Piper AOS1 Unit 3 Analytical Study in the VCE Victorian Curriculum.

Read my other Post on ‘Legacy and Message of Author’ as the two Posts link up.

Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness deals with suppressed fragments of the past and silenced memories.  The protagonist, Dr Ibaraki attempts to move forward with life whilst also trying to hide past confrontations as well as any remnants of his past wrongdoings and memories.  The novel chronicles 2 journeys – the first is Ibaraki’s physical journey from Japan to Broome, to South Australia and back to Japan.  In the process, the young doctor undertakes a second, more private journey towards a greater understanding of self.  What begins as escape from his past ends as an opportunity to redeem it.

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Piper’s Message of Author is clear here – Ibaraki learns the notions of duty that have been inculcated [taught] from boyhood are less important than values such as empathy, forgiveness and the courage to speak out in the face of blatant immorality.  The relationships Ibaraki forms during his exile, particularly at Loveday, are critical to this metamorphosis [transformation].  Therefore, the novel is a story of personal growth that charts the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist.

The text consists of three intertwined narrative strands

  1. Ibaraki’s past in Tokyo in 1934
  2. His arrival in Broome in 1938 to work in a hospital there, and
  3. His arrival in a detainment camp in Loveday (South Australia) in 1942 after the outbreak of WW2.

The final chapter Tokyo 1989 concludes Ibaraki’s story, moving into the present tense to describe his life as an elderly man living in Tokyo.  Now in his 80’s he has to face the guilt of his past by writing a letter to the media which resolves the conflict between his conscience and the cultural values that have silenced his voice for so many years.  In a way everything in Ibaraki’s life has been leading to this moment.

Structure – Importance of Place

By moving between the 3 settings Piper emphasises the importance of place.  Each setting plays a critical role in Ibaraki’s emotional journey.  The chapters set in these different times and places are linked in that ideas or patterns of behaviour explored in one chapter, feed into the next.  Within each setting, events move inexorably [inevitably] towards a climax that marks an important turning point in Ibaraki’s life.  This structure enables the protagonist to look back on events with the hindsight imposed by time and distance, allowing Ibaraki to evaluate his choices and learn from past mistakes.

Historical Context of the Text

Piper draws on real events that occurred in Japan and Australia before and during WW2.  The most infamous part of the historical context is Unit 731, a covert [secret] medical research branch of the Imperial Japanese Army.  The young Dr Ibaraki is caught up in this research, where victims from Manchuria were injected with bubonic plague, typhoid, anthrax, cholera and other deadly pathogens, vivisections were conducted, without anaesthetic, to determine the progress of the diseases.  For many years the Japanese Government suppressed the truth of these horrific crimes.  It was not until 1989 that mass graves of bones were discovered in Shinjuku district of Tokyo.  Local residents fought official attempts to shut down investigations but gradually the facts about the horror started to emerge.

Language Devices

Piper writes in expressive, controlled prose and uses imagery, simile, metaphor, personification, foreshadowing that not only establish context but also delineate Ibaraki’s relationship to the landscape.  Often the imagery reflects his emotional state either directly or subliminally [subconsciously].

Language Devices Examples

Page Language Quote Explanation
1 Sense of place & colour imagery of landscape “The sun spread on the horizon, bleeding colour like a broken yolk” Ibaraki abandons his customary restraint to describe what he sees around him evokes a strong sense of place
46 Colour imagery of landscape “A pink spur of land crested with green rose out of the milky blue water” At first sight of Broome Ibaraki is struck by the unexpected colours
46 Colour imagery of landscape “a curve of rich red sand that bled into the azure sea” Broome is a strange clash of colours nothing like Ibaraki had ever seen in Japan
125 Colour imagery & nature “…the birds of paradise …spear shaped orange and blue petals perfectly encapsulate Broome’s hostile beauty” Juxtaposing the open beak of a bird represented by the bird of paradise plant is both hostile and beautiful
3 Landscape imagery that delineates Ibaraki’s emotional state “…. Haunted its edges, their limbs stretching skywards, as if begging for forgiveness” Travelling to Loveday by train Ibaraki passes a river flanked by dead trees the image hints at the guilt that haunts Ibaraki
198 foreshadowing “snow was falling as I walked home from the station – the first snow of the season” Foreshadowing the storm about to come in his life
174 foreshadowing “the rust coloured arc made me think of the transience of life.  And how with just one ill wind, everything could change” Foreshadowing trauma to come the fine red desert dirt is a reminder of life transience that everything can change & imminent crisis
13 Simile & Landscape imagery that delineates Ibaraki’s emotional state “… like blistered skin” Beside the camp Ibaraki sees a row of red gums with bark peeling from their trunks reminds him of the corrupted flesh of the victims in Unit 731 from Ibaraki’s past
204 Imagery of light and darkness Plunged into “darkness” Images of light and darkness are woven through the text, juxtaposing Ibaraki’s experiences in Tokyo with those in Australia.  After his marriage fails, he is plunged into darkness
45 Imagery of darkness that delineates Ibaraki’s emotional state “I was glad for the pocket of darkness that hid my tears” Ibaraki does not share the nationalistic fervour of the other Japanese when Broome is bombed instead, he mourns the destruction of the town and concern for former friends left behind
274 Imagery of light and darkness Broome is a “vivid wash of light” Comparing to the darkness he felt in Japan, Broome is a bright light, suggesting that things have become clearer during his time in Australia
Title metaphor “After Darkness” Darkness in the title acts as a metaphor for WW2 and the horror that affects nations and individuals alike.

The darkness also suggests the moral darkness that implicated Japan of committing war crimes on innocent people in Unit 731 representing the depths of depravity they reached.

After the darkness of war, the Japanese nation and individuals involved must make peace with themselves by coming to terms with their past.

Ibaraki writing a letter to the press exposes the darkness of Unit 731 to the light.  Moral doubt and secrecy are replaced by moral clarity.

In Piper’s novel issues associated with Identity / Culture / Place underpin dilemmas about Truth / Lies / Secrecy / Openness / Honesty / Discretion / Guilt / Failure / Forgiveness & Renewal

Race & Identity, Racism vs Nationalism

The fraught relationship between race & identity is seen at individual & national levels.  Physical hatred, fear and paranoia of the Japanese interned in Australia is a clear result of the war.  Other differences are characters who do not fit one race or the other as half castes.  The fenced off divide in the camp between the Japanese, Italians & Germans highlights segregation.


Characters are motivated by a sense of duty, beliefs & misconceptions about what this entails provide the moral tension at the heart of the novel.  Ibaraki grew up with the weight of family expectations on him to be a doctor.

During his time at the lab he faces a conflict between his conscience and sense of duty that has been underlined all his life.  Saving face and not bringing dishonour and shame on oneself or family is the dilemma Ibaraki faces regarding the work in Unit 731.  But his greatest betrayal is to himself, not speaking out against the evil.


The overarching context of war determines the destinies of many of the characters in the text, exerting a crucial influence on the ways in which personal stories are played out.  Ibaraki understands many of his choices have been driven by fear and his notions of duty and honour over conscience or love and as a result all his personal relationships have suffered as a result.


The text highlights the effect of men who find themselves classified as enemy aliens.  The text also explores the idea of displacement when Ibaraki loses his job and marriage, he also loses his sense of belonging.

Guilt & Atonement

Working at the research unit in Tokyo Ibaraki naively thinks he is working to develop vaccines for good purposes but the opposite is the reality.  This horrific past remains a wound that is impossible to forget.  By exposing the truth in the 1980’s he redeems himself.

Silence, Keeping Secrets & Loneliness

The theme of silence is prevalent in the novel.  Kimura threatens Ibaraki never to talk about the work in the lab.  He hides secrets all through his life leaving him lonely.  Piper stresses that opening up to people you care about is the way to maintain healthy relationships with mutual trust.

Past vs Present – concept of time

The dichotomy of past and present is encapsulated through the passing of time in the text mirrored with the three narrative strands and transformations in the environment as well as characters.  Piper alludes to the fact that the present is impacted by the past.


Piper exults the power of friendships formulated in life makes undergoing bad circumstances much better.  Friends understand one another on an emotional level and provide support needed.

Personal Conscience, Regret & Shame

Personal conscience is a prominent theme that humanises the regrets and mistakes one can make in their life.  Ibaraki pushes people away in order to realise that it makes the feeling of guilt and pain return.  Piper considers the necessity to speak your mind when a problem arises as the detriments that could occur afterwards can cause guilt and shame to last a lifetime.


Piper postulates that hope can be a significant guiding force for an individual when they encounter difficult circumstances in life.  Some characters enable Ibaraki to be a better person such as Johnny and Stan and they give the support he needs to overcome obstacles in life.

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Suspense in the film ‘Rear Window’ Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

 Image result for rear window imagesFor Mainstream English Year 12 students studying the film Rear Window Directed by Alfred Hitchcock for AOS1: Unit 3, Reading and Creating Texts, Analytical Response Outcome.  See below some of the suspense scenes along with film techniques to help when you write your Analytical Response Essays.

The question is “How does Hitchcock create suspense in the film Rear Window?”

Thorwald’s suspicious actions / limited information / close up / camera dissolves into black

Chapter 7 – Jeff wakes to the sound of thunder and rain / early hours of morning

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Jeff watches Thorwald leave in the rain with a suitcase / close up of his watch reveals it is 1.55 am / its early hours of the morning / Thorwald leaves the lights on inside his apartment but the blinds remain down / Thorwald walks down the street, the darkness of the alley he enters raises the sense of suspense / we want to know why Thorwald is acting suspicious / Hitchcock has purposely limited our information by confining our point of view to that of Jeff / Hitchcock has drawn us into to participating through intellectual participation / This builds the suspense and engages us more in the film and particularly what Thorwald is doing / Later a close up of Jeff’s watch tells us it is 2.35 am when Thorwald returns with his case / Thorwald goes out again and returns as the buildings dissolve into black / Jeff struggles to stay awake and finally he is asleep / The audience but not Jeff sees Thorwald leave carrying a suitcase leading a woman who is dressed in a black hat and coat leave the apartment

Lisa searching for clues in Thorwald’s apartment / parallel editing / cross-cutting / cinematography / sound / close-ups / point of view shot

Chapter 15 – Lisa’s risk to prove herself to Jeff / Miss Lonelyhearts attempted suicide / Thorwald’s impending threat

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Lisa has climbed up the fire escape onto a balcony and into Thorwald’s apartment via a window / She is rummaging through Thorwald’s apartment trying to search for clues / In this scene we have two views from Jeff’s point of view / One of these is Lisa searching the apartment and another of the hallway leading to Thorwald’s apartment / Thorwald had previously left the apartment after Jeff making a fake phone call to Thorwald telling him to meet him in a restaurant / Lisa finds Mrs Thorwald’s wedding ring / As we see this, we also see Thorwald coming up the hallway towards his apartment and we know that neither one knows the other is on the opposite side of the door / This captures the perfect parallel editing while building up suspense / We are helpless as an audience to helping Lisa / Jeff is watching in panic / Cross-cutting between Lisa’s search and Jeff’s agitated response heightens the suspense /

The drama also unfolds in Miss Lonelyhearts apartment as she writes her suicide note / cinematography shows both floors at the same time / Sound of music from the songwriter’s ‘Lisa’ ballad stops both Lisa momentarily from impending danger from Thorwald and Miss Lonelyhearts is distracted /

Thorwald then attacks Lisa / close up of Jeff’s anguished face as he watches helplessly / Lisa shows Jeff the ring behind her back / Thorwald realises he is being watched / Chilling point of view shot he looks directly at Jeff / Jeff tells Stella to “turn out the lights” in the apartment / The audience is warned of the threat Thorwald poses

Jeff waiting for Thorwald to enter his apartment / cross cutting /cinematography / close ups / high angle shot / sounds of footsteps & struggle

Chapter 16 – climax of the film

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Jeff does not know what Thorwald is doing and then suddenly Jeff’s phone rings / Jeff answers the phone and there is no sound on the end / the absence of sound builds up even more suspense / camera zooms into close up of Jeff’s face, eyes darting with horror / high angle shot as Jeff twists his face, before pivoting to face the door, highlights his vulnerability / Jeff is waiting helpless and immobile in his apartment / The camera cross cuts back and forth between Thorwald who is slowly getting closer to Jeff while Jeff is waiting as suspense builds / Jeff hears loud footsteps on the stairs, seconds later, the light under the door goes out / Jeff is fully a participant in the drama rather just a spectator /

Thorwald enters the dark apartment and asks Jeff “What do you want from me?” / the camera pans back and forward from Thorwald to Jeff as Thorwald continues to demand what Jeff wants & asking for Jeff to “get the ring back” / Jeff explains he can’t because “the Police have it by now” / Thorwald knocks over a chair and tries to lunge at Jeff and is temporarily blinded by exploding flash bulbs / The white light followed by a dull red circle expands the fill the frame / Thorwald’s final lunge at Jeff is filmed from below emphasising the mortal threat he presents to the defenceless Jeff / Jeff looks over at the window and yells to Lisa and Doyle to attract their attention to his predicament / sounds of struggle with Thorwald trying to strangle Jeff /

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As Jeff hangs from the balcony conveys the urgency of the situation / Camera cuts from Jeff struggling with Thorwald to shocked response of neighbours who come out of their apartments to see what’s going on / Police rush to the rescue as Doyle, Lisa and Stella run down to the courtyard / The Police grab Thorwald off Jeff / Jeff’s fall from the balcony is filmed with a high angle shot / Jeff hits the ground but he smiles with pride at Lisa protectively cradles his head in her lap / Jeff says to Lisa “Gee I’m proud of you” foreshadowing the start of a new chapter for them

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Gender Roles Love & Marriage in the film ‘Rear Window’

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This Resource is for Mainstream English Year 12 students studying the film Rear Window Directed by Alfred Hitchcock for AOS1: Unit 3, Reading and Creating Texts, Analytical Response Outcome.

Gender Roles, Love & Marriage are important themes that Director Alfred Hitchcock critiques in the film Rear Window.  These ideas should be included in essays as evidence of Hitchcock’s views of 1950’s American society.

Gender Roles in the 1950’s

Rear Window reflects the gender stereotypes of the 1950’s in a sexist era before the feminist movement made its mark; both men and women are constrained by cultural expectations and mores [customs & traditions] that were conservative.

Jeff’s own views on women are blinkered and he typecasts many of the women he observes: Miss Torso is viewed as a sexy single blonde / Miss Lonelyhearts as a middle aged spinster / Anna Thorward as a nagging wife.

Women are valued for their beauty and physical attributes rather than their skills or intelligence.  When Lisa asks how far a woman must go in order to retain a man’s interest, Jeff responds “Well, if she’s pretty enough, she doesn’t have to go anywhere.  She just has to ‘be’”.

A beautiful woman like Lisa has to continually fight the perception that her function is essentially decorative and that her value lies in the way she looks, rather than what she thinks, says or does.  In this society women are objectified, viewed primarily through the lens of men’s sexual desire.

Gender Divide in Work Men & Women Do

The gender divide is exemplified by the contrasting work that men and women do which reflects a traditional gender bias.  Men join the Army or Police; women become nurses or work in fashion.  Jeff underrates Lisa’s job in fashion because his work expects an adrenaline rush every time he goes on a new assignment, while working on a fashion magazine as a model and columnist seems mere dabbling in the workforce.  The magazine represents the established dichotomy [contrast] between the active masculine role and the more passive feminine role.  Jeff’s publication company works for world of news while Lisa’s fashion magazine covers models and submissive women.

Jeff and Lisa’s Gender Dynamics

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Hitchcock has the ability to control our “gaze” of Lisa and the attitude he would like us to have towards her.  It is apparent through Hitchcock’s Rear Window that he alludes to varying gender norms.  Once Jeff is in his wheel chair after the accident, his life remained stable and unchanging in terms of scenery.  However, Lisa took on the ability to walk in and out of the apartment as she pleased.  This perhaps put a spin on their original relationship when Jeff frequently travelled on various adventures in order to pursue his career as a famous photographer while Lisa remained in her job in New York City.  As Lisa tries to convey to Jeff that she can be the jet-setting girl he wants her to be, he frequently denies her that right to even try.  He constantly pushes Lisa away and is hesitant to continue their relationship onward.  He also pushes her away while he gazes at the window at his various neighbours because she is seen as a distraction.

It is only until Lisa becomes part of that scene and wears the wedding band of the murderer’s wife, that Jeff will accept Lisa as she is and fully accepts that they may soon one day get married.  The ring on her finger would symbolically represent Lisa and Jeff’s trust in one another and their changing relationship.  The role switch enables Jeff to trust in Lisa that she will always be there for him and he can bring her along on his adventures.

Another way we can see the gender dynamic is through the wardrobe of these two characters.  Jeff is constantly wearing his pyjamas and Lisa is the one frequently changing her clothes.  She transforms from wearing couture into wearing a pants, suggesting that she must change her appearance in order to please him and the lifestyle that he wants to live.  The fact that Lisa works in fashion and cares about her appearance not only shows that she is a woman of class but also one of status and importance.  She graciously tries to provide Jeff which a safer and practical job, the exact opposite of his current one, yet he blatantly denies the offer.  He acts as if a job in what’s perceived to be a “female dominated” is not good enough for him and also is opposed to the idea of a woman providing him with a job and not the other way around.

The Thorwald Case Casts Lisa in a New Role – Gender Role Reversal

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The Thorwald case enables Lisa to successfully transition into Jeff’s domain.  A reversal of gender roles follows.  Confined to a wheelchair, Jeff has the passive role throughout the drama, while Lisa becomes his ‘legs’ and assumes the more active role, breaking into Thorwald’s apartment to look for evidence.

By subverting conventional male and female roles, the movie challenges the gender stereotyping of the prevailing culture.  The lines polarising what men and women can and can’t do have become blurred.  With 2 broken legs, Jeff’s emasculation [deprived of masculinity] is so complete by the end of the film that he is no longer in a position to object to Lisa’s presence in his professional life.

Throughout the film, Lisa never loses her femininity, even when she is climbing into a second floor window from a fire escape; she does it in high heels and a floral dress that billows gracefully over the sill.  However, in the final scene Lisa is dressed casually in a shirt, jeans and loafers.  The message here is that due to her physical activity breaking into Thorwald’s apartment, Jeff sees Lisa differently.  In effect Lisa is literally ‘wearing the pants’ in the relationship.

In the past Jeff underestimated Lisa, misrepresenting her as a one dimensional Park Avenue socialite, but since she helped solve the murder mystery and put herself at risk to do so, Lisa demonstrates that women are more than capable of being both feminine and feminist.  This is a prescient [prophetic & perceptive] message for Hitchcock to send out to his 1950’s audiences, male and female alike.


Image result for  Lisa getting in window in rear window

To an extent it is possible to see the movie as a film about love in terms of its importance to human beings as well as the catastrophic situations which come about when love fails.  It seems that Hitchcock filmed the love scenes like murder scenes and the murder scenes like love scenes.  We see this in the ‘kiss scene’ when Jeff becomes aware of Lisa’s presence when her shadow falls ominously over his face, and for one second the sense of threat reigns.

At the beginning of the movie Jeff has two problems, which are intertwined throughout the film, firstly, he has defined his life by impermanence, independence and disconnection and now he is encased literally and metaphorically so that he is stilled, dependent and reliant on others.  Second in his relationship with Lisa, this seems to reveal him as both neurotic and childishly frightened of commitment.

The other occupants of the apartments can be seen as representing the various roles available to women, and also the possibilities of love and marriage which Hitchcock depicts as inextricably joined.  As Jeff becomes increasing obsessive in his conviction that there has been a murder in the opposite apartment, we look through his eyes into the characters’ personal lives.

It is impossible to avoid the idea that Hitchcock is suggesting that the human need for love and for connectedness to others is essential to our existence.  Jeff even objectifies characters as an indication of his own human inadequacy.  He uses the clichéd title of Miss Lonelyhearts combined with our position looking from the window across the courtyard controls our response to the pathos [sorrow] of her situation.  The film seems to suggest that her life is not worth living without someone to love.

Marriage and Lonely Characters

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If Jeff represents the emasculated post-war American man, Hitchcock’s female characters offer a range of possibilities for females in this era, though not necessarily a range of choices.  Jeff’s sexist and childish fear of marriage is portrayed by Hitchcock’ as a refusal of life.  To a great extent love and marriage go together in this film.  Additionally out of this connection comes the idea that however difficult relationships and thus marriages are to maintain, so that they nourish and succour their members, the alternative is so painful that suicide might be the only choice.

Jeff is cynical about marriage is first revealed in the conversation with his editor Gunnison.  If Lisa regards marriage as a partnership one that involves sharing and companionship, Jeff views it as a trap.  Buried under his resistance is an element of guilt.  He knows that Lisa loves him and a part of him also knows that it is unfair to string her along.  However, using his career as the excuse for avoiding commitment, he would prefer to keep the relationship as it is.  In weighing up his options, Jeff finds that his views on marriage are influenced by what he observes.

The Thorwalds mirror Jeff and Lisa.  There is a superficial resemblance between the two women and each relationship has reached a crisis point.  Mrs Thorwald and Lisa are also linked by their handbags and by the wedding ring.  For Lisa the ring is a symbol of success, of knowledge achieved, and of hope for her own marriage.  However it is also an ironic reminder of the failed marriage and the complete erasure of Mrs Thorwald.

Hitchcock also suggests that the newlyweds are on the way to a marriage like the Thorwalds.  They are consumed by their sexual pleasure but by the end of the film are beginning to bicker.  The film hints that there is more to understand about Miss Torso than Jeff’s reductive label conveys.  The comical entrance of her husband Stanley reminds us that looks are not everything.  Miss Lonelyhearts suffering is very real.  Hitchcock makes it clear that her problem is the lack of love, synonymous with marriage.  She is so lonely that she creates a fantasy dinner party guest, and she needs to drink to give her courage to go out in search of a man.

The composer is another lonely person.  His attempt to compose his song is a thematic connector through the movie.  Hitchcock links his unsatisfactory personal life with his frustrated professional life.  It is his song, finally completed, that saves Miss Lonelyhearts and brings him success.  Hitchcock hints at the possibility of a relationship between Miss Lonelyhearts and the composer with the song giving her a reason to live.  She says “I can’t tell you what this music has meant to me”.  He smiles fondly at her.

The movie ends with domestic justice – Thorwald is sent to jail, Miss Lonelyhearts finds a companion in the composer.  Lisa metaphorically lets her hair down for Jeff by wearing jeans and attempts to read an adventure book.  Both of the surviving women have reached their peak happiness in the prospect of marriage and both are seen in their male partner’s apartment, thus conforming to the man’s life instead of their own.  With the final scene, Hitchcock imprisons the women in their endless quest to please men, with no indication of further ambitions or further capacities.

OR think of an alternative perspective on women (in particular Lisa) that Hitchcock has given viewers to consider.  Why does Lisa put down the book on ‘The High Himalayas’ and picks up ‘Harper’s Bazaar’?  Has she just won the gender race?  Lisa is quite capable of being both feminine and a feminist.  By subverting conventional male and female roles, Hitchcock challenges the gender stereotyping of the prevailing culture and sends a message to his 1950’s audiences ‘not to underestimate women’.

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Themes and Message of Hitchcock for the film ‘Rear Window’

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This resource is for students studying the film ‘Rear Window’ in the Victorian Mainstream English VCE Year 12 Curriculum.

It is important to include Message of Hitchcock as Director in your Analytical Text Response Essays.

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Below are Themes with Message of Director for Revision.

Themes: Voyeurism, Ethics, Morality, Looking, Seeing & The Male Gaze

Message of Director = Hitchcock does argue that voyeurism is in poor taste, but that it is also a natural aspect of the human condition to look and spy on other people.  Hitchcock sends Jeff and the audience a message to choose carefully at what you look at because you might get involved in something more serious than you bargained for. 

Themes: Community, Social Isolation, Loneliness, Alienation, Sights & Sounds

Message of Director = Hitchcock critiques the lack of neighbourly love for each other in the apartment block and the lack of trust which ultimately displays the apathy of the 1950’s society.  Hitchcock demonstrates flaws in communal living between having a sense of community and looking out for one’s neighbours, but straying into voyeuristic territory.

Theme: Gender

Message of Director = Jeff’s perspective and male gaze allows males a measure of control and denies a female perspective in the film.  Hitchcock portrays Lisa as embodying changes in the position of women in 1950’s, wanting the audience to consider women should not be underestimated.

Themes: Love & Marriage

Message of Director = Hitchcock suggests the need for love and for connectedness of others is essential in our existence.  Hitchcock portrays relationships characterised by dissatisfaction and at times violent impulses.  Cynically, Hitchcock suggests marital discontent is inevitable.

Themes: Confinement versus Expansion

Message of Director = Hitchcock demonstrates a society in which people are isolated in their own worlds without taking risks and living a narrow existence.  He is somewhat pessimistic, though not completely hopeless, he challenges audiences to examine habits of their own especially in a world where sensitive information is at our fingertips. 

Themes: Post-war Paranoia & Red Scare & Title Significance

Message of Director = Hitchcock critiques the notion of post-war paranoia by showing how the communist red scare pervaded 50’s society where neighbours spied on neighbours, the atmosphere of betrayal, lack of trust filtered down from HUAC to every part of American society.  Hitchcock’s title ‘Rear Window’ also functions as a metaphor exposing Jeff’s repressed desires and fears but also the idea of a covert agenda, which is Jeff’s ethically murky voyeurism that uncovers a murder.

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‘Montana 1948’ by Larry Watson a Brief Synopsis

This Resource is for Year 11 students studying Mainstream English in the Victorian Curriculum the text ‘Montana 1948’ by Larry Watson as a single text or as a comparative text with the play ‘Twelve Angry Men’ by Reginald Rose

AOS1, Unit 2 – Reading and Comparing Texts

Montana 1948 a novel by Larry Watson is a text that can be studied by Year 11 English students in Area of Study 1, Unit 2 – Reading and Comparing Texts. Students are asked to study 2 texts and produce an analytical response to a pair of texts, comparing their presentation of themes, issues and ideas. Students will be asked to investigate how the reader’s understanding of one text is broadened and deepened when considered in relation to another text. Students also explore how features of texts, including structures, conventions and language convey themes, issues and ideas that reflect and explore the world and human experiences, including historical and social contexts.

Comparative Texts – the Novel Montana 1948 by Larry Watson with the Play Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose

The most obvious difference in studying/comparing these two texts is that Montana 1948 is a novel and Twelve Angry Men is a play. In a novel the plot is the sequence of events in the text where the characters experience:

  • crisis points
  • climax
  • turning points
  • resolution

In a play the acts and scenes are also structured so that the characters are exposed to:

  • rising tension
  • leading to a climax
  • then a resolution

Therefore both forms of text rely on placing credible characters in dramatic situations, often involving conflict, in order to build tension and explore ideas and issues.

Students should pay particular attention to how the authors position their characters in the sequence of events mentioned above and the common thread in the underlying ideas of both texts. Try to choose at least one main specific idea or issue that will allow you to discuss both texts in detail as well as to compare and contrast them. The ideas, issues and themes in a text are what give it wider meaning and relevance. The details of what happens when, where and to whom are all critical, but exist within the world of the text.

Stick to the Themes, Issues and Ideas in the 2 Texts being Studied

A word of warning: stick to the themes, ideas and issues in the 2 texts being studied only. Be discerning using your points of comparison in the analytical text response essay. The context of the text is important but students must work with the ideas represented in the text and the ways authors convey the themes, issues and ideas in these texts. It is not an opportunity to go beyond the ideas in the text or draw into your writing much broader concepts.

What does Theme, Issue and Idea Mean?

  1. Theme = is the umbrella term for a key focal point in the text
  2. Issue = takes an angle of that theme
  3. Idea = presents a point of view on that theme

Texts being studied explore human experience so the themes, issues and ideas then become a vehicle for the human condition in the text and student’s exploration of that. Anchoring the notion of discussion to human experience and what we learn in each text and comparing those texts is important. In order to explore the themes, issues and ideas students might analyse:

  1. the differences between the narrative voice of a text
  2. or point of view
  3. or structural features
  4. or language features
  5. or characterisation
  6. or relationships between characters
  7. or between different protagonists or antagonists
  8. drawing on settings and key events that take place

Comparing Texts

When comparing the themes, issues and ideas in the texts, students need to ask “What is the authorial message coming through in the 2 texts? Look at comparing:

  1. different quotes from each text to look for what words come up in regards to similar themes, issues or ideas
  2. look at character comparisons, different values, reactions characters make and the different choices made
  3. scene analysis – compare a key scene or a series of scenes from one text and the other text
  4. look at tone, imagery and how the author is exploring this
  5. think of how you would link the above comparisons to a key theme and idea
  6. consider what ways this changes the way we see the characters, text, reactions and action of them
  7. How are readers positioned to see the issues in the texts?

In the end of your analysis you need to able to answer the question “How does one text reflect the theme compared to the other text?

Comparing the Central Theme of Achieving Justice in ‘Montana 1948’ and ‘Twelve Angry Men’

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In comparing Montana 1948 and Twelve Angry Men an important theme which leads to a common thread of ideas and values is The Importance of Achieving Justice. The central theme in Montana 1948 is whether to choose justice or family loyalty. The central theme in Twelve Angry Men is the importance of a correct verdict that proves the justice system works. A common link between the two texts is prejudice that makes justice difficult to achieve.

‘Montana 1948’ is Set in a Small Town in Montana after WWII

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The novel Montana 1948 by Larry Watson is set in a small town in north-eastern Montana in the period just after World War II. Watson drew upon his background in North Dakota with his grandfather and father being the sheriff of Rugby, a small town similar to the fictional Bentrock in Montana 1948. Montana is the 41st State of America close to the border of Canada with its countryside barren and windblown and where cattle and sheep outnumber people by 100 to 1. The significance of the setting of Montana in 1948 is that it is not like the Wild West movies where the Indians wear war paint and ride the plains brandishing spears and tomahawks. Montana in 1948 is where dispossessed Indians are marginalised and are forced to live on reservations outside of town. It is where the white community thought the Indians were useless, non-functioning members of society with their culture not acceptable by white westernised ideas and learning. It is where women were oppressed living subordinate roles in an era before women’s rights were recognised. It is where men have the kind of power that leads to corrupt behaviour which is at the core of Montana 1948.

The Structure & Narrator in ‘Montana 1948’

Montana 1948 is a novel which reconstructs the events of one summer in 1948 in chronological order told by an adult narrator, David Hayden, who recounts events from the perspective of himself as a 12 year old boy and an adult. It is a story of a boy on the threshold of adolescence, awakening to maturity and finding that the adult world is complex and not always fair or just.

The novel is divided into 3 parts with a Prologue and Epilogue. The Prologue foreshadows the action and contributes to the building of suspense before the story begins. The Epilogue closes with the adult narrator summarising the aftermath of the summer of 1948. The action is divided into parts which mark the progression of events and end at a crucial point of development in the story:

  1. Part One ends with David aware that his father Wesley knows that Frank his brother is guilty of raping defenceless Indian women
  2. Part Two ends with Wesley’s realisation that now Frank is guilty of murdering Marie Little Soldier
  3. Part Three ends with the 12 year old David’s naive belief that his uncle’s suicide has solved all outstanding problems

Truth and Justice in ‘Montana 1948’

It is in a setting of racial prejudice that the dark coming of age drama is played out. It tells the story of how 12 year old David Hayden’s uncle is accused of the sexual abuse of Indian women and how the family must choose between loyalty and justice. Characters in the novel find themselves torn between finding and accepting the truth that Frank has sexually assaulted and killed the family maid Marie Little Soldier and then doing what is right. The decision by Sheriff Wesley Hayden to arrest his brother and uphold his duty to serve justice is at odds with protecting Frank and the family’s reputation. In fact truth and justice and acting with moral integrity present choices for the characters in Montana 1948. Each one deals with his/her own conscience in making these decisions.

Wesley’s dilemma of which master he should serve, family or the law is where much of the action of the novel revolves around. Should Wesley be loyal to his family versus justice for a minority group? The question readers need to ask is:- Would the town have reacted differently if the case of sexual assault had been against a white woman?

Gail Hayden is the one person in the novel who maintains the moral high-ground throughout. As a woman in 1948, Gail was on the cutting edge of her society because women were an oppressed powerless group at that time with a low status in society. Gail, however, is an intelligent, non-prejudiced, upright moral citizen who is a positive and protective role model for her family. In fact Gail is the only role model for David who does not appear to be racist towards Indians. The novel clearly shows that no white males in David’s world of Wild West Montana who are without racial prejudice.

Gail’s persuasion of Wesley that Marie Little Soldier has been sexually assaulted by Frank is at the heart of the story. She is the moral fibre that holds Wesley together when he begins to waiver and wrestles with his conscience. She is even willing to protect her family and justice when she waves a shotgun at Julian’s men as they come to set Frank free from the basement.

Complex Themes and Ideas in ‘Montana 1948’

Montana 1948 explores many complex themes that are aligned with particular characters. Below is a list of themes and ideas to help you:

the importance of family prejudice family feuds & disagreements growing up / adolescence
abusing power justice / injustice suicide opinions
guilt sexual harassment deceit law and order
loyalty bravery trust responsibility
racism innocence oppression discrimination
truth / lies / secrecy murder favouritism moral integrity

Is Justice Served?

Image result for  justice images

We wonder whether justice is served at the end of the novel with the family feud. Frank committed suicide to save his reputation, however, Wesley and his family are left behind to deal with the reality of Frank’s actions. They are ostracised by the rest of the family, forced to leave their home and Wesley’s job as Sheriff. The real culprit has died and has been buried with all the honour that a hero would command. Justice has not been served and family loyalty has been compromised. There are no winners or losers when these two issues are opposed.

What Does this Novel Say About Society?

Some thought-provoking questions for students to consider when studying Montana 1948 are:-

  1. It is better to keep your mouth shut when you know the truth will hurt?
  2. When do you have to speak out against evil?
  3. Does justice mean jeopardising your family and future?
  4. Does power and influence wash you of your crime?
  5. Should we ignore our moral obligation for a more convenient and easier life?
  6. Is doing ‘the right thing’ the right thing after all?
  7. How much does what other people think matter?
  8. Is it worth it?
  9. Look at history, are people who stand up for what they believe in rewarded for their efforts, or crucified by the crowd?

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‘Twelve Angry Men’ the Play by Reginald Rose: A Brief Synopsis for Year 11 English

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Area of Study 1, Reading & Creating Texts Analytical Response OR Reading and Comparing Texts as a Comparative Text

This Resource is for Mainstream English Year 11 Students studying in the Victorian VCE Curriculum the text Twelve Angry Men a play by Reginald Rose.   NOTE TO STUDENTS: This Resource is based on the play and not the film version of Twelve Angry Men.

In Unit 1, Reading and Creating Texts students will be asked to produce an analytical response to a single text demonstrating a close knowledge with analysis and interpretation that includes the world of the text, its settings, characters, themes and ideas.

OR For Students studying ‘Twelve Angry Men’ with another Text/Film

In Unit 2, Reading & Comparing texts students will be asked to investigate how the reader’s understanding of one text is broadened and deepened when considered in relation to another text. Students also explore how features of texts, including structures, conventions and language convey themes, issues and ideas that reflect and explore the world and human experiences, including historical and social contexts.

The Basics of the Case of Twelve Angry Men:

At the beginning of Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose, the jury has just finished listening to six days of trial proceedings. A 16 year old is on trial for the murder of his father. The defendant has a criminal record (and a lot of circumstantial evidence piled against him). The defendant, if found guilty, would receive a mandatory death penalty.

The jury is sent to a hot, crowded room to deliberate.

Before any formal discussion, they cast a vote. Eleven of the jurors vote “guilty.” Only one juror votes “not guilty.” That juror, who is known in the script as Juror #8 is the protagonist of the play. As the tempers flare and the arguments begin, the audience learns about each member of the jury. Slowly but surely, Juror #8 guides the others toward a verdict of “Not Guilty.”

The relationship between the 3rd and 8th juror is the central one in the play:

The conflict between the 3rd and 8th jurors is based not just on their different opinions of the defendant’s guilt, but also on their different interpersonal styles. The 3rd juror is frustrated by the 8th juror’s slow and patient approach and his willingness to re-examine evidence and his admission that he does not honestly know whether or not the defendant is guilty of the crime. In fact their conflict represents the broader conflict throughout the play. It also is symbolic illustrating the nature of their conflict. It foreshadows how that conflict will ultimately be resolved since the 8th juror will not relinquish his position; the 3rd juror is ultimately forced to step down, changing his vote.

The Characters in the Play:

Instead of organizing the jurors in numeric order, the characters are listed in the order they decide to vote in favour of the defendant.

Juror #8:

He votes “not guilty” during the jury’s first vote. Described as thoughtful and gentle, Juror #8 is usually portrayed as the most heroic member of the jury. He is devoted to justice, and is initially sympathetic toward the 19-year-old defendant. At the beginning of the play, when every other juror has voted guilty he is the only one to vote: “not guilty.” Juror #8 spends the rest of the play urging the others to practice patience, and to contemplate the details of the case. A guilty verdict will result in the electric chair; therefore, Juror #8 wants to discuss the relevance of the witness testimony.

He is convinced that there is reasonable doubt. Eventually he persuades the other jurors to acquit the defendant.

Juror #9:

Described in the stage notes as a “mild, gentle old man, defeated by life and waiting to die.” Despite this bleak description, he is the first to agree with Juror #8, deciding that there is not enough evidence to sentence the young man to death.

Also, during Act One, Juror #9 is the first to openly recognize Juror #10’s racist attitude, stating that, “What this man says is very dangerous.”

Juror #5:

This young man is nervous about expressing his opinion, especially in front of the elder members of the group. He grew up in the slums. He has witnessed knife-fights, an experience that will later help other jurors form an opinion of “not guilty.”

Juror #11:

As a refugee from Europe, Juror #11 has witnessed great injustices. That is why he is intent on administering justice as a jury member. He sometimes feels self-conscious about his foreign accent. He conveys a deep appreciation for democracy and America’s legal system.

Juror #2:

He is the most timid of the group. Juror #2 is easily persuaded by the opinions of others, and cannot explain the roots of his opinions.

Juror #6:

Described as an “honest but dull-witted man”. Juror #6 is a house painter by trade. He is slow to see the good in others, but eventually agrees with Juror #8.

Juror #7:

A slick and sometimes obnoxious salesman, Juror #7 admits during Act One that he would have done anything to miss jury duty. He represents the many real-life individuals who loath the idea of being on a jury.

Juror #12:

He is an arrogant and impatient advertising executive. He is anxious for the trail to be over so that he can get back to his career and his social life.

Juror #1:

Non-confrontational, Juror #1 serves as the foreman of the jury. He is serious about his authoritative role, and wants to be as fair as possible.

Juror #10:

The most abhorrent member of the group, Juror #10 is openly bitter and prejudice. During Act Three he unleashes his bigotry to the others in a speech that disturbs the rest of the jury. Most of the jurors, disgusted by #10’s racism, turn their backs on him.

Juror #4:

A logical, well-spoken stock-broker, Juror #4 urges fellow jurors to avoid emotional arguments and engage in rational discussion. He does not change his vote until a witness’s testimony is discredited (due to the witness’s apparently poor vision).

Juror #3:

In many ways, he is the antagonist to the constantly calm Juror #8. Juror #3 is immediately vocal about the supposed simplicity of the case, and the obvious guilt of the defendant. He is quick to lose his temper, and often infuriated when Juror #8 and other members disagree with his opinions. He believes that the defendant is absolutely guilty, until the very end of the play. During Act Three, Juror #3’s emotional baggage is revealed. His poor relationship with his own son may have biased his views. Only when he comes to terms with this can he finally vote “not guilty.”

Reginald Rose’s drama, Twelve Angry Men ends with the jury agreeing that there is enough reasonable doubt to warrant an acquittal. The defendant is deemed “not guilty” by a jury of his peers. However, the playwright never reveals the truth behind the case. Did they save an innocent man from the electric chair? Did a guilty man go free? The audience is left to decide for themselves.

The Triumph and Fragility of Justice in Twelve Angry Men

The play is, in one sense, a celebration of justice, showing the workings of the American judicial system in a favourable light. Although initially the jury is inclined to wrongly convict a man without any discussion of the case, the persistence of Juror Eight ensures that the right verdict is reached in the end.

The play is also a warning about the fragility of justice and the forces of complacency, prejudice, and lack of civic responsibility that would undermine it. Several jurors show that they are virtually incapable of considering the matter fairly and listening to opposing points of view. Juror #7, whose only desire is to get out of the room quickly, is clearly unfit for jury service. Juror #3 insists that there is nothing personal in his negative comments about the defendant and that he is merely sticking to the facts. He denounces the arguments put forward by Juror #8 as emotional appeals. But there is an irony here, since the truth of Juror #3’s position is the opposite of what he claims. He is dominated by his own emotions arising from his bad relationship with his son. Because of this, he cannot look at the case dispassionately. He harbours an unconscious desire to vicariously punish his son by convicting the defendant, who is of similar age. Juror #8, on the other hand, refuses to let emotions interfere in the case. Unlike Juror #3 and Juror #10, the bigot, he brings no personal agenda to the deliberations and is solely interested in ensuring there is no miscarriage of justice.

Whether the play is regarded as a celebration of justice or a warning about how easily justice can be subverted depends on one’s views about the likelihood of a juror similar to Juror #8 being present in every jury.

 Major Themes to Consider in Twelve Angry Men:

  1. Facts
  2. Justice and the justice system
  3. Compassion
  4. Prejudice and stereotypes
  5. Conflict
  6. Human fallibility and memory
  7. Reason and logic versus emotion
  8. Integrity and courage of conviction

There are 2 sides to an Issue:

There are 2 sides to an issue for and against. In 12 Angry Men social justice could be seen as an issue because of the setting of the play in the 1950’s whether all people in society have equal access to justice.

Values in society to consider:

  1. Honesty
  2. Personal responsibility
  3. Equality
  4. Freedom of expression
  5. Compassion
  6. Tolerance
  7. Justice
  8. Loyalty
  9. Trust
  10. Honour

Each author reveals their own values through the characters in the text. Positive values are often associated with characters that hold a positive viewpoint that is more likely what the author thinks. Whereas characters that hold a negative viewpoint are often rejected by the author.

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Exploring the Character of Helen in ‘The Women of Troy’ by Euripides

This Resource is for Year 12 Mainstream English Students studying ‘The Women of Troy’ by Euripides in the VCE Curriculum in Victoria

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What do we know about Helen?

The mythology of Helen places her as a siren, an adulteress; most legends have her leaving Menelaus of her own volition, though some say she was under the power of Aphrodite. Regardless, she is stigmatised in Ancient Greece as a loose woman, unfaithful to her husband, responsible for thousands of deaths during the 10 year Trojan War.

Modern western adaptations, however, treat Helen very differently: she was married young, treated as a prize, and finds true love with Prince Paris of Troy, with whom she escapes her loveless marriage and unhappy life. This latter characterisation certainly colours the lens through which the modern reader views Helen, and draws one of many clear distinctions between how elements of ‘The Women of Troy’ are experienced differently by the primary and secondary audiences.

In the play ‘The Women of Troy’ by Euripides, Helen is hated even by Poseidon; he does not see her as an innocent victim of Paris’s lust and Aphrodite’s interference, instead believing it is ‘quite right’ that she is ‘a prisoner, like the rest’.

Helen’s appearance also plays a role in how she is perceived by other characters

Helen’s appearance also plays a role in how she is perceived by other characters. She is the only female in the play not debased, she is dressed to kill and enters not pleading but complaining at the undignified treatment she received at the hands of Menelaus guards “your guards have dragged me out here in front of the building with such violence and contempt”. Hecuba disdainfully accuses Helen of ‘parad[ing] yourself’ before Menelaus, but if Helen pulls out her hair, scratches her face (as the other women in mourning have done), she has no leverage with Menelaus. Her beauty is her only weapon (and it connects her to Zeus); however, her beauty (and others value of it) also contributes to the stigma of ‘Helen the harlot’.

In mythology Helen is often referred to as belonging to a place or a man, for example, ‘Helen of Sparta’, ‘Helen of Troy’; she is an attraction, not a person. Euripides furthers this notion of Helen as property, e.g. ‘Menelaus’ Helen’, but interestingly, she is never referred to as ‘Paris’s Helen’ by Hecuba or any other Trojans, presumably in an effort to distance Paris from blame for the war. Helen is dehumanised, reduced to quarry by Cassandra: ‘These Greeks … sent a hunting party to track down Helen, to smoke her out’; yet Helen refers to herself as ‘Exported … a saleable asset’.

When women were generally written out of history, Helen of Troy was written in 

As her story passed down the generations it held up a mirror to the prejudices of society and to some of its truths.  Helen in Homer’s The Illiad declares ‘on us has been sent an evil destiny, that we should be a singer’s theme for generations to come’.  How prophetic, Helen might not be real, but she never loses her relevance. 

Is Helen a mere puppet of the men who wanted her?

Helen might be seen as a mere puppet, the victim of the gods and of the men who wanted her. But as Blondell insists, “her complicity is essential to her story.” Helen is abducted, but she is never simply passive. She agrees to go with Paris, although different versions of the story suggest different degrees of willingness. Both Paris and Helen are victims of lust, but are still committing an action and incurring moral responsibility for the deaths that result: “such acts are still acts.” The verbs most commonly used for Helen’s journey are all active: she left, she went, she sailed away.

Helen’s manipulation of Menelaus is helped by his weakness for her

When Menelaus arrives on the shores of Troy he does so unashamedly to claim back the woman that jilted him and seeks selfish revenge, not for the myriad of deaths she has caused by her actions, but to serve his own vain purpose. Menelaus values himself and everyone else is worthless, his revenge is clear “This most glorious of days when I shall finally get my hands on that wife of mine, Helen. Yes, I am the man Menelaus, who for ten years have endured this terrible war”. He has sacked Troy, killed Paris and “made him pay” and is happy that Helen is a prisoner who has been “counted into this temporary prison with the rest of the Trojan women”. He expects to see Helen in ruins, crawling and begging him for mercy when Menelaus commands the guards to “bring her out here, drag her out by the hair, sticky with dead men’s blood”. Instead Helen is composed and as Hecuba warned wearing make-up, well dressed and neatly brushed hair, nothing like a grieving widow or person who has any feelings of remorse. Menelaus is unprepared to see Helen in such a beautiful state and his vulnerability towards her explains his inability to decisively execute her in Troy.

Hecuba warns Menelaus that Helen is not just manipulative but dangerous

Hecuba knows how manipulative Helen is and the power of lust that self-centred Menelaus has such a weakness shows that he can easily succumb to Helen’s beauty. Hecuba warns him “If you mean to kill your wife, Menelaus, you’ll have my support. But don’t see her, don’t risk becoming a slave of your lust again”. As a result of this, the concept of his masculinity is put under scrutiny when Hecuba warns him against behaving “worthy of yourself [himself]…your race and of your family” and proving those that “called you [him] womanish” wrong by executing Helen swiftly and justly; associating mercy with a diluted sense of masculinity. Hecuba knows how Helen puts a spell on men and how dangerous she is “She makes men’s eyes her prisoners, she sacks whole cities, burns houses to the ground with that bewitching smile!” Menelaus says he wants Helen handed over to him “to kill her here on the spot” but shows his weakness when he adds “unless I decide to take her back to our Argive homeland”. His statement shows that he desires to postpone Helen’s death and does not intend to actually carry it out himself. His resolve to kill Helen is also shown to be weakened further when he states that “nothing definite was decided” about her fate.

Helen’s powerful speech to Menelaus blames everyone else but herself

In juxtaposition to the male character of Menelaus, Euripides presents a far more calculating character of his Greek wife Helen with ulterior motives that will continue their manipulation if given the chance. Helen’s refusal to admit defeat and her insistence that she is innocent is compounded as she makes attempts to alleviate the burden of guilt and place some on ‘Hecuba’s evil genius’ and the gods for their games. Helen’s powerful speech to Menelaus is brash and confident, shameless, blames everyone else not herself “To Paris … he destroyed Troy, Priam did, the old King, and he destroyed me too”. Helen claims she was just an asset, blameless “exported, I was, sold off abroad, my exceptional beauty was a saleable asset for Greece”. Helen stands firm saying she wasn’t happy in Troy in “abject slavery” and tried to escape and then shifts blame to the gods and false claims of being raped. The Chorus replies to Helen’s speech calling her arguments “for what they are, fluent, but wicked. She’s a dangerous woman!” Hecuba agrees and wants to expose “this woman’s slanders for the rubbish they are!”

It seems an important message that Euripides was keen to inject is that of the strength of a Greek woman like Helen. Even when she was disempowered after the sacking of Troy, her strength lies in her refusal to admit defeat. Euripides shows her ulterior motive of manipulation is more powerful than just a beautiful legend as told in other mythological retellings. 

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Revision for ‘The Women of Troy’ by Euripides

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This Resource is for Year 12 Mainstream English students studing ‘The Women of Troy’ play by Euripides in the VCE Curriculum in Victoria.

What is the Meaning of Euripides Play?

Many of the themes and issues Euripides presents in ‘The Women of Troy’ are confronting because Euripides means to confront us in every literal understanding of the word.  The audience is forced to recognise and grapple with tremendous philosophical questions: Is this humanity? Is this morality? Is this a just war? He also makes the audience face their own moral inadequacies, as Euripides holds a mirror up to Athens.  Euripides believed that it is women and children who pay the ultimate sacrifice for war; they suffer through it and suffer after it, as society’s most vulnerable, at the hands of the powerful.  The play makes extensive moral arguments against unjust conduct in war by presenting a sympathetic look at the great suffering experienced by the vanquished women of Troy being at the mercy of their brutal Greek victors.  Euripides play is both anti-war and pro-feminist.  By giving power to the Trojan women through his narrative, he renders them as complete, complex people with strong voices, if not influence over their eventual fates.  Even though slaughtering the men of Troy, sacking their city and sending their women away to be slaves was standard military practice at the time, Euripides chastises the Greek victors for their violence, comparing them with the volatile barbarians whom they routinely disparaged [mocked].


The Cost of War               Euripides chose to focus on the aftermath of war and gives the women and children victims of war a voice in his play.  He highlights how the women are treated like chattels divided up between their Greek victors and the atrocities of war on innocent people.  Quote: “This is the crown of my sufferings, my last ordeal: to sail away and leave Troy in flames” (Hecuba).

Duty and Honour             Hecuba and Andromache cling to the ideas of obligation and duty and are honourable women who built reputations in respect of their royal positions in Troy.  Euripides places emphasis on a citizen’s service to family, friends and country which continues long after the death of their menfolkQuote: Hecuba as leader of the women is “a mother bird at her plundered nest”.

Fate                                       It is not until the last remaining lines of the play that Hecuba acknowledges the Trojans have always been fated with ill-luck and pleads with the gods to find another people to exercise their dastardly plans on.  Euripides argues that fortunes are changeable and tragedy indiscriminate.  Quote: “For what purpose have we suffered?  Why call on them [gods] we called before and they did not listen” (Hecuba).

Loss                                       The play is about loss on several levels – loss of a great war, loss of many lives both Trojan and Greek and the continual loss experienced by the survivors of war.  The Trojan women have lost many things in a physical sense and symbolically they have also lost power, position and Troy. Quote: “How must I deal with my grief?” (Hecuba) “What words of yours can release pity to match your pain?” (The Chorus)

Gender                                Menelaus is portrayed in the play as weak and officious while the other male Talthybius is represented as sensitive and decent but torn between his chivalrous inclinations and his duty as a Greek soldier.  In juxtaposition Euripides injects into the play the strength of the women who are disempowered.  He portrays Helen as more than just the beautiful legend, rather he presents her as a more calculating character with ulterior motives.  He presents Hecuba as one who has reasoning and strength of leadership, Andromache has pragmatism and Cassandra has revenge.  Quote: He puts masculinity under the microscope when Hecuba warns Menelaus about Helen and him behaving “worthy of yourself … your race and of your family” (Hecuba)

Social Class                         After Troy is destroyed all the women prisoners are reduced to equality and united in their suffering and loss.  Euripides chose to be realistic in his depiction of the Trojan royalty despite their torment, he comments on their social fall, deterioration of the class system and now they are reduced to mere slaves.  Quote: “Everything is turned upside down: royalty enslaved” (Andromache) “No queen’s bed for me now: I shall lay my shrivelled body to rest on the floor, and wear faded, worn rags to match my skin and mock my royalty” (Hecuba)


The Flaming Torch           By entering the scene carrying a flaming torch, Cassandra is not only heralded as being different from the other women but also a vestibule of foresight.  The torch can be seen as hope to the women ordering them to “raise the torch and fling the flame … flood the walls with holy light” (Cassandra).  Also, the flaming torch can symbolise destruction of Troy at the end of the play “Let those officers appointed to fire the city now bring out their torches and use them well.  Up with the flames” (Talthybius).  The flaming torch can also symbolise the destruction Cassandra will reek on Agamemnon and his family when she sails to Greece as his slave.

The Walls of Troy             Poseidon, God of the Sea exclaims the sorrow he feels as the great city of Troy and its magnificent walls crumble “Troy and its people were my city.  That ring of walls and towers I and Apollo built, squared every tone in it”.  The significance of the high walls of Troy are symbolic of a great city, good people and a great royal line, but also symbolise fallibility of the gods and the things the people of Troy cherished can easily be destroyed and brought down low.  Significantly, the death of Astaynax who is thrown from the walls that should have protected him now are part of his brutal death.  Talthybius says the young prince’s end is nasty “You must climb to the topmost fringe of your father’s towers, where the sentence says you must leave your life behind”.

Hector’s Shield                 The great shield of the Trojan prince Hector “the bravest of the Trojans” holds a special memory to those who loved him the most, his wife Andromache and his mother Hecuba.  The shield first appears when Andromache enters the stage with her son on her lap and the shield by her side along with Hector’s armour.  The saddest mention of the shield is when the body of Astaynax, broken and bloodied is carried atop it, toted by Talthybius and Greek soldiers.  Talthybius carries the boy on the shield to give to Hecuba to bury.  Andromache begged to give the child a proper burial with “this bronze-ribbed shield … which used to protect his father’s body in battle, should serve him instead as a coffin”.  While Hector was protected in many battles from the shield, it was powerless to protect him from his ultimate death and also the death of his son and family.  The shield in this instance also symbolises the dying of the Trojan royal family and the tragedy of the play.

Waves/Ocean                   As they wait shackled at the shore, the Aegean Sea serves as a constant reminder to the Trojan women that their fate is inevitable and soon, they will be parted from each other and will sail to their allotted locations in Greece.  Much like the tempestuous ocean, their future is unpredictable and lonely.  Hecuba has never sailed but considers the waves of the ocean as like fortune, calm or stormy and sailors helpless to do anything but submit to them “The tide has turned at length/Ebb with the tide, drift helpless down/Useless to struggle on/Breasting the storm when Fate prevails” (Hecuba)

Helen’s Clothing              In direct contrast to the haggard appearance of the other Trojan women prisoners, Helen’s rich robes symbolise her difference from them and hint to the audience she will again live on the side of victory with Menelaus.  Her appearance and hair are kept neatly symbolising how she will use her beauty to manipulate Menelaus to forgive her and not behead her as he said he would do.  If Helen had pulled out her hair, scratched her face (as other women in mourning have done), she would have no leverage with Menelaus.  Her beauty is her weapon.  Hecuba exposes Helen’s superficiality and greed believing her dress and grooming shows “loathsome impudence” and that Helen feels no guilt for her past crimes.

All Resources created by englishtutorlessons.com.au Online Tutoring using Zoom for Years 11 and 12 VCE Mainstream English Students in the Victorian Curriculum


This resource material is for VCE Year 12 Mainstream English Students studying in Victoria


What is expected of students for the Written English Exam on Wednesday 27th October 2021

The Mainstream English Exam is set down for Wednesday 27th October 2021

  • Reading Time                        9.00 am to 9.15 am (15 minutes)
  • Writing Time                         9.15 am to 12.15 pm (3 hours)
  • Contribution score to English = 50%

Exam Time Allocation

  • Section A 60 minutes = 3 minutes to plan & 57 minutes writing time
  • Section B 60 minutes = 3 minutes to plan & 57 minutes writing time
  • Section C 60 minutes = (10 minutes from reading time) plus 60 minutes writing time

I suggest you wear a watch so you can look at your wrist and not get distracted looking up to the clock on the wall to keep to your allocated time for each section of the exam.

Suggestion as to Exam Order

During the 15 minutes reading time:

Go to Section A and look at the 2 prompts.  Pick one that you are either familiar with the topic or you feel comfortable you can answer the prompt and in a brief 2 minutes plan what you will write for the essay in your head.

Go next to Section B and look at the 2 prompts.  Pick one that you are either familiar with the topic or you feel comfortable you can answer the prompt and in a brief 2 minutes plan what you will write for the essay in your head.

Now go to Section C and read the ‘Background Box’ on the first page and then read the articles for a first reading.  Next reading look at where the Main Contention is and the arguments and language around the arguments.  Pay attention to the author and the title, tone and if it changes, look at the type of language and persuasive techniques and how they are used by the author to position readers.  If there are visuals look at where they are placed in the article and what argument are they next to.  Establish the main contention of the visual and how it aligns with the author’s article.

When the 15 minutes reading time is up and you can ‘pick up your pens’:

Go to Section A and pick that prompt you decided on – take 3 minutes to write a brief plan (which you had thought of in your head in the reading time and now you can write the plan properly) that includes your 3 ideas from the prompt – at least at this stage the plan will still be in your head and will definitely help when you get to Section A to write the full essay – don’t write anything else or waste too much time at this stage on Section A

Go to Section B and pick that prompt you decided on – take 3 minutes to write a brief plan (which you had thought of in your head in the reading time and now you can write the plan properly) that includes your 3 ideas from the prompt – at least at this stage the plan will still be in your head and will definitely help when you get to Section B to write the full essay – don’t write anything else or waste too much time at this stage on Section B

NOW GO BACK TO SECTION C and read the article again, this time with your pen, annotating the arguments (MC= Main Contention / A1 = Argument 1 etc), language, techniques and how the author positions the readers to Think (Logos) / Feel (Pathos) / Do (Ethos) something.

Keep to the time for each essay and try to not go ‘overboard’ with Section C first and cut yourself short for the other 2 essays.  Check your watch, have you stayed within the first hour so you can then go on to Section A and write that essay, check your watch again, then go on to Section B and write that essay. 

If you finish ahead of the 3 hours, go back to each essay to proof-read your writing and make sure you have written a proper Conclusion for each essay.  If you are short of time when writing the essays in Section A and B, then dot point your Conclusion.  At least the Assessors will know what you wanted to say for your Conclusion.  If you have an empty space, the Assessors can’t mind read what you wanted to conclude.

SECTION A          Analytical Interpretation of a Text

Students will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Knowledge and understanding of the text, and the ideas and values it explores
  • Development of a coherent analysis in response to the topic
  • Use of textual evidence to support the interpretation
  • Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

SECTION B           Comparative Analysis of Texts

Students will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Knowledge and understanding of both texts, and the ideas and issues they present
  • Discussion of meaningful connections, similarities or differences between the texts, in response to the topic
  • Use of textual evidence to support the comparative analysis
  • Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

SECTION C           Argument and Persuasive Language

Students will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Understanding of the argument(s) presented and point(s) of view expressed
  • Analysis of ways in which language and visual features are used to present an argument and to persuade
  • Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task



  1. Use a run-in line regarding the ‘big picture’ of the topic that shows you are using your analytical skills to consider ideas and issues in the texts
  2. Make your Main Contention very clear that you are answering the prompt not being ambiguous
  3. If you are writing in Section B comparative texts be clear how you are comparing the 2 texts (similarities or differences)
  4. Do not forget to mention the author’s name and titles of the texts in the Introduction
  5. Have 3 clear ideas that support your main contention that will form your body paragraphs
  6. Include the author or director’s message how they feel about the issue and how they want their audience to react

Body Paragraphs

  1. Use 3rd person voice not 1st person
  2. Use present tense to discuss the world of the text
  3. Try to vary verbs that describe author(s) values
  4. Every Body Paragraph MUST INCLUDE MESSAGE OF AUTHOR(s) on the key issues and ideas
  5. Have a clear Topic Sentence that explores the first of your ideas from your Introduction
  6. Use quotes that support your contention as evidence but do not slab massive quotes into the paragraphs, rather embed them in sentences and then explain what the evidence is exploring about the idea/topic
  7. How many quotes is dependent on your analysis but at least 3 per text (minimum)
  8. If the prompt has a quote or quotes do not forget to include it in one of your body paragraphs and analyse the quote(s) in relation to the prompt
  9. In Section B comparative texts include a Transition Sentence from Text A to Text B that shows you are analysing the difference or similarity between the texts
  10. In both Section A and Section B texts finish body paragraphs with a Link Sentence that links back to the prompt and follows on to the next body paragraph


  1. Sum up your main contention
  2. Finish with message of author(s)
  3. If you run out of time in the exam just dot point your conclusion at least the assessors will know what you intended to write which is better than no conclusions as the assessors can’t mind read an empty page


During Reading Time

  1. During 15 minutes ‘reading time’ do not forget to read the ‘Background Box’ as it gives you the context of the issue, who the articles are written by and the target audience
  2. On first reading of the article(s) try to find out what the main contention is and then search for the main arguments that support the main contention and the language around the arguments
  3. Look out for images/visuals / their position in the article / form features like sub-headings and size of fonts / how do they link to the main contention / how does the author use images/visuals to make the audience Think/Feel or Do Something
  4. Consider what the author wants the audience to embrace, condemn or find a solution to a problem
  5. Consider if the author’s tone is logical or emotional (it can change during the article)

Analysing the Article & Annotating

  4. Analyse WHAT IS THE INTENTION OF THE AUTHOR WITH THEIR LANGUAGE TO MAKE THE AUDIENCE – Think something (LOGOS = logical response) / Feel something (PATHOS = emotional response) or Do something (ETHOS = ethical response)
  5. Annotate clearly where the arguments are in the article(s) so that when you write your essay you can see where argument 1/2/3/4 sits in each article / underline techniques / appeals / tone / intention of author(s)

Writing the Essay

  1. Your Introduction MUST INCLUDE Context / Author / Tone / Title / Audience / Contention / Intention / Source
  2. Body Paragraphs could be 3-4 depending on size of article(s)
  3. Body Paragraphs can be divided into 3 sections = Opening Strategy / Body Paragraphs / Closing Strategy
  4. Each Body Paragraph must include your analysis of What / How / Why / Intention of Author to make the readers Think / Feel or Do Something
  5. Each Body Paragraph must include examples of language and techniques (can be quotes from texts) / Tone / Intention of Author
  6. Don’t forget the Visuals/Images how do they link to the main contention / where are they positioned in the article structure / how does the author use images/visuals to make the audience Think/Feel or Do Something
  7. If Visuals/Images are separate from the article(s) they may have their own opinion on the topic so be careful to look at their main contention if they agree or disagree with the article(s)
  8. Conclusions must sum up the overall cumulative effects of the writer’s main contention and language and arguments including the visual’s contention and the intention of the author(s) to persuade the audience to Think /Feel or Do Something

All Resources created by englishtutorlessons.com.au Online Tutoring using Zoom for Years 11 and 12 VCE Mainstream English Students in the Victorian Curriculum