Ransom lecture

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Homer
The Iliad and The Odyssey
These stories date from around the 8th century BC
Myth, legend, history
Paris takes Helen from Sparta to Troy
The Greeks lay siege to Troy
Why go?
Money and glory
Will my name be remembered?
Achilles ... Priam ... Hector
Odysseus ... Patroclus ... Agamemnon
Achilles quarrels with Agamemnon
Achilles withdraws from the fighting
Hector and the Trojan drive the
Greeks back to their ships
Patroclus and the Greek leaders
beg Achilles to rejoin the fight
Patroclus, wearing Achilles’
armour, fights Hector and dies
Achilles kills Hector and defiles his body
Our story begins ...
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?
Imagery of
the natural
world
Rivers, fish, birds and insects
How does the natural world react to this epic war and these epic
characters?
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.
Ransom
This is not a substitute for ...
a)
b)
c)
d)
Writing practice essays
Going over your class notes
Reading your textbook
Talking to your teacher individually
It is a brief overview ... sprinkles on the top
Contents
Part one ... It will be ok
Part two ... Something new (Somax)
Part three ... Balance
Don’t be scared of this book ...
You know a lot about these ideas already!
Image / expectations / roles
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
Ageing
“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
Death and grief
“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
Fathers, mothers, children
“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.
Isn’t that wonderful
Part Two
Something new
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.
Part three
Balance
“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”
The spirit
The body
Floating
Sinking
Buoyant
Heavy
Air
Earth
Peace
War
Fluid
Solid
Insubstantial
Fixed
Dreams
Reality
Water
Fire
Stillness
Movement
Silence
Noise
Beauty
Horror
Flesh
Steel
To fight
To kill
To conquer
To rule
To lead
To love
To hold
To comfort
To doubt
To forgive
For a brief moment, Achilles, Priam
and Somax find peace
189 - 191
Ask yourself why?
The end!
“He had grieved. But silently, never permitting
himself to betray to others what he felt” 5
(Achilles’ grief for his mother)
“The sea has many voices.”
“She bore the name Beauty – and very
appropriately too, it seems, which is not
always the case”
“For the whole of his life he has been drawn, in
his other nature, to his mother’s element”
“He had entered the rough world of men”
How does the author create meaning?
Flashbacks
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
Violent
Strong
Feared
Fierce
Proud
Tortured
Grieving
Longing
Afraid
Sullied
Ashamed
Desperate
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
Wise
Dignified
Respected
Disciplined
Loved
Haunted
Grave
Vulnerable
Afraid
Child-like
Trapped
Bold
Somax
“A man needs to be practical about things” 121
“But the truth is, we don’t just lie down and die,
do we sir” 131
Wise
Practical
Wary
Proud
Tender
Considerate
Perceptive
Unremarkable
Honest
Affectionate
Strong
Resilient
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
Fierce
Strong
Loving
Determined
Powerful
Frustrated
Tender
Enraged
Elegant
Controlled
Furious
Wise
Key relationships
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?

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