The film critiques the constructed reality of television
shows, especially those who base their stories on the
idealised American family where anyone is happy and
fulfilled in their suburban lives. In these shows everyone
seems to live in middle class affluence and there are
no major problems that confront those living this life.
This version of reality presents a set a conservative
values that make viewers accept that they are living
in a truly wonderful society and everyone has the freedom
to become whatever they like. However this only presents
a very small part of the populations lives and
even in the 1950s there were millions unemployed
and blacks living in overcrowded tenements. Moreover
instead of the this ideal family life that was meant
to represent the perfect family values that many still
recall, it was a time of steadily rising divorce, child
and wife abuse and teenagers were beginning to rebel
and question the dominant values. There were the beginnings
of the Cold War and in America the notorious era of
McCarthyism where many lived in a state of distrust
and fear in case they were labelled a communist or radical.
This started in politics then spread to the cultural
and artistic community, generating an attitude of intolerance
and threat to everyone with different viewpoints.
The film shows that this world, though apparently perfect
on a superficial level is lacking passion, tolerance
and spontaneity. They are not real lives,
but small minded lives of repetition and routine where
everything may be pleasant and nice but
something integral is missing. There is no inner life
only the rehearsed routines of the father going to work
and coming home to a wife who has been waiting to serve
dinner as if this fulfilled her every desire. Then off
to separate beds. There is also a darker violence beneath
the surface when something different emerges like passion
between individuals and the artistry on the windows.
The young men violently destroy the cafe and paintings
and later burn the books.
The version of the world presented in these shows is
only ever touching on the day to day inane activities
and the life of the needs and desires of the individual
are silenced and never mentioned. Sex is not known or
discussed, there is no intellectual enquiry and the
scene where the books fill with the stories is a metaphor
for the way peoples stories must be told before
they can become real. This itself is a comment on the
way the media construct our lives; presenting as normal
the conservative values of conformity and routine while
silencing the other aspects to life.
There are many scenes in the film that echo great moments
in myth and history. The scene at Lovers
Lane re-enacts Eve tempting Adam with the apple,
but in this story it does not bring damnation. The so-called
perfect paradise of Eden is seen as a sterile place
where people are nice and comfortable in their set ways
but they fail to grow as people. In this case the Fall
is redemption where individuals break free of ignorance
and superficiality, and though life may be more dangerous
it is a release for the individual to be in control
of their own lives, to be free to fulfil deeper emotions
and desires, and in fact become fully human. The Tree
of Knowledge in the Eden myth brought an understanding
of the world which was equated with sorrow and pain,
and it was an authoritarian God (or at least these were
the values in the Bibles cversion) who wanted
total obedience and ignorance from his creation. Pleasantville
subverts these values and shows that the perfect world
of the town was soul destroying and really full of intolerance
and ignorance. Instead individuals can only realise
their own humanity by questioning the old assumptions:
read books, have passion, rebel against the order and
The trite routines of life in Pleasantville is shown
in the film by the black and white photography when
the David and Jennifer arrive. As soon as passion is
released it shifts to colour on the particular characters,
revealing that these characters have connected with
something within that had been repressed in their former
What appears as nice and pleasant is accepted in this
world as all that is needed. Some of the codes and conduct
listed out in the meeting may even appear reasonable:
All citizens must treat others pleasantly and
courteously. However it is clear that their rules
are only addressing the values of some of the people
(those in power) and are there to perpetuate traditional
values and fails to include peoples with different beliefs
and practices. In fact those who are different are demonised
and forced to obey the dominant beliefs. These attitudes
in the film parallel those in America in the recent
past and the film certainly satirises the dominant ideology
operating in the land of the free where
a place espoused as paradise is also a place of prejudice
This investigation of the theme of appearance and reality
underpins the way societal forces, such as the media
and ideology operating in that world, shape our perception
of what is normal. Television shows and other media
construct versions of the world which may be in great
contrast to other evidence, and through this acts a
means of social control by naturalising particular values
and attitudes, perpetuating gender and cultural stereotypes
that appear to the viewer as normal. Thus the values
underpinning the nice pleasant world of TV sitcoms,
such as conformity, obedience and never questioning
the status quo, are presented as desirable and legitimates
these ways of living, though it silences all the other
ways of living which through their absence are seen
as not natural and undesirable. Pleasantville
attempts to subvert this and reveal these versions are
sterile and destructive in the way they fail to acknowledge
The Importance of being Earnest
Students should understand:
* the terms satire, comedy of manners, epigram, wit,
There is no real conflict in the play as it is
quickly laughed away and the characters never take it
The Importance of Being Earnest is not Realist drama;
the characters live in a world where no one seems to
work or have pressing problems, and the play totally
presents an ideal world outside time where everyone
is free and frivolous.
Discuss the significance of the title.
The play is a mild satire on the frivolous nature of
upper class society, where only style and appearance
The play essentially revolves around the dialogue of
the characters. All else is superfluous to having characters
say clever and witty things. Discuss
Auden once describes the play as a verbal opera in
which characters are determined by the kinds of things
they say, and the plot is nothing but a succession of
opportunities to say them. Discuss
Discuss the importance of stage directions in the play.
Wilde criticises the moral certainties of the age, with
constant jokes about social class, religion and politics.
Discuss irony in the play.
Discuss the construction of the following characters:
Algernon, Cecily, Jack, Gwendolen, Lady Bracknell, Lane,
* Recognise the cultural assumptions of Elizabethan
society, and be able to see these operating in the play.
In particular notice the gender and class assumptions,
belief in supernatural, relationship between natural
world and the socio-political world.
* Understand the values and attitudes of the play by
observing whose viewpoints are endorsed or criticised,
the final outcome of the play and by all the attitudes
that are naturalised. Students will need to be able
to connect the use of language, imagery, attitudes,
actions with certain gender and class stereotypes, and
then question these, drawing conclusions on the implications
Examine how texts are constructed, focusing on
setting, character, patterns of imagery, conflict and
* Recognise how the text shapes the audience
to sympathise or not with certain characters.
* Notice how characters are constructed - the ways the
audience learns about them and the significance of these
ways. (soliloquy, dialogue and interaction with others,
from other characters, aligned with certain imagery)
* dramatic conventions
* understand terms like soliloquy, dramatic irony, paradox,
* understand patterns of imagery operating in the play
and their effect and significance: darkness and light,
blood, children, disease, feasting, sleep, animal, clothes.
* understand themes and issues in the play: ambition,
evil, order and disorder, appearance and reality, tyranny
and violence, guilt and conscience.
* understand the conventions of Aristotelian Tragedy
and apply these to the play.
Read the play in class. All students having a turn
at being a character.
Discussion of what is happening - interpret
language, themes, use of language, imagery, dramatic
conflict and resolution.
Year 10 Assignment A Room With A View 1999
only connect: Discuss how this theme is
explored in A Room With A View.
E. M Forster often explores the idea that people need
to make connections in life: to understand themselves
and their relationship to the world around them. Discusswith
close reference to A Room With A View.
Is the realisation that this is needed. How is it achieved.
Through what means? What changes in attitude and behaviour?
Living through your feelings rather than the more rational
prescriptions of society, especially one based on class
How does text show this? Events, dialogue, conflict,
Contrasts set up between emotion(love, spontaneity)
and rationality(social expectations). Art/Nature, Christianity/free
thinking, England/Italy. The text supports spontaneity
and free thinking, the power of Nature and that a person
needs to live according to their inner emotional needs,
while criticising the bigotry and narrowness of the
Church and the class system. It also critiques the snobbishness
often connected with upper class society and high culture.
Love transcends class barriers.
Leitmotif of muddled: 47, 64, 68, 100, 132
Work of Art motif: 107-9, 115
Pool scene 148-152
Allusions to Phaethon, Persephone 79, 90
Nature: 84, 88 (spring) 89, 145, 152
Symbolism of violets: 89, 134, 166
Symbolism of room and view: 25, 125
Class: 24, 37, 39, 74
only connect - things wont fit - 47,
Gender: 60, 96
kiss : 89, 127,
Lucy -change - 130,
world weary, bored: 141
Year 10 Away 1999
* The play can be seen as a symbolic journey where characters
are lead from metaphorical blindness to self-realisation.
* The play traces a set of relationships that move
from disorder and conflict to harmony and reconciliation.
* Play explores the social mores of Australian society
in the late 1960. Australia is seen as a materialistic
culture, where one's status is defined by the amount
of money they have and the holiday they can afford.
* Attitudes to American imperialistic policies,
European high culture, materialism.
* The play seeks to restore harmony within the characters
personal relationships through love, understanding and
* The play endorses the idea that life must be celebrated
and lived fully, as inevitable death waits: ...
while we unburdened crawl toward death
* The play criticises the unthinking conformity of middle-class
values. The need for order and rules stifles their their
ability to accept others and live fully.
* The play shows how ethnocentric views are harmful
and inhibits an individuals and cultures
growth and understanding. it reveals an authoritarian
strain in Australian culture as people are forced to
act and behave like the majority (They have no
right to behave any differently)
* Gow explores the way in which all characters are led
to drop their masks and reveal genuine feelings.
* Importance of dreams.
* In the play the natural world is linked with contentment
and inner peace.
Research Shakespeares Midsummers Night
Dream and King Lear. Make links with
Away. Also the plays The Tempest and Twelfth
Night as epigraphs. Both these begin with a shipwreck.
Significance of the title.
Structure of the play - starts and ends with a Shakespearian
Act V, scene 1 (V,i). Symbolic significance of this
(IV, iii) Significance of the play The Stranger
on the Shore.
(III, iv) Fairy scene, the storm.
Significance of the different settings.
NPOV: diary form in Back on Track -
effectiveness of this form for this style of novel, advantages
it offers to a first-person narrative by a street-kid.
Style and Use of Language: fragmented, colloquial, street-kid
Values & attitudes: attitudes to streetkids and other
marginalised groups in society, drugs, authority structures,
psychologists and counsellors, religious groups helping
on the streets, women, sex, love, family life
How is the reader shaped to view Simone? Do we sympathise
with her position, seeing her as a victim of society or
do we blame her for the things that happen to her? Is
there any way of accepting her view of the streets, that
this way of life (drugs, car burgs ...) is just another
way of life and acceptable as any other - perhaps more
honest than mainstream?
Structure: beside the diary form discuss other structures
within the book that move to a conclusion. Journey motif,
Characterisation: discuss how scenes and episodes give
insights into characters and shape the reader to view
them certain ways.
Explore the representation of street kids, Australia,
urban life, gender, race and class.
guitar highway rose
Traditional novels present their characters, events
and conflicts through the voice of a narrator who might
be first-person or third-person. guitar highway rose
presents its material through a variety of voices. Rosie
is the dominant voice and character, but the reader
is given first-person narrations from a range of characters
as well a third person narrator. It also includes other
texts ('From Living With Teenagers', horoscopes), quirky
lists, letters, postcards, phone calls, notes, poems
and creative stories of a student (Thomas) in the class.
The style of writing varies in these entries. Rosie
tells of her feelings in journal-like entries, Asher's
thoughts are shown in stream of consciousness.
Each type of entry and the style it adopts reveals
a dimension of the character. Asher's stream of consciousness
narration with no punctuation or capitalisation shows
he is a free spirit, less ordered in his way of thinking
and non conventional in his attitudes.
Despite these unconventional elements in the story
the narrative moves along more traditional lines. Disorder
is finally replaced by order and the novel uses the
conventional motif of the symbolic journey from the
city to the 'outer' regions that parallel the characters'
own symbolic journeys into knowing themselves and the
world around them. The narrative destiny is resolution
and unity. All are happy in the end and their alienation
and rebellion are merely teenage phases that pass. Thus
while the novel tends to celebrate non conformity throughout
the ending (closure) seems to reinstate the conventional
mores of society.The two rebels who had runaway return
and see that they have been foolish and the future sees
them adopting more conventional behaviour. It also suggests
that all their despair and angst were not really serious
and for all the attempts at rebellion she is still a
virgin at the end and willing to trust the things that
they have been told are important.
The themes include the parent/teenager relationships;
accepting others and being tolerant of others (while
also suggesting that they will eventually come around
to your views); showing adult relationships that need
to be restored and revitalised by working at them
The values of the text outwardly endorse tolerance
of others, especially accepting experimentation, individuality
and non conformity from teenagers, though it sees it
as a phase that must be outlived. We all have to be
sensible and mature one day.
What is language?
* The selection of words - adjectives, verbs, their
sounds and rhythms. They of course, create meaning and
drive the plot of the story, but what are their effects
and how do they create mood, tension and atmosphere?
* The connotations of the words used. All words have
associations they immediately come to mind.
* The cultural assumptions embedded in words. List
out all of the connotations of white and black, bachelor
and spinster. Poem.
She clasps the crag with crooked hands
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ringed with the azure world, she stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath her crawls;
She watches from her mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt she falls.
* How does the way a narrator or character speak determine
how the reader views them? How does this relate to the
cultural assumptions on social class and other issues?
Narrative point of view
Narrative point of view refers to the way the story
is told and the method in which access is gained about
characters' thoughts and feelings, and events (past,
present and future). This is pivotal in a story as it
positions the reader to privilege some characters in
preference to others simply by having them relate the
tale and by having the reader become familiar with their
views and feelings.
This is more apparent with first-person narratives,
but also third-person accounts where the focus is centrally
on one or two characters. These characters' views and
values are privileged, while others are not given a
Many novels have the npov shift from one character
to another so that alternative views are given, though
it should be noted how the structure of the novel and
the amount of time given to certain characters still
position readers to an extent.
You should ask who is telling the story? Where is their
position in relation to the action and other characters?
How does this affect the way we read and judge characters
In To Kill a Mockingbird the narrator is telling the
story of her childhood in retrospect. That is, relating
the story from the distance of the many years as a mature
woman. This type of narrative allows for the narrator
to recall specific details from memory, perhaps allowing
her to see it in an idyllic or romanticised way, in
contrast to the way it might have been from the young
girl's Scout perception at the time.
In Frankenstein the novel starts with a series of letters
fromWalton to his sister telling her of his journey.
In the fourth letter he tells of a man they found in
the icy wilderness and who has told him a harrowing
story of which he will now write down for his sister.
It then shifts to the first-person narration of Dr Frankenstein
telling his story though the reader knows it is the
story being told to Captain Walton on the boat.
Any discussion of npov entails exploring how the way
it is told, rather than what it tells; how it shapes
the reader to see characters and events in particular
ways, and through this present a certain set of values
and attitudes. In some novels the npov reflects and
comments on issues themselves or ways in which people
perceive the world or are not easily known.
There are three main npovs:
First-person: the narrator speaks as 'I'.
Third-person omniscient: a narrator who sees
into everyone's thoughts and feelings and knows all
about what is happening.
Third-person limited: a narrator that limits
his/her self to telling the thoughts of one or two characters.
Interior monologue - is a first-person narration
where the thoughts of the narrator are heard.
However there are other types of narrator within these
The unreliable narrator who tells a story and
it is only later that the reader realises they might
be lying, mad or simply so prejudiced that their view
The self-conscious narrator alerts the reader
to the articiality of the text itself; they draw attention
to the fact that they are writing a story instead of
letting the reader drift fully into the world of the
The intrusive narrator is third-person omniscient
and not only tells all about events and characters nut
freely intrudes into the narrative to give satirical,
ironic ir sarcastic comments on what is happening.
Some stories are told ny a narrator looking back in
retrospective what has happened in the past.
Besides a narrative told by a narrator, dialogue also
gives insights into characters.
Other forms of writing are sometimes including: diary
entries, letters. These may show a totally different
side to a characters or events and are a more personal
* Where is the story set? Time and place.
* How does this effect the way the reader interprets
* Is the setting an integral part of the story? Does
it have symbolic significance? For example, does the
writer go into great detail, foregrounding landscapes
or cityscapes (carefully choosing words, perhaps even
metaphor, to create atmosphere) that seem to place importance
* How are characters constructed in the text? How are
they shaped by the writer so that the reader sympathises
or not with their actions and beliefs.
This will include literary techniques such as narrative
point of view (whose character is dwelt upon most, whose
story is centrally told, what detail is selected to
be shown, is there an outside narrator who comments
on this?) patterns of imagery, use of language.
* What type of language is used in describing them
and how does the way they use language (dialogue) shape
the reader to make judgements on their social class,
Values and Attitudes
The values in a text are ways of behaviour and beliefs
that are constructed to be have greater merit. They
will be presented in a more positive light and the text
will support these by having the outcomes in the story
reward these or else if they fail there will be evidence
that will criticise what happens.
Certain values will also be criticised by texts.
Themes and Issues
The plot of a story is simply the chronological series
of events that occur in a text. You never need to re-tell
this in any question asked.
A theme is the central idea that a text explores
within the storyline. It may never be stated directly
but must be condensed from all the events that happen.
Themes are often repeated in stories and include love,
death, relationships, innocence and experience, jealousy
and envy, the human condition, social injustice.
Issues are similar to themes as they are central
ideas explored but are usually to do with controversial
topics. Thus a story that deals with a nuclear future
may explore the issues of nuclear energy, pollution
and the environment. Other issues are abortion, social
injustice, racial, gender or class discrimination,
Motif: is an element - a type of incident, device,
or formula - which recurs frequently in literature.
The 'loathly lady' who turns out to be a beautiful princess
is a common motif in folklore and faitytales. The man
fatally bewitched by a fairy lady as in Keats' 'La Belle
Dame sans Merci'. The motif of looking back nostalgically
to a past where everything was perfect. The carpe diem
motif - seize the day and live life to the full.
Leitmotif: is applied to the frequent repetition
of a significant phrase ('muddled' in Room With A View),
or set description, or a complex of images in a single
Allusion: is a reference, explicit or indirect,
to a person, place, event, or another literary work
Irony: in most irony there is a great difference
between what is asserted and what is actually the case.
In Medea Jason tells Medea: 'You came from God knows
where to Greece, and here you learned what justice is.'
The irony is that the audience has clearly seen that
she has experienced no justice whatsoever in Greece.
She has been marginalised to the outskirts of town and
had been deniedmost of her rights as she is not Greek.
-Verbal Irony is a statement in which the implicit
meaning intended by the speaker differs from that which
s/he actually says.
In Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice the novel starts
out with the line: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged
that a single man in possession of a good fortune must
be in want of a wife.' The ironic implication is that
a single woman is in want of a rich husband.
- Structural Irony: the irony occurs in the overall
set of events or outcomes.
Year 10 English Documentary 2000
Students should understand the following from their
study of documentary film:
* All texts present a viewpoint that is partial despite
claims of objectivity
* Understand how to pinpoint themes in a film by noting
the way the film is constructed and presented
* Understand how values are shaped by the use of different
* Understand how music, juxtaposition of scenes, camera
angles, light and colour are integral in presenting
a certain viewpoint on a particular issue.
The separation of State and religion is a relatively
new phenomena. The idea of a private life and the freedoms
associated with it were not the same as today as an
individual's moral code was connected to all those in
society. As a theocratic institution, the court represents
divine as well as secular justice. To go against the
laws of the State was also going against God's Will.
People were controlled this way and surveillance was
needed to keep an eye on all.
Proctor finally chooses to hang because it is the only
course of action that does not cast doubt on his fellow
victims. He had been willing to confess as he was not
holding out like the others, especially Rebecca Nurse,
for her strong beliefs, but just to spite the court.
His final act is one of expiation for his sins.
The play explores the conflict between the individual
and society, when the values of society impose restrictions
and injustices that are too great. It shows that individual
moral codes are important and that people must stand
up for their beliefs.
It is a story of conformity; of how it is so easy to
go with the crowd and accept the judgements of others,
even when they go against your own beliefs, so as to
avoid confrontation and trouble. The hysteria created
by Abigail and the other girls reveal how easily people
in authority, the power structures operating in society,
can be duped.
Film: Point of View
Point of view means the narrative stance taken by the
director. The first-person point of view is rarely used
(the camera being the eyes of a character) and even
where a character's voice is used as a 'voice-over'
narration is not first-person as the camera is being
used as an observer of that character. Most films uses
the stance of an apparently uninvolved observer. This
may be omniscient, so that several settings, groups
and plot developments can be viewed in sequential juxtaposition.
On the other hand, it may be the viewer of a limited
range of action, revealing only part of the action which
the main character is involved or can see.
The two main filmic techniques which can be used to
demonstrate point of view are the framing of shots and
the placement of the camera. You need to ask yourself
what is the effect of each shot, that is, where does
each type of shot place the viewer in relation to the
character or subject matter. A close-up brings the viewer
closer to the character and allows the viewer to identify
with that character's feelings, whereas a mid-shot removes
the viewer slightly and a long shot may create a feeling
of being an objective observer. The placement of the
camera or where the camera is in relation to the characters
is also important. For example, the camera may be in
the middle of the action or it may be close to a character
who is watching another character.
The documentary film, Baraka, directed by Ron Fricke
is an amazing exploration of humans' relationship with
the natural world and the spiritual world, without dialogue
or conventional plot. It is a celebration of the Earth
as a living organism, its natural beauty and awe-inspiring
majesty, and the capacity of humans in all cultures
throughout time to search for something beyond the temporal
concerns of everyday life to contemplation of the eternal
and the spiritual side to humans. At the same time the
film is a critique of industrialisation, materialism,
consumerism and the unthinking use of technology that
has destroyed vast sections of the Earth and threatens
to break the delicate balance of life on the planet.
In essence the film shows the interconnectedness of
all things in the world and seeks to convince the audience
to appreciate Nature's beauty in its patterns and symmetries
and its innate sense of balance and harmony.
The title is a Sufi word meaning 'breath of life' or
'blessing'. Critics have seen the film as a 'visual
poem' and a 'meditation on the eternal' and the magnificent
visuals that are shot in 24 countries and the accompanying
music, often use the sounds of indigenous and ethnic
groups to capture a spiritual dimension in cultures.
The 'breath of life' is the earth itself, an organism
that gives life, while also suggesting that the ways
humans attempt to find meaning outside their own little
worlds is what really breathes life into them. In both
cases they are blessings - the blessing of existence
itself and an understanding of its sacred nature.
The opening shot is of the snow-covered mountains of
Japan where a snow monkey sits meditatively in a hot
spring. This acts as a prelude to what will be examined
throughout the film. In combination with the gentle,
melodious sounds of the pan-pipes it is a scene of peace,
harmony and tranquillity set in the natural world, yet
the seemingly reflective monkey also shows signs of
world-weariness and concern as he shuts his eyes. It
is this dilemma that the film moves onto and creates
as it major preoccupation: the beauty and wonder of
Nature in the face of the destructive forces of industry
and rampant technology.
The text constructs Nature as a vital life force and
is aligned with beauty, tranquillity and harmony. Moreover,
the film suggests that it is in Nature that human can
find their source of spirituality. Human life can be
more fulfilling and meaningful if Nature is revered
and kept intact. This is an old Romantic idea from the
past but also a part of the contemporary environmental
creed, especially the Gaia movement, and in the film
this view is naturalised and accepted as unproblematic.
The text shapes the audience to accept this version
of reality by constantly showing Nature in beautiful
visuals, accompanied by soulful music. Spectacular footage
is shown of the Japanese mountains, Iguasu Falls, the
BIg Sur, the Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, as
well as magnificant shots of clouds rushing across the
desert in time-lapse photography, breaking waves and
stars in far off galaxies. Nature is constructed as
both serene and sublime - a place of introspection and
a mighty life force to find joy and inspiration.
These images of nature are also technically connected
with many religious rituals that are enacted on film.
It covers the rituals of different cultures - moving
from a Buddhist temple in China to the Wailing Wall
in Jerusalem, the whirling Dervishes in Turkey, an Indian
holy man and group reenactment of myth in Bali. All
these images are connected by intercutting from one
to another and linked through sound. There is a peacefulness
and serenity in Nature and this is equated with the
same feeling shown in these places of worship. Both
are sacred and feed one another. The film never privileges
one religion or creed over another, but endorses the
spirituality of all religions where humans escape the
bonds of temporality and seek knowledge in the eternal
Nevertheless the film does put forth a very clear viewpoint
that privileges Nature over civilisation and the indigenous
and Third World cultures over Western capitalism. It
is the cultural rituals of the less affluent world that
are celebrated in the film. Some of these are religious
such as the chanting of monks in the Dip Tse Chok Ling
monastery or the tribal dances of the Masai of Kenya
or the Cayapo of Brazil. The text constructs these rituals
to seem life-affirming and an integral part of their
everyday life through the music that is meditative and
serene, as well as the selection of detail that shows
them joined together as a group, happy and content in
the rituals that share.
In contrast the film critiques capitalism, industrialisation
and consumerism. The Western world is constructed by
the text to be a place of alienation: people rush from
place to place without meaning or direction in cities
that are huge and impersonal. This version of the industrialised
world is evoked powerfully by the chosen camera shots
and fast-forward footage. Numerous shots show the urban
masses waiting on street corners for the lights to change
then in fast-forward see them racing like ants to other
destinations. This filmic technique shows humans as
insignificant parts to an impersonal city; thousands
upon thousands acting out lives to external forces with
no time for the solitude and peace seen in earlier in
Nature. High camera shots looking out from a New York
window slowing moves along a long avenue showing an
endless stream on cars bumper to bumper; caught in the
turmoil and rush of the city, entrapped by skyscrapers
and the impersonal dynamics of the metropolis living.
As mentioned before cities are seen as little more
than machines that churn out masses of people alienated
from a sense of meaning or purpose beyond the nine-to-five
drudgery. This view is shown further in the metaphor
of the battery hens and chicks. In a disturbing sequence
chicks are shown falling down shutes as if they were
little more than fluffy toys, being branded and then
passed on to lives in crowded coops, all for the purpose
of a consumerist society. This scene parallels the lives
of the urban masses who are also caught in a complex
nexus of commercial interests which serves to produce
more economic goods and does little for their spiritual
The documentary presents a strong environmental message
that the Earth is a precious and sacred entity which
needs to be cared for and respected. This is shown throughout
by constructing Nature as beautiful and awe-inspiring
in the repeated visual shots of mountains, sea and sky
in every corner of the planet, and by connecting the
Earth, through juxtaposition and musical links, to the
spiritual element that is needed to sustain human life.
The destruction of the environment is criticised by
juxtaposing the beauty of the jungles and forest, with
a calm tranquil soundtrack with the sudden sound of
the chainsaw as it cuts down an old-growth tree. The
camera lingers slowly on the drawn-out fall of the tree
as it tumbles to the ground, accentuating the mindless
destruction. This is folowed by the loud and harsh counds
of TNT as a landsape is blown apart for mining. In contrast
to the serene beauty of Nature these sounds and visuals
shock the audience into seeing the terrible damage being
done to the Earth, all in the name of a progress that
will ironically lead to a civilisation that has already
been clearly depicted as machine-like and alienating.
The text constructs indigenous peoples of the Third
World as poor and exploited by the rich Western corporate
world which has only profits in mind, yet it also shows
them to be spiritually richer and more in touch with
themselves and Nature. They are linked by community
and their sacred rituals which are shown to be fulfilling,
unlike the Western cities where people may be materially
rich but lack any purpose or meaning in their lives.
This idea is repeated throughout the film by focussing
on the rituals of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and other
tribal religions, and by presenting them as being integral
to the way they live their lives. This is achieved by
associating these people and religion with music that
is soothing and serene, and with behaviours that show
them sitting at peace. This is in contrast to the frenetic
pace that is connected with the Western world through
fast-forwarding and a sound track that uses discordant
rhythms and a quickly paced tempo.
The celebration of Nature and the spiritual lives of
indigenous people are foregounded but the film does
not neglect to show the social and economic poverty
of these people and the social injustice rampant in
the world. In these cases there is always an implied
criticism of Western corporatism as they are the ones
driving the economies of the world and have used the
Third World as a cheap means of labour and resources.
The horrific standards of living is often shown in their
living conditions, but nowhere moreso than in the shot
which shows women and children searching though a Calcutta
rubbish tip for something to eat. Selection of detail
such as this is shown throughout the film to make the
audience feel both outrage at the appalling conditions
in which human beings have to live and a profound pathos
for these women and children who suffer.
In another scene the film juxtaposes a series of women
and children of the Third World, using close-ups to
show their poverty and despair caused through economic
conditions. This selection of detail again positions
an audience to feel sympathy for these people, while
also being critical of a Western world which seems to
be so rich and exploitative.
In the end the text returns to the issue of spirituality,
juxtaposing a series of cultures and religions at worship.
In the end this is what human have in common and possibly
it will eventually bring them together. An image of
lit candles in small hand-sized boats is seen drifting
across the river, an offering perhaps that bring peace
and justice to the Earth.
The novel explores the difficulties that ordinary people
face in everyday life: the inherent loneliness, the
breakdown of relationships, death and the problems of
finding a place in the world. However, despite these
negative aspects of life the novel still celebrates
the love, friendship and caring that can transform people's
The theme of loneliness is explored with all the main
characters experiencing some form of loneliness or sense
of alienation. The young boys must overcome the grief
of their mother leaving, the death of Mrs Stearns and
the horse as well as their ordeal with Russell Beckman.
The novel shows the trauma of these experiences, yet
by the end the boys have grown from these events and
are seen as metaphorically burying the past when they
place their mother's bracelet and four coins on the
train track and then bury it in the sand. They then
sit quietly smoking cigarettes, already seeming older
than their years - wiser and perhaps more capable of
enduring the hardships that will face them in life.
Themes and Issues
Relationships and Family
Many estranged relationships where people no longer
care for those close to them, while at the same other
people such as Maggie Jones and the Mc Pheron brothers
who are not responsible, help them out of sheer goodness.
Victoria's mother abandons her in need as does her
boyfriend. The girl in the house with Russell Beckman
and his friend also shows the loveless relationships
that exist in the world.
The families in the novel are shown as fractured and
instead of the traditional family (father, mother, children)
a new model is suggested at the end as often better.
Loss and Loneliness
The novel is a journey of self discovery for the boys:
separated from mother, death of horse, death of Mrs
Stearns, ordeal with Russell Beckman, acceptance of
the suffering in life.
'Hello. Is anybody there?' (299)
What is the symbolism of the four coins and bracelet?
images of desolation 66
images of dullness, decrepitude 34
images of the sky and sun:
'.. the sky was filled with bright hard stars like
a scatter of white stones in a river.'246
sun, sunlight - when Dwayne comes for Victoria ('The
sun was bright. But it didn't feel warm.' 195
- 'familiar high white stars and the dark trees and
'chairs placed like housebroken outsized animals' 126
'He looked at her ... as some shy country animal might.'
images of windmill 3
images of gold 4, 7
images of church 6
loss 150 201-204 (McPherons loses Victoria)
loneliness 47 (Mrs Stearn)158, 188,199, 204
('.. the house was empty now, how it seemed all of a
sudden so lonesome and empty'), 212
horse's death 227
'They ... stood up on the porch like two lifelke statues
of minor saints.' (125)
Scene of mother and child in cafe (95)
Maggie's father - the burden of family (97)
Boys visiting mother (100 -104)
'I know... I've been submerged and abtracted. I wanted
something more from you, all these years. I wanted someone
who wanted me for what I am ..' (116)
Wind: the wind is mentioned throughout the novel:
'The wind howled and cried. The house creaked.' (134),
'Now the wind started up in the trees .. The two women
stood letting the breeze blow coolly on their faces
Mrs Stearns gives the boys her key (148). Shows loss
in her own family. Constant search for connection with
others. Often broken and fractured but people thrive
to work through it.
In the modern technological world people lose connection
with nature and their source of life. Mc Pherons lament
this in supermarket where you get beef in plastic wrapper
- 'I can't tell if it smells goods. They got it wrapped
up in all this goddamn plastic.' 161
Seventh- floor apartment in Denver 169. Boys escaped
to balcony to see the world, not confined within walls.
Return to country: 'They could look out and see the
corral and windmill and horse barn'. 171
'barn and fence and windmill' 217,
Most of the novel happens in winter; even when it is
sunny it is a 'cold bright sun'. Isolated and cold place,
yet there is warmth and connection to be made, and the
novel moves towards the birth of a child and spring.
Out of the suffering, loneliness and despair there is
hope and this is shown at the end of the novel: there
is a new connection, a different family formed and hope
renewed for the future.
'you can't fix nothing permanent' 175
the death of the horse
McPherons buy the crib for the baby. 177
Guthrie tells Maggie she is different: 'You don't seem
to ever get defeated or scared by life. You stay clear
in yourself, no matter what.' (233)
'That girl made a difference out here for us and we
missed her when she was gone.' (245)
Raymond makes up story about injured heifer (266)
Victoria returns and fits into the family - 275
Birth of child - 'bright warm late-spring afternoon'
Gift of meat to the doctor (290)
All the problems have not been solved totally at the
end (Guthrie might lose his job, Dwayne may reappear)
but there is a unity between the characters now. Victoria
is happy with the McPherons, Guthrie is willing to trust
love again, the boys have come to a hard acceptance
of life, and the McPherons have been given a new lease
The Matrix can be viewed as an allegory of the Christ
story. The film suggests these connections through the
ideas explored and the names given to characters and
other elements within the narrative.
Neo - meaning 'new' as well as an anagram of 'one'
- is the Christ-figure who must save the world. The
story is set in the future two hundred years after the
demise of human life on earth due to a takeover by machines
with artificial intelligence. The life that people live
is only a computer generated programme devised by the
machines; it is not real, but an illusion. It is Neo's
fate to show them that their lives are an illusion:
the things they value are not real and lasting but false
and alienating. The parallel between the events in The
Matrix and the Christ story is that Christ also had
to show the world that their lives lacked substance
and reality and they sought meaning and purpose in the
things of everyday, their status in society, their quest
for materialistic gains and riches. These things brought
no happiness or fulfilment. The true life existed outside
the realm of the physical world and in the spiritual
world. One had to forego the demands and desires of
the physical and see that all these things passed and
Neo has faith in Morpheus and Trinity - the former
the god of dreams, the latter the word for the three
aspects of God: father, son and holy spirit - and chooses
to take the pill that will deliver him from the false
life in the matrix. He is shown being reborn, being
like a child who is rebirth under water and delivered
to the 'real world'. In this instance, Morpheus is John
the Baptist, the prophet who knows he is not the one
but will find the chosen redeemer, who baptises Christ
and sets him on his way.
The feature film, The Matrix, questions our notions
of reality and the way we perceive the world. How do
we know what we know? And how do we know it is the 'truth'
How is our life and the world we live an illusion?
Truth/Reality in The Matrix
We believe that all we see is exactly as it seems.
That what we see is reality and that it actually exists
out there as we see it. It is fixed. If we had different
senses this would not be the case.
We believe in all the things our society tells us is
reality: what is good and bad, right and wrong - our
reality is shaped for us by our biology but more importantly
by the world we live.
All the things we value in Western society: success,
popularity, money, materialistic goods, fame - are an
illusion. We are conned by what we are told, we get
pleasure from these things but they are only temporary,
they will not last. We are finding meaning in the wrong
We go to school, university, get a job, make money,
get a spouse and kids, work, retire, die. Do we ever
question why we do these things? Is it worthwhile, does
it have meaning, most importantly does it bring happiness
and contentment. If not why do we do it? Can we escape?
What happens if we try?
These are the types of questions that are being posed
indirectly in The Matrix. On one level it questions
our very physical existence. The people believe that
are living 'real lives' yet Neo is shown that they are
illusions, simply 'mental projections of a digital self'
and Morpheus asks what is reality, is it only based
on the 'electrical signals interpreted by your brain'.
These philosophical questions are explored in the film,
questioning the very essence of identity, our notions
of self and its imnportance in the world.
On another level the illusion that the film explores
is related to the materialistic world. Our faith in
achieving success, riches, and power is illusionary
- these things are transient, they cannot last, our
time on Earth is limited, we age and die, no matter
how powerful you are. The greater reality, as espoused
by Christ and Buddha, is to transcend the material world,
to 'let go' of the physical, material things that close
your mind to greater spiritual truths.
'The Matrix is everywhere. It is
all around us ... It is the world that has been pulled
over your eyes to blind you from the truth.'
The illusion of self/Plato's Cave
Science and Technology in The Matrix
The Matrix is a critique of the belief that science
and technology bring progress and a better way of life.
The film shows this by setting the action two hundred
years in the future when the Earth as we know it has
been damaged so much that life cannot exist on the surface.
The film in particular criticises a Science that continues
on regardless of moral and ethical issues. In this new
world artificial intelligence has led to machines taking
over the world and humans relegated to sources of energy
to be used by the machines.
During the nineteenth and twentieth century Science
has made amazing breakthroughs that have brought a more
comfortable lifestyle to the people as well as giving
them safer and longer lives. However it has also brought
on the Industrial and electronic revolutions which has
made people feel redundant and alienated from the natural
rhythms of life. It has also been responsibility for
advanced ways of killing people more efficiently - nuclear
bombs and other armaments. It has helped destroy the
environment. It is with this as a backdrop that The
Matrix explores the next step - AI - where people lose
control of their world.
The answer to life is not scientific progress, it is
not all the new technologies that make life comfortable.
It is even implied that these things drive us from our
deeper selves, they cut us off from authentic experience
with the world. The film in its Buddhist attitudes and
even in Christ's message before it was hijacked by the
Church, suggest that we have to let go of the physical
world and all its materialism. Similar to The Fight
Club we are not the things that we collect - 'we are
not the cars we drive, we are not ...'