Thursday, July 31, 2014


Jasper Jones Essay 

The novel, ‘Jasper Jones’, is set in a small country town in outback Australia in the 1960s.  The setting was influenced by novels that Silvey, the author had read as a youth. Such as To Kill A Mocking Bird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. people from this same hot desert climate and who have a decent  knowledge of past events and times can really get into the book, as you can see the different perspectives of each character living in that time and place.
The Bucktin family is an excellent example of this. The town sees this family as a normal family, with Charlie’s dad working , his mum staying at home and Charlie doing as he is told.  This is how they want to be seen so they don’t get frowned upon by the townspeople. On the inside though the family was holding together by a string.  Charlie’s mum is really unhappy living in Corragin, the dad only stays with her for Charlie’s benefit. Mum was only in it because in the 1960’s it was frowned upon to get a divorce and she really only cared about her image in town.
This small town ideology of the 1960s really shaped the way the Bucktin family acted and how many of the other families in that small town also acted. Although the time and setting affected the Lou’s in a bad way because of their Vietnamese background. During the time the book was set the Vietnam War was happening, and some of the local Corrigan residents had been sent to fight over there. The Lou’s were not only picked on but marginalised by most of the town. Sue Findley was one of those people as she blamed Mrs Lou for the death of her husband in Vietnam, because she was Vietnamese. The family was also blamed by some of the young men that had lost their jobs at the local mine – the same mine that was sponsoring the Lou’s to be able to live in Australia.  They blamed them purely because of their background and the fact they were Vietnamese.
Jasper Jones was also marginalised because he was a half cast. This really affected him more because the author put him in the 1960’s and black people were set aside as the ‘others’, they weren’t seen as real people but blamed if anything was to go bad.  His father didn’t help Jasper so he was forced to take control of his own life, as there was no support like Centrelink back in the 1960’s. But Because of his father’s bad parenting Jasper Learned morels about looking out for himself. Because of this Jasper made his own hide-out and when he found Laura dead there he had no choice but to hide the body. Otherwise, because of the way the townspeople viewed him, he would be blamed for her death without question.
The only reason Charlie helped Jasper was because of the way his Dad raised him, letting him read novels with good beliefs and values. These novels are also the novels that the author, Silvey read that had influenced his writing of the book. These novels shaped the way Charlie thought and how he reacted to certain events through the novel. Often he would refer to a character in one of these books, like Atticus Finch – “What would Atticus Finch do?” Charlie Bucktin. The thoughts allowed Charlie to better handle the situations that he and Jasper were placed in throughout the novel and the different circumstances that affected him.  The lack of proper detectives and the absence of modern technologies such as DNA testing, affected how Jasper and Charlie dealt with Laura’s murder, from the beginning of the novel. As Jasper would have been blamed for the murder of Laura, because the town hated him and the only evidence (the location of the body), this stopped Charlie from going straight to the police for help and instead decided to solve the mystery and help Jasper, like his dad did when he helped the Lou’s when some locals destroyed there beautiful garden.
All the characters in this novel, Jasper Jones, are affected differently by the author’s setting in a small town in the 1960’s.  Characters that are different such as the Lou’s and Jasper are marginalized, and families like the Bucktins to act in a certain way and would have been frowned upon by the community if they weren’t the communities idea of a family. All these characters would have had very different lives if placed in the present day. But its this allowence for the time that gives us a real connection to the charcters.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


After first one, then more, murders take place, Macbeth and his lady are united through their crimes, their mutual madness, and their mounting alienation from the rest of humanity. Most of the romantic love in Shakespearean plays began and ended with courtship and marriage. The Macbeths’ marriage is atypical, particularly by this standard. The Macbeths share an odd power dynamic, where they seem surprisingly attached to one another. Discuss how this couple are partners in the truest sense of the word.

Consider some of the following:

·       Though Macbeth is a brave general and a powerful lord, his wife is far from subordinate to his will. Indeed, she often seems to control him, either by crafty manipulation or by direct order.

·       Is it Lady Macbeth’s deep-seated ambition, rather than her husband’s, that ultimately propels the plot of the play by goading Macbeth to murder Duncan.

·       Would Macbeth have murdered Duncan without his wife’s powerful taunts and persuasions?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


All day, day after day, they’re bringing them home,
they’re picking them up, those they can find, and bringing them home,
they’re bringing them in, piled on the hulls of Grants, in trucks, in convoys,
they’re zipping them up in green plastic bags,
they’re tagging them now in Saigon, in the mortuary coolness
they’re giving them names, they’re rolling them out of
the deep-freeze lockers — on the tarmac at Tan Son Nhut
the noble jets are whining like hounds,
they are bringing them home
– curly heads, kinky-hairs, crew-cuts, balding non-coms
– they’re high, now, high and higher, over the land, the steaming chow mein,
their shadows are tracing the blue curve of the Pacific
with sorrowful quick fingers, heading south, heading east,
home, home, home — and the coasts swing upward, the old ridiculous curvatures
of earth, the knuckled hills, the mangrove-swamps, the desert emptiness…
in their sterile housing they tilt towards these like skiers
– taxiing in, on the long runways, the howl of their homecoming rises
surrounding them like their last moments (the mash, the splendour)
then fading at length as they move
on to small towns where dogs in the frozen sunset
raise muzzles in mute salute,
and on to cities in whose wide web of suburbs
telegrams tremble like leaves from a wintering tree
and the spider grief swings in his bitter geometry
– they’re bringing them home, now, too late, too early. 

Monday, July 21, 2014


And when I say eyes right I want to hear
those eyeballs click and the gentle pitter-patter
of falling dandruff you there what's the matter
why are you looking at me are you a queer?
look to your front if you had one more brain
it'd be lonely what are you laughing at
you in the back row with the unsightly fat
between your elephant ears open that drain
you call a mind and listen remember first
the cockpit drill when you go down be sure
the old crown-jewels are safely tucked away what could be more
distressing than to hold off with a burst
from your trusty weapon a mob of the little yellows
only to find back home because of your position
your chances of turning the key in the ignition
considerably reduced? allright now suppose
for the sake of argument you've got
a number-one blockage and a brand-new pack
of Charlies are coming at you you can smell their rotten
fish-sauce breath hot on the back
of your stupid neck allright now what
are you going to do about it? that's right grab and check
the magazine man it's not a woman's tit
worse luck or you'd be set too late you nit
they're on you and your tripes are round your neck
you've copped the bloody lot just like I said
and you know what you are? You're dead, dead, dead

Notes per line

  • The poem starts in the middle of a sentence, giving the impression that we might have fallen asleep like one of the young recruits being shouted at. It serves to catch our attention.
  • Note the use of spaces and pauses: these indicate a dramatic monologue, because they are natural spaces to take breath. Dramatic monologues give insight into the speaker, their situation, and the people around the speaker and their reactions.
  • pitter-patter is generally a gentle sound, but in this context it is made to sound harsh.
  • are you a queer? - this question reflects the tone of the whole poem: to be called a "queer" is obviously insulting to these men. Also is the start of a whole string of insults littered through the monologue, delivered in a blunt, confronting tone. The question mark is also the first use of punctuation, as the speaker pauses for impact - and breath.
  • Eventually we get to the heart of the matter - the instructions the sergeant is giving: "Cockpit drill" where soldiers drop to the ground and return fire, and the weapon checks.
  • The poem is full of crude sexual references: "Cockpit drill" and "crown jewels", for example.
  • mob of the little yellows - the sergeant dehumanises the enemy by making a racist comment, thus making it easier for the soldiers to kill them (if they're not really people, it doesn't matter if they die).
  • turning the key in the ignition, apart from being an obvious reference to sex, serves to give the soldiers hope by reminding them of coming back home.
  • The sergeant has drifted slightly, with alright now he gets back on track, and throws a problem at the soldiers, to make them feel uncomfortable. They are conscript soldiers and unused to the strict discipline of the Army; the sergeant must show his authority to impress into them the necessity of listening to him: it's the only hope they've got of staying alive.
  • He drops back into dramatic monologue, using "you" all the way because in the end it will be up to the individual soldiers to determine what happens to them.
  • a number-one blockage refers to a certain technical problem. The sergeant is teaching his soldiers to learn by terrorising them.
  • Charlies is a racist name given to the Viet Cong. At every opportunity he degrades the enemy: rotten fish-sauce breath; they are ugly, etc.
  • it's not a woman's tit - back to sex references, reinforced with worse luck - because in this case, it's bad luck it's not a woman!
  • tripes is slang for "guts" (which I guess is slang for "stomach and intestines"!) Here Dawe shows how bloody war is - this is a vivid image that brings to mind images of battle.
  • Like I said ... you're dead dead dead : the message of this poem; leaves us with a sense of foreboding, that most people in this group will end up "dead dead dead".

General Notes

  • Dawe shows the realities of war: alive one moment, dead the next.
    too late ... your tripes are round your neck ...
    you know what you are? You're dead dead dead. 

    Here we see the explicit crudity of the sergeant, and the reptition of "dead" emphasises the message the officer wants to drill into his soldiers. They are taught to hate, fear, and listen to authority, so they won't just go out and die needlessly. The officer does this by asserting his authority and convincing them that war is real, not a game: they are sent out not only with a weapon, but as a weapon.
  • The soldiers need to be numbed of all emotion when on the field. Crude, racist jargon is used so they will view the enemy as subhuman and feel no emotion for them.
  • The officer is not malicious: he is doing his job, and he will do anything he has to to keep the boys alive.
  • There is no clear structure and the rhyme scheme is unobtrusive, which emphasises the monologue form of the poem: despite the rhymes, the poem still sounds like human speech.
  • The repetition of "T" and "I" sounds in words like "click" and "pitter-patter" are onomatopoeic and sound like weaponry. The soldiers are being turned into weapons themselves (so that their gun is merely an extension of themselves).
  • This poem is not ironic; the use of voice is almost a parody of a sargeant, but the edge to the tone gives away his fear that these soldiers will just go and die.


  • What initial impression do we get of the instructor?
  • What is our attitude to him and what he represents?
  • How do we know it is the voice of somebody who has power or control in this situation?
  • Why does the instructor raise the issue of protecting the genetalia?
  • Why does he speak about the enemy in the way he does?
  • What do you think the instructor hopes to achieve?
  • Is your attitude towards the instructor changed by the end of the poem?

Friday, July 18, 2014


To understand poetry, you must understand the poet. To understand the poet, you need to consider how the poet's ideas are shaped by the social, cultural and historical context of their time. All literature is influenced by the writer's awareness of the world he/she inhabits. Maya Angelou (1928 - 2014) said of herself: "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." An African American, Angelou literally did not have a voice; she became mute after a violent sexual attack and her life from then on was a battle to have her voice heard. Once her voice was unleashed, there was no stopping her. She was a prolific author, playwright, actress, civil-rights activist, historian--a survivor. To understand Angelou's work is to understand her dedication to end the prejudices faced by herself and many African Americans, especially females, in the 20th and 21st Century. Two of her poems, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and "Still I Rise" are anthems to her desire to see freedom for African American women. They are her voice unleashed on the world, a voice that demands a response from the reader.

Maya Angelou was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1928. She is considered one of the most famous modern American poets, revered by Presidents and people alike. Fame did not come easy. America was just recovering from the Great Depression and learning how to deal with its marginalised black population. Angelou wrote at the time: "It was awful to be a Negro and have no control over my life." She set about changing this, becoming a positive role model for her people. This entailed heavy involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and she continued to fight for equality and recognition throughout her life, becoming a strong role model. She used her own experiences to educate those ignorant or dismissive of the hardships suffered by African Americans. Her writings are imbued with passion, demanding attention, yet replete with grace and dignity. The metaphorical imprisonment of the Negro is the subject matter of one of her most moving poems:  "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is auto-biographical, using the extended metaphor of a bird to compare white Americans with African Americans. As a black girl, Angelou lived with little freedom, but through this poem she demands freedom for her people, comparing the "free bird" (white Americans) in the first stanza, with an African American who is: 'a bird that stalks down its narrow cage, [who] can seldom see through his bars of rage,". Angelou lived this experience. Her early life was spent in poverty and insecurity, shuffled between her mother and grandmother's houses from the age of three to sixteen. Writing about her situation becomes her shield against the cold reality of her rootlessness and displacement, relatable to African Americans who grew up in similar circumstances in the second stanza: "His wings are clipped and his feet are tied". Angelou knew what it was to be a black girl in a white world. She experienced violent sexual abuse at the age of eight, and discrimination at every turn, even to the extent that a white dentist would not treat her. Fear was a well-known emotion to African Americans, and Angelou writes: "The caged bird sings with a fearful trill/Of things unknown but longed for still/...the caged bird sings of freedom." To become free and to realise their dreams, the African American had to fight at every turn, or they would end up being a race who "...stands on the grave of dreams". The Civil Rights Movement encapsulated this fight, where the revered Martin Luther King Junior claimed in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech: "The Negro is still not free." By comparing the "free bird" with the "caged bird" throughout the poem, Angelou heightens the injustice of one race being able to "think{s} of another breeze" to fly on, while the "caged bird" is filled with fear and longing and "nightmare scream(s)", yet has an overpowering urge for freedom. 


Beach Burial

Softly and humbly to the Gulf of Arabs
The convoys of dead sailors come;
At night they sway and wander in the waters far under,
But morning rolls them in the foam.
Between the sob and clubbing of the gunfire
Someone, it seems, has time for this,
To pluck them from the shallows and bury them in burrows
And tread the sand upon their nakedness;
And each cross, the driven stake of tidewood,
Bears the last signature of men,
Written with such perplexity, with such bewildered pity,
The words choke as they begin –
Unknown seaman’ – the ghostly pencil
Wavers and fades, the purple drips,
The breath of the wet season has washed their inscriptions
As blue as drowned men’s lips,
Dead seamen, gone in search of the same landfall,
Whether as enemies they fought,
Or fought with us, or neither; the sand joins them together,
Enlisted on the other front.

Background and Context

  1. Kenneth Slessor
  2. Kenneth Adolf Slessor OBE was an Australian poet, journalist and official War Correspondent in World War II. He was one of Australia's leading poets, notable particularly for the absorption of modernist influences into Australian poetry. Wikipedia
  3. BornMarch 27, 1901, Orange
  4. DiedJune 30, 1971

In 1940, Kenneth Slessor became Australia’s official war correspondent first reporting from Northern Africa. 
It was a battle in El Alamein, an obscure railway stop west of Alexandria that in the course of a few days became known around the world for turning the fortunes of war. In November 1942, the Allied Eighth Army, comprised of at least 10 nations of the British Empire, broke German and Italian lines to push Rommel’s Axis troops back to Tunisia and defeat in Africa.
 “Before El Alamein we never had a victory; After Alamein we never had a defeat,” Winston Churchill reflected on the course of World War II.  He also famously referred to it as  "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

In the midst of “the blue” was the Australian 9 Division, famous throughout the British Empire a year earlier for its defence of Tobruk. Now they dug into slit trenches on low ridges in open ground to hold a line scratched in the stony sands of Egypt. The Australians were given the hardest part of the line to smash.”
The Australian dead, buried at the Commonwealth War Cemetery where they fought: together, and in four plots on the western flank nearest the front line. “Nine Div” comprised about 10 per cent of the Eighth Army’s strength, yet accounted for more than one in five of its casualties.
‘There are more Australians buried at El Alamein than there are at Pozieres in France,” says Peter Stanley, a military social historian who for more than 20 years worked at the Australian War Memorial. “Yet the significance of the campaign has always been overshadowed by the war against the Japanese.”
Eucalypts throw thin shade from a high African sun. Balls of clipped bougainvillea flower purple. Caretakers paid by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission tend ornamental succulents, oleander and olives, planted on bare earth among headstones, overwhelming in num ber and laid in patterns to confer an order to an otherwise crazy death.
Of the 7970 men buried, 1234 are Australian. Never since have so many Australians died in such numbers in such a short time. The names of a further 655 are chiselled in limestone in a cloister honouring Allied servicemen who died fighting in the Battle for Northern Africa.

Excerpts from SMH Traveller, Saturday, April 25, 2009 by Dugald Jellie

 I. Sound Effects:

Slessor is a master of sound and meaning and believed sound was inseparable from meaning.
This poem starts with a subdued tone elicited by  long slow, soft sounds (softly, humbly, convoys, sway, wander, under, rolls, foam pluck, shallows, burrows ) lulling us into a false sense of calm, then by understating the enormity of the calamity we slowly realise that we are talking about dead soldiers. As daylight approaches, the sounds get harsher and more strident because of the emotional stress of burying the dead and the emerging awareness that War is devastating, cruel barbaric and unnecessary.
          The recreation of the rocking waves of the ocean in
“swaying and wandering”  
          And later the echoes of treading on the sand are conveyed by the meter.

“sob and clubbing of the gunfire” (a muffled distant sound) — a news reporter’s distant impression - away from the action. “Sobbing" expresses deep grief.
Contrast this with the immediacy of Wilfred Owen’s:
“The stuttering rifle’s rapid rattle”   - Anthem of a doomed Youth
“choke” — words stuck in our throats.
Bury. Burrows, clubbing, sobbing

II. Subject Matter:

As war correspondent, during the North African campaign in the early forties, Slessor writes sympathetically about the death of young people.
“Beach Burial”, written at El Alamein during the war, significantly, has similar themes as “Five Bells” - the drowned man - the fading communications. The name scrawled on the wooden “stake of tidewood” is itself anonymous: “Unknown Seaman”, the indelible pencil in which it is written “Wavers and fades”; the men buried in the sand are not only anonymous but are “joined together” by the sand, whether in life they were enemies or allies.

III. Themes:Beach Burial is not a typical war poem; there is no rallying call to arms, no celebration of heroics, no declamations of patriotic or national piety, instead we have a sober, sombre, evocative but realistic tribute to soldiers of all nations whether foe or friend who have been united by the common enemy - death.  The Allied forces comprised soldiers from at least 10 countries of the British Empire, including: New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa, Pacific Islanders....  Egypt represented the hub of the Empire and losing it, would represent a mortal blow to the entire British Empire.

The poem decries the tragic, wanton waste of life. 

In war soldiers become part of a machine and lose their identity.  More than ten nationalities are represented here, yet Slessor fails to make this into a nationalistic conflict; rather it is a more universal conflict of survival and compassion for those who have died.

Rather than enlist on the front of war against each other, we should enlist on a common front against the real enemies of humanity:  disease, famine,  war -  environmental disaster.

Slessor lauds the compassionate action of those who find time to bury the unidentified fatalities with some dignity.

IV. Poetic Technique:

Beach Irony of title - beaches usually associated with life and pleasure.
Nakedness -   Vulnerability of humans to exposure to elements and life.
Cross -           Symbol of Christ’s suffering and pain of war.
Stake -            connotations of sharp dangerous implements of destruction and evil.
Driftwood -      like the bodies have drifted in
Other front -  Paradox – they are united at last with the suggestion that all life is a conflict even after death.

convoys —                  usually ships - here dead bodies.
dead sailors/seamen – blunt language dehumanises them?
someone —                 anonymity of both dead and live soldiers.
Burrows —                 similar to shallows in shape and sound and meaning
Tread        -                 repetitive - Indicates shift In tone - echoes the monotonous drone of life.
Seaman —                  later becomes seamen. Ghostly - echoes of death
Purple —                    a royal colour for these kingly men.
Landfall —                 a haven after long time at sea.
Other front -              literally new front against Hitler /figuratively - life after death
From The Trenches: The Best Anzac Writing of World War One, Edited By Mark Dapin, examines the use of language to express a new reality.
Moreover this was war where the means of death dealing were more mechanised and lethal than they had ever been. Dapin calls the first part of his book "The Great Adventure", as he succinctly traces the soon-obliterated enthusiasm when war was first declared. Those delusions are admonished by the poem with which the section opens - Walter Turner's Death's Men. These are its chilling last lines: "click, clack, click, clack, go Death's trim men/ Across the autumn grass". Following Turner up the line is Philip Schuler, an Age war correspondent who then joined the AIF. His Australia Answers the Call begins with that pseudo-chivalric language that Paul Fussell analysed in The Great War and Modern Memory: "young manhood", "baptism of fire", "thousands of braves". The Great War killed off this rhetoric, as it would kill Schuler, at Messines in Belgium in 1917.
The more self-aware of the authors whom Dapin selects wrestle with the question - moral as well as stylistic - of what language can be found to register the horrors of war. Sometimes there was a resort to mocking euphemism - the naming of frontal assaults as "stunts". For John Monash, a dry, descriptive mode seemed best: "the front line is not really a line at all, but a very complex and elaborate system of field works". He writes also of those behind the front - field police, liaison officers with the French Military Mission, salvage corps and 200 girls in the laundries.
The favoured figurative device of Great War writing (indeed of much war literature in the century since) hearkened back to Homer. This is the simile. Official war correspondent Charles Bean wrote of "an occasional sniping shot, exactly like the crack of a cricket ball". New Zealander Alexander Aitken likened a tank to "a pertinacious beetle", while for Frederic Manning (whose 1929 novel The Middle Parts of Fortune Ernest Hemingway thought the finest about the war), "the drumming of the guns" was "as though a gale resounded overhead, piling up great waves of sound".
By remaking the unfamiliar through the familiar, the horrible through the benign, simile allows the illusion of escape from war to the distant peaceful land left behind. But literary respite, like time spent away from the trenches, is only temporary. Dapin shows ways of reckoning with war and implicitly invites us to contrast them. We can set Walter Downing's exultant account of the recapture of Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day 1918 - "the fierce low growl of tigers scenting blood" - with John Jacob's account of advancing into battle: "We all got up and walked on as if we had suddenly got tired of lying there."
 VI.  Evaluation
 This is one of Slessor’s more mature poems and he exhibits his objective, impartial, newspaper journalistic reporting style with empathy but little judgementalism and yet evokes powerful emotions of mourning.