Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Analysis of Minor Characters in 1984

                                                            Nineteen Eighty-Four (Virgin Films)


Having analysed a Major character (O’Brien) in George Orwell’s 1984, we will now examine how the writer creates Minor characters in the novel. 1984 is a futuristic novel about a totalitarian state. Minor characters include Syme, Parsons, Mrs Parsens, Mr Charrington, and the Old Man in the Pub.


Character type: simple

Dominant trait: repugnant, cold-hearted

Secondary traits: stiff, curious, thoughtful, intellectual, scholarly, hard working, snide

Individuality: large, dark eyes

Syme is a philologist, working on a new dictionary for the Party. His Dominant trait is repugnant, but he has a wide range of lesser, supportive traits. Syme’s repugnant trait is evident in his speech: ‘He would talk with a disagreeable gloating satisfaction of helicopter raids on enemy villages, and trials and confessions of thought-criminals, the executions in the cellars of the Ministry of Love.’

Also: ‘It was a good hanging,’ said Syme … ‘I like to see them kicking. And above all, at the end, the tongue sticking right out.’

In reference to his work on the dictionary, his speech alludes to his uncaring, cold trait, as well as his scholarly nature. ‘The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,’ he said … ‘We’re destroying words—scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We’re cutting the language down to the bone.’

Next, physical appearance, hair and eyes show Syme as revulsive; but, at the same time, observant and curious:  ‘He was a tiny creature, smaller than Winston, with dark hair and large, protuberant eyes, at once mournful and derisive, which seemed to search your face closely while he was speaking to you.’ Moreover, ‘his mocking eyes’ allude to his snide nature.

On the other hand, action conveys Syme as thoughtful and studious: ‘Syme had fallen silent for a moment, and with the handle of his spoon was tracing patterns in the puddle of stew’; and ‘Syme had produced a strip of paper on which there was a long column of words, and was studying it with an ink-pencil between his fingers.’

Finally, individuality is expressed by his ‘large dark eyes’.


Character type: simple

Dominant trait: stupid

Secondary traits: active, sporty, enthusiastic, boyish, cheerful

Individuality: sweaty

First, Orwell tells us directly that Parsons is stupid: ‘He was a fattish but active man of paralysing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms.’

Physical appearance conveys his boyish nature: ‘His whole appearance was that of a little boy grown large.’

Parson’s gait alludes to his active trait: ‘his movements were brisk and boyish’

Clothes also convey his sporty nature; for example: he would ‘invariably revert to shorts when a community hike or any other physical activity gave him an excuse for doing so.’

Speech conveys his cheerfulness: ‘He greeted them both with a cheery “Hullo, hullo!”’

Parsons is individualized by being sweaty; for instance: ‘He gave ‘off an intense smell of sweat. Beads of moisture stood out all over his pink face. His powers of sweating were extraordinary.’ And he often creates a ‘powerful smell of cold sweat.’

Mrs Parsens

Character type: Flat

Dominant trait: fearful, apprehensive

Secondary traits: N/A

Individuality: the image of dust in the creases of her face

Mrs Parsens is a flat character; that is, she has only one personality trait: fearful and apprehensive (there were no others that I could find).

We can see this in her speech: ‘She had a habit of breaking off her sentences in the middle.’ This is happening when she is speaking to Winston in front of her children, so she is afraid of her children because they might report her to the thought police.

Action conveys her fear: She was ‘fiddling helplessly with a blocked waste-pipe.’

Next, there is facial expression. She cast ‘a half-apprehensive glance at the door’. And: ‘what most struck Winston was the look of helpless fright on the woman’s greyish face.’

Her eyes, or sight, also express fright: ‘Mrs Parsons’ eyes flitted nervously from Winston to the children, and back again.’

When Winsotn thinks of Mrs Parsens, he always has an image of ‘dust in the creases of her face’. This vivid image is her individuality because the author repeats it so it sticks in the mind of the reader, and it is what separates her from other characters. For example: '[Winston] noticed with interest that there actually was dust in the creases of her face.' Then, later: ‘For some reason Winston suddenly found himself thinking of Mrs Parsons, with her wispy hair and the dust in the creases of her face.’

Mr Charrington

Character type: complex

Dominant traits: simpleton, vague, intellectual

Secondary traits: old, frail, introverted, homebody, gentle, apologetic, frugal

Contrast: Mr Charrington’s personality changes to become more youthful, alert, and unemotional
Individuality: posture: ‘bent back’

Mr Charrington is the only Minor character who is complex; that is, he shares more than one Dominant trait, while all the other Minor characters have just the one Primary trait, supported by other less important, secondary traits. Basically, this means Mr Carrington is as deep as a Major character – complex enough, in fact, to carry the weight an entire novel.

Although artistically inclined and intellectual, evident by his love of antiques and paintings, Mr Charrington is also predominantly portrayed as somewhat vague or simple-minded. He often ‘looked into the middle distance and spoke in generalities, with … the impression that he had become partly invisible.’ Simile further conveys this vagueness: ‘To talk to him was like listening to the tinkling of a worn-out musicalbox.’

In narrating his backstory, Orwell portrays Mr Charrington as vague: he has needed to do work on his shop ‘but had never quite got to the point of doing it.’

To continue, he doesn’t walk but is described as ‘wandering’ about with ‘faded enthusiasm’ and even seems ‘to fade out of existence’.

Nonetheless, Mr Carrington has a predominantly intellectual trait; this is evident in his spectacles, mannerisms, and choice of clothes: ‘His spectacles, his gentle, fussy movements, and the fact that he was wearing an aged jacket of black velvet, gave him a vague air of intellectuality, as though he had been some kind of literary man, or perhaps a musician.’

Moreover, Mr Charrington is a homebody and, maybe, introverted. This is evident is his backstory: ‘He led a ghostlike existence between the tiny, dark shop, and an even tinier back kitchen’ and ‘the old man seemed seldom or never to go out of doors’.

In addition, he is portrayed as ugly ‘with a long, benevolent nose, and mild eyes distorted by thick spectacles’; and old and frail: ‘he was a man of perhaps sixty, frail and bowed’.

Gait also shows him as old and frail: ‘He lit another lamp, and, with bowed back, led the way slowly up the steep and worn stairs and along a tiny passage.’

He is gentle and apologetic; this is seen in his voice, mannerisms, and hand gestures: he moved ‘gentle’, ‘his voice was soft’, he spoke ‘apologetically’ and ‘delicately’, and ‘he made an apologetic gesture with his softpalmed hand’.

Mr Charrington could also be viewed as frugal; this is evident in his speech, for example: ‘Ah,’ said the old man, ‘I never had one of those [telescreens]. Too expensive.’

His awkward posture, or ‘bowed back’, highlights his individuality.

However, there is contrast in his character.

During the arrest scene, as a member of the Thought Police, Mr Charrington is now alert, no longer vague or absent-minded; instead he talks ‘sharply’ and ‘gave Winston a single sharp glance’.

Further, he is now unemotional, with a ‘cold face’ and, after arresting Winston, pays ‘no more attention to him.’

His old, frail appearance has changed: ‘His body had straightened, and seemed to have grown bigger.’ And ‘his hair, which had been almost white, had turned black.

Even his ‘cockney accent had disappeared’.

Face, as well as body, hair, and voice, also conveys his youthful, less frail appearance: ‘The black eyebrows were less bushy, the wrinkles were gone, the whole lines of the face seemed to have altered; even the nose seemed shorter. It was the alert, cold face of a man of about five-and-thirty.’
Finally, he is no longer ‘wearing his spectacles.’

Importantly, by the use of a rhyme, Mr Charrington forewarns danger in store for Winston later in the novel. This forewarning is an important literary device. For example: ‘Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St Clement's … Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.’ 

Old Man in the Pub

Character type: simple

Dominant trait: pugnacious

Secondary traits: observant, thoughtful, philosophical

Individuality: posture: ‘straightening his shoulders’; speech (word choice)

First, we see the old man acting aggressively: ‘The old man whom [Winston] had followed was standing at the bar, having some kind of altercation with the barman.’ Also, the old man stands ‘pugnaciously’ at the bar.

His speech conveys his confrontational manner towards the barman: ‘’Calls ‘isself a barman and don’t know what a pint is! … ‘Ave to teach you the A, B, C next.’ And: ‘Pint!’ he added aggressively to the barman.’

However, the old man is also observant and philosophical. This is evident first by the use of eyes and sight, and then by speech: ‘The old man’s pale blue eyes moved from the darts board to the bar, and from the bar to the door of the Gents’; ‘The old man looked meditatively at the darts board’; and 
‘When he spoke it was with a tolerant philosophical air.’

The Old Man’s posture, or the way he stands at the bar and straightens his shoulders, highlights his individuality; for example: ‘He took up his glass, and his shoulders straightened again.’ Also, his unusual word choice emphasises his individuality; for instance: ‘I arst you civil enough’, and ’Ark at ‘im! Calls ‘isself a barman’.

The old man in the pub serves to give the reader a glimpse into the past world before the totalitarian state, and also serves to hint at an important  theme of the novel, that we live in a world of lies and deception: 
‘"The beer was better [in the past]," he said finally. "And cheaper! When I was a young man, mild beer—wallop we used to call it—was fourpence a pint. That was before the war, of course." 
"Which war was that?” said Winston.
“It’s all wars,” said the old man vaguely.’


We have examined Minor characters in Orwell’s 1984. What is evident is that, with the exception of Mr Charrington, the Minor characters have one obvious, predominant trait and usually a range of lesser or secondary triats. Syme is dominantly callous and repulsive, but we also see him as scholarly and hard working; Parsons is a buffoon, but we also view him as cheerful and sporty; the Old Man in the Pub is aggressive, but at the same time curious and deep thinking. Mrs Parsens is frightful. Mr Charrington, on the other hand, has the most depth of these Minor characters, expressing more than one dominant trait: and he also transforms by the end of the novel – no longer old, simple minded and frail; but youthful, alert, and cold-hearted.

As a final word, Orwell uses a whole range of literary features to bring these characters to life, such as the eyes, voice and posture of the Old Man; the hunched body and spectacles of Mr Charrington; the clothes and physical appearance of Parsons; the large eyes, work ethic and voice of Syme; and the facial expressions, eyes and action of Mrs Parsens.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Analysis of battle scenes in War and Peace


War and Peace (1869) is an epic historical-fiction novel by Leo Tolstoy about five Russian aristocratic families caught up in the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), in particular the French invasion of Russia (1812).

This essay will analyse two battles in the novel to see how Tolstoy uses certain literary techniques to bring them to life. First, I will analyse the Battle of Schongrabern (1805) to explain what these literary devices are; then I will use the Battle of Austerlitz (1805) to show how they all come together for an exhilarating battle experience – as if the reader were actually there as a participant in the fighting.

Battle of Schongrabern (1805)

Stream of consciousness

This is Tolstoy’s forte. The characters pour out their thoughts and feelings, so the reader is actually in their mind, and this often leads to great insight. For example, Tolstoy picks out a common, anonymous soldier, and we enter his mind: 

"One step beyond that boundary line is uncertainty, suffering, and death. And what is there? Who is there?—there beyond that field, that tree, that roof lit up by the sun? No one knows, but one wants to know. You fear and yet long to cross that line, and know that sooner or later it must be crossed and you will have to find out what is there.’ (This, of course, is the same technique used to great effect in Terrence Malick films, especially The Thin Red Line, 1998)

Later, as Nicholas, a regular soldier, gazes upon the battlefield, we can read his thoughts: ‘How beautiful the sky looked; how blue, how calm, and how deep! How bright and glorious was the setting sun!’


This is the most common literary device of Tolstoy’s battle scenes, and he never strays from it. He uses colour and light, including smoke, mist, rain, sun, even darkness, to paint a picture of the battlefield so it literally appears as a painting in the reader’s mind.

The battle begins on ‘a warm, rainy, autumnal day’ with a ‘curtain of slanting rain’ and ‘spread out in the sunlight far-off [soldiers and artillery were] glittering as though freshly varnished.’ Also ‘the little town [in the distance] could be seen with its white, red-roofed houses and … jostling masses of Russian troops.’

Also ‘the brilliance of the bright sunshine merged in a single joyous and spirited impression’ and ‘the sun was descending brightly upon the Danube and the dark hills around it.’

Smoke from the battle appears regularly as an image: ‘On the French side, amid the groups with cannon, a cloud of smoke appeared, then a second and a third almost simultaneously’; then, later: as ‘the infantry in their blue uniforms advanced …  Smoke appeared again but at irregular intervals’ and ‘a dense cloud of smoke arose’ from the battlefield.

Sight and Sound

Tolstoy relies heavily on these two senses, at the almost complete detriment of other senses (I could  find only one instance of smell in the entire battle).

The reader is always looking at the battlefield through the eyes of the soldiers as if he or she were an actual witness to the unfolding horror. For example: ‘Everyone got up and began watching the movements of our troops below, as plainly visible as if but a stone's throw away.’ Later, ‘Silence fell on the whole squadron. All were looking at the enemy in front and at the squadron commander, awaiting the word of command.’ To continue: ‘The soldiers without turning their heads glanced at one another, curious to see their comrades' impression.’ Finally: ‘All the officers and men … kept constantly looking at the patches appearing on the skyline, which they knew to be the enemy's troops.’

Then there is Sound, a powerful tool that really brings the battle alive: ‘grapeshot cracked and rattled’ and  ‘the artillery gun rang out with a deafening metallic roar, and a whistling grenade flew above the heads of our troops.’ Then:  ‘the clang of hoofs, as of several horses galloping, resounded on the planks of the bridge’ and ‘the bugle calls and the shouts of the enemy could be heard from the hill.’

Sight and sound are usually combined to increase the effect of war upon the reader: ‘the sun [that the officers and men were watching] came fully out from behind the clouds, and the clear sound of the solitary shot and the brilliance of the bright sunshine merged in a single joyous and spirited impression.’ Also ‘Nickolas saw nothing but the hussars running all around him … their sabers clattering.’ (Note also here the imagery of the sun and light, and, to an equal extent, the stream of consciousness)

Facial Expression

Facial expression is used to convey the anticipation of battle. For example: ‘Every face, from Denisov's to that of the bugler, showed one common expression of conflict, irritation, and excitement, around chin and mouth.’ To continue: ‘Cadet Mironov … was glancing at everyone with a clear, bright expression, as if asking them to notice how calmly he sat under fire.’

Then, as the horrors of war unfold, facial expression is used to convey the fear of the soldiers: ‘on all the bright faces of the squadron the serious expression appeared that they had worn when under fire.’ Also, ‘the colonel looked as he always did when at the front, solemn and stern’ and ‘the soldiers crowded against one another with terrified faces.’


Tolstoy often compares parts of the battlefield to other objects in life, so the reader can relate to the battle through a wider context. For instance: ‘like a fleck of white foam on the waves of the Enns, an officer squeezed his way along the men’ and ‘like a log floating down the river, an officers' or company's baggage wagon, piled high, leather covered, and hemmed in on all sides, moved across the bridge.’


The battle scene is littered with detail, from fieldglasses, knapsacks, and pies to mud on the uniforms. This makes the scene authentic. It is as if the reader were a journalist on the spot, taking note of all the detail. Look at all the detail in this scene: ‘A Cossack who accompanied Nesvitski had handed him a knapsack and a flask, and Nesvitski was treating some officers to pies and real doppelkummel.’ Later, Prince Nesvitski saw ‘waves of soldiers, shoulder straps, covered shakos, knapsacks, bayonets, long muskets, and … feet that moved through the sticky mud that covered the planks of the bridge.’


Finally, what would a battle scene be without action, and there is lots of it here. For example: ‘The French had time to fire three rounds of grapeshot before the hussars got back to their horses … the last round fell in the midst of a group of hussars and knocked three of them over.’ (Notice the detail: ‘three rounds’, ‘the last round’, and ‘three of them’)

Battle of Austerlitz (1805)

Now we will turn to the Battle of Austerlitz to see how all the literary tools of the writer come together to create a unique battle experience for the reader:

First there is imagery: ‘At five in the morning it was still quite dark’ and there is ‘the smoke of the campfires.’ Then the soldiers are stirred into action, accompanied by detail: ‘the regiment began to move: the soldiers ran from the fires, thrust their pipes into their boots, their bags into the carts, got their muskets ready, and formed rank.’ This is quickly followed by sound: ‘the monotonous tramp of thousands of feet.’
As the armies line up into formation, Tolstroy turns to simile: ‘just as a sailor is always surrounded by the same decks, masts, and rigging of his ship, so the soldier always has around him the same comrades, the same ranks, the same sergeant major.’ Simile also evokes imagery: ‘Bushes looked like gigantic trees and level ground like cliffs and slopes.’ This conveys the heightening senses of the soldiers as battle is approaching.

Sound is used to introduce the actual fighting: ‘In front in the fog a shot was heard and then another, at first irregularly at varying intervals—trata... tat—and then more and more regularly and rapidly, and the action at the Goldbach Stream began.’

As the fighting continues, Tolstoy maintains his use of imagery: ‘Below, where the fight was beginning, there was still thick fog; on the higher ground it was clearing, but nothing could be seen of what was going on in front.’

Even when Napolean enters the scene, imagery is maintained: ‘Above him was a clear blue sky, and the sun's vast orb quivered like a huge hollow, crimson float on the surface of that milky sea of mist.’
Next, we have sight: ‘Napoleon with the naked eye could distinguish a mounted man from one on foot’;  ‘He gazed silently at the hills.’ And ‘his gleaming eyes were fixed intently on one spot.’
Then there is sound: ‘he listened to the sounds of firing in the valley’; and the ‘sound ‘of wheels and footsteps.’

Facial expression is used: ‘Not a single muscle of his face—which in those days was still thin—moved.’ And: ‘his cold face wore that special look of confident, self-complacent happiness.’

Then, more imagery: ‘bayonets glittering.’ Sight is combined with imagery: ‘He sat motionless, looking at the heights visible above the mist’ and ‘he looked now at the Pratzen Heights, now at the sun floating up out of the mist’ and the ‘fields and mist were aglow with dazzling light.’

As we turn to the Russian side, ‘the musketry fire of unseen forces could be heard (sound),’ then Tolstoy employs stream of consciousness to convey the bravado of Prince Andrew in the battle: ‘Standard in hand, I shall go forward and break whatever is in front of me.’

Then there is sight: ‘He could not look calmly at the standards of the passing battalions … he kept thinking, That may be the very standard with which I shall lead the army (stream of consciousness).’
Tolstoy conveys imagery and sound again: ‘the valleys lay like a milk-white sea.’ Then ‘came the sounds of firing’ and ‘guards were entering the misty region with a sound of hoofs and wheels and now and then a gleam of bayonets’

As the battle continues, there is more sound: ‘the firing became more distinct’; facial expression: ‘the expression on all [the generals’] faces suddenly changed to one of horror’ as the Russians see the French suddenly appear; and sight as Prince Andrew watches the battle with his ‘naked eye’ with ‘a cloud of smoke spread all round’ (imagery) and ‘firing heard quite close at hand.’

Then there is action as ‘confused and ever-increasing crowds [of Russians] were running back’ and ‘the soldiers started firing without orders’.  Then more facial expression: ‘General Bolkonski ‘looked around bewildered’; and detail: ‘blood was flowing from [General Kutuzov’s] cheek.’

There is simile as ‘bullets flew hissing across the regiment and across Kutuzov's suite like a flock of little birds.’

Action continues as Prince Andrew, with the standard ‘ran forward with full confidence that the whole battalion would follow him.’

Then there is facial expression: the ‘distraught yet angry expression on the faces of the soldiers.’
Finally there is stream of consciousness as Prince Andrew is hit by a bullet: "What's this? Am I falling? My legs are giving way,"

Without a doubt, imagery returns: ‘Above him there was now nothing but the sky—the lofty sky, not clear yet still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds gliding slowly across it.’ And more stream of consciousness:  ‘How quiet, peaceful, and solemn; not at all as I ran, thought Prince Andrew … How was it I did not see that lofty sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity, all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but quiet and peace. Thank God!...’


In conclusion, this essay has looked at the use of literary features in Tolstoy’s War and Peace to see how the effect of battle has been achieved. What stands out is that imagery is most popular, and the writer surprising only uses two senses: sight and sound. He uses simile a lot, but hardly any metaphor (except for that ‘milky sea of mist’ and one or two others). Also, stream of consciousness gives a spiritual element to the battles. I would say the literary devices Tolstoy uses in the battle scenes are relatively few – but the ones he chooses (like imagery, sound, sight, facial expression, and stream of consciousness) he uses extremely well – they carry the whole battle. He’s like a good tight-head prop in a rugby game, capable with the ball in hand if needed, but would rather stick to a few core duties and do them consistently well; unlike other literary stars like Conrad and Hemingway who are the flashy players out wide in the backline, usually brilliant, but who sometimes fumble the ball. At any rate, with the limited techniques that Tolstoy does employ, the two battles come alive, leaving a marked, almost terrifying, impression of warfare upon the reader.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Basic Plot Outline for Hollywood Screenplays

Almost without exception, Hollywood movies, from the latest Oscar best-picture winner to a children’s animation, follow, in some way, if not entirely, the same basic plot structure. Although these elements of plot are examined extensively by Martha Alderson in The Plot Whisperer (Adams Media, 2011), they appear to be universal, and it could be argued that they are evident in almost every story since ancient times to modern-day bestsellers.
Nonetheless, these plot features are not apparent to the casual movie-theatre audience because there are wild varieties involved. For example, the comfortable, Familiar World of the Protagonist might only be a few minutes for a horror/action flick like World War Z, but almost one hour for an epic fantasy like The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey where all the main characters, or hobbits, need to be introduced. Further, there are diverse ways of transporting the Protagonist from the old, Familiar World to the New World of suspense and danger: it can be by a tornado as in The Wizard of OZ, or by a transport boat carrying Tom Hanks’s character towards the hell of D-Day as in Saving Private Ryan. In addition, an energetic marker to draw the Protagonist away from the Familiar World might be a drastic event like the chest-burster scene in Alien or the slaughter of Luke Skywalkers’s adoptive family in Star Wars Episode Four; but could be something more subtle as in Neo’s choice between the red pill or the blue pill in The Matrix – that is really Neo’s choice to step away from his old, comfortable existence. A Crisis to bring about Transformation might be the death of a girlfriend in a hotel room as in The Ides of March, or an epic battle scene involving thousands as in Peter Jackson’s Tolkin movies. The Transformation itself (where the Protagonist learns about his or her faults and makes the choice to transform) might take place on a battlefield next to a bombed-out pillbox, with the Protagonist in tears, as in Saving Private Ryan, or in a dark cave with the Protagonist in deep thought as in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
I have made one change to Martha Alderson’s analysis of plot outline. Many films have a ‘hook’ at the beginning to draw viewers into the story, so I have included this energetic marker. Also, I have included a case study to further illustrate the basic plot structure.

Basic Plot outline for Hollywood Screenplays

The Beginning

An event, often a Prologue, to ‘hook’ the reader
Can be related to Theme
(NB: this 1st Energetic Marker seems optional; surprisingly, many Hollywood movies do not include it, and just start at the where and when of the Familiar World)

Familiar World
Where and when: immediate, wider, and universal settings conveyed
Convey comfortable, Familiar World of Protagonist
Introduce major characters plus their traits
Show Positive Traits of Protagonist, and hint at Negative Traits (that must be overcome): A)  Weakness  B) Fear  C) Hatred
Beginning Goal for Protagonist and, maybe, hint at Long-term Goal
Allude to Theme (usually in dialogue, details, action, observations, thought)
Can hint at Backstory of Protagonist
Usually there is Foreshadowing of danger to come
(NB: the time of the Beginning varies greatly from movie to movie; it can range anywhere from a few minutes for an action film to one hour for an epic.

An event that pulls the Protagonist away from his/her comfortable world, into a New World fraught with suspense, danger
The Protagonist steps through a metaphorical ‘Gateway’, or threshold, into the middle of the story, or New World
NB: The threshold can be guarded (if it is important to the story), or could be more like a Barrier; and it can convey fear; ie. the Protagonist is hesitant to cross this threshold because of fear

The Middle

New World
New setting, vastly different, more complex than the beginning (relies on details, including sensory, and particulars relating to Theme)
New ‘Middle’ Goal or the same goal from the beginning
Scenes/action moves Protagonist away from this goal
Scenes/action challenge Protagonist’s beliefs, self image; highlight traits, especially fear (of New World)
Protagonist learns new skills
Protagonist conveys new emotions (learns from mistakes of the past)

An event, or test, in the middle of the middle, that recommits the Protagonist to his/her goal
Challenges Protagonist’s determination to reach that goal
The more confident, less fearful Protagonist makes a pledge to recommit; restates goal
Forewarning of increasing danger
Increased danger
Reevaluation of situation
Protagonist’s negative traits are revealed (he/she blames others for these negative traits)
Protagonist becomes more conscious of emotions, thoughts; but confidence is shaken and he/she becomes more vulnerable

High point of dramatic action (that signifies the end of something, or a death);
Lowest point for Protagonist
Protagonist suffers
Negative traits of Protagonist exaggerated

Usually in a quiet, intimate place, the Protagonist is ‘stripped bare’, forced to reflect, look deep within him/herself, rethink life, and become conscious of negative traits (and acknowledges them as his/her own fault)
A new self is born, free of negative traits, with new belief system and, maybe, new positive traits which, all in all, severs the past (transformation)
Wisdom is obtained
Protagonist makes a new plan and new End Goal (or can keep the same goal as the Middle or Beginning Goal); however, the Protagonist must move forward
The Protagonist usually steps through a metaphorical ‘Gateway’, or threshold (that can be guarded or barricaded by forces to prevent the Protagonist from entering if he or she is not ready; and these forces usually want confirmation or proof of the Protagonist’s Transformation before he or she can enter)  
Backstory can be revealed


The Protagonist is stronger, more confident, and reaches the Climax without hesitation
Buildup to Climax: show Protagonist’s new self, new positive traits; Protagonist excited by new challenges; momentum builds swiftly
Climax itself: Protagonist faces the Climax and defeats Antagonist(s) with new skill, strength he or she didn’t have before
Ought to be related to Theme (that is, combination of action scenes and character development; or, in other words, what is the writer’s desire to write?)

Protagonist makes peace with the past and, often, returns to it
Can leave a question or two unanswered questions, or loose ends, so the story lives on in the reader/viewer
Protagonist conveys new personality, sense of freedom; has new status in the old world
Can hint at Theme


CASE SUDY: DRAG ME TO HELL (2009, Universal Pictures, directed by Sam Raimi

The Beginning
The first scene involves a family visiting a house: the floor opens, and the boy is dragged into Hell. The viewer is gripped, and, likewise, dragged into the story.

Familiar World
We are projected into the immediate, Familiar World of the Protagonist: a bank office in downtown L.A. Christina goes along the freeway to work every day, greets customers in the bank, does errands for her boss and makes coffee. Christina has a Beginning goal: she wants to be assistant manager.  
Negative traits are soon revealed: Christina’s gluttony is evident when she pauses at a cake-shop window; she is seen as weak and unconfident by her boss, and an unworthy little farm girl by her boyfriend’s mother.
A Forewarning of doom soon arrives when Christina refuses to help an old woman, Ganush, in the bank by repossessing her home.

The parking garage scene tears Christina away from her comfortable, Familiar World. She is attacked by Ganush, barely escapes with her life, and has a curse placed upon her.

The Middle
New World
Cursed, Christina is now projected into a New World fraught with danger and suspense. Christina struggles internally in this New World. She doubts herself and is haunted by fear.
The Theme of Fate is revealed when Christina and her boyfriend visit a fortune-teller. The Seer’s den is full of Hindu symbolism and mystical artefacts such as a shrunken monkey’s head. There is a debate between the Seer and Cristina’s boyfriend about Fraud and Carl Jung’s different interpretations of fate: Fraud relies on unconscious choices while Jung includes mystical factors and religion in his analysis.
Then Christina has a new Mid-range Goal: to rid herself of the ‘dark spirit’ curse.
Christina’s Backstory is soon revealed when she finds an old photo of herself: she used to be overweight as a child, as this has led to her inferiority trait now as an adult.
Further events reinforce the curse: Christina is attacked by a demon in her house, she has a nightmare, swallows a fly and so on. There is a further reference to the background story, as in: ‘You used to be a fat girl’.

Christina is attacked in her home again by the demon, this time more violently. Now she is desperate to rid the curse. She attempts, or recommits, to do this by sacrificing her cat.
Dinner at her boyfriend’s house highlight new positive traits for Christina such as ambition, backbone, and honesty.
Nonetheless, the curse continues, and this newly-found confidence is severely shaken. She reinstates her attention to the Seer to rid herself of the curse. Forewarning of increasing danger is apparent when the Seer tells her she has only one more day to do so before she is dragged into Hell. Danger is increased when the demon attacks her in the shed.
Christina’s gluttony trait is revealed when she indulges in eating ice cream (this is also a reference to her Backstory).

This is the séance scene where the demon and other souls enter the haunted house from the Prologue. We have glimpsed Christina’s need to change and her positive traits in previous scenes; now comes her test to see if she can become a better, stronger person. But the Crisis means just that: the séance fails to rid the demon and San Dena, the Seer who leads the séance, dies in the process. The Crisis also shows Christina as weak and ‘insignificant’ (all she wants to do is run from the demon): she has failed her test.

Transformation takes place in the coffee shop, which has an intimate, quiet setting. Christina’s new traits are revealed: she is strong, aggressive, and tough; and also compassionate because she refuses to pass on the curse to someone else. Christina has a new End Goal: to pass the curse onto someone who has already died.

Christina, more confident and stronger (as evident through tough-talking dialogue and action), races towards the Climax, or final confrontation with the demon.
The Climax itself is the graveyard scene, where Christina manages to bury the envelope (which contains the curse) in the grave of the deceased Ganush, although she struggles to do so in the mud and rain.

Having rid the curse, Christina is radiant, gleaming in sunshine, and dressed in pink. Her Beginning Goal has been achieved (she has won the Assistant Manager position). She returns to the old, Familiar World of downtown L.A. a distinctively changed person: confident, outgoing, and strong. She buys a new business coat which signifies her new status, and admits her earlier faults to her boyfriend in an effort to further cleanse herself. However, there is a loose end to the story because Christina realizes the curse has not gone away and she is, finally, dragged into Hell.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Animus in Kaliyuga: Age of Darkness

The animus is an archetype of the unconscious mind, coined by Carl Jung, whereby a male part of the self is inherent in a woman. The woman can either accept this masculine personality or fight against it (where it becomes a repressed Shadow); nonetheless, it is always there in the unconscious and the woman cannot avoid it.

Kaliyuga: Age of Darkness (unfinished manuscript by this writer) is an alien-horror story set in modern India where a demon race of shape-shifting extraterrestrials called the Bhuta want to take over the world by destroying humanity.

This essay will examine the animus in the female character Ratchia, a famous Bollywood actress.

First, Ratchia is haunted by the negative aspects of the masculine trait. The lust-filled, aggressive animus seems to be everywhere and she cannot avoid its impact on her psyche.

Take the scene where Suchin, her husband, first meets her in the coffee shop: ‘Ratchai staggered into the Sugar Cafe on Tata Road, Bollywood, aware of all the eyes that had been staring at her on the street. The café was crowded, mostly men, and there were more eyes, full of lust, penetrating.’

In the street scene, Ratchia witnesses a rape that could be a figment of her imagination: ‘Down an alleyway, there was a half-naked, bleeding woman with her clothes torn. She was bent over some steps and three men were surrounding her, their faces horrid, snarling.’

Then, later in the same scene, the animus continues to haunt Ratchia: ‘a scruffy man with greasy hair, stubble on his chin, and large groggy eyes was sitting on a stool, a carving knife swinging by his side. As he sneered at her, he raised the knife and drew it across his throat.’

This animus appears only to be happening in Ratchia’s mind. Her husband, Suchin, refers to the rape scene as illusionary when he says: ‘You’re imagining things.’

The battle with the animus appears to be with herself, not really with what is happening in the world around her, imaginary or not. This is alluded to in a conversation with Suchin in the coffee shop when Ratchia is talking about killing a male character in one of her movies. Suchin asks if she, the killer, hates the man and she replies, ‘No ... I think she hates herself.’ This is a clear indication that Rachia’s battle is with her psyche, not really with the world around her.

Further, in an attempt to block out the animus, Ratchia becomes stiff and cold, imprisoned in a shell. For instance: ‘She sat at a table and shuddered in her chair, looking straight ahead, her eyes distant and void.’

Signs of the animus perambulate around Ratchia. First, she sees a skull at the foot of her bed: the dark eye sockets staring at her, the mouth twisted and warped.’ Later, the skull returns just before her accident: ‘a shape began to form in front of her: a skull, glaring white.’ The skull is like a ghost, trapped between the physical and spiritual world, which is really a symbol of Ratchia herself, trapped between what is real and what isn’t.

Also, the sky around Ratchia is usually misty or grey, as in: 'Outside, it was a grey, overcast morning in Bombay’; ‘Clouds that covered the hills had crept into town and made the streets misty.’ And, just before her accident: ‘A green traffic light swam in the fog like a beacon in a storm of humanity, reaching out to her.’

Mist or fog signifies the unconscious mind. Grey symbolizes the unclear distinction between consciousness (white) and unconsciousness (black) which is a reflection of Rachia’s life: she is trapped between this ego and id.

Next, Ratchia is startled by a dog: ‘big bodied, big headed, stout neck, forelegs hunched and tense, its dark eyes concentrated.’ According to Carl Jung, animals are a symbol of our primitive nature, alluding to the unconscious – and this primitive nature, manifested in the animus, is haunting Ratchia.

Ratchia feels degraded and subdued by the animus. Therefore, she sympathizes with other subjugated people around her, like the two beggar children on the street: ‘Ratchia dropped money into their bowls’; and she is drawn towards the old man with leprosy preaching on the street corner. No wait – I want to listen to him,’ she says when Suchin tries to drag her away.

Later in the novel, Ratchia surrenders to the animus, or male personality within herself; but in so doing she goes overboard, and is possessed by the negative traits of the animus.

First, when she is filming her new movie, she surrenders to her sexual drive, flirting with the crew, even with the camera: ‘Make love to the camera,’ the director says, and, ‘Ratchia’s eyes flashed at the director and she imaged she was making love to him too.’ Then, during the next shoot: she turned and threw herself into the arms of the dancers [and] lets their hands caress her body.’

At the party scene, she becomes aggressive and even more promiscuous. Ratchia put her arm around [the director] and hugged him. He drew his small, robust body up against her own and kissed her on the neck. She let his sausage-like fingers play with her torso. She giggled, spilling her champagne on her dress.’  

During the sex scene with the director, Rachia starts to regret deeply this promiscuous behavior, the first stage in acceptance, and harmony, with the animus. She struggles with the director, rolls him over and pricks his neck with her fingernail, drawing ‘a speck of blood on his neck.’ It all could be a dream, or an imaginary scene, because Rachis feels blood on her own throat when she emerges from the party.

Later, in the taxi, Ratchia continues to regret her actions at the party: She thought about her behaviour at the studio party and her body curled up. Her skin crawled as if she were covered in worms.’

In summary, this essay has scrutinized the animus is the female character of Ratchia in Kaliyuga: Age of Darkness. First, we have seem how Ratchia is haunted by the aniumus. It is all around her, on every street corner, threatening her. Then we have seen how she surrenders to it, but in so doing she lets it override her ego until she surrenders to its negative traits. Finally, Ratchia regrets her aggressive and promiscuous behavior. This regret could, hopefully, lead to Ratchia’s recover of her true self and harmony with her male identity by the end of the novel.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Personification and Sound in Stephen King’s The Shining


This essay will examine personification and sound in Stephen King’s The Shining (Doubleday, 1977) to see how the effects of horror have been achieved. The Shining is a contemporary horror novel set in an isolated haunted hotel named the Overlook where Jack, the caretaker, stays with his wife Wendy and child Danny.


First, let’s examine personification. This means attributing human qualities to objects or elements that aren’t human. 

For instance, personification can be seen in the Overlook hotel itself. It achieves a human form: “The Overlook was coming to life around them.” And: “The hotel was running things now. Maybe at first the things that had happened had only been accidents … But now the hotel was controlling those things.” Also: “Ahead he could see the Overlook, mockingly distant, seeming to stare at him with its many windows …”

Parts of the hotel also take on human characteristics. First there is the elevator: “… the brass yaw of the elevator stood mockingly open, inviting her to step in and take the ride of her life.” Then there are the windows: “For the first time he noticed how much [the windows] seemed like eyes. They reflected away the sun and held their own darkness within.”

The wind is also personified: “The wind spoke back, gusting more strongly this time … The wind sighed through the trees …” And: “… the whooping and impersonal voice of the wind, so huge and hollowly sincere, made their laughter seem tinny and forced.”

Other elements of nature like air and fire also achieve personification. For example: “The air whistled” and “yellow flames danced”. Night time itself comes alive as a living, breathing entity: “With the sound of Tony's voice the whole night seemed to have come silently and secretly alive, whispering even when the wind quieted.”

Other everyday objects are personified to create a surreal, uneasy atmosphere that add to the overall element of horror in the novel. For example: “Her slippers whispered; the hedge-clipper hummed; the [catmobile’s] engine rumbled grumpily; his pinky ring caught the lobby's electric lights in a baleful sort of wink.”

Now that personification has been examined, we will turn to sound.


First, loud noises are used to great effect to create terror in The Shining. “Outside there was a hollow booming noise, like a dreadful door being thrown wide … In the darkness the booming noises grew louder, louder still, echoing, everywhere, all around …” And “[there were] more hollow booming noises, steady, rhythmic, horrible. Smashing glass. Approaching destruction.”

The Overlook hotel seems to have a distinct sound that brings it to life. “It was a living sound, but not voices, not breath. A man of a philosophical bent might have called it the sound of souls … But to Danny it was only the sound of the hotel, the old monster, creaking steadily and ever more closely around them …” And: “Suddenly the hotel seemed full of a thousand stealthy sounds: creakings and groans …”

Next, elevator sounds create terror: “The humming sound again. Loud and steady, varying the slightest bit. Followed by a clank as the humming ceased. A rattling bang. A thump. Then the humming resumed. It was the elevator.”

Further, the sound of a clock is used to create horror: “From within [the hotel] came a steady ticking, like a bomb. [Wendy] stiffened … The ticking of the domed clock in the ballroom seemed to fill her ears.” And later: “Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang.”

Wind is an instrument of terror and sound increases this effect: “The wind gusted, making a hungry rattling sound in the close-matted branches … the wind  [built] to the low-pitched scream that would go on all night, a sound they would get to know well.” And: “Outside a sudden gust of wind slammed against the equipment shed, making it rock and creak.”

To continue, sound is combined with objects of terror to increase their nightmarish effect. First there is the mallet, a weapon of murder: “It hissed viciously through the air.” And: “The steady, irregular booming sound of the mallet against the walls grew louder.” Then there is the sound of a strict school teacher’s cane: “Jack's body twitched in a remembered cringe at the sound it made in the air, a murderous swish, and its heavy crack against the wall ... or against flesh.” Finally, there is Jack’s typewriter that seems to become a character unto itself: “Wendy could hear the typewriter Jack had carried up from downstairs burst into life for thirty seconds, fall silent for a minute or two, and then rattle briefly again. It was like listening to machine-gun fire from an isolated pillbox.”

The hedge animals that come to life is perhaps one of Stephen King’s more famous creations and sound is dramatically used to increase their effect of terror: “Hallorann heard [the hedge dog] whine fearfully, and mixed with that sound was the fearful, confused yowling of the big cats. Even from here he could hear the sounds of the close-set twigs and branches which made up [the hedge rabbit] cracking and crunching like breaking bones.”

Finally, silence is used in contrast with sound to heighten the effect of terror. “The silence in the Overlook was complete and intense except for the weird noises coming up the elevator shaft.” And: “Somehow the silence was worse, more ominous than the screams and the blows against the strong pantry door.” Finally: “The lack of any sound beneath the steadily running water made [Wendy] uneasy.”


All in all, this essay has looked at how personification and sound are used to create effects of horror in The Shining. It is important to note that these literary features are often combined, and used with other figures of speech like simile, animalism (think of the hedge creatures) and sensory literary devices, too, like smell, sight, touch, and so on, to create the author’s desired effect – that of overwhelming terror upon the reader.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Killer Sea

Seafarers young and old, intertwined and 
owned, for all eternity, by the killer sea

Killer Sea is the story of a young diver with a death wish who journeys through the South East Asian oil fields, finding a harsh and hostile world of survival and endurance amid a cast of cutthroat bastards and glorious sinners. It’s also a journey of self-discovery, a young man finding his real place in the world. It’s all here, the secrets of offshore oil drilling in South East Asia revealed: prostitution and drug dealing; oil company corruption and cover ups; back stabbing and murder; typhoons and shipwrecks; and last – but far from least – the danger of deep-sea diving.


A thoroughly enjoyable read … I like the voice established, and I think it’s likely to engage readers. Among the greatest strengths of the narrative voice, and a crucial aspect of maintaining it, is a straightness, honesty, and down-to-earth quality. Part of the ‘straightness’ of the voice is an implicit (and, given the events narrated, actual) wealth of experience that conduces to a slightly disenchanted, clear perspective on all manner of events, horrific and otherwise. In light of the characteristics of the narrative, and the extremity of the events narrated, a simple, literal description conveys the intensity of these moments.

I found the main character, Andrew, sympathetic – the register of the story is about survival, endurance, and getting through in a callous and cut-throat world, in which case a certain hardness and callousness of character is necessary. Which is not to say that there are no instances of community or friendship in the novel; there obviously are, but the broader context in which they occur is a harsh and hostile one. To put it briefly, I think Andrew and the other central characters are sufficiently sympathetic to engage the reader and keep them engaged.

First Editing: Editorial Review (abridged)


The Baby Diver

The van moved along Paser Ridge, the mud splashing under its tires, the driver not bothering to dodge the potholes as it rumbled towards the Petro-Corp office. When it stopped, the kid in the backseat got out, stepping on a discarded Coke can and wiping the sweat from his hands, unkempt and skinny in summer shorts and thongs. Not yet used to the sun and humidity, he walked half-sheepishly into the office.
Balikpapan, in east Kalimantan, had never been anything more than an important oil town. Motor scooters struggled through the mud and people sat outside their ramshackle huts, becalmed, needing a brisk gale to shift them. Although secluded in the solemn hush of the Meddassar Strait, Balikpapan had not escaped the commercial world: its shabby kampongs, Hungry Jacks, and mosques open to the sea.
In a high-ceiled room with a slow-turning fan, he met Mr Adriano, a Petro-Corp rep, dark and lean with a pencil-thin moustache, who led him into his office.
Mr Adriano sat behind his desk. The blinds behind him were closed. ‘Please sit,’ he said. ‘You have your passport?’
Andrew handed it to him. He knew the game.
‘Not many stamps.’ Mr Adriano flicked through it, his tongue licking his bottom lip.
‘It’s a new passport.’
‘Have you much experience?’
‘Ocean Advance – six months; Demonco – five …’
‘So, Mr Andrew, you done mixed-gas diving?’
Andrew nodded. Everyone he’d spoken to since he’d gone for the job had asked him this.
Mr Adriano smiled. ‘You see, very strict offshore. Must have gas. Air diving will finish soon. Deeper inspections ahead. Other divers, no gas and had to go. Petro-Corp quite strict.’
Andrew kept nodding. He knew the game: bullshit anyone you like, but not the other divers offshore.
‘Mr Tom will drive you to the jetty and a fast-boat will take you to the Labybird, Field 85, Attaka. Let’s go.’ Mr Adriano smiled nervously as he stood from his desk.
Andrew followed the driver outside, back to the van, feeling trapped in the heavy humidity.
He loafed on a seat for two hours down by the jetty, in front of the wooden shacks built on sticks over the inlet and the longboats nestled under the filthy grey. More crew flocked onto the jetty. When the fast-boat arrived, Andrew stepped into it and it cast off and headed quickly out to sea. Oil platforms dotted the horizon, their flare-booms burning incandescently against the giant dome of the sky. The fast-boat made the rounds, dropping crew off at most of the platforms. It would be another four hours before Andrew reached the Ladybird, fifty miles offshore, and he grew more tense with every passing minute.

The Oil Client

The Fat Man sat cumbersome on a frail chair behind his desk, fiddling with a pen, his red cheeks inflating every time he breathed. He had no neck – just a big head on big shoulders. He smiled at most people who walked into his office, whether they made money for him or not. His obesity – 340 pounds of mostly fat – not only intimidated his rivals but also complemented his lofty position and winner-take-all philosophy in the oilfield.
His real name was Matthew Joseph Horn. He was from Texas, and had previously run a fleet of rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. After spending three years in prison for tax evasion, he travelled to Indonesia and set up a shipping company with Indonesian drug lords. The shipping company was their ideal money-laundering outfit, sinking profits from drugs, prostitution, and gambling among the millions of dollars won and lost in the Indonesian oilfields. Contacts among the drug lords won him a position with Petro-Corp, a major American oil company, where he could manage oilfields, and open links with other drug lords in Bangkok and Taiwan.
His eyes, magnified behind big wide spectacles, gazed out his office window at the rusty container vans and I-beams stacked in the sun-baked yard outside. Petro-Corp’s logo – a seagull above a derrick tower – was painted on the side of each van.
He had just finished checking the contract on his desk, for a new pipeline in Attaka, and was now lazily smoking a cigar, watching a small Indonesian man in the yard outside. He threw the cigar into the blue marble ashtray on his desk and cursed silently, watching the man slink out of the yard and out of sight.
He hung around the yard often, Horn thought, that little Indonesian man: always pestering his staff, complaining about his daughter being sick, his farmland and water supplies contaminated, his kids unable to swim in the river, and blaming it all on the refinery. Last week he killed some of his own chickens, dumped them outside the front gate, and blamed that on the refinery too.

The Unwanted Child

They knew that one day she would come back, and dreaded that moment. They lived in a kampong down a hot, dusty street. Every day they prayed and sacrificed a bit of food and water to scare away evil spirits. When they saw Ruanne’s frail figure approach, they shut their windows and door. ‘Go away, witch!’ they cried. ‘The Devil has bought her back to us.’ To them, Ruanne was a mistake. They had never wanted her when she was born, and they refused to accept her now.
Ruanne stopped about twenty metres in front of her parents’ hut, her eyelids fluttering in the blistering heat, ignoring the sting from her mother’s words. She had heard them all before.
Her mother, with swelling breasts and a round face with large lips that were crinkled and cracked, stuck her head out the window. ‘Go away little devil!’ she cried. ‘We hate you!’
It was bad enough listening to her mother ranting, but when she opened the front door and threw all Ruanne’s clothes and childhood toys outside, then set them on fire in the middle of the street, it made the situation intolerable.
Ruanne dropped her bag, then went on looking at all her things burning. Her blood boiled and tears swelled in her eyes. ‘Oh, I see!’ she yelled. ‘It is easy for you to slander my name, see if I care, but how dare you destroy all my things!’
Her throat began to constrict and she found it difficult to breath. She walked forward, raised her fists and continued shouting, cursing her mother.
Other people emerged from their huts.
‘We should offer the poor little girl some help,’ a man with a crooked leg said.
‘Yes,’ his wife replied. ‘The sooner we show her some pity, the sooner the fuss will be over.’
Ruanne stopped in front of the fire, took out the clothes she had knitted for her parents and dumped them on the crackling flames. ‘I wanted to make you happy!’ she cried. ‘But it’s too late now. I’ll never pray for you again!’
Her mother, with fists like mallets resting on her rounded hips, slipped back inside the hut.
A small group stood behind Ruanne. She turned and saw them. As she walked through the kampong, away from her parents’ hut, the throngs of people followed her. ‘You poor little girl,’ the man with the crooked leg said. ‘You are so unhappy.’
Ruanne turned and looked at him, the rage still burning in her eyes. ‘My home was there,’ she said. ‘Now I will have to find a new place in the world.’

The Baby in Tiny White Tennis Shoes

Biff Bailey, the supervisor, was the only one who spoke, his cheeks puffy and red, thin strands of hair glued with sea-spray to one side of his face. ‘Just think of it as filling up bags of shit,’ he explained. ‘If that doesn’t work, then think of them as your friends, and you’re helping them to the surface.’
Simon agreed and bathed his face under fresh water, combed his hair back, then put on his diving hat, all the time a nervous energy running through him because this was his moment to perform. From portside, he heard a compressor in need of overhaul, and with it a clear Welsh tenor coming through the comms – Biff singing: ‘Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day!’
Simon stepped off the barge and after he hit the water, he looked around, sensing the darkness, feeling the downline before moving on. Far below the barge, tiny specks of light came from the surface like stars listening to his thoughts; then, not far away, he saw the dull glow of a light stick and followed it down. After his first glimpse of the plane wreckage, dark and soundless, he took a sack from the downline and entered it.
He came to a woman strapped in her seat: her face grey-green, eyes staring madly at him, and holding a baby with tiny white tennis shoes in her lap. The fish had already taken its eyes. Simon moved around on the right side of them and stopped over another body: a man with a business suit that had shrunk in the water and was now too tight for him, and a tie strangling his neck, with patches of hair on his skull and his mouth partly opened in a loose kind of grin. Much of the flesh had already been eaten away.
Simon fell back and for a minute he looked around to where they were sitting, his nerves and muscles unable to relax. A faint voice came through the comms, but he didn’t answer it. Then he unclipped the safety belt from a body next to a window, freeing it from the fish and crabs and the current’s indignity, and let it float above him.
‘Come on, buddy,’ he said, ‘you’re stupid being stuck down here. I’ll put you in this sack and send you to the top.’

The Water Rat

Lifeless. Like a fish out of water. White eyes, dilated, staring at him in the dark. Blood dripping from his mouth. Blood dripping from his ears. His face glossy, white, and cold. Mucus hung in drabs from his nose.
‘Rick, how many fingers am I holding up? How many fingers?’ Carl, the system’s tech, questioned the stricken diver, his voice echoing inside the chamber.
‘Uuh, dunno.’
Carl knelt beside him, his feet soaked in bodily waste that flooded the floor of the decompression chamber. The stench overpowered him.
Rick closed his eyes and mumbled like a child, frail and sick. Carl removed his O2 bib and asked: ‘What day is it?’
Rick groaned, rolled his eyes, and sprayed the system’s tech with vomit.
‘Wake up! Wake up!’ Carl slapped Rick’s face and shook his shoulders.
Rick opened his eyes but, feeling distance, never looked at him.
‘Wake up, you bloody bastard!’
‘Wh – where am I?’ Rick wobbled his head.
The system’s tech placed the 02 bib back over Rick’s mouth. Rick lay there quietly, gripping Carl’s arm, watching the light from the porthole move magically through the air.
‘How many fingers am I holding up?’
Rick dropped his eyes sadly like a child who didn’t know why he was being punished. He could sense the man protesting his condition, but he could not understand it. All he could think about was water.

The Mercenary

Andrew felt a tap on his shoulder; he turned, snarling, flashing his knife. Stanley crouched beside him: his eyes deep and focused.
‘He’s in there, isn’t he?’ Stanley whispered; his nose seemed sharper and his long hair hung over one side of his face. ‘There isn’t anything you should do.’
‘Go away,’ Andrew said. ‘I’ve got him, like I said I would.’
‘You don’t know what you’re doing – look at your hands, they’re shaking.’
Andrew lowered his eyes and stared at them. He felt his throat seize.
‘Little boy, you know nothing about fighting with knives. Reilly knows – he loves to fight.’
‘And you?’ Andrew stared at Stanley.
‘I know about killing,’ he said. ‘Shit, I’ve killed almost everything under the sun. I’ve wiped out whole villages. You’re scared. I can see that in your eyes. If you show fear, you’re already a dead man. Reilly will sense that fear – and kill you quick.’
Andrew stood his ground, the fire in his eyes still burning. ‘Do you think I can’t fight him by myself? I want to see his blood.’
‘Now Andrew, don’t argue with me. I’m your only help. Give me your knife and leave it to me.’
‘But Stanley – it’s not your problem.’
‘It is now.’
Andrew hesitated, tightening his grip on his knife.
‘Let’s not waste any more time,’ Stanley said, his hand extended. ‘War is my game. Give me your knife.’
His cold stare with those dark serpent eyes made Andrew shudder. He handed him the knife.

The Fifteen-year-old Prostitute

Noi sat in the rain, beside the old banyan tree, among the wet flowers and grass. She stared into nothingness, her dark hair hanging over her shoulders, her shrivelled-looking body wrapped in a faded hospital gown.
The rain stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. Suddenly the hospital, the fields, and the outline of the jungle became eerie with soft and beautiful light. But the recollection of cold thoughts forbade her to embrace them.
She heard the bell from the hospital, meaning food was ready. Only this time she wouldn’t come. She wanted to attach herself to some memory, to some remote vision she had been dreaming of – something romantic and tender, some silly, silly dream.
Within a short time, there were many people outside the hospital: patients dallying on the grass; nurses laughing and talking, sitting around a table shrouded in cigarette smoke. The sunlight sharpened and refined them. From a distance they looked so clean, but their voices sounded louder, more hostile.
Noi shut her eyes and imagined them laughing at her, calling her disgusting names. Her mouth was dry. She trembled, clutching the grass as if thorns grew through her flesh. A trickle of sweat seeped down her spine. She felt the sting from the bite marks on her breasts.