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A Game of Polo with a Headless Goat

Desert Ibex


Speaker: Written by Emma Levine, a writer and researcher looking for and filming unusual sports.

Occasion: Written in Pakistan while travelling through Asia.

Audience: Written for people interested in unusual sports, a fairly large and varied audience, possibly people interesting in reading about travelling.

Purpose: Designed to inform us about other sports and cultures, and also to make an entertaining book which people will buy.

Subject: Donkey racing

Tone: Humorous, lighthearted and exciting.






Title: The title of the piece is extremely unusual in order to pull the readers in. A reader wouldn't usually imagine polo (a less well-known sport played by posh upper classes) as having anything to do with a 'headless goat', an image which is extremely grotesque and slightly barbaric. It thus juxtaposes the civilised and the savage.


Introduction to the race:

  • 'We drove off to find the best viewing spot'. The first sentence of the passage is long and draws the reader in, allowing us to see the scenery as well. 'We drove off' as a phrase is extremely dynamic, showing us the narrator's actions from the start and creating an immediate and exciting introduction. First sentence is quite fast-paced, like the race is.

  • 'the lads' is informal and suggests that she knows and likes these people, creating a welcoming atmosphere rather than a strange and foreign one.

  • 'Wacky Races' refers to a famous cartoon series of people racing ridiculous cars and trying to beat each other, creating an impression of insanity, chaos and cartoon-ish excitement. Adds to the humour of the passage. The fact that the lads 'loved the idea' of them following the donkeys shows again how friendly the people are and their sense of adventure. Dialogue makes the men more vivid and also shows their lack of enthusiasm and confidence. The tone of confidence shows how brave these people are, as well as how spontaneous they are.

  • 'Oh yes, that's no problem' sets up the expectation of something going wrong.

  • 'suddenly fired up with enthusiasm' shows the interest created by these races. It uses a metaphor 'fired up' to exaggerate how passionate they are, creating a sense of chaos and destructiveness as well as passion, which might foreshadow the races.

  • 'We waited for eternity' uses hyperbole to exaggerate how long they waited, so as to show the unpredictable lateness of the game as well as raise our anticipation for it. Incident with the villager 'on a wobbly bicycle' emphasizes the dullness of the time by expressing the only thing that happened, creating a sense of anti-climax. The fact that the cyclist is gazing at them might show that they are slightly out of place due to their equipment.

  • 'Coming, coming' creates a slightly impatient tone, showing that nothing is happening as quickly as the writer wants it to. This then juxtaposes the build up of pace later in the story, making the excitement seem even greater later on.


Presentation of the race:

  • 'Just as' creates a sense of contrast and excitement, as it shows the race beginning quickly just as the writer was about to give up. A very intense description of the race suddenly occurs.

  • 'cloud of fumes and dust created by some fifty vehicles roaring up in their wake'. This uses the immense number of vehicles to show the excitement of the race, the 'cloud' creates a sense of rising tension and a vivid picture of what is happening as well as creating some mystery. 'Roaring up in their wake' uses vivid sensory language to make the reader feel the change in tone and building of excitement.

  • 'Revved' again indicates that everything is about to start, again creating anticipation. 'Inch the car out of the lay-by' also builds suspense and contrasts the fast activity.

  • A slightly more factual tone is created in the speed of the donkeys, and 'this looked close' shows how the impressed the writer is by their speed. Alliteration in 'donkeys' and 'dwarfed' to show the disconnect between the number of donkeys and their huge 'entourage'.

  • 'Neck-and-neck' also creates tension and suspense, the jockeys 'perched' showing how concentrated they are and how much excitement they feel. 'Tiny carts' emphasizes how precarious a position they are in, making it seem dangerous. 'Using their whips energetically, although not cruelly' showing the excitement and competitive nature of the race, but also stressing that these are kind people who wouldn't enjoy hurting their animals and so perhaps reassuring the reader.

  • Detailed descriptions and lists of the musical instruments and men making noise helps to build an atmosphere of an exotic setting, excitement and noise for the reader - we can almost hear what is going on. A list form (in tricolon) suggests just how many instruments are being used, making it seem more chaotic. The 'special rattles' are also described in great detail, helping to inform us about unusual sports and other cultures.

  • Image and sound created of people making a lot of noise, while 'the vehicles jostled' using personification to suggest that everybody is in a hurry to get the best possible view. Again the passage uses tricolon and long sentences to create a sense of chaos.

  • 'Edge' and 'swerve' are juxtaposed, showing the unpredictable movements of the car, making the reader feel slightly on edge. However the fact that he chose 'exactly the right moment' shows the strategic nature of finding a good place and reinforces Yaqoob's skill.

  • 'This was Formula One without rules', using an example from the reader's society to allow us to relate to the passage and reinforcing just how wild and chaotic the scene is. Juxtaposition as Formula One uses high-tech machinery, whereas this is donkey racing creating a sense of humour.

  • Goes into a lot of detail about race tactics, making the viewing seem like as much a race as the donkeys are. 'Our young driver' shows that even though he was young he still had a lot of skill. 'Survival of the fittest' makes it seem more animalistic and dangerous, reinforced by phrase like 'sharp flick' and 'nerves of steel', using metaphor to stress Yaqoob's bravery. This (together with his youthful stupidity) is again stressed in the short sentence 'Yaqoob loved it'. 'His language growing more colourful' shows that race becomes more intense and Yaqoob becomes increasing excited - the tone is both aggressive and humorous, using euphemism to describe Yaqoob swearing. Ellipsis at the end of the paragraph build suspense.

  • Use of tricolon in the three phrases 'straightened and levelled and everyone picked up speed as we neared the end of the race' suggests something building to a conclusion. It increases the tension by doing so. This is further increased by starting a sentence with 'But just as they were reaching the finishing line', where a 'donkey swerved' shows the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the race, where even the leader can crash out at any moment. The short sentence 'The race was over' creates a sense of the quickness of the race ending as well as creating drama through the sentence length.



  • 'And then' at the start of the next section quickens the pace again, with 'the trouble began', juxtaposing the end of the race with the actual troubles to come, creating a sense of foreboding.

  • The writer goes on to describe the arguments which ensue about the winner of the race - a very chaotic atmosphere of people arguing over what has happened as they will have lost money it. 'Voices were raised, fists were out and tempers rising. Everyone gathered around one jockey' - showing how much this all means to them, again using a tricolon of verbs to make it seem more dynamic. It seems like violence will properly erupt at any moment. The fact that everybody is gathered around one jockey increases tension by suggesting the sheer number of people crowding the one man, making him seem very vulnerable.

  • The tone changes to one of fear and tension, showing just how quickly everything can change in the atmosphere. It also shows how serious these events can actually become. The metaphor 'swallowed up by the crowd' emphasizes how large and dangerous the crowd is - it can consume anything within it.

  • 'I don't even have my licence yet' changes the tone again by adding humour as well as sense of how dangerous this actually is, creating a sense of recklessness. But nevertheless we feel the danger has now passed. A sense is created of the cultural differences which make Emma nervous of his lack of responsibility.

  • Final paragraph creates a more reflective, slightly worried tone which shows the danger of the situation despite the fact that it was humorous and enjoyable.

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