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The Explorer's Daughter






Presentation of the Narwhals

  • Plumes of spray 'catching the light in a spectral play of colour' makes the narwhals seem very magical, 'spectral' connotes ghostliness due to the fact that the light is transparent, while 'play' suggests the friendliness and the innocence of the narwhals.

  • 'Methodically passing each other by' suggests that the narwhals have planned this, personifying them. 'Methodically' suggests the intelligence of the narwhals.

  • From the beautiful and spectral descriptions in the first paragraph which are highly personified, by the third paragraph the writer turns the narwhal into an essential resource, a meat 'rich in necessary minerals and vitamins.' 'Necessary' emphasizes how the islanders cannot live without the Narwhals, which is continually backed up, e.g. 'this rich source of vitamin C was one reason that the Eskimos have never suffered from scurvy.'

  • Repetition of the word 'rich', which exaggerates the worth of the whales to the people.

  • The line about the dogs shows that the whales are useful for animals, which in some way may be meant to justify the hunting of the narwhals even more.

  • Narwhal fat creates 'light' and 'heat' shows that they are essential for all aspects of human survival.


Presentation of the Arctic and the Hunters

  • 'glittering kingdom' shows the water and the arctic as extremely beautiful and mystical.

  • 'evening light was turning butter-gold, glinting off man and whale and catching the soft billows of smoke from a lone hunter’s pipe.' Creates an atmosphere of unreal beauty showing the writer's awe in this scene. Contrasts the 'sharp intake of breath', which is a very fast action versus the softness and gentleness of 'butter-gold' and 'soft billows of smoke' which create a very peaceful atmosphere. The hunters here barely look as though they're hunting, instead standing around and smoking. Enhanced by the fact they they 'never moved' in the next line, which creates tension in the passage, as the reader anticipates the hunter going to try and kill the whales.

  • Opening is both very gentle and beautiful yet also tense due to our expectations.

  • Final lines of the first paragraph again emphasizes how the narwhal are too good to be true, with the ellipsis suggesting the whales disappearing into the sunlight.

  • Calling the hunters 'fortunate' to see the narwhal shows the rarity of the narwhals, adding to the reader's sympathy for and delight in the sight of the narwhals which has built in the first part of the extract. From this, we might also experience the author's dilemma, not sure whether to sympathise with whales or people more.

  • Fact that the uses to which 'blubber', meat and even the 'tusk' are put to by hunters are stressed shows that no part of the narwhal is wasted, that everything in society down to the houses needs to use some part of the narwhal. That she tells us that the tusk 'has little use for' the narwhal suggests that they are more useful to the humans than the whales, justifying their hunting.

  • Description of the women makes the reader more sympathetic for them, as we see how 'it was crucial that her husband catch a narwhal'. The women go and watch because of how important this hunt it, showing the reader that the hunters have families who are relying on them and who would starve without the hunting. Nevertheless, the paragraph shows conflict in the writer's thoughts, by presenting the 'vast waterborne game', which we know must end in tragedy, making the presentation seem ironic. Also furthers this by describing the narwhal as 'intelligent creatures'. Mirrors the narwhal and the hunters, both 'talk to one another', and as though the two groups are trying to outwit each other.

Structural focus of the passage and how it changes.

  • Passage opens with the sighting of narwhals, thus far without any context - we don't know in the first few sentences why they are looking for them. Sets it up as part of daily life.

  • Second paragraph changes to a more factual piece about the narwhals, which continues in the third.

  • Writer uses a lot of place-specific words, showing that the writer knows what she is talking about, making us trust her more.

  • In paragraph four we return to the scene of the hunt, yet here focusing on the women. Interesting how the writer looks at and describes the women in the same way she does the narwhals, as though they are two rival groups of people.

  • Action then picks up in the fifth paragraph, which opens suddenly with 'one hunter was almost on top of a pair of narwhal, and they were huge.' Slows down the moment in which this action is happening, making us watch it in slow motion. Emphasizes the 'huge' size of the narwhal to show the danger they are in and the danger the hunter is in. The 'split second' draws into the narrator's thoughts, which root for both sides.

  • Her support for the hunter is shown in lots of short, cumulative phrases which show the many reasons why he is brave, he is out in a 'flimsy' kayak miles from hand, showing how easily he could drown. The fact that he had 'no rifle', only 'one harpoon' makes him seem very vulnerable, as though he is unarmed against the narwhals. The foolhardiness of the exercise inspires 'respect' for the writer, as it is so dangerous that it takes a lot of courage to do.

  • Yet the paragraph, almost like an afterthought nevertheless cannot escape from the fact that she wants the narwhal 'to dive, to leave, to survive', using the rule of three (tricolon) to emphasize how much she wants the narwhal to escape. Objects in the list get more emotive with every word. Ending the paragraph on the word 'survive' emphasizes the necessity of survival which is so difficult in this landscape.

  • Final paragraph then descends into the writer's thoughts after she has left and moves into the present tense of what she thinks.

  • Subtle judgement that we protect the sea mammals 'because of their beauty', rather than because of a more moral reason and that we are only being 'sentimental' when we decide not to hunt these things. Implicitly this justified the hunting of animals in the arctic. This is backed up by the fact that the 'images' which 'bombarded us' (violent verb) is seen as not a good reason, because they 'do not kill seals using this method, nor do they kill for sport.' Last fact is interesting given that before she was describing this as almost a 'game' yet it's meant to persuade the reader that hunting isn't always a bad thing and that it is often misrepresented in the media.

  • 'Imported goods can only ever account for part of the food supply' emphasizes that this situation can't change because there will never be another way of getting food here, which is then highlighted in the 'one annual supply ship' and the 'smallness' of the 'twice-weekly plane' which can 'only carry a certain amount of goods'. These facts are used to be back up the short, blunt judgement of the writer in the final sentence - 'hunting is still an absolute necessity in Thule.' Shows us the contrast of lives in Thule versus the other parts of the world.

  • Shows us that although the writer's judgement for much of the passage is quite divided, it comes to a very definite judgement at the end.

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