2011 Paper 2 Module A – Elective 1: Distinctive Voices
In what ways are people and experiences brought to life through distinctive voices?
In your response, make detailed reference to your prescribed text and at least ONE other related text of your own choosing.
Sample response: Prose fiction
The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender, Marele Day, 1988 Related text:
‘Katrina’, Bruce Dawe, 1967 (poetry)
The introduction names the texts and outlines how they both use particular techniques to convey a distinctive voice In The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender, Marele Day takes the reader into the world of the novel through narrative perspective, tone, detailed description and personifying the setting. Bruce Dawe’s poem, ‘Katrina’, also uses a strong first person perspective and tone, but uses metaphor and simile to convey feelings, whereas Day uses description to convey character and action. In both texts we have a very strong sense of the person behind the distinctive narrative voice.
Narrative perspective in Harry Lavender
The narrative perspective in The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender establishes the voice of the hard-boiled detective. We read the clichés of the genre – the blond in the bed, the heavy drinking and the hangover, the chaotic apartment – but Day undercuts and rearranges our perceptions by making us realise after a few paragraphs that the narrator is female, not male. This has the effect of establishing the narrative voice as belonging to a multi-dimensional and interesting character, someone who is unconventional and on first meeting certainly seems larger than life.
Use of description to convey action
Events and people in the novel are described in considerable detail, to allow us to be closely involved in the action. Day uses short sentences for fast-paced action to give us a moment-by-moment understanding of events. When Claudia is breaking into the gaming arcade through the roof, the short non-sentences tell us her thoughts and anxieties as they are happening. She makes some progress with the crowbar – “But not enough”. Then she has success – “Enough to crawl through”. This is a life-and-death situation, so she is not wasting words or doing any unnecessary thinking. A little further on, she tells us everything she can hear, see and feel in each moment, because danger has dragged time out and every second lasts “an eternity”.
Using pace to create sense of being there
The same moment-by-moment descriptions are applied to the action scenes in the novel. When Claudia is trying to escape from the container terminal, the sentences are long, with many separate actions crowded in, to show how much is happening all at once. In the one sentence, we read these actions: “poised”, “kick”, “rolled”, “swung” and “swept”. These five separate actions in one moment tell us how quickly events are occurring.
Tone indicates what the narrator is thinking and feeling
Day brings her detective, Claudia Valentine, to life through the tone with which Claudia relates the events of the novel. We already know that Claudia is no-nonsense and unconventional. We share her insights into others through the way she sees the world. She has a dry sense of humour – when she says she doesn’t have a car for the day because “the Daimler was being tuned”, this doesn’t easily fit with what we know of her so far, so we don’t know if she is joking or not. She relates events in her life with clarity and economy. We find out in a couple of sentences about her marriage, divorce, children and other important personal details – these are dispensed with quickly because they are not relevant and not as important as her job.
Characters are differentiated to make them seem real
We learn about other people in the novel through Claudia’s meticulous description and attention to detail – essential characteristics for a private detective. Sally’s neurotic behaviour is described in minute detail, to build up a...
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