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Use of Setting and Description in David Malouf’s Johnno

Use of Setting and Description in Johnno

Throughout Johnno descriptions of settings relating to houses and buildings enable the reader to obtain an insight into the character of Dante. Malouf captures images with powerful force, creating depth to the characters. Specific details that may be deemed inappropriate are enhanced to provide meaning and show how characters respond and feel toward places.

Malouf effectively uses images to reinforce attitudes, feelings and emotions. Though the descriptions are long and detailed, they are worthwhile and evocative. Many of the descriptions are symbolic, such as the descriptions of the garden. Malouf’s use of language is casual, which enhances the story, causing it to come alive. Through Malouf’s descriptions of each house he creates an atmosphere to reflect the characters’ feelings.

The house of Dante’s childhood was a place of freedom and discovery. With a vast garden, there was continual change, with a comfortable and pleasant environment. The next house his family lived in was built based on his fathers dreams, modern and superficial. It was filled with furniture and material that was hostile and restricting, especially for a child.

Malouf describes the house of Dante’s childhood with words of freedom, revealing the memories through the eyes of a child. The old house represented a freedom, a casual yet organized environment. The old house was described as mysterious, ‘a wilderness transformed into a suburban farmlet’

Malouf captures the settings by words that cause the description to be relived, the thought of an adult, transformed into the active words of a child. Expressing the emotions, that a child would feel, capturing the small aspects that made an impression.

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…an to want more from his environment and through looking at what the rest of the world had to offer it caused him to desire change and growth and to search for it. What he had compared to others was not satisfying, not good enough, causing him to despise what he had.

Outdoors-river widens to a broad stream, low mud flaps on one side, pelicans, native pines, high creeper covered walls.

The outside atmosphere of the house brings no pleasure to Dante, the environment seem only an image, he cannot make himself a part of it.

‘It’s a house I have never got used to’

Dante misses the sounds and atmosphere of the old house. The change to the modern is an aspect that he has difficulty adapting to. The growing dislike of each house has brought him to the point of hating his entire environment.

‘My loyalties remain where my feelings are, at the old house’

The Maturation of a Maternal Bond in Morning Song

The Maturation of a Maternal Bond in Morning Song

What is the only difference between the emotions of an ordinary smiling new mother in the 1960’s and those of Sylvia Plath when she writes her melancholy “Morning Song” soon after her child’s birth? While most new mothers pretended all was well, Plath published her true feelings. Simply because society held that all new mothers should be filled with immense joy after giving birth does not mean that they actually were. Plath had the courage to admit she was confused, and her poem, “Morning Song,” focuses on one woman’s mixed senses of apprehension and of awe upon the birth of her child which create both feelings of separation and affection that contend to determine the strength of her maternal bond.

The first line of Plath’s poem, “Love set you going like a fat gold watch,” shows the emotional forces conflicting within the mother’s mind. The fact that she chooses the word “love” rather than a more carnal image like “sex” shows that the infant was conceived from an intimate bond and creates a positive connection between mother and child. Using simile, “a fat gold watch,” changes the impact of this line. While the word “fat” alludes to the cumbersome nature of the infant, the word “gold” represents the child as precious and valued, and the word “watch” conjures to mind the seemingly endless task of raising a child. In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir asserts that “a whole complex of economical and sentimental considerations makes the baby seem either a hindrance or a jewel,” but Plath’s “fat gold watch” suggests a newborn can be both (509).

Detachment caused by the mother’s sense of apprehension is evident as she says to her child, “New statu…

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…h which she receives the baby’s cries suggests that she is touched by the baby’s humanity, its unique individuality.

In “Morning Song,” the mother’s bond to her infant strengthens as she tries to deny it. While attempting to prove that she has no connection to this new life, the bonds become undeniable as the infant opposes her with his or her “clear vowels.” This “handful of notes” is all that is needed to dispel all pretenses of indifference toward the child. As the cries “rise like balloons” so too, it seems, do the mother’s spirits and attitude toward the new life she has brought into the world.

Works Cited

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. New York: McClelland and Stewart, 1953.

Plath, Sylvia. “Morning Song.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell, eds. 3rd ed. Orlando: Harcourt, 1997. 690.

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