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Year 10 texts

Pleasantville

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 population’s lives and even in the 1950’s 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 people’s 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 ‘Lover’s 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 Bible’s 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 routine.

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 lives.

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 and bigotry.

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 difference.

The Importance of being Earnest

Students should understand:
* the terms satire, comedy of manners, epigram, wit, irony

‘There is no real conflict in the play as it is quickly laughed away and the characters never take it seriously.’ Discuss

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.

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 matters. Discuss.

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, Miss Prism.


Macbeth

* 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 of these.

Examine how texts are constructed, focusing on setting, character, patterns of imagery, conflict and resolution.

* 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, oxymoron
* 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.
or
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.

***
‘Only Connect’
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 distinctions
How does text show this? Events, dialogue, conflict, resolutions
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 won’t fit’ - 47, 52
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 tolerance.
* 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 individual’s and culture’s 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 Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer’s 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.
Character study.
Structure of the play - starts and ends with a Shakespearian play.
Mendelssohn’s music
Act V, scene 1 (V,i). Symbolic significance of this scene
(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. Authenticity

Style and Use of Language: fragmented, colloquial, street-kid idiom

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, ambiguous ending.

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.

Literary Terms

Language

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 voice.

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 and events?

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 categories:

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 is queried.

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 story.

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 insight.

Setting

* Where is the story set? Time and place.

* How does this effect the way the reader interprets what happens?

* 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 on it.

Characterisation

* 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, race, age.

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 work.

Allusion: is a reference, explicit or indirect, to a person, place, event, or another literary work or passage.

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 techniques

* Understand how music, juxtaposition of scenes, camera angles, light and colour are integral in presenting a certain viewpoint on a particular issue.

The Crucible

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.

Baraka

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 and infinite.

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 selves.

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.

Plainsong

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 lives.

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? (292-4)

Imagery

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 space' 228

animal imagery:

'chairs placed like housebroken outsized animals' 126

'He looked at her ... as some shy country animal might.' 133

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 ..'(300)

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

Coyote 178

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' (280)

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 on life

The Matrix

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 are transient.

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' or 'real'?

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 things.

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 ...'

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