How does the author create meaning? Shifting narrative perspective What Achilles thinks / What his Myrmidons think What Priam thinks / What his children think What is the effect of this shifting narrative?
How does the author create meaning? Characterisation Somax is wise. Somax brings balance. His resilience, love of life and simple affection inspire Priam and Achilles. His beautiful story is dismissed by others. Why did Malouf include this character in the novel?
How does the author create meaning? Rivers, fish, birds and insects How does the natural world react to this epic war and these epic characters? Imagery of the natural world
How does the author create meaning? Elemental imagery (fire, water, air, earth)
Water 3 – 4 111 114 – 115 140 – 141 151 – 153 172 What effect does water have on the characters? How are the main characters similar to water?
Fire 26 - 27 32 – 33 40 – 41 167 - 168 212 - 214 Why does Malouf use images of heat and fire when describing warriors and acts of violence? How is rage similar to a fire?
Warriors are required to harden themselves for battle, both physically and mentally. Malouf suggests that in this state they become like animals, “unacquainted with second thoughts”. They put to one side their tenderness, their sensitivity and their compassion and act instead on instinct: they become men “whose blood is a roaring lion in them”. Malouf shows that this ‘heroic’ lifestyle comes at a price. When Achilles kills Hector, he does not feel satisfaction or relief; he is left “feeling hollow”. At the start of the novel, Achilles is struggling under the weight of grief and guilt - he has become “leaden limbed” and cannot free himself from “the clogging grey web that enfolds him”.
At the end of the novel, however, the presence of a God in his tent transports him out of the rough world of men and into his mother’s element, where he feels a “sudden suspension of his hard manly qualities”. Malouf uses images of water and floating to symbolise the maternal world, a place where men are “rocked and comforted”. In this world, Achilles lays down his burden and becomes “eel-like, fluid, weightless, without substance”. The author uses alliteration and onomatopoeia to emphasise the calming, healing qualities of water. When Achilles stands on the beach, he hears the “small waves slither to his sandalled feet, then sluice away with a rattling sound”. Malouf uses this aural imagery to create a lulling, soothing atmosphere.
13. Ransom by David Malouf i.‘Ransom demonstrates that it is a man’s actions that define him.’ ii.Discuss. OR ii. ‘Despite the violence in Ransom, the reader is left with a sense of optimism.’ Discuss.
A king should be strong, decisive, regal, dignified A warrior should be brave, bold, strong, fierce
Priam is a great king, but... “This king who is in his care, for all his grave authority, is as innocent of the world as a naked newborn babe, and just as helpless”
Achilles is a warrior, but... “The voice this man is listening for is the voice of his mother” 3
“To be seen as a man like other men... would have suggested that I was impermanent and weak. Better to stand still and keep silent” 53 “When they look at him (Achilles) these days, what they see confounds them” 29
“Only we humans can know... what it is to be aware each day of the fading in us of freshness and youth; the falling away, as the muscles grow slack in our arms” 88 “He’s like a child... or a man who’s gone wandering in his sleep and doesn’t know where he is or how he got there” 115
“We are mortals, not gods. We die. Death is in our nature... and for that reason we should have pity for one another’s losses” 184 “It leaves a gap you can’t ignore. It’s there. Always.” 134 “Behind him he hears the small sounds Priam is making. They are wordless but he understands them well enough” 207
“What I remember of each one is how they kicked their little heels under my heart” 52 “It’s a terrible thing to see their little bodies all hot and tossing from side to side, and hear them gasping for breath. It seems like such a simple thing to a big strong fellow like me – a breath” 130 “The truth was that none of his sons was in that sense particular. Their relationship to him was formal and symbolic” 136
The beauty of the natural world (and the lessons it has to teach us)
“We’re children of nature, my lord. Of the earth, as well as of the gods” 121 “Out here, if you stopped to listen, everything prattled. It was a prattling world” 126 “Small waves kick up, gather, then collapse, and new ones replace them... and will do endlessly whether he is here or not to observe it” (6)
Scholars think that this story was told around ten thousand years ago. The world has changed so much since then, but it some ways, it hasn’t changed at all.
The story of Achilles and Priam is one of the best known stories in the world
Millions of people have heard of these men, their heroic actions and deeds... As Malouf says, “A man’s actions follow him wherever he goes in the form of a story”
But in Ransom, David Malouf gives us something new
“He (Achilles) is waiting for the break. For something to appear that will break the spell that is on him, the self-consuming rage that drives him and wastes his spirit in despair. Something new and unimaginable” “The thing that is needed to cut this knot we are all tied in is something that has never before been done or thought of. Something impossible. Something new.” (Priam)
Enter Somax... There is a new voice in this version of the epic tale. An ordinary voice. What that voice has to say is sad, but also tender, beautiful, wonderful and wise.
“The truth is, we don’t just lie down and die, do we, sir? We go on. For all our losses.” “Ah there’s many things we don’t know, sir. The worst happens, and there, it’s done. The fleas go on biting. The sun comes up again” 135 “What creatures we are, eh, sir? So much life and will then, pfff, it’s ended” 131
Mr Waterson’s tip... Look very carefully at what Somax says and what he thinks. His wisdom and “native wit” are in many ways the catalyst for change in the novel.
“There was something here, Priam thought, that he needed to think about” 126... I think Malouf might be giving us a hint.
“The essential thing is to etch movements in the sky, movements so still they leave no trace. The essential thing is simplicity. That is why the long path to perfection is horizontal.” Philippe Petit
What does it take to bring balance to your life?
“A fellow like me, who needs his strength for hard work, has to know a little about what is good for the body as well as the spirit”
What can I do at home? Read the novel again! Start memorising quotes Read over all of your class notes and handouts Write some practice essays under timed conditions
Key themes The person behind the image Gender roles and expectations Breaking with tradition or convention Leadership
Grief, death and ageing The importance of the natural world Chance, fate and divine intervention The power of stories The beauty and horror of life... balance
Achilles “He is as fouled with dust as the thing – bloody and unrecognisable – that he trails from his axle-bar” 34 “He is their leader, but he breaks daily every rule they have been taught to live by” 29
Priam “To be seen as a man like other men... would have suggested that I was impermanent and weak. Better to stand still and keep silent” 53 “Holding in his head all the roads that lead out to the distant parts of the kingdom, he feels them at times as ribbons tied at the centre of him” 43
Hecuba “Tears... oh, I have plenty of those. But not of grief. Of anger, fury, that I am a woman and can do nothing but sit here and rage and weep” 51 “You have your own sweet ways of getting around me” 62
Priam and Hecuba (49 – 51) She is the only person who knows Priam the man He is vulnerable with her Their relationship is tender and beautiful Priam is aware of her great power They know each other well, but this event shows that they don’t know everything about each other
Achilles and Patroclus (17 – 20) Achilles feels that Patroclus is “half himself” (Patroclus dies in Achilles’ armour) Their bond is profound, they were raised together Patroclus values honour and is deeply saddened by Achilles’ refusal to fight His death haunts Achilles – it is the source of immeasurable grief and guilt
Priam and Somax (113 – 115) Somax learns that his great king is as “innocent of the world as a naked newborn babe, and just as helpless” Somax teaches Priam about the simple pleasures of life The two men, from opposite ends of the world, have more in common than they expected Through them, Malouf shows that some things are universal... grief, love, doubt etc.
Achilles and Priam (197 – 199) This is a most unlikely relationship – Priam shares a meal with his greatest enemy, the man who killed Hector and defiled his body Achilles mistakes Priam for his father Peleus The two are tied down by grief and obligation – they feel the incredible burden of leadership This meeting brings balance to them both
‘Despite his family’s fears, Priam brings his son home.’ Why is he successful?