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The Explorer's Daughter

Author: Kari Herbert

This is an autobiographical extract written by Herbert who explains how she feels about watching the hunt for narwhals

Summary:

  • The extract describes a narwhal(toothed whale) hunt but without focusing on the usual elements of storytelling such as suspense and plot development. Rather, it explores the moral and environmental issues around hunting by indigenous people for survival. Herbert lived among the Inuit people as a child so she is able to give us an insight into what it is like to poach for survival.

  • It describes the narwhal hunt, but without focusing on the usual elements of storytelling, such as suspense and plot development. Rather, it explores the moral and environmental issues around hunting by indigenous peoples.

  • She employs lots of language techniques to convey her feelings. She has written this as a descriptive piece of writing but almost ends up argumentative.

 

Structure:

  • It is rigidly structured, each paragraph aimed at describing different things.

  • In the first paragraph, the writer focuses on place and setting. The writer is very descriptive and writes in the past tense. She makes the place sound magical for example she says“Catching the light in a spectral play”. This also gives the reader what it is like in Greenland. The phrase “butter-gold” not only conveys the light but indicates the wealth of beauty in Greenland. The paragraph ends in a sombre tone with “shifting light”. This intrigues the reader.

  • In the next paragraphs, she explains why the Inghuits need to hunt narwhals to survive. She explains how the narwhal “is an essential contributor to the survival of the hunters in the High Arctic.” It is a detailed explanation with a factual tone. This paragraph lacks emotion.

  • The next paragraph includes lots of emotive language. The word “clustered” is a very powerful word as it describes all the women huddled together, to give themselves a feeling of protection as they watch their husbands in perilous danger. They not only want their husbands alive but they need the food as shown by the gasps. The writer describes it as a “vast water-borne game” although they are playing with lives, and says that the hunters are “spread like a net” which makes use of irony, as a method of catching something is to trap it in a net.

  • The next paragraph is when the writer sees the beauty of the narwhals and is split between the side of the hunters and the narwhals, as shown by the quote “in that split-second my heart leapt for both hunter and narwhal.” In the build-up to this, she creates tension, with the mention of the stillness and the pause after “picked up his harpoon and aimed.” This tension makes the hunter choose between the hunter and the narwhals. She then drops the tension instantly in the next paragraph, creating a breathing gap for the reader to think over the debate; hunter, or narwhal.

  • “looking as if they were going to merge, but always slowly, methodically passing each other by.” The use of the words 'merge,' 'slowly' and methodically' give the sense of large slow and majestic movements, but also the long structure of this sentence and the use of longer words, broken up with commas also reflects the movements of the whales.

Imagery:

  • “plumes of spray”, “catching the light in a spectral play of colour”, “glittering kingdom”, “the evening light was turning butter-gold”, “catching the soft billows of smoke”- (vivid imagery) this gives the feeling of a magical aura over Greenland.  

  • “looking as if they were going to merge, but always slowly, methodically passing each other by.”

  • “Escaping” “dead of winter” gives a chilling tone to the extract. It introduces a dangerous atmosphere.

  •  "The women clustered on the knoll of the lookout, binoculars pointing in every direction."- the use of the word “clustered” and the phrase “pointing in every direction” builds up tension and creates an unsettled atmosphere

Language:  

  • The use of the words 'merge,' 'slowly' and methodically' give the sense of large slow and majestic movements, but also the long structure of this sentence and the use of longer words, broken up with commas also reflects the movements of the whales.

  •  “my heart leapt for both hunter and narwhal”. The metaphor is used to describe the conflicting feelings she has for the hunter and the narwhal. She isn’t sure which side she’s on.

 

Effect on the reader:

  • In my opinion, this anthology doesn’t engage the reader because the language used isn’t emotive or powerful. It doesn’t strike you and it doesn’t make you want to read on. Her opinions are mixed and although I agree with her, the anthology’s tone is flat as she doesn’t use much emotive language. The lack of pathos here has a monotone effect on the reader

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