About Margaret

Qualified English Teacher, BA/BT UNE, Registered with VIT, located in Berwick Victoria 3806. Contact 0418 440 277, email contact@englishtutorlessons.com.au

We have always lived in the castle’s weird and enigmatic Merricat analysis

This Resource is for Mainstream English Year 12 Students studying the novel ‘We have always lived in the castle’ by Shirley Jackson in Units 3 & 4 AOS 1.

Mary Katherine Blackwood (Merricat) Narrator

The opening chapter establishes Merricat as the 1st person narrator of the novel who narrates using a mordant [harsh], sarcastic and biting tone but also grim humour from her own perspective. In her narrating she is unreliable as she can deceive readers when it suits her. She tells us from the start her relationship with her sister Constance and her opinion of the world which is clearly affected by her eccentric state of mind. “My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf” (p.1). She tells us about what she likes and dislikes “I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet (King of England in 1483 assassinated his 2 young nephews who stood in his way to the throne), and Amanita phalloides (poisonous death-cup mushroom). Everyone else in my family is dead.” (p.1)

Why is everyone dead?

Six years ago, the Blackwood family – John Blackwood (father to Merricat & Constance), Ellen Blackwood (mother), Aunty Dorothy (married to Julian, John’s brother) and Thomas (young brother of the girls) mysteriously died of arsenic poisoning at a family dinner. Julian survived but was disabled and mentally affected by the arsenic. Constance was tried for the murder of her family and acquitted, although everyone in the town believes she is guilty. What we learn late in the novel, though, is that it was Merricat, twelve years old at the time, who poisoned her family. She put arsenic in the sugar because she knew that her beloved sister Constance did not use sugar. Why Merricat poisoned her family is the strange terrain that Jackson’s novel explores. The answer is never entirely clear, although what is clear is that Jackson never gives us anything like a motive that would, from a normative [standard] perspective, to either explain Merricat’s actions or justify her family’s slaughter.

Why did Merricat poison her family?

Jackson’s Merricat shows herself to be angry, unruly, wilful, and resistant to change. She is also violent, describing her hatred for the villagers she encounters in her twice-weekly trips to the village; she imagines them suffering and dead on the ground. She also seems obsessed with punishment. What does become clear is that her family punished her for her wild behaviour, for roaming the grounds, burying objects, wielding her magic spells of protection around the sister she loves. Early on, Constance tells the one person who still visits the girls, a friend of her mother’s, Helen Clarke, that Merricat “was always in disgrace” and that she was a “wicked, disobedient child” (p.34). Later, in a scene that is crucial in illuminating her character, Merricat hides outdoors and fantasizes her parents talking about how she must never be punished, must never be sent to her bed without dinner; they tell Merricat’s brother to give her his dinner and insist that Merricat must always be “guarded and cherished” (p.96). One can only presume this is pretty much the opposite of how Merricat’s parents actually treated her.

Merricat’s parents punished her & sent her to bed without dinner

Jackson walks a fine line here. On the one hand, Merricat seems to have a primal intolerance for what seem to be quite acceptable forms of parental discipline. All we know for sure of Merricat’s past is that her parents punished her by sending her to bed without dinner. Merricat responds to these banal punishments with rage, and to the extent that she has a motive for killing her family, it seems to be precisely this intolerance for punishment. Merricat wanted revenge being sent to bed without dinner made her angry and she also did not have the loving family she wanted.

Merricat was singled out because she diverged from gender norms

There are also hints that Merricat was unfairly singled out by her parents because of her divergence from gender norms. There is no sense that her brother Thomas, who spent at least some time, for instance, climbing trees, was subject to the same discipline as Merricat. He got to eat his dinner. Merricat is clearly not a beautiful, charming young woman like Constance, and she is not a boy like Thomas. Herein, perhaps, lies some of Merricat’s rage and some of her justification.

Merricat is strange, weird, enigmatic, and possibly a psychopath or paranoid schizophrenic

Merricat is an isolated, estranged hypersensitive young female protagonist, socially maladroit [awkward], highly self-conscious and disdainful of others. At times she appears more childlike than her 18 years and behaves as if mildly retarded, but only outwardly, inwardly, she is razor sharp in her observations and hyperalert to threats to her wellbeing. Like any mentally damaged person she most fears change in unvarying rituals of her household. Merricat’s strangeness, her demonic energy, her predilection for magic and casting curses appears to be self-invented witchcraft but she does not align herself to the male power of Satan. For 100 pages she taunts readers with her sharp, teasing and at times funny voice, but tells us only what she wants us to know, and not why she has a complete absence of guilt for poisoning her family. It seems what Merricat wants is to be alone with her cat Jonas and with Constance. Is Merricat a typical product of small-town America? Much of Merricat’s time is spent outdoors. She appears like a tomboy who wanders in the woods, unwashed and her hair uncombed, distrustful of adults and of authority.

Could there be an unambiguous notion John Blackwood abused his two daughters?

One assumption for the reason Merricat poisoned her family was because their father was abusing Constance and herself. We do not know for sure that it was specifically sexual abuse, but it is only hinted at. But the absolute strangeness of Jackson’s novel, and Merricat Blackwood, is rendered glaringly familiar. At the root of it all is an abusive father: Merricat killed the abuser and the rest of the family who allowed the abuse to continue and then she saved her sister and herself. Charles’s similarities to Merricat’s father are made explicit several times in the book. He wears Mr. Blackwood’s clothes, he sleeps in his bed, he is greedy, much like Mr. Blackwood, (who kept a book full of names of people who owed him favours and cash.) Charles arrives around the same that Mr. Blackwood’s book falls of the tree, breaking Merricat’s “protective spell.” (p.53) All of this, along with a few of Merricat’s strange aspects leads us to believe that Merricat was sexually abused by her father. The rest of the family either did not know, or refused to do anything about it.

Hypothetical reasons why Merricat poisoned the family

It is never stated what Merricat did get sent to bed without supper, but if all of the previous evidence is considered, this is what might have taken place:

  • Merricat is abused at least once by her father, probably fantasizing about her moon dreamhouse during the act. The mother witnesses, or is at the very least aware of the abuse, but does little to stop it.
  • Merricat tells on her father to the rest of the family, who does not believe her, and she is sent upstairs without dinner. The only one who believes her is Constance, who was also possibly abused. She comforts Merricat.
  • Merricat poisons the family for revenge. She chooses the sugar, knowing that Constance would not eat it.
  • Constance washes the bowl immediately afterwards to hide any evidence that Merricat was the killer.
  • Merricat does not just hate Charles because he reminds her of her father, she also hates him, at least subconsciously, because she fears he will abuse her the same way.

Merricat’s fantasies are alarmingly sadistic

Definitely Merricat’s fantasies are not only childish but alarmingly sadistic hating the villagers enough to see herself “…walking on their bodies” (p.10) and “I am going to put death in all their food and watch them die” (p.10). She has unmitigated hatred hoping the Elberts and their children were “lying there crying with pain and dying” (p.9). Certainly, the villagers taunt Merricat treating her like an outsider with the village children chanting a hectoring rhyme to intimidate her and embeds the notion that Constance poisoned her family “Merricat said Connie, would you like a cup of tea? Oh no, said Merricat, you’ll poison me” (p.16).

Moreover, Merricat’s hatred for cousin Charles, who has literally changed their lives when he invades the Blackwood household without having been invited, is shown clearly in Merricat’s description of him as a “ghost” (p.61) who has positioned himself at the head of the dining room table and looks like their late father. Merricat sees Charles for what he really is a scoundrel after their money and dehumanises him using her witchcraft ideas she “could turn him into a fly and drop him into a spider’s web” or she “could bury him in the hole where my box of silver dollars had been” (p.89). Merricat laughed when she found a round stone similar to the size of his head and she would bury it in the hole saying “Goodbye Charles” (p.89)

Merricat’s Confesion p. 130

Throughout the novel there is the prevailing threat of the murderous Merricat whose fantasy life is obsessed with rituals of power, dominance, and revenge “bow your heads to our beloved Mary Katherine … or you will be dead” (p.111). Certainly, it is the hideous arsenic deaths that constitute the secret heart of the novel and how could such a passive character like Constance be accused of murder when she acknowledges Merricat did poison the family on page 130. Merricat “I put it in the sugar”. Constance “I know, I knew then”. Merricat “You never used sugar”. Constance “No”. Merricat “So I put it in the sugar”. Constance sighed “Merricat we’ll never talk about it again. Never” (p.130). So, the sisters are linked forever by the deaths of their family, as in a quasi-spiritual-incestuous bond by which each holds the other in thrall.

The sisters are finally happy in their ‘castle’

It is also true that by isolating themselves after the fire from a world that hates them, treating them as others, the sisters are happy at last. Possibly Merricat who is psychologically damaged would not survive in a world of normal people and Constance helps to protect her sister from the cruel people and live in their house that had turned into a magical place transformed “Our house was a castle, turreted and open to the sky” (p.120). Against all expectations the Blackwood sisters are happy in their private paradise “on the moon” (p.133).

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

Audio Content to Analyse for Analysing Argument Year 12 Unit 4, AOS 2

This Resource is for Mainstream English Year 12 Students studying the audio SAC assessment for Analysing Argument Unit 4, AOS 2.

Audio texts such as radio talkback shows, speeches and podcasts can be powerful forms of communication and persuasion. Listen for elements that have language choices and arguments presented along with impact of other sound elements that help to position the listener to agree.

Radio Programs / Talk Back Radio

Radio programs, especially talk back radio programs which are live to air, feature unprepared and unscripted conversations between radio presenters and listeners who call in to express their views. The radio presenters openly express their own opinions on the issues being discussed.

Audio content to listen for in relation to Issue/Arguments

  • Whose viewpoint is being presented? – radio presenter – expert on issue – listeners who call in
  • What is the issue?
  • Does the presenter convey or openly express a point of view on the issue or story? – if so, how? – what effect does this have on the listener?
  • Is the presenter open to hearing alternative points of views? – from callers on talkback – or does the presenter oppose callers and challenge their arguments?
  • What persuasive techniques are presented in the discussion? – analogies / anecdotes / humour / repetition / rhetorical questions / emotive language / attacks on people or groups

Audio content to listen for in relation to speaker’s voice

SAC Assessment Criteria for Audio Content requires these audio elements to be included in your written analysis:

  • Intonation – variation in pitch (note of voice) – speakers may vary their pitch depending on the response they seek to elicit from the audience – a higher pitch can be used to add additional emphasis to a rhetorical question – a lower pitch can be used to underscore that a particular argument is serious and should be carefully considered by the audience
  • Pace – the speed at which a person speaks – speakers vary their pace throughout a discussion to emphasise certain points – a speaker might slow their pace to highlight a key word or concept – increase their pace to create a sense of urgency or alarm
  • Pauses – breaks in the flow of the speech or conversation – intentional breaks are often used after a speaker states an important point, giving the listener time to consider what has been said – or to recall particular arguments after the conclusion of a speech
  • Rhythm – a strong, regular repeated pattern of sounds – created through a pattern of stresses – steady rhythm speech can convey confidence and certainty encouraging listeners to view the speaker’s argument as strong and well founded
  • Stress or emphasis – how forcefully or loudly certain words, or parts of words are said – stress can be used to emphasise words and give extra weight to repeated words – encourages listeners to give more attention to these terms and reflect on why they are important
  • Tone – the mood or feeling created by word choices, delivery, and other persuasive techniques – tone helps to convey the speakers attitude towards the topic and evoke specific emotional responses from the listeners – urgent tone might position listeners to take action
  • Volume – how loudly a person speaks – speakers often increase the volume of their voice to emphasise an important point or speak more quietly to encourage the audience to listen more closely in a calm reassuring tone

Sounds effects other than words

  • Music – how does the music type set the atmosphere? – does the music complement or contrast with the spoken content? – how does the music convey or enhance an emotional aspect? – build suspense, express sadness, triumph, or joy
  • Sound effects – do the sound effects blend or stand out? – like a jingle noise to change topics in a podcast

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

Analysing Argument Year 12 Quick Revision for Written Texts

This Resource is for Mainstream English Year 12 Students studying Unit 4, AOS 2 Analysing Argument Written Text.

ANALYSING ARGUMENT = 3 elements

(1)    What is the argument the author is making?

(2)    How are the techniques used by the author & the language around arguments?

(3)    Why does this technique & language affect the audience? The author’s intention to make audience do something:

  • Think something – logos – appeals to logic, research, graphs, reputable people as evidence
  • Feel something – pathos – emotional response, idioms, cliches, attacks or praises, emotive language rhetorical questions
  • Do something – ethos – act ethically & responsibly – call to action for the readers to actively get involved in the issue

Written Text Article Analysis = How to start annotating

  • Begin at the top of the article and analyse it in a chronological order
  • Look at the big picture [context] and how it may have wider considerations for the author’s arguments
  • Look at the language around the arguments and how the author transitions tone and language to examine the arguments
  • Do not forget all the visuals [including banners on top of websites or podcasts] and how they are relevant to the written text
  • Essay start of the document is called the ‘opening strategy’ / middle is called ‘the body strategy’ and the end is called ‘the closing strategy’
  • Include a brief conclusion how the author used language to persuade the audience

SAMPLE INTRODUCTION FORMAT

There is an ongoing debate about xxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Context) In response to the issue is an [text form = opinion piece/letter to the Editor/Editorial/Podcast] by xxxxxxxxxx titled “xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx” published on [date] xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx by the [source] xxxxxxxxxxxx (Author/Title/Source) [The author’s name] contends in a xxxxxxxx tone, that xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Tone/Contention). Her/His [text form] targets xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx positioning her/his audience with [type of language], transitioning from [example pathos to logos] (Audience). She/He bases her/his appeals to xxxxxx with “quote phrase” to stress the importance of xxxxxxxxxxxxx (Intention). The accompanying [visual form = photograph/cartoon] of xxxxxxxxxxxxx by [name of cartoonist or title of photograph] signals xxxxxxxxxxxx and endorses [author’s name] contention that xxxxxxxxx with the intention to xxxxxxxxxxxx (Visual/Intention)

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

Creating Texts Framework Writing About Personal Journeys AOS2 Unit 3 Year 12 VCE

Unit 3 AOS 2 Creating Texts Assessment = 2 Essays on the texts in consideration of audience, purpose, and form 20 marks each & Commentary on reflecting on writing process

Framework Writing about personal journeys – the texts consist of personal development as individuals have insights into their own experiences, milestones, struggles and their differences.

Within each framework there are 4 mentor texts for study:

  1. ‘The Dangers of a Single Story’ (Ted Talk) by Chimamanda Ngozu Adichie
  2. ‘Bidngen’ by Maya Hodge
  3. ‘The Red Plastic Chair is a Vietnamese Cultural Institution and My Anchor’ by Amy Duong
  4. ‘Walter’s speech’ (part 1, The Inheritance) by Matthew Lopez

Framework’s Task about Personal Journeys

The mentor texts consist of explorations of life leading into discussions about story telling. They provide a springboard for students to consider personal milestones and epiphanies or the effects of key events on your life. The texts give students the ability to draw on specific perspectives the authors develop and then use your own thoughts about personal journeys. You may want to consider the impacts of change / identity / future goals and how you have negotiated these changes that have led to life leading consequences.

Your task is to draw on the mentor texts as well as complementary texts to explore ideas and record your thoughts in a journal. You will experiment with texts, modes, writing styles and narrative perspectives. The mode of delivery of your piece will impact on your purpose and the way you convey your ideas. You must workshop and refine your pieces, taking into account contextual factors such as your audience and purpose. You will explore 4 types of writing – to express / explain / reflect or argue. You will then reflect upon your authorial choices and language features in a reflective commentary.

The 4 Mentor Texts

The mentor texts vary in tone and style. Lopez’s monologue is a heartwarming discussion about responses to the AIDs crisis during the 1980’s. Adichie’s TED Talk revolves around the nature of stereotypes and their impact upon relationships and one’s ability to control the dominant narrative. Hodge and Duong use a reflective tone and real-life anecdotes to explore their place in the family and in their physical and social environment. The texts all have an auto-biographical slant and suggest that the younger generation can learn about the journeys of trailblazers or of ancestors.

The Mentor Texts – A Brief Summary

‘The Dangers of a Single Story’ = Chimamanda Ngozu Adichie includes personal recounts about her migration experience with the perspective of a Nigerian student at an American University as the springboard for her views about stories and stereotypes. Adichie draws attention to the harmful nature of stereotypes that reduce people and their experiences to a ‘single’ flat-lined story. Adichie realises that her American ‘roommate’ is perpetuating the ‘single’ story about Africans which limits and defines their relationship as one of difference. Likewise, one of her professors does not recognise her story of middle-class professional privilege as an ‘authentic’ African story. She suggests that younger generations can learn about journeys of trailblazers or of ancestors. She refers to key African authors like Chinua Achebe who challenged European narratives of power and superiority and explored the arrogance and hypocrisy of colonial stories. Adichie broadens her narratives to criticise a political and patriarchal system that exploits and suppresses women. She considers women are devalued, reduced to sexual chattels, and conditioned to behave in submissive ways. In her multi-layered experience Adichie explores in her stories which broaden the African experience and focus on culture, courage, resilience, despair, change and dysfunction.

‘Bidngen’ = Maya Hodge includes personal recounts about her life experience with the perspective of being a Lardil person growing up on the outskirts of Mildura and her battles with racism. The story ‘bidngen’ means women and consists of 8 vignettes of Lardil women with generational racism that festers and leaves deep scars. Like Adichie, Hodge also draws attention to the harmful nature of stereotypes that reduce people and their experiences to a ‘single’ flat-lined story. She contends that to deny the diversity and enrichment of multiple stories is to limit the depth of one’s experiences and to hem people in. It is often to the power-broker’s advantage and occurs at the expense, and to the detriment of, the other. Her story focus is on the ‘Lardil girl’ and her journey as a marginalised Aborigine, whose struggle with adversity is ‘white-washed’ and her struggles for social acceptance reinforce the pain of difference. Hodge’s message is to reaffirm and recount stories of fortitude and resilience among her mother’s song lines. Her grandmother’s stories of love and commitment, continuity and belonging reinforce the uniqueness of a culture that has deep roots in their ancestral being. It is the love of her nanna who encourages her to write and share her stories, which helps her write herself into the landscape, to cherish legends that link people to place and the need to challenge stereotypes that perpetuate injustice.

‘The Red Plastic Chair is a Vietnamese Cultural Institution and My Anchor’ = Amy Duong includes personal recounts about her life experience with the perspective of being a daughter of Vietnamese migrants. Duong uses the ‘red plastic chair’ to structure her reflections. It functions as an extended metaphor from which she explores her multi-layered experience of migration. Her piece provides an example of ‘how items of cultural, historical, or nostalgic value can be used to explore personal journeys’ and broaden the significance of one’s insights. Milestones and turning points provide a springboard from which to reflect upon lifestyles and goals. They provide a chance to reset the meter and change course or to renew and refine one’s views and values. The death of her Aunty provides a chance for Amy Duong to reflect upon her cultural roots and examine the gulf between the younger generation and their elders. While she explores her sense of shame and feelings of unworthiness, the Aunt’s funeral and the mourners, each with their ‘red plastic chair’, provides a chance to reconnect with her roots. While she is emotionally challenged by her Vietnamese linguistic incompetence, there is still a sense that the language of love unites. In the end Duong comes to appreciate the sacrifices made by her relatives and the thought she should have been more grateful to them and not create a chasm within her family.

‘Walter’s speech’ (part 1, The Inheritance) = Matthew Lopez has a heightened consciousness of belonging to a generation of gay men who have lived through a sea change with his cohort seeing greyness as secretive and shameful. Lopez shows that for gay men, embracing one’s sexuality also involves loss and grief which the play reveals a silent and ongoing sense of trauma caused by the AIDs pandemic. ‘The Inheritance’ is a 2-part epic which gives a glimpse into gay life in New York, two decades after the height of the AIDs epidemic. Walter’s speech ruminates on homophobic attitudes to LGBTQI+ couples and the debilitating consequences of the AIDs virus. Lopez uses the pear tree as an extended metaphor that takes on special significance in Walter’s monologue as does the secluded setting which adds to the emotional significance of his defiance. Like the other authors who suggest that younger generations can learn about the journeys of trailblazers, Walter defends and extols the virtues and resilience of couples during the AIDs epidemic in the 1980’s. By the end of the play Lopez suggests that, despite the current political darkness, a future exists in which gay men will still be free to be themselves. His characters consider how one moves forward and puts the world back together after a calamity and the hope that the younger generation sees the future in a much more positive frame of mind that their predecessors.

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

Creating Texts Frameworks Writing about Protest AOS2 Unit 3 Year 12 VCE

This Resource is for students in Year 12 studying Frameworks Writing about Protest in AOS2: Unit 3 Creating Texts, in the Victorian VCE 2024 Mainstream English Curriculum

Introduction to Protest

To ‘protest’ means ‘to express disapproval of’ or ‘to commit an action of dissent’. To literally stand up and be counted is to say ‘no’ or defy an order or a demand that seems unfair, unjust, or unreasonable. While protesting may begin as a personal struggle against an unjust law it invariably leads to a collective struggle as the individual is caught up in a cause beyond themselves.

According to Amnesty International, ‘everyone has the right to protest, the power to fight for justice and make a difference’.

There are 4 Protest Mentor Texts:

  1. ‘On the Sydney Mardi Gras March of 1978 by Mark Gillespie
  2. ‘Freedom or Death’ speech by Emmeline Pankhurst
  3. ‘Harrison Bergeron’ short novel by Kurt Vonnegut
  4. ‘Monologue from City of Gold’ by Meyne Wyatt

At the heart of these narratives is not just the right to protest against unfair laws and conditions as individuals push for inclusion and diversity. These authors reveal the difficulties encountered in a two-way struggle between those in positions of power who would seek to deny people their freedoms and individuals who demand their rights to seek to voice their human rights.

Assessment

2 written essay text pieces of writing considering audience, purpose and form = 20 marks each plus a commentary reflecting on the writing process

Themes in the Protest Mentor Texts
Demand for human rightsCivil rightsAgainst unjust laws
Abuse of powerFor social changeAgainst war
Rights for womenRights for LGBTQI+Against racism
Black lives matterBlack deaths in custodyRacial profiling

Record your Writing Process in a Journal

Students must use the mentor texts as a basis from which to explore and experiment with different text types, modes, and scenarios. Students must keep a journal in which to record their writing process and evaluate their thoughts and feelings documenting deliberate choices they have made in constructing their writing pieces.

Reflective Commentary

The reflective commentary will discuss the writing process and choices made during the process including purpose and audience of the response / form and genre / language features / impact of mentor texts on your writing / drafting and editing process and the role of feedback in shaping your decisions.

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

Personal Response Essay Plan Only for The Dark Knight the Moral Conflict of Batman

This Resource is for students Studying ‘The Dark Knight’ as a Personal Text Response for Year 11 VCE Curriculum AOS1 Reading & Exploring Texts

Prompt:  “It’s what you do that defines you”. (quote Batman) In the film ‘The Dark Knight’, is Bruce Wayne a moral philosopher?

Define words = moral = ethical/good/honest/decent

philosopher = truth seeker / seeker of justice

Analytical Essay Structure Using TEEL+ Personal Response =

  1. Introduction = Context / Main Contention / Main points / Message of Director / Personal View
  2. Body Paragraph 1 = Topic Sentence / 1st main point / evidence / explanation / personal view & values / link back to topic & message of Director
  3. Body Paragraph 2 = Topic Sentence / 2nd main point / evidence / explanation / personal view & values / link back to topic & message of Director
  4. Body Paragraph 3 = Topic Sentence / 3rd main point / evidence / explanation / personal view & values / link back to topic & message of Director
  5. Conclusion = Briefly restate Main Contention / Personal view & values / Message of Director

Director Christopher Nolan explores a number of moral and ethical questions in his film ‘The Dark Knight’ that highlight the humanity and fallibility of the ‘superhero’ myth ‘Batman’ placing his actions under scrutiny. At critical moments in the film, and as a result of his humanity, Batman must choose between two negative outcomes, that places his moral belief system under pressure. When Batman makes decisions, he must discard some values in favour of others, and in the process, he reveals his personal moral code that ‘it’s not what you do that defines you’. His approach to crime also places the superhero’s morality in the hands of his enemies, leading Batman to make troubling decisions as he attempts to stop the villains. I consider the film shows that Bruce Wayne is a moral philosopher because what differentiates him from the villains of Gotham is through his belief in the city’s potential for good, a belief which all of his enemies have abandoned.

Body Paragraph 1 = Background / Who or what causes problems

Focus on = background to Bruce Wayne & Batman’s life / Batman does not have superhuman powers like Superman / he is really only a man / leading a double life takes commitment / cardinal rule never to kill his enemies / the film asks what is the cost of human life? / When is it acceptable to compromise principles in society in order to survive a clear and present danger? / are people basically good or evil? / is it worth being good? / personal response – the film reflects the moral complexity of our own society

Body Paragraph 2 = Response / how do individuals or groups respond to problems

Focus on = moral and ethical choices / save the life of his love Rachel or crime fighting DA Harvey Dent / Batman has to choose and eventually loses both Rachel and Dent as a result of his limitations / Gotham City is in a moral and physical crisis / Rachel says ‘this city is rotting’ /the Joker attempts to dismantle and destroy societal moral codes / Batman must decide whether to save the Joker as he falls off the building’s edge / Batman could justify the Joker’s death as self-defence / yet he chooses to save the falling villain at the last moment – personal response – Batman faces the Joker’s biggest test – he does not kill him – he chooses not break his one rule never kill his enemy

Body Paragraph 3 = Consequences / Legacy for society and individuals

Focus on = does the end justify the means? / Should Batman lie in order to sacrifice himself for Dent’s reputation? / Batman is the hero Gotham deserves he is not the hero they need / sometimes truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more / Batman must face the consequences of his actions as the result of his humanity / personal response – in this way believes in the potential of Gotham’s citizens, he refuses to abandon them to crime and despair and hopes for a brighter future for Gotham

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

The Dark Knight Directed by Christoper Nolan Basic Notes

This Resource is for students Studying ‘The Dark Knight’ for Year 11 VCE Curriculum AOS1 Reading & Exploring Texts

Introduction

‘The Dark Knight’ is not a simplistic tale of good and evil. Batman is good, yes, The Joker is evil, yes. However, Batman poses a more complex puzzle than usual: The citizens of Gotham City are in an uproar, calling him a vigilante and blaming him for the deaths of policemen and others. Significantly, the Joker is more than a villain. He is a Mephistopheles [an evil spirit who has sold his soul] whose actions are fiendishly designed to pose moral dilemmas for his enemies.

The plot involves the Joker’s attempts to humiliate the forces for good and expose Batman’ secret identity, showing him to be a poser and a fraud. He includes James Gordon and Harvey Dent on his target list. He contrives cruel tricks to play with the fact that Bruce Wayne once loved, and Harvey Dent now loves, Assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes. His tricks are crueller than he realizes, because the Joker does not know Batman’s identity. The Joker’s ghoulish appearance with a cackling laugh is driven by the belief humanity is inherently evil and any attempts at maintaining order or morality is a ‘bad joke’. Again, he underestimates Batman’s role as a symbol of justice and protector of Gotham City. Both sides are forced to make quick-witted decisions in order to stop the opposing vigilante from doing his desired work.

Good Versus Evil

‘The Dark Knight’focuses on the moral and ethical battles faced by the central characters, and the compromises they make to defeat the Joker under extraordinary circumstances. The Joker forces impossible ethical decisions on each character to test the limits of their morality. The Batman represents order to the Joker’s chaos and is brought to his own limit but avoids completely compromising himself. Harvey Dent represents goodness and hope; he is the city’s ‘white knight’ who is ‘pure’ of intent and can operate within the law. Dent is motivated to do good because he identifies himself as good, not through trauma like the Batman, and has faith in the legal system.

While the Joker corrupted Harvey Dent ‘the white knight’, Batman is willing to take the blame for the murders that Dent committed as ‘Two-Face’ so Gotham City will stay peaceful. Gordon tells his son Jimmy that although Dent was ‘the hero that Gotham needed’, ‘Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves’. In the end, Batman is still ‘a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a dark night’.

The Dark Knight Literary Elements

Director

Christopher Nolan

Leading Actors

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger

Supporting Actors/Actresses

Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart

Genre

Superhero, Action, Thriller

Date of Release

July 18th, 2008

Producer

Emma Thomas, Charles Roven, and Christopher Nolan

Setting and Context

Gotham City, present day, after the events of Batman Begins

Tone and Mood

Dark, thrilling, brooding, philosophical.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Batman vs. The Joker

Major Conflict

Batman is trying to clean up Gotham while also fighting with the supervillain and agent of chaos, the Joker. He is also conflicted about whether to give up the identity of Batman and pursue a normal life.

Climax

Batman catching the Joker and then Batman killing Two-Face.

Foreshadowing

Joker foreshadows many of the evil things he will do with odd asides. Harvey Dent’s corruption is foreshadowed by his observation that heroes either die young or live to see themselves turn into villains.

Understatement

At the start of the film, the power and influence of the Joker is constantly understated.

Allusions

Allusions to philosophy and to the comic books on which the film is based.

Paradox

The Joker is insane and chaotic, but also always two steps ahead, and thus, extremely methodical

Summary of the Plot

The criminals of Gotham City are running scared, because Batman is keeping the good citizens of Gotham safe. The film opens with a gang of men wearing clown masks breaking into the bank where the mob keeps much of their money. The mastermind of the heist is someone named the Joker. At the end of the heist, Joker arrives and puts a grenade in the mouth of the bank manager.

Unaware of the Joker’s presence in their city, Batman and the new DA, Harvey Dent, are working alongside Lieutenant Gordon to put the last of the mob’s money-laundering enterprises out of business once and for all. They believe they have definitively stopped the laundering and crime in the city—until the Joker shows up to sow chaos. Joker assassinates a judge, plants a bomb in a hospital and blows it up, and starts knocking off innocent people in Gotham one by one until Batman reveals his identity.

Batman is determined to fight back against the Joker. For a while, it seems as though he is maintaining the upper hand, until his best friend Rachel, who also happens to be Harvey Dent’s girlfriend, is killed in the crossfire. When half of Harvey Dent’s face gets burned in an explosion, the Joker brings him over to the dark side, encouraging him to seek vengeance for Rachel’s death. Harvey adopts a new name, Two-Face, and Batman finds himself with two madmen to contend with as the destruction of Gotham looms large.

The Joker has clearly been planning his takeover of Gotham for quite some time, and seems to be at least two steps ahead of Batman at every turn. After releasing a threat to the entire city of Gotham, he commandeers two ferries and fills one with citizens and one with convicted criminals. He also fills both ferries with explosives. He gives each boat a master detonator that will explode the other ferry. If nobody detonates the other boat by midnight, he says, he will blow up both boats. Batman is eventually able to subdue the evil clown and none of the passengers on the ferries are harmed.

Harvey is still on the Joker’s side, something that Batman did not realize in his haste to take down the Joker himself. While Batman has been confronting Joker, Gordon learns that his family has been taken hostage by Two-Face. When Gordon goes to save them, Two-Face knocks Gordon to the ground, then grabs his little boy, Jimmy, planning on flipping a coin to decide the boy’s fate by chance. Suddenly, Batman arrives and orders him to stop, telling him that he is blaming the wrong people for Rachel’s death. Two-Face then flips the coin for Batman. It lands dirty side up, so he shoots him. He flips it for himself. It lands clean side up. Then he resumes with his original plan and flips it for little Jimmy. In the definitive moment, Batman gets up and tackles Two-Face, knocking him over a ledge.

Batman bemoans the fact that the Joker still won because he corrupted Harvey Dent, split up their alliance for good, and destroyed one of the best people in Gotham. If the people of Gotham ever discovered the wrongs that Two-Face has done, Gotham’s future will be compromised. Thus, Batman decides to take the blame for the murders that Dent committed as Two-Face, so that the Joker can’t win and the city will stay peaceful.

Gordon is seen destroying the Bat symbol above the MCU building and then begins to chase Batman, who runs. Gordon tells his son that although Dent was the hero that Gotham needed, Batman is the hero that Gotham deserves. A manhunt is issued for Batman and he speeds away in his Batpod. Gordon declares, “He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Dark Knight.”

Themes
Justice versus corruptionBearing the burden as sacrificial heroLoss of love
Chaos & destructionHuman nature is essentially goodChance
Terrorism & escalationMorality & ethicsGood versus evil
Symbols & Motifs
Social experimentsMakeupTwo-Face
Joker cardBatmanHarvey as ‘the white knight’ symbol of good
Irony
Bruce is BatmanHarvey says he is BatmanRachel’s death
Joker’s scars  
Imagery
Burning moneyJoker himselfTwo-Face
The Dark Knight  

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The Dark Night Personal Text Response

This Resource is for students Studying ‘The Dark Knight’ as a Personal Text Response for Year 11 VCE Curriculum AOS1 Reading & Exploring Texts

Questions to ask about how the text resonates with student’s own memories and life experiences:

  • What aspects of your own experiences reflect the experiences of the characters in the text?
  • Have you experienced any major life events that reflect key moments in the plot?
  • What are your values and ideas about the world, and how do they compare with those presented in the text?
  • Can you draw parallels with your own observations of the world as represented in the text?
  • Can you compare the cultural, social, and historical values embedded in the text and compare these with your own values?

Connections to The Dark Knight

  • The Dark Knight creates a chaotic tale of struggling with human limits against terror – taps into fear of global terror – terrorists rely on fear to maintain their power
  • When Batman stands in the burning rubble – there are horrific parallels to images of ‘ground zero’ after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York & the War on Terror
  • The Joker is a fantasy version of a terrorist, he has no clear political ideology but he wants to impart chaos, destruction, and fear on Gotham City
  • Batman is part of a fantasy story – a costumed crime fighter –he can be considered on a deeper level as an authority figure who needs to maintain control over various evil groups such as real-world terrorists and terrorism groups
  • Harvey Dent was a hero ‘white knight’ but turns into a revenge bent criminal ‘Two-Face’ – the film shows how seemingly normal good people can turn into terrorists if given the right motive
  • Batman is in a morally uncertain middle ground when he ponders his failure against the Joker – he questions how far must he go in order to defeat such overwhelming forces of evil
  • The Joker killing Rachel Dawes and scarring Harvey Dent leads Batman down a morally questionable path – how does Batman reconcile his own humanity with his impulse for violent retribution against the Joker?
  • Is phone surveillance of Gotham City by techno expert Lucius Fox a real-life security concern? – it gives Batman power to listen in on every conversation in Gotham
  • The film questions the morals of people like Batman who has chosen to cross all ethical lines – is Batman morally compromised, a vigilante rather than good guy fighting evil?
  • If extraordinary circumstances are needed to control terrorists – what part of ourselves do we lose when we choose to take immoral steps to stop the villains?
  • Christopher Nolan’s film provides critical questions about fear of terrorism and also what governments do regarding threats – is war the answer against terrorists?

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

Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare a Brief Analysis

This Resource is for students in Year 12 studying ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ play by William Shakespeare in AOS1: Unit 3, Reading & Responding to Texts, Analytical Text Response, in the Victorian VCE 2024 Mainstream English Curriculum

Human Emotion and Psychology

Usually classified as a romantic comedy, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is both a love story and a ‘much darker and stranger play’ (Dobson 2011/The Guardian).  The play is a study in human behaviour, of psychological power and abuse; it is a critique of social structures; it hides some of the ugliness of human behaviour behind a veil of light comedy, ambiguity and fast-paced wit.

In the process of all of this, the plot of Much Ado About Nothing also just happens to include two budding romances built on the tenuous grounds of perception and deception.  In exploring human emotion and psychology, Shakespeare draws ambiguous connections between love and loathing, desire and distrust, union and destruction, honesty and deception, trust and doubt, malice and forgiveness.  Shakespeare’s pairing of antithetical themes in Much Ado About Nothing highlights how people can be inconsistent in their approach to relationships and romantic unions, deceiving themselves as well as others.  

The Fatal Flaw

Much Ado About Nothing also explores desire, and people’s need for reciprocal love; how we respond when we believe we have attained love, and how we rail at our (sometimes perceived) rejection.  Shakespeare’s contrast of the relationship between Hero and Claudio with that of Beatrice and Benedick suggests that genuine affection only comes from seeing your partner as a whole person: flawed, the product of their environment or context, and with strengths and charms.  Many of Shakespeare’s characters have this ‘fatal flaw’, a defect in their personality, that taken to extreme, can lead to their downfall.  Each character has their own ‘fatal flaw’ that shines light on some of the darker characteristics of humanity.

Marriage According to Beatrice & Benedick

Beatrice and Benedick do not simply revile marriage for the sake of being contrarians; such a justification would be disappointing in otherwise complex and interesting characters.  They are older and they lack the social status of other characters such as Hero and Claudio; they see the absence of meaning in life and therefore in marriage, yet they enjoy the cut and thrust of their intelligent witticisms.  They understand that marriage does not augment their enjoyment of life or contribute to some greater existential meaning. 

That Shakespeare’s characters, at times unknowingly, make much ado about nothing perhaps reflects the playwright’s view that life is ultimately pointless.  Benedick’s conclusive justification for requiting Beatrice’s alleged love is that ‘the world must be peopled’ (II.iii.p.61), and the song of Balthasar ‘Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more’ exhorts the ladies merely to: … be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe, Into hey nonny nonny (II.iii.p.53).  The song addresses the main manipulators of trickery and deceit, the men.

Perspective of the Text – Romantic or Cynic?

Beatrice & Benedick

There are two broad ways of experiencing Much Ado About Nothing: as the romantic and as the cynic [sceptic].  One need not wholly subscribe to only one or the other.  Looking at the 2 relationships, it is easy to view Hero and Claudio in a cynical manner and for Beatrice and Benedick, a more romantic view.  Beatrice and Benedick’s love is so pure because it comes without the baggage of inheritance and class, and the false notions of romance which conceal obligation.  Their cutting remarks have stripped each other and they have nothing left to hide.  Beatrice gives as good as she gets when it comes to the sort of male banter Benedick engages in.  Here is a couple who will argue, they will not grind their lives away under the deceptively heavy shade of pleasantries and a false concern for the other’s feelings which in truth is used simply to avoid conflict; Benedick and Beatrice need not fear conflict, they thrive off it.

Claudio & Hero

Interpretations of the values and attitudes surrounding the relationship between Claudio and Hero are much more ambiguous.  Given that ‘Shakespeare takes shape through our interpretations’, how do we interpret the easy susceptibility of the Count, the Prince and the Governor to the malignant trickery of the Prince’s ‘bastard brother’ Don John?  One interpretation is that Claudio’s behaviour is unforgivably unacceptable.  (For a contemporary #MeToo audience, so he gets off far too lightly).  Another is that it is patriarchal social values that are at fault, and another that the fault lies with codes of masculinity in which male bonding is cemented with misogynist jokes and banter.

Or perhaps the shocking metaphorical ‘death’ of Hero is generated by the ‘comedy’ of mistaken perception, and we forgive the gentlemen their bad behaviour because the near-tragedy is a plot device, a structural necessity of the romantic comedy genre.  However, no reading of the play can excuse the brutality of [Claudio’s] treatment of Hero, but the conventional comic action does demand that he be forgiven.

Title of the Play

The title of the play is open to various interpretations.  The most straightforward explanation; that much ado is made over allegations that hold nothing of the truth, suggests the play is a comment on people’s rash judgment and disproportionate responses, particularly to gossip.  This relates to the interpretation which replaces ‘Nothing’ in the title with ‘Noting’, a near homophone and colloquialism for ‘noticing’ or ‘gossip’, which connects the title to both pairs of lovers: Beatrice and Benedick base their conscious acceptance of their feelings on overheard misinformation, and Claudio is twice deceived by the snake-like whisperings of Don John, comments that the play is ‘most appositely titled’ because of its reference to the ‘nothingness’ of life.

Style of the Play – Comedy or Tragedy?

While all stories, even comedic ones, need some kind of complication and climax, Shakespeare certainly puts the drama in dramatic structure.  He heightens the climax of Much Ado About Nothing to the point where it could have toppled into tragedy.  This sets the play apart in the world of comedy, as the stakes are so high and dire circumstance so nearly realised; though it begins and ends with merry wit, there are dark issues explored as the life-threatening action of the play takes place.

Analytical Text Prompts

  1. What role do deceptions play in Much Ado About Nothing?
  2. How does Shakespeare present love and marriage in the play?
  3. In Act 2, Scene 1 (p.43) “Come, you shake the head”.  How does Shakespeare present Don Pedro in this extract and elsewhere in the play?
  4. How does a modern context affect our interpretation of the Hero-Claudio relationship?
  5. “I will assume thy part in some disguise/ And tell fair Hero I am Claudio” (i.i.p.17 Don Pedro).  We accept the deceptions in the play because mostly the characters’ intentions are benign.  To what extent do you agree?
  6. How does Shakespeare use comedy in Much Ado About Nothing to explore serious themes and values?
  7. “… yet sinned I not/ But in mistaking.”  Forgiveness is too freely given in Much Ado About Nothing.  Discuss.
  8. Much Ado About Nothing is a joyful play which celebrates human relationships.  Do you agree?
  9. The women in Much Ado About Nothing are the true holders of power.  Discuss.
  10. Shakespeare’s characters hide their insecurities behind innuendo and metaphor.  Discuss with reference to at least three characters in Much Ado About Nothing.
  11. Don John is the only example of authenticity in Much Ado About Nothing; all the other characters wear masks of some sort, at some time in the play.  Do you agree?
  12. “I speak not like a dotard, nor a fool/ As under privilege of age to brag” (v.i.p.133 Leonato).  It is their privilege that makes the behaviour of characters in Much Ado About Nothing all the more reprehensible.  Discuss.
  13. Much Ado About Nothing is supposedly a comedy but the play contains many darker, more tragic elements than a typical comedy.  In what ways is this play tragic?
  14. A central theme in the play is trickery or deceit, whether for good or evil purposes.  How does deceit function in the world of the play, and how does it help the play comment on theatre in general?
  15. Language in Much Ado About Nothing often takes the form of brutality and violence. “She speaks poniards, and every word stabs,” complains Benedick of Beatrice (II.i.p.37).  What does the proliferation of all this violent language signify in the play and the world outside it?
  16. In some ways, Don Pedro is the most elusive character in the play.  Why would Shakespeare create a character like Don Pedro for his comedy about romantic misunderstandings?
  17. In this play, accusations of unchaste and untrustworthy behaviour can be just as damaging to a woman’s honour as such behaviour itself.  What could Shakespeare be saying about the difference between male and female honour?’

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

‘False Claims of Colonial Thieves’ Poetry: The Basics

This Resource is for Year 12 students studying ‘False Claims of Colonial Thieves’ poetry collection by poets John Kinsella and Charmaine Papertalk Green in AOS1 Unit 3 Reading & Responding to Texts in the Victorian VCE Curriculum for 2024.

The Title ‘False Claims of Colonial Thieves’

Refers to the legacy and residue of past wrongs carried out by colonialism that the poets consider were literally ‘colonial thieves’ robbing the Indigenous people of their land under the guise of Terra Nullius [land legally deemed to be unoccupied or uninhabited].  The ‘false claims’ of the title are revealed as colonial misinformation which white-washes the crimes of the past.

The Poets

John Kinsella                  Born in 1963 in WA is non-Indigenous man who has Anglo-Celtic origins and has written over 30 books based on the WA landscape, colonisation, mining, family and conservation.  He supports Indigenous rights, land rights and says he is a ‘vegan anarchist pacifist’.  His dedication is to Kim Scott a prize-winning WA Indigenous author of ‘That Deadman Dance’.

Charmaine Papertalk Green        Born in 1962 in WA is an Indigenous Yamaji woman who speaks Badimaya and Wajarri.  ‘Papertalk’ is her mother’s maiden name.  Her message is to restore her ancestors’ histories and stories as ‘paper talks everywhere now’.  She exposes the concept of colonisation through her lived experiences and family stories.  Her dedication is to her brothers who died to cast relief on Aboriginal mortality rates that are 11.5 years lower than white males.

Both Poets want to know “Who are the real rulers of Australia?”

The collection of poetry identifies itself as political and a serious postcolonial discussion of two poets collaborating to warn of environmental impacts of mining and to track the relationship of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in regards to ‘country’.  They both actively interrogate injustices, cultural cruelty, cultural genocide and the pain left behind by colonisation.  They seek to challenge the myth of Terra Nullius and rewrite the colonial history of Australia by identifying the colonists not as heroic adventurers into an uninhabited new land, but as plunderers.  Through their poems they question the dominant narrative and its instruments of power that fog and irradiate [expose] a land of ‘invisible victims’.

The Ambition of the Collection

The ambition of the collection is the ‘beautiful conversation’ (‘Simply Yarning’ p.97) which is proudly postcolonial; from its title to its references, it invites readers to move beyond the constricting myths of the colonial past and into a more equitable future.

The Structure of the Text

The structure of both the collection and the individual poems is an important part of ‘False Claims’. The collection begins and ends with poems written by the two authors together, ‘Prologue’ by Kinsella and ‘Prologue Response’ by Green which appear on the same page and ‘Epilogue’ which is attributed to the poets jointly.  There is thus established a sense of the combined purpose and project of the collection which frames the text, so that even in those sections when there are several poems by one poet, before Kinsella’s voice is again heard, the collaborative nature of the text cannot be forgotten.

‘Prologue’ and ‘Prologue Response’

The repeated language in ‘Prologue’ and ‘Prologue Response’ reinforces the shared project of the poets.  This is most clearly apparent in the repeated bitter accusations of negligent ‘environmental scientists’, but it is also evident in the echoed notion of unthinking and unsustainable consumption, appearing in the metaphoric [symbolic] ‘on a platter’ in the first poem, and the more literal ‘plastic bottle’ of the second.

The first poem by Kinsella is longer, the lines are extended, and the text is broken into two verses.  The second poem by Green focuses on the obliviousness of the general population raised by Kinsella with the line ‘Stygofauna speak up through the land; some listen, more don’t’ (p.xi).  Green repeats the idea of ‘blindness’ through her shorter, more abrupt and accusatory poem, condemning those who refuse to see beyond their ‘privilege’.  The structure of these poems, both as they complement each other and as they differ, is a useful reference point for ‘False Claims’.  Kinsella and Green share some views, and each poet operates within the context of contemporary poetry, but they are not the same.  Green’s poetry is more direct, and her tone is more often angry.  Kinsella is more regretful and more likely to consider institutional causes of social and environmental malaise [sickness], rather than referring to personal responsibility.

Language and Style

  • Call and response—the whole collection exists as a dialogue between the poets as they negotiate the ‘third space’ of shared understanding.  Some of the poems speak directly to each other, and some poems are written in parts, which the poets write in sequence.
  • Colloquial (Australian) language (including expletives)—both poets sometimes use recognisably Australian language features in their poems, which creates authenticity in dialogue, and functions to locate the poetry in its Australian regional context.
  • Dedications—the collection and some of the poems are committed to the honour of particular people or peoples.  Like titles, these dedications can provide insight into the focus and ‘agenda’ of poems and poets.
  • Ekphrastic [work of art]—both JK and CPG respond to artworks in poems, a clear knowledge of the artworks (where possible) will assist in understanding these poems.
  • Enjambement—when sentences in poems run over lines, a sense of inevitability can be created, either positively or negatively.  Both poets use this style feature in some of their poems, and significance of run-on lines should be considered.
  • Intertextuality—both poets refer to other texts in some poems, notably in ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ (pp.135-137 / ‘A White Colonial Boy’ pair (pp.138-140).  As well as placing their works into the wider community of poetry and literature, these references indicate the power of texts to shape attitudes.
  • Line breaks, stanzas and stanza breaks—indicated with a ‘/’ in quotation, are strategically used by both the poets to create either continuity and flow in poems, or disjointedness and discontinuity.
  • Non-Standard English—CPG particularly uses some non-Standard English phrases of spoken Indigenous English, recognising the validity of this patois.
  • Pun—the poets, particularly JK, play with words, linking distinct ideas together, challenging assumptions, and creating irony.
  • Punctuation / lack of punctuation—JK is strategic in the way he deploys punctuation in some of his poems; reading aloud and following punctuation cues will help recognise the strategic ways in which the poet shapes his longer sentences. CPG often writes without punctuation, depending on rhythm and line breaks to shape the reading experience; this can often create a sense of uncontrolled urgency in her poetry.
  • Repetition—both poets use repetition throughout their poetry to create emphasis and sometimes to enhance rhythm; significantly both poets sometimes repeat a line or series of lines from the other poet, indicating their co-operation in the construction of the collection, but also suggesting alternative perspectives to an idea.
  • Rhyme—although the poets write largely in free verse, both internal (within a line) and external rhyme (rhyming words at the end of lines) appear in the collection, enhancing or breaking rhythm, associating ideas, creating inevitability.
  • Rhythm—poetry is an oral form, so reading poems aloud in class can help students understand the poems, especially when meaning might appear obscure, upon a first (silent) reading. The rhythm of a poem can often become more apparent when poems are read aloud.  As with rhyme, rhythm can hold disparate ideas together in a poem, showing the connectedness of different notions.  A rhythm can also create urgency, or a mournful tone or a feeling of inevitability, or inescapability, if the rhythm is compelling or almost compulsive.
  • Simile, metaphor, personification, symbol, synaesthetic description [figurative language that includes a mixing of senses], alliteration [occurrence of same letter or sound at the beginning of words], sibilance [hissing sound with repetition of ‘s’ sounds]—the poets use various figurative devices which enhance the reach of their poetry, making it more vivid, linking apparently disparate ideas, and evoking landscape.
  • Titles—titles of poems, express the way in which a poet directs a reader, from the start of a text.  The title of this collection is important as it places all the poems in a postcolonial, revisionist context.
  • Use of language—both JK and CPG move into Indigenous languages (Noongar and Wajarri respectively) throughout the collection.  This subverts the hegemony [domination] of English and indicates the limitations of English in terms of understanding the subjects the poets write about.

Issues and Themes

The issues and themes are interconnected not only to land, its peoples, cultures, history, stories and art, but the voices of the poets reinforce the connectedness of peoples, stories and histories and the free flowing discussion of the two poets in all the poems in the collection. A commonality between the two poets is the injustice of people and the environment, particularly the destruction of mining, which is not separated in the poems, rather the suffering of both is explored as one country suffering together.

Central Ideas/Issues & Themes Covered in the Collection are:

  • Colonisation and Reconciliation
  • History and Crimes of the Past
  • Redressing Historical Injustices by Reconstructing our Notion of the Past
  • The Myth of Terra Nullius (the Colonial Thieves)
  • Secrets and Silences of Australian Culture
  • History and Memories and their Importance to Individuals
  • The Environment and Social Effects of Mining on Country and Individuals
  • Exploitation of Mining on Country and Individuals
  • Country, Destruction of Country and Landscape
  • Family, Friendship, Nature of Loss in Family and Country
  • Recognising Important Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Family Members
  • Language and Culture of Indigenous People
  • Dangers of Cultural Appropriation and Erasure
  • The Stolen Generation
  • Black Deaths in Custody
  • Close the Gap Campaign
  • Aboriginal Mortality
  • Poetry, Art and the Power of Both
  • Racism , Social Justice and Race Relations Between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous People
  • Our Responsibility to each other as Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Peoples in Australia
  • Social Issues Pertaining to Contemporary Indigenous People
  • Stories and Storytelling (Yarning)

Analytical Text Response Topics

  1. ‘False Claims of Colonial Thieves is more positive about the future than it is negative about the past.’ Discuss.
  2. ‘Memory is shown to be the most important aspect of culture in this collection.’ To what extent do you agree?
  3. How do the authors of False Claims of Colonial Thieves show that the natural environment is vulnerable and needs protection in this collection?
  4. “I won’t pretend it’s easy / Living in an intercultural space” (‘I won’t pretend’, CPG, p.62) ‘Despite the idealism of the collection, False Claims of Colonial Thieves suggests that cultural harmony is impossible.’ Discuss.
  5. “And the dead are loud in their graves.” (‘Edges of Aridity’, JK, pp.82-4) “Arrived as colonial thieves / Remain as colonial thieves” (‘Always thieves’, CPG, pp.127-8) ‘There is no recovery from colonisation.’ Discuss with reference to the poetry in False Claims of Colonial Thieves.
  6. How do the poets of False Claims of Colonial Thieves create hope in their collection?
  7. “How can I but take up the call, / Charmaine, and yarn right back at you – / it’s what we do when we connect” (‘Yarn Response Poem’, JK, p.98) ‘The poems in the False Claims of Colonial Thieves reveal that we are shaped by our relationships with others.’ Discuss.
  8. ‘The strength of this collection rests in its political agenda.’ To what extent do you agree?
  9. How do John Kinsella and Charmaine Papertalk Green convince their readers of the healing power of poetry in False Claims of Colonial Thieves?

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