Thoughts and Feelings About Narwhal Hunting

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In the extract, Herbert, who has lived with the Inghuit as a child, is fully involved in the emotions of the locals. She conveys that narwhal hunting is a highly significant event in the Inghuit year. The words ‘rarely’ and ‘fortunate’ convey that the arrival of the narwhal is a special occasion and that only a few are successful in the pursuit of the creature. This is further emphasised by the description of the behaviour of the women who are observing the hunt. They are ‘clustered on the knoll’, meaning that each individual is eager to observe events from the single raised vantage point; their shared excitement, sensed by Herbert, is demonstrated when they ‘gasp or jump’. By citing a specific time period of ‘within an hour’, a certain urgency is conveyed. Optimism is implied in the description of the ‘butter-gold’ light: ‘butter’ carries connotations of food and richness, perhaps foreshadowing the feast of narwhal after a successful catch, while ‘gold’ hints at the promise of wealth and plenty. As the description proceeds however, it becomes evident that the purpose of the piece is not simply to convey Herbert’s emotional response to the exotic beauty of the setting and the event. Herbert prepares the reader for the kill. She pre-empts any criticism of whaling by including facts about the use of narwhal materials in everyday Inghuit life, subtly persuading the reader that the hunt is a time-honoured, accepted local tradition. The use of the impersonal tone ‘was used for...’ and the use of Inghuit terms such as ‘tupilak’ and ‘mattak’ strengthen her case that the hunt is an indispensible, authentic aspect of their tribal culture. Moreover Herbert’s description of the hunt is designed not only to convey Herbert’s tense anticipation but also to illustrate her view that the hunting of the ‘intelligent’ and ‘huge’ narwhal by the ‘brave’ but ‘foolhardy’ hunter in a ‘flimsy kayak’ is actually a highly risky and admirable feat. As the passage progresses, tension is...
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