Passages for Comment

Answer the two questions.

 

1 The following passage describes the writer’s experience on an island off the coast of Australia.

(a) Comment on the style and language of the passage. [15]

 (b) On his return home, Craig (the writer’s friend) writes an article for a travel magazine. He offers a much more positive view than his friend of some aspects of his visit to the island. Write the opening to Craig’s article (between 120-150 words). Base your answer closely on the material of the original extract. [10]

It is eight-thirty at night and we have finally arrived slap bang in the middle of a wild south-easterly squall, five hours north of Brisbane, Queensland, on the northern edge of Fraser Island. The maps call it Waddy Point, but I think badlands is more fitting. The ocean is a wasteland. The hundred miles of beach we have just banged our way up is a lunar landscape, and the coarse dune forest around us is a deafening wall of white-static noise.

The ferocious downpour does not let up as we struggle to shape the tarpaulin into a crude umbrella over the banksias*. We string the hammocks between the beach buggy’s roll bar and the trees using twenty feet of rope tied with truck driver hitches, and yanked until the beds are as tight as guitar strings. By the time we have finished, we are drenched, as ravenous as bush pigs, and hover like solemn, dishevelled ghosts aimless as to what to do next. The buggy looks as though it has been looted by madmen.

Exhausted, we squelch into our slings as the rain clatters on the tarpaulin like a million shot nails, and occasionally flushes soaking waterfalls around our heads.

I fell into a doze, amazed that I actually felt sleepy, and wondered what would become of us tomorrow, in this place at the edge of the world. The winds that hung from our hammocks slammed through the ancient forest like a horde of spoilt children. The tarpaulin flapped as frantic as a beast trying to fly – but I was too tired to care, and slowly the rampage around me found a rhythm, and I drifted into gentle and rocking hands.

I woke on the coldness of pre-dawn to an odd greyness that had been cast down, as if from another world. The ocean shivered like no-man’s land, cruel and unforgiving, and the magnitude of this island left me feeling somewhat frail and destitute. I glanced around the campsite, as if in a dreamland, and wondered what the hell I had let myself in for. The scrub dune the camp is burrowed into is a bunker of perfect lawn beneath a brittle skylight of banksias. The worn tarpaulin wobbled with lakes. My mate Craig stirred and smiled up from his cocoon, and I set to task for a heart-starter of coffee using every trick in the book to light a wet fire. I finally resorted to melting my eyebrows with a bucketful of petrol and a tossed match.

Shirtless, and in our damp and smelly jeans (and me reeking of scorched hair), we wandered like street kids onto the rim of the dunes. We squatted in the wet sand and drank from our hot metal mugs, and smoked, and watched the world become.

The fumes from our fire were a paler blue-black trail in the morning’s watercolors. It was like sitting on the edge of a prehistoric rawness. There was to be no going back today. The storms of the previous night had reduced the southern beach into a swamp.

At that time of day and staring into the surf it was easy to imagine the sight of a huge grey dorsal fin cruising through the shoreline gutter. This was big shark country and it would not be the first time that I had seen a fin glide effortlessly in the ocean rip, faster than any racehorse. Then, under a blanket of foam, it would be gone. I finished my smoke and contemplated the significance of the word foodchain in a place like this.

“Tiger sharks cruise here,” Craig whispers.

“Tiger shark?” I reply flatly. Craig giggles.

“Wild, isn’t it?” he says.

“Frightening,” I correct him again. He looks at me, laughs, and then stares back

out to sea and says quietly, “You’ll be right, though you could probably fill a football field with the number of four-wheel drives that are buried here.” He sipped more coffee and after a while said, “Let’s go fishing.”

I mumbled sourly, wondering what was on the box back home, and about the state of my lawns. I lit another smoke, thinking that I had heard it all before and not wanting to be here. An hour later, while we were scraping a panful of burnt bacon onto our blistered fried eggs and sandy-grit rolls, we watched as the first whales of the day blew geysers of steam within a hundred yards of shore. The day ablaze under a sapphire blue-fire sky, and utterly cloudless. The late October heat climbed into the high twenties. The energy-sapping humidity made me feel like I was staggering around in a sauna, and it was barely eight o’clock in the morning.

*banksias: evergreen bushes

1a)

In the text, the writer describes his experiences while on a trip to Waddy Point, an island off the coast of Australia. The tone leaves the reader with the impression that he found the trip dreadful. On initial inspection the reader gets the impression that the writer’s intention was to convey the message in a very serious manner. However, on further investigation the reader realises that the blunt expressions and his peculiar choice of vocabulary create a sort of humorous mood, and it sparks the thought that his intent might have been to humour the audience with his ‘sufferings’.

The use of the phrase ‘ferocious downpour’ is a hyperbole. The intention of the author is to convey to the reader the awful circumstances he found himself in. His vocabulary throughout the piece is very raw and direct, not beating around the bush. He makes it perfectly clear that the island experience was all but pleasant.

The writer states that he and Craig ‘hovered like solemn dishevelled ghosts’. This creates the impression that they were lost, not knowing what to do on the island. The use of the word ‘ghosts’ and the fact that they were not sure what to do on the island suggests that the character of the island is similar to that of a ghost town- abandoned and neglected.

When the reader encounters Craig’s (the author’s friend) reaction to the circumstances he found himself in, he starts to question whether it was really as bad as what the writer describes it to be. ‘Craig stirred and smiled up from his cocoon’. This sentence initiates the question in the reader’s mind. The word ‘cocoon’ suggests that he was actually comfortable, and he smiled when he woke so he was not as displeased with his surroundings. The perception that Craig isn’t completely dissatisfied is further advanced when he abruptly says ‘”Let’s go fishing.”’ This, as well as the fact that he giggled when the writer was frightened when he said that there were tiger sharks in the ocean, clearly shows that he felt that his friend’s fears were unsubstantiated.

This is contrasted by the fact that the writer was frightened by the thought that sharks lurked in the waters that surrounded them. He makes a very peculiar statement: ‘I finished my smoke and contemplated the significance of the word foodchain in a place like this’. This is a rather blunt statement, which the audience finds fairly surprising. One now starts to wonder if his displeasure really has substance. Is he frightened because they are truly in danger?

In the last paragraph, the writer mentions that he wondered about what was on television and what state his lawn was in. This statement expands on the question whether he really had reason to be afraid. It creates the impression that the writer would rather be at home, idly watching television or mowing his lawn (things that are not significant in everyday life) than be here on the island. The audience starts to wonder whether he is really frightened by his surroundings, as indicated in the second-last paragraph, or whether he just wants to be at home, where he is comfortable.

Once all the elements of the passage have been taken into consideration, the reader is left with the impression that the author didn’t really want to go on the trip, but that his friend (who was clearly more adventurous) had bullied him into it. The writer would much rather stay in a place where he is comfortable.

On final inspection, the reader is left wondering whether the writer’s main purpose could have been to force the audience to question why they react to certain circumstances the way they do. Is it because they are truly unhappy, or might it be that they merely don’t want to be put out of their comfort zone?

1b)

Upon arrival, we were greeted with the abundant blessings from the heavens as the skies poured out all they had to offer. The rain fell down all night, and in the morning we were free do explore all the unique wonders Waddy Point had to offer.

At night the moonlight lit up the dunes, and illuminated the remote landscape- untouched by human hands. The exhilarating uncertainty of what awaits you in the next moments, what hides around the bushes and which creatures circle in the oceans all add to the adrenaline pumping excitement that Waddy Point holds.

We experienced life as it was before technology gained control of our lives, slept in a hammock under the luscious banksias in the open air. We got lost in the constellations in the sky and drifted off in our dreams, far away from reality.

Words: 141

 

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