The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa Brief Overview

This Resource is for Year 12 students studying Yoko Ogawa’s ‘The Memory Police’ in the VCE Victorian Curriculum for 2024 Unit 3 AOS1 Reading and Responding to Texts.


Yoko Ogawa’s ‘The Memory Police’ is a dreamlike exploration of the role of memory in creating and sustaining cultural identities. Set on an unnamed, untethered island, the novel chronicles the work of the omnipresent Memory Police in slowly and deliberately destroying the memories, and eventually the very personhood, of the island’s residents.

It is a dystopian novel with an unnamed young novelist where mundane objects like ribbons, hats, perfume, books and memories are vanishing mysteriously. Then nature inexplicably disappears like roses, birds and more worryingly, people are taken away and body parts stop working. The ruthlessly efficient Memory Police (totalitarian agency) offer no explanation for their actions, and the islanders ask no questions. There is an inevitability to their work, as explained by the unnamed narrator’s flashbacks to her childhood, and the disappearances that have marked every major occasion in her life. The behaviour of the Memory Police is rendered sinister by the fact that readers are not given an insight into the why of their actions; it is all that residents and readers alike can do to infer the logic behind the erosion of life on the island. The apocalyptic atmosphere of the island, the frightened people, the misery of a fragmented community and disappearing traces of a free world are clearly portrayed in the story.

Despite the Memory Police giving the appearance of being able to exert total power, there still remain ways to counter them. The unnamed narrator works methodically with her major ally, known only as ‘the old man’, to provide the only resistance they can imagine – hiding the narrator’s editor, R, who is one of a small number of people who retain the capacity to access their memories, despite the disappearances. The narrator draws inspiration from like-minded souls operating in secret across the island, hiding individuals and, in some cases, whole families from the Memory Police. This hugely risky undertaking is not the only way that the narrator appears to challenge and resist the edicts of the Memory Police. She works with R to finish a novel, even after novels have been disappeared. The three close friends spend much of the text reflecting on the relationship between memory and the soul, but they spend little time explicitly discussing what appears to be one of Yoko Ogawa’s major concerns: the power of art to provide resistance in times of political conservatism.

Genre & Structure of the Text

First published in 1994 in Japan and translated by Stephen Snyder in 2019, the novel is a first-person narrative that addresses issues of loss of individualism under a totalitarian regime as the theme of this allegorical text. Critics have situated Ogawa’s work within a literary canon of speculative, science and dystopian fiction that concerns itself with efforts to rewrite and reshape history to support the efforts of authoritarian rulers. Her work can also be considered magic realism, as the characters are subject to phenomena that challenge a reader’s understanding of the laws of nature. The cumulative effect of these surreal events adds a mystical, fablelike feel to the text, while offering a warning for contemporary audiences about what their world may yet become.

Nestled within this largely chronological structure are a series of flashbacks that allow the reader to develop a sense of what life looked like for the narrator prior to the death of her parents. These flashbacks serve to underscore the significance of the narrator’s developing understanding of the form and function of the Memory Police. As an adult she is able to reimagine her memories of childhood, often under R’s guidance. These flashbacks thus serve a dual purpose: they offer insight into how the narrator came to be, whilst also foreshadowing the seemingly unstoppable march towards the erosion of everything that once made the island a functional society.

The text includes a novel-within-the-novel. In The Memory Police, the narrator’s preoccupation with her own work again serves to foreshadow her understanding of what is happening to the world around her, whilst also affording her an agency that she is denied in her day-to-day life. Her profession, and the reader’s access to her work, also acts as a reflection on the role of the arts and artists in both documenting and reflecting on the major historical and political events of their times.

Perspective of the Text

The Memory Police asks readers to consider the role of power, memory, and history in contemporary society. Ogawa’s world is the logical extension of the work undertaken by conservative governments worldwide, where history is written and rewritten to serve dominant narratives about war, government, and economics. Written at a time when Japanese society was still wrestling with the demons of World War Two, Ogawa’s work renewed conversations around Japan’s role in the war and its atrocities committed by the Japanese empire in its forced colonisation of the Asian mainland and other countries in the Pacific. A common refrain Japan has used as a nation is to sidestep responsibility for wartime acts and to forget in order to be disconnected from the past like Ogawa’s novel. The novel’s explicit discussion of the way that memory and storytelling can be weaponised to target minorities and empower ruling parties contributes to reader understanding of some of the philosophical questions that have arisen in response to many of the most complex moments in recent human history.

The Memory Police and Echoes of Nazi Germany

It is impossible to ignore the echoes of Nazi Germany and the treatment of Jewish people that Ogawa draws on, especially regarding the Memory Police themselves like the SS and the loaded imagery of the hidden enclave the narrator builds in her home to hide R which is similar to ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. Ogawa took inspiration from the secret hidden annex in Amsterdam where German Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family hid for over 2 years from the Nazi’s during WWII.

In March 1944, Anne wrote in her diary, “The brightest spot of all is that at least I can write down my thoughts and feelings; otherwise, I would be absolutely stifled.” In August of that year, the inhabitants of the annex were captured by the SS. Anne died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1945, just two months before liberation. She was fifteen years old.

Many elements of Anne Frank’s life in hiding are incorporated into The Memory Police. “Anne’s heart and mind were so rich,” commented Ogawa in a conversation with Motoko Rich. “Her diary proved that people can grow even in such a confined situation. And writing could give people freedom… I wanted to digest Anne’s experience in my own way and then recompose it into my work.”

Chapter Summaries.

Chapter 1             The narrator remembers her mother, who kept her memories. She establishes a central tension of the text: the ever-widening gap between those who remember and those who forget.

Chapter 2             Birds disappear – a particularly painful and personal disappearance for the narrator, whose father was an ornithologist. The Memory Police arrive to search her house.

Chapter 3             The narrator explains her work as a novelist, and her artistic preoccupation with that which ‘had been disappeared’ (p. 15). The reader is introduced to the old man.

Chapter 4             En route to her publisher, the narrator encounters the Memory Police. She meets with R, her editor.

Chapter 5             The narrator works on a novel wherein the protagonist is a typist loses her voice. Professor Inui and his family flee their home after receiving a summons from the Memory Police – just as it had happened to her mother.

Chapter 6             The typist experiences a flashback to her own childhood. The narrator continues to work with R, and she worries for the safety of the Inui family. Roses disappear.

Chapter 7             The narrator visits the old man, and they discuss the impact of the continued disappearances on life on the island.

Chapter 8             The relationship between the typist and her teacher deepens. The narrator shows R around her home, and she discovers that he is able to retain all of his memories, despite the disappearances.

Chapter 9             Winter descends on the island, and the Memory Police strengthen their grip on the community. The narrator discloses R’s secret to the old man, and they begin a plan to hide R in the narrator’s home.

Chapter 10          R agrees to take up residence in the narrator’s house.

Chapter 11          R and the narrator become increasingly intimate. They discuss R’s experience with memory. The narrator works with a replacement editor, and the old man makes contact with R’s wife.

Chapter 12          In the narrator’s novel, the typist and her teacher grow closer as he gives her a private lesson. R seeks work of any kind to ward off feelings of uselessness and depression as his world becomes ever smaller. Two new disappearances sweep the island: ‘first, photographs, and then fruits of all sorts’ (p. 94).

Chapter 13          The old man is taken into custody. R tries to reassure the narrator, and they continue to discuss the nature of memory, and the ways that the outside world is changing without him.

Chapter 14          The old man is released from custody, revealing that he was suspected of being involved in a smuggling operation. R’s baby is born, and he continues to adapt to life in hiding.

Chapter 15          Tension increases in the narrator’s novel, as the teacher renders his student voiceless. The Memory Police now focus on eliminating calendars; the worst effect of this particular disappearance is the trapping of residents on the island in a perpetual winter.

Chapter 16          R and the narrator organise a celebration for the old man’s birthday. R gifts the old man an orugōru (pp. 145-146), a long disappeared traditional music box. The celebration is cut short by a visit from the Memory Police.

Chapter 17          The Memory Police search the narrator’s home. She fears that they are looking for R, but it becomes clear that their visit was motivated by a raid on her neighbours’ safe room. R comforts the narrator after the raid.

Chapter 18          The typist feels a growing disconnect between her soul and her body. The narrator’s life contracts further as she tries to limit actions that might result in drawing the attention of the Memory Police to her and to her home. She furtively listens to R bathe, aware of the uneasy intimacy between them.

Chapter 19          The narrator is asked for help by an old woman, who appears to be seeking refuge from the Memory Police. Novels are the next significant item to be disappeared, which sharpens R’s sense of urgency to help restore some of the narrator’s memories. The narrator adopts her neighbours’ abandoned dog, Don.

Chapter 20          After the disappearing of novels, in order to earn a living, the narrator takes a job as a typist. R continues to try to activate the narrator’s memories. This effort feels futile to the narrator and the old man. The narrator realises that she is in love with R. An earthquake strikes.

Chapter 21          The narrator and the old man narrowly escape the earthquake and the resultant tsunami. They find R safe, but the narrator’s home, including the safe room is badly damaged.

Chapter 22          The old man comes to live with the narrator. They discover that the narrator’s mother had found a way to use her art to retain disappeared items by hiding these inside her sculptures. R furthers his efforts to awaken the narrator’s soul.

Chapter 23          The narrator and the old man venture to her mother’s cabin in search of additional disappeared items. On their way home, they narrowly escape being searched by the Memory Police.

Chapter 24          The old man contemplates the changes in his life. His imminent death is foreshadowed as he begins to struggle physically with everyday tasks.

Chapter 25          The narrator recovers the old man’s body. After his funeral, she feels increasingly lonely and disconnected. A new disappearance signals a new phase for the island’s residents, as they find themselves without the use of their left legs.

Chapter 26          The narrator re-establishes contact with R’s wife. Another body part disappears – the right arm. The narrator becomes increasingly reconciled to her own inevitable disappearance; however, R maintains that he will be able to shield her from this fate.

Chapter 27          This chapter is an entire extract from the narrator’s novel. It has been written at great effort under R’s instruction. It chronicles the last minutes of the typist’s life as she is completely absorbed into her teacher’s room.

Chapter 28          The narrator details the disappearance of the island’s inhabitants. She encourages R to make his way back in the world, leaving her alone, disembodied and without a voice, in what was once his secret room.


Unnamed narrator           Ogawa’s narrator is the reader’s set of eyes on the island. She is unnamed, and the reader is not provided with much detail about her physical attributes. Despite this lack of conventional information, the reader’s most intimate relationship is with the narrator, who tells the story in the first person. The narrator is a novelist, compelled to tell the story of things that disappear, we see the world through her eyes, but we are intimately aware that she is slowly, but forcibly, losing her memory.

Narrator’s mother            The narrator’s mother was a sculptor who worked skilfully before her untimely death, to retain her memories. The text opens with the narrator reminiscing about her mother’s attempts to preserve memories in her daughter, and in her art. Her death, whilst in the custody of the Memory Police, acts as a warning sign for those closest to the narrator about the power of these law enforcers. The narrator’s mother acts a guiding force for the narrator, her drive to preserve that which was disappeared seemingly acting as a formative experience for the narrator.

Narrator’s father               The narrator’s father was an ornithologist. He, like the narrator, lost his memories as intended by the Memory Police. Ogawa’s references to his work provide a rhythm within the novel; every time that the narrator encounters physical reminders of her father and his life’s endeavours, she reconnects pieces of her life, and builds on the memories that she is able to awaken with R’s assistance.

The old man       The old man is a constant in the narrator’s life. The two are connected through the nurse who raised the narrator – he was the nurse’s husband. The old man provides a kind of practical support that seems to tether both the narrator and the narrative itself to something concrete. Every time that the narrator appears to be losing her sense of confidence and her will, he responds with a kind pragmatism.

R             R is one of the few people in the narrator’s life that she trusts. Their desires are inextricably connected, as they work painstakingly together on appraising and editing each word and line of her novels. By the very nature of their shared work, the relationship between the narrator and her editor is close, and yet it still seems surprising when R declares his secret to her, in her basement. He appears to be emboldened by the revelation about the narrator’s mother’s determination to remember and to record reality, and their relationship quickly deepens.

Professor Inui and family               Professor Inui and his family connect the narrator to her mother. Helping them as they escape is the narrator’s first effort to actively resist the Memory Police.

Don        The narrator’s anxiety levels rise when her neighbours are taken away by the Memory Police. Unexpectedly but also unsurprisingly, the narrator takes their dog, Don, into her home. The dog, too, acts as a steadying presence in the narrator’s life, giving her another tether to the visceral, mortal realm. Don also acts to triangulate the reader’s experience of Ogawa’s world, revealing how the wishes of the Memory Police organise life for all living beings on the island.

The Memory Police          The Memory Police are rendered as a brutal, cruel, and professional unit. They operate as a group, giving civilians on the island little opportunity to negotiate their treatment. They generate fear, working from both their reputation and their highly visible actions. They act as enforcers, but readers do not know for whom – the Memory Police are the only face of authority that we see. This works to enhance the reader’s understanding of their menacing quality, but also raises questions about the rationale behind this seemingly totalitarian power.

The typist in the novel-within-a-novel     The narrator’s construction of the typist character provides important insight into her own daily concerns. The typist is rendered mute early in the novel, but ‘was continually struggling to speak’ (p. 55). She initially does not want to accept her fate, but feels ‘increasingly oppressed, as though [she] were being backed into the corner by a powerful force’ (p. 91).

The teacher in the novel-within-a-novel                 The typist’s teacher is a domineering figure, who manipulates and entraps his students. He acts as an enforcer, but positions himself as a protector.

Neighbours         There is a small cast of neighbours and townspeople operating in the background of the narrator’s life. These minor characters act to reinforce the degree of risk that the narrator and the old man are undertaking. They are subject to forces that the narrator will have to encounter.

memoryconnectioncraft of writing
artalienationtotalitarian police state
surveillancestorytellingcreation vs destruction
tyrannyfate vs free willlongevity
forgetting & disconnection
from the past & history
powercultural identities
disappearancesnarrator’s noveltypist in the novel
Memory Policebook burningthe protagonist narrator
roses & rose gardenthe weather 

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

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

See the source image

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

Construction of Meaning and Structure of Texts

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

Genre of ‘Ransom’

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

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

Historical Context

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

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

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

Structure & Narrative Perspective

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

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

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

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

Language Style & Shifts in Narrative

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

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

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

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

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

Tragedy & Comedy

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

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

Imagery & Senses

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

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

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

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

Concept of the Journey

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

The Author’s Purpose and Agenda

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

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

Malouf is interested in the “untold tale”

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

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

Online Tutoring of English Using Zoom

Brief Synopsis of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens

What is A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens about?

Set in the 1840s on Christmas Eve, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens chronicles the personal transformation of the protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, the proprietor of a London counting house.  A wealthy, elderly man, Scrooge is considered miserly and misanthropic: he has no wife or children; he throws out two men collecting for charity; he bullies and underpays his loyal clerk, Bob Cratchit; and he dismisses the Christmas dinner invitation of his kind nephew, Fred.  Moreover, Scrooge is a strong supporter of the Poor Law of 1834, which allowed the poor to be interned in workhouses.

As he prepares for bed on Christmas Eve in his solitary, dark chambers, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley.  In life Marley was very similar in attitude and temperament to Scrooge: remote, cruel, and parsimonious.  In death he has learned the value of compassion and warns Scrooge to reform his ways before it is too late.  Marley announces that Scrooge will be visited by three more specters: the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back to his unhappy childhood, revealing that the young boy’s experiences with poverty and abandonment inspired a desire to succeed and gain material advantage.  Unfortunately, Scrooge’s burgeoning ambition and greed destroyed his relationship with his fiancée and his friends.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is represented by a hearty, genial man who reminds Scrooge of the joy of human companionship, which he has rejected in favor of his misanthropic existence.

Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come appears in a dark robe and shrouded in mystery.  Silently, the ghost reveals the ambivalent reaction to news of Scrooge’s own death. Scrooge realizes that he will die alone and without love, and that he has the power and money to help those around him – especially Bob Cratchit’s ailing son, Tiny Tim.  Scrooge begs the ghost for another chance and wakes in his bed on Christmas morning, resolved to changing his life by being generous and loving to his family, employees, and the poor.

Classifying A Christmas Carol

For some readers A Christmas Carol resonates as a gothic ghost story, at times chilling and terrifying and at other times, extremely funny.  Other readers see the story as a time travel narrative.  Dickens in effect blended realism and the supernatural to create a world in which the gothic and the mundane sit side by side.  Dickens himself said he was here taking old nursery tales and “giving them a higher form” (Stone, Harry 1999, ‘A Christmas Carol: Giving Nursery Tales a Higher Form’).  With its dark, chilly setting and its supernatural visitors, A Christmas Carol draws on elements of the gothic novel when Scrooge’s door-knocker turns into Jacob Marley’s face.  The narrator provides a number of descriptions in which gothic elements are interwoven with freezing, icy imagery to emphasise the atmosphere of mystery and to remind us of the protagonist’s icy heart.

A Christmas Carol as a Cultural Myth

According to Juliet John, A Christmas Carol has become a “cultural myth” providing “a parable for the modern, commercial age” (John, Juliet 2011, ‘Dickens and Mass Culture’).  As a morality tale, in which evil is exposed, virtuous characters like the Cratchits are rewarded, and everyone celebrates at the conclusion.  However, there are issues raised in A Christmas Carol that remain unresolved at the conclusion of the novel. The sinister children of Want and Ignorance, do not go away just because Scrooge has been reformed, but the narrator tells us nothing of their future.  Their role is more allegorical than that of other characters. Dickens uses them as an important warning to his readers and to Scrooge as the frighteningly ugly face of 19th century poverty.  Unless social reform takes place urgently, Want and Ignorance will grow into hungry, resentful predators.  The fact that Dickens even raised the issue of the miserable lives of street children at all marks an important attempt by him to make his readers ponder their own social responsibilities.

Historical Context of A Christmas Carol 

While A Christmas Carol is primarily received as a ghost story, it is also a damning expose of social inequality in 1840’s Britain.  Dickens was deeply agitated by what he perceived as the inertia of the British government and wealthy middle classes to help those less fortunate than themselves.  A Christmas Carol was written at the beginning of the ‘Hungry Forties’ a period that encompassed the catastrophic Irish potato famine, as well as intense suffering for the English working classes.  Dickens uses A Christmas Carol to not only attack the Utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, who justified the centralisation of Poor Relief in workhouses, but also to lambast the work of Thomas Malthus in his Essay on the Principle of Population.  Whilst in abstract these principles might seem logical, when applied to suffering individuals, their underlying brutality becomes obvious.

Ebenezer Scrooge

For most readers Scrooge represents the worst charactertistics of his society.  Fixated with material goods at the expense of all human connection, particularly with his clerk Bob Cratchit, Scrooge is an allegorical embodiment of the forces of capitalism underpinning Britian’s economy in the 1840’s.  For Dickens, he represented everything that was wrong with society in an increasingly industrialised world where human relations took second place to profits.

Dualism in Dicken’s Writing

The world of the early Dickens is organized according to a dualism which is based in its artistic derivation on the values of melodrama: there are bad people and there are good people, there are comics and there are characters played straight. The only complexity of which Dickens is capable is to make one of his noxious characters become wholesome, one of his clowns turn out to be a serious person. The most conspicuous example of this process is the reform of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol shows the phenomenon in its purest form.

We have come to take Scrooge so much for granted that he seems practically a piece of Christmas folklore; we no more inquire seriously into the mechanics of his transformation than we do into the transformation of the Beast into the young prince that marries Beauty in the fairy tale. Yet Scrooge represents a principle fundamental to the dynamics of Dickens’ world and derived from his own emotional constitution – though the story, of course, owes its power to the fact that most of us feel ourselves capable of the extremes of both malignity and benevolence.

Redemption in A Christmas Carol 

Can A Christmas Carol be seen as a tale about redemption in a man who has ostracized himself from his society?  While the narrative is focused on Ebenezer Scrooge’s learning experiences and his reintegration into the community, his story also forms part of a broader allegory through which Dickens invites his readers to consider Christmas as a time of renewal and hope and to think about how they themselves might redeem and be redeemed.

The ‘Scrooge Problem’ – the Questioning of Scrooge’s Transformation

Elliot L. Gilbert’s essay: ‘The Ceremony of Innocence: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol’ addresses ‘the Scrooge problem’, that is, the critical tradition of questioning the sincerity of Scrooge’s sudden transformation from being mean-spirited to kind-hearted.  Gilbert admits that his support for Scrooge’s change of heart is not free from doubt, as similarly to House and Johnston, he feels that the ease of Scrooge’s alteration is questionable. Furthermore, to accept the overnight metamorphosis of a man who has spent a lifetime bullying clerks, revelling in misanthropy and grinding the faces of the poor, is ‘to deny all that life teaches in favour of sentimental wishful thinking.’

Gilbert’s essay provides a new hypotheses to explain the reader’s misgivings regarding the plausibility of Scrooge’s radical conversion; he is merely returning to his childhood innocence. He explains why he views A Christmas Carol to be metaphysical; it is because it portrays the journey of a human being trying to rediscover his own childhood innocence. Such innocence Gilbert claims is evident in Scrooge’s encounter with the ghost of Christmas past, when Dickens has Scrooge’s fiancé break off their engagement, because the man she sees before her is not the man she first knew. Here, he reveals that Scrooge was not always bitter and mercenary, and therefore not so different from the man we are shown at the end of the novel. Thus, Scrooge’s new self is believable as it is in part his old self.

Private Online Tutoring of English using Zoom

Gattaca and Nineteen Eighty Four are Social Commentaries

Image result for gattaca imagesFor Year 11 students studying AOS1 Unit 2 Reading and Comparing Texts look carefully at the context of the futuristic dystopian science thriller film Gattaca directed by Andrew Niccol and the dystopian totalitarian state novel Nineteen Eighty Four written by George Orwell.

Pay particular attention to the message of the Author/Director when you write your comparative text essays.

Social Commentaries in Context

Both Gattaca directed by Andrew Niccol and 1984 written by George Orwell are social commentaries which explore the broad social wrongs of a totalitarian government.  Both texts depict a futuristic, dystopian society in which individuality is destroyed in favour of faceless conformity.  Protagonist Winston in 1984 cannot understand the rhetoric of the government party and on a similar note, Vincent in Gattaca is trapped, unable to achieve his dreams because of his imperfect genome.  Both characters demonstrate individual rebellion against society and explore the significant social injustices of their respective totalitarian states.

Destruction of Individuality

Destruction of individuality is explored by both Niccol and Orwell to expose the broad social wrongs of an oppressive society.  In 1984 Winston fights to maintain his individuality in a society that has eliminated “love, friendship or joy of living” by making him hollow.  As Winston is tortured in order to be psychologically broken down by O’Brien’s relentless interrogation in Room 101, he is eventually made to accept that 2+2=5 and that he ‘loves’ Big Brother.

Similarly, in Gattaca destruction of individuality and the consequences of an oppressive society are found in close up shots focusing on Vincent’s cleaning process and the constant DNA checks to reinforce how authoritarian societies can demolish all sense of self.  As an ‘Invalid’ Vincent must take extreme measures to overcome the prejudices of a genetically controlled society if he is to achieve his dream of joining Gattaca and going into space.

Message of Niccol in Gattaca

Director Andrew Niccol celebrates the power of self-belief in the film Gattaca to inspire individuals to scale the heights of their desires and dreams to motivate them to succeed against the odds.

Message of Orwell in 1984

Writer George Orwell was deeply disturbed by the widespread cruelties and oppression he observed in communist countries and he wrote 1984 as a warning to the West of totalitarian regimes who used powerful measures to control their citizens.

The Most striking differences between Gattaca and 1984

The most striking difference between Gattaca and 1984 is the total victory of the Party over Winston and Julia’s attempts at resistance/rebellion against Big Brother compared with Vincent’s ability to undermine and find the flaw in the Gattaca DNA system to achieve his dreams of going into space.  Another important difference is that Winston is broken by the absolute power of the Party to suppress his individual happiness and thoughts of any freedom against the oppression.  Whereas, in contrast, Vincent proves that the philosophy underpinning discrimination by DNA is flawed and that his success is determined by other variables that are not within the control of science.

Resistance, courage and determination of Vincent against the regime in Gattaca

Vincent possesses a dream, an ambition and is willing to use courage and determination to do whatever is required to achieve it, even in the face of insurmountable odds.  Vincent is able to undermine the discrimination of Gattaca by purchasing his ‘Valid’ status with the use of Jerome’s DNA in order to circumvent the Gattaca system.  His metamorphosis into Jerome allows him to join the elite Gattaca space program.  Yet he stays true to himself, maintains his vision and integrity to achieve his goal in spite of a society that is designed to ensure he fails in any attempt to better himself.  He does use a process of deception to join Gattaca but he does not aspire to be one of them, rather he uses Jerome’s DNA as a tool to achieve his dream of flying in space.

Online Tutoring of English Using Zoom

Introductions for Comparative Texts On the Waterfront and The Crucible

Image result for pictures of on the waterfront DVD coverFor Year 11 students studying AOS1 Unit 2 Reading and Comparing Texts it is important to be very clear in your Introductions to make your Main Contentions and Message of Author/Message of Director answer the essay prompt.

Image result for pictures of the crucible book coverPlease see 3 prompts comparing the film On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan and the play The Crucible written by Arthur Miller.

For clarity I have colour coded the Main Contention / Message of Author / Message of Director

Prompt #1            Both The Crucible and On the Waterfront explore how easy it is for one group to control an entire community.  Discuss.

Throughout both texts it is fear that enables the mob boss Johnny Friendly in On the Waterfront and the judges and court in The Crucible to influence their respective communities and control the majority.  Predominantly it is fear of unemployment which leads to poverty that controls the longshoremen making them vulnerable to the power and corruption of Johnny’s mob.  However, it is fear of the unknown, in particular the Devil, that enables Deputy Governor Danforth and his court to manipulate and control the Puritans of Salem.  The desire for individual freedom stands in stark opposition to the powerful authority of the mob boss and the totalitarian authority of the theocratic state.  In both texts those authorities in power are willing to ruthlessly crush any hint of rebellious thinking but underestimate the resolve of a select group of determined individuals who are prepared to stand up rather than bow to the corrupt actions of those in power.  In The Crucible it is those characters like John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey who pass the most severe test of all in the ‘crucible’: death; by choosing to maintain their personal integrity and refusing to justify an unjust court to save their lives.  On a similar note, in On the Waterfront it is those characters like Joey Doyle and KO Dugan who show moral integrity and courage to stand up to Johnny Friendly and speak out against the corruption on the waterfront, but their murders show the risks for others to see the world in terms of moral choices.  In the end it is left to an unlikely character Terry Malloy to abide by his conscience and need for justice to testify against the mob at the Waterfront Crime Commission and stand up for what is right and good.

Prompt #2            Elia Kazan’s film On the Waterfront and Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible tell similar stories when you compare the characters of Terry Malloy and John Proctor.  Discuss.

Both texts On the Waterfront directed by Elia Kazan and The Crucible written by Arthur Miller highlight similar stories with their respective protagonists who are plagued by their sins and desperately seek redemption.  Miller’s protagonist John Proctor views himself as a highly flawed man who has sinned against God and man’s laws by his adulterous affair with a teenage servant girl Abigail.  As a consequence of his ‘single error’ Proctor is a tormented character, unable to forgive himself for succumbing to temptation and as a result publicly confesses his sin to the court in order to save his wife Elizabeth from going to jail but in doing so damns himself.  Miller presents Proctor as a heroic man who maintains his integrity even to the point of death, in the face of a demonstrably corrupt authority.  On a similar note, Kazan presents the redemption of his protagonist Terry Malloy and his transformation from a self-confessed “bum” to a symbol of the power an individual can exercise even in the face of seemingly insurmountable corruption.  Terry’s journey towards a moral perspective allows him to grapple with questions of loyalty and conscience only to discover that ultimately one’s greatest loyalty must be to what one knows to be right.

Prompt #3            Compare how Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible and Elia Kazan’s film On the Waterfront parallel the McCarthy era of the 1950’s in America.

During the McCarthy era of the 1950s in America, countless individuals, some innocent and some guilty, were subjected to a wide range of injustices and punishments, ranging from ridicule in society to the loss of their lives.  Two dramatic works, a play The Crucible, written by playwright Arthur Miller and On the Waterfront, a film directed by Elia Kazan can both be seen as parables that are illustrative of the events of the McCarthy Era itself.  The play and film have similarities dealing with power, corruption, executions, fear, hearings and trials.  Both texts have their own relative strengths each revealing different facets of McCarthyism in their own unique ways and are representative of the different experiences and reactions of Miller and Kazan to the phenomenon of McCarthyism.  In both the play and the film, the protagonists, the environment in which they are placed, and the situations and trials they endure, are closely parallel to the events of 1950s America.  Kazan testified before Senator McCarthy’s Committee, naming names and giving details of people he knew were affiliated with the Communist Party and his personification of Terry Malloy was Kazan’s parallel to his own positive interpretation of identifying wrongdoers.  In direct contrast Miller viewed Kazan’s testifying as a betrayal and considered the tyrannical judges in Salem to be in parallel with the HUAC.  Miller’s personification of John Proctor was a parallel with his own negative interpretation and refusal to slander and black list Communist screenwriters to the McCarthy Committee.

Online Tutoring of English Using Zoom

Construction of Meaning in Invictus the Film

Image result for pictures of invictus the movie

Why is Construction of Meaning in Invictus the Film Important?

When reading/viewing texts to construct meaning, readers/viewers increase their understanding by recognising the craftsmanship of the writing/film and the choices the authors/directors made to portray the topic in a certain way.

In order to achieve a high mark for essays students need to interpret the texts analytically which includes understanding the implications of:

  • how the author constructs meaning and structure in a text and
  • then explain what the author’s purpose or agenda was in writing the text

If you just write about the narrative only you are NOT answering the key criteria of AOS1


  1. Type of Text = Movie / historical / drama / biographical / political / sports. Released in 2009.  Director Clint Eastwood.  Writer Anthony Peckham.
  2. Setting = South Africa between 1994-1995. 1st year of Nelson Mandela’s Presidency.  Post apartheid South Africa, start of Rainbow Nation.
  3. Title of movie = Symbol for ‘unconquered’ taken from Henley poem that inspired Mandela.
  4. Narrative Structure = The film progresses in a linear fashion with an introduction / middle / end with the history behind Nelson Mandela / his Presidency / rugby World Cup / conclusion winning the World Cup.
  5. Historical Context = Mandela is released after 27 years in prison and his 1st year of Presidency is the narrative as he uses the rugby World Cup in 1995 to unify South Africans.
  6. Themes = leadership / sacrifice / reconciliation / forgiveness / identity / family / politics / challenges / responsibility / racial tension / apartheid / inspiration / change / sport / revenge / documentary story / destiny
  7. Symbolism/Imagery = Flag of Springboks / Rainbow Nation Flag / South African Flag / Mandela’s clothes / Springboks jersey, cap and colours / Nkosi Sikelel / South African division between black and white / poor and wealthy / rugby catalyst for change
  8. Characters & Relationships = Mandela & his staff / Mandela & his family especially Zindzi / Mandela & the South African nation / Pienaar & his rugby team / his family / Black & white body guards / South Afrikaners & black South Africans
  9. Director’s Big Picture Values = Clint Eastwood was inspired by the book ‘Playing the Enemy’ by Carlin about the inspiration of Mandela to use a rugby game to help unify a nation. He also appreciated the element of ‘the underdog’ in sport to win and the support of sportsmanship.
  10. Music & Soundtracks = 9000 Days of Destiny / Nkosi Sikelel i Africa adds to position the viewers and the dramatic plot.
  11. Narrative Voice = Dialogue of characters – words are powerful tools / social and political interactions / media is a narrative device to create a back story on Mandela / Newspaper headlines / News casts on TV / TV broadcaster Johan de Villiers comments establishes the international community view on apartheid.
  12. Film Techniques =
    • Mise en scene
    • Setting
    • Lighting
    • Acting style
    • Costumes
    • Cinematography
      • Camera distance / close ups / medium shots / medium long shots / long shots
      • Camera angle / straight on / low angle / high angle / camera movement / pans
    • Sound
      • Dialogue and sound of action
      • Music soundtrack
      • Voice overs
      • Dream sequence of action in character’s mind

Online Tutoring of English Using Zoom

Fishbone Diagram as Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

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

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

Using a Fishbone Diagram in Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

The Fishbone Diagram Design

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

Image result for Ishikawa diagram

Online Tutoring of English Using Zoom