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Review of an Extract from Joseph O’ Connor’s “Star of the Sea”

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    This passage is an extract from Joseph O’ Connor’s Star of the sea which was penned in the year 2002. The passage makes use of a third person narrative view point as a result of which the readers are provided with a vivid image of passengers aboard a stormy sea ship. The passage talks about a ship afloat a stormy sea and how the passengers on the deck are caught unaware due to this storm. The author uses a descriptive style of writing with short crisp sentences that heighten the pace of the story.

    In the last two paragraphs however, the author uses longer sentences that signal a slower pace and show the readers that the storm has died down for the time being. The author has interspersed the action with 2 dialogues. It is interesting to note that both dialogues are some form of instruction and hence the dialogue could be used to tell the reader what else is happening on the ship. The protagonist is unknown for the first stanza and the author uses diacksis to refer to the protagonist. This could be to build up the suspense and draw attention to the action rather than to the protagonist.

    The passage begins in medea res that is in the middle of the action. There is a rise in action in the first 2 passages which then abruptly halts in the last two paragraphs. The rise in action is complemented by the short sentences used by the author which increase the pace of the story. The exposition of the passage comes towards the end when we are introduced to Dixon, Meredith, Laura and her two children. The climax could be the part where the klaxon is sounded to clear all the decks. This klaxon is a bell and has allusions to the jingling of bells in the bible.

    Thus it can be said that the action is in accordance with the Freytag’s triangle. The author makes heavy use of imagery. He uses a lot of visual imagery to paint a vivid picture of a stormy ship. Sentences like “It seemed to spew from the clouds not merely fall” , show us that the author pays attention to detail. These images are used to show us how stormy the storm actually was. A description of the sea in lines 5 and 6 serve a similar purpose. Lines 7 and 8 make use of visual imagery in a simile which makes it easier for readers to gauge the intensity of the storm.

    The author has a keen eye for detail and leaves no stone unturned in order to make sure that the readers have a clear picture of what was happening on the ship. He talks of the “man with the club foot” which would have been an unnoticed detail for most other people. In line 20 he describes how desperate the woman was to save her life that she was “grasping (and) clutching” rope. He contrasts this to Dixon in the next line who grips “the slimy life rope like a mountaineer”. Here Dixon is compared to a mountaineer because mountaineers are sure footed and do not panic in even the most gripping of situations.

    The author complements the visual imagery with aural imagery so that as readers we can listen to the sounds that were heard on the ship. The passage opens with an aural image of music howling around the protagonist. The author paints aural images with the help of onomatopoeia which can be seen by the use of words like “clatter, clank groaning” to name a few. An interesting aural image is that of the “wail of the klaxon” which portrays a gloomy image since the word wail has negative connotations of death attached to it.

    Through this the author could be implying that that deadly storm cost a few people their lives. The screaming of the woman clearly shows her panic. There is also use of kinaesthetic imagery which like a film portrays a moving image to the readers. Words like “foaming rushing and surging” paint moving images in front of the readers. The author uses kinaesthetic imagery in order to show the readers that everyone was not still on the ship and there was a lot of movement and chaos aboard the ship.

    Another interesting kinaesthetic image is that of the “Snappings of wood (which) filled the air like gunshots”. In this image the author shows us how stormy the sea was that it caused parts of a sturdy 80 year old ship to break into small fragments. The comparison could be to show that the storm was like a pirate who caused damage to the ship and its passengers. A little hint of the characters can be seen in the third paragraph. Laura’s pleading look could show that she had wanted Dixon to do something and she was on the verge of pleading with him to do it.

    Laura’s close relative could be on the deck of the ship and she may have wanted Dixon to go save that relative which could explain the pleading look. Meredith is portrayed as an authoritative character who seems like she does not like Dixon and hence “drags (Laura and her sons) like sacks” to move them away from Dixon. An expressionist element is seen in the character of the Captain of the ship. He is portrayed as a shadowy authoritative character who wants his instructions to be obeyed to the tee.

    The passage ends on a note of suspense like the storm is going to return. The tightening of the hatches foreshadows that something bad is coming in the way of the ship. To conclude with I would like to say that the author has succeeded in his attempt to provide readers with a satisfying image of a ship rolling on the stormy sea. He creatively uses aural, visual and kinaesthetic imagery to portray the plight of the ship and of the passengers onboard. However, the author could have made use of literary devices such as metaphors and alliterations.

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    Review of an Extract from Joseph O’ Connor’s “Star of the Sea”. (2018, Feb 05). Retrieved from

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