Experience Through Language – Distinctively Visual
Distinctively Visual Essay Example
What distinctive features of your prescribed text and two related texts allow interaction with the ideas, forms and language within the text which affects those responding to it?
Through the distinctively visual features and techniques that the composers of each text utilise; ‘The Shoe Horn Sonata’, a play/drama written by John Misto, ‘The Last Laugh’, a poem written by Wilfred Owen, and ‘Way Home’ a picture book written by Libby Hathorn; the composers effectively engage the audience, affecting those responding to it by appealing to their emotions. Through a range of visual, aural and language techniques, the composers explore human experiences and commonly demonstrate helplessness of the protagonists.
In ‘The Shoe Horn Sonata’, Misto uses distinctively visual techniques and the form of social realism to demonstrate helplessness and death in the brutality of war. Misto wrote this play with a didactic purpose, bringing recognition to the women nurses who suffered appallingly at the hands of the Japanese in World War II and to reveal the truth about their struggle.
Misto’s use of social realism throughout the drama is a way of engaging an audience response and demonstrating the idea of helplessness. In Act 1 Scene 3, Sheila recounts the event of the ship; the ‘Giang Bee’ sinking. The helplessness of those on-board is emphasised through the use of simile and imagery in “It lay like a wounded animal, spilling oil instead of blood”. This quote demonstrates and foreshadows how the hundreds of women were overpowered by the force of the Japanese, leaving them helpless as many of them died and drowned in the water.
Further in Act 1 Scene 3, Bridie recounts when the ship she was on; the ‘Vyner Brooke’ sunk. In the background, the Japanese flag comes up behind them with the light shining on it. This symbol of power instills fear into the audience’s reaction. The gradual darkness with the song ‘Jerusalem’ emphasises the helplessness and pathos, juxtaposed with the photos of the Japanese invasion of Singapore to reinforce their helplessness. Misto uses these confronting visuals and aural devices to engage the audience and appeal to their emotions.
The brutality of war is demonstrated in Misto’s drama text through the use of various visual techniques. In Act 1 Scene 7, the photos of the women prisoners of war (POWs) show how they were emaciated, haggard, impoverished and they highlight the terrible state that these women were in during the brutality of war. The photos are juxtaposed with the music ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, giving the audience insight into the complacency of the British and Australian governments for allowing this brutality to continue. In effect, this makes the audience develop sympathy towards the women and be angered and disgusted at the government’s complacency. The blackout in the stage directions is a powerful end to the scene, allowing the audience to reflect on the women’s experience and thus engaging the audience’s emotions.
Through symbolism, Misto also demonstrates the theme of death in his drama text. In Act 2 Scene 9, Bridie recounts how they were poorly treated by the Japanese in Belalau. The symbol of the shoe horn which was used as a shovel to dig graves symbolises death, loss, the harsh reality of the war and the horrible circumstances they were in. The dialogue and imagery “we could hear their bodies as they knocked against the boat” presents a grim view of death and a foreboding image to the audience which is in turn emotionally moving.
Through the various techniques that Misto employs in ‘The Shoe Horn Sonata’, he demonstrates human experiences and suffering by juxtaposing two fictional characters with reality. Through the visual, aural and language devices, Misto effectively engage the audience by appealing to their emotions.
In the poem ‘The Last Laugh’, Owen employs distinctively visual techniques to engage the audience and express similar themes of helplessness and death in the brutality of war. The poem concerns the senseless struggle and wasted lives of innocent soldiers at war.
Through various language features, Owen demonstrates that the soldiers who are fighting at war experience helplessness. This is shown through the motif of laughing which occurs in “chirped”, “guffawed”, “tittered” and in the title “The Last Laugh”. This demonstrates that the weaponry of war have “the last laugh”, mocking the death of the innocent soldiers and showing how the men are helpless and overpowered by the weapons. Also, the helplessness of the soldiers is further shown through “Oh! Jesus Christ! I’m hit”. This blasphemous expression shows how a cry to Jesus does not prevent the bullets from coming, showing how the soldiers are helpless to the overpowering weaponry. Furthermore, it shows their desperation and vulnerability, engaging the reader’s emotions of grief and anger at the pointless deaths of the soldiers.
The theme of death in the brutality of war is also shown in the poem through the various language techniques. The personification of the weapons in “the Big Gun guffawed” and “the Bayonets’ long teeth grinned” implies that the weapons are the death-bringers rather than the people operating them, hence demonstrating death in the brutality of war. The weapons being written with capital letters promotes the personification, showing that the war is horrific, unforgiving and brutal. The onomatopoeia “Tut-tut! Tut-tut” and “the Gas hissed” emphasises the brutality of war through Owen’s use of words that mimic the sounds of guns firing and the death that the weapons bring. The structure that the poem was written in emphasises the death of the soldiers; each stanza describes the death of a different, individual soldier, engaging the reader emotionally to the death of each man.
Through the various textual features, the composers of both The Shoe Horn Sonata and The Last Laugh create didactic texts that explore human suffering during the brutality of war, effectively engaging the audience by appealing to their emotions.
The picture book ‘Way Home’, written by Libby Hathorn, explores the ideas of helplessness in the dangers of the city and companionship through the use of distinctively visual features. The picture book is about a young, homeless boy who wanders the streets of the city at night where he finds a stray cat.
The image where the protagonist is holding the cat inside his jacket demonstrates the ideas of helplessness and companionship. The medium shot with dark shading around the boys face emphasises his struggle and shows his helplessness. In the foreground, the boy is gazing down with a blank facial expression so the viewer cannot see his eyes, reinforcing the struggle and helplessness the boy is feeling. The cat is looking up to the boy and there is light on a portion of its face, showing that the cat feels comfortable and safe, emphasising their companionship but also their isolation from society. This makes the viewer ponder the isolating and brutal effects of homelessness as they develop sympathy for the protagonist.
The illustrative techniques used in the image where the boy runs out onto the busy freeway demonstrates helplessness in the dangers of the city. The protagonist’s facial expression of shock and horror is emphasised by the dark shading on his face and demonstrates his helplessness in the dangers of the city. The vector lines of the image lead to the high modality in the background, drawing the attention of the viewer and thus effectively emphasises the dangers of the city. The overwhelming lights in the background contrast with the dark shading on the protagonists face, reinforcing the dangers of the city. The viewer is concerned for the protagonist’s safety and condemns society for his displacement, evoking worrying and sympathetic emotions and engaging the viewer into the story.
The theme of companionship and the comfort associated with it is demonstrated in the image where they enter the boy’s ‘home’. The focal point of the image is the lantern which is the source of the light, emphasising the comfort that the boy and cat feel with each other’s companionship and away from the dangers of the city. Through the use of colours, their comfort and safety is reinforced, opposing the dark shadows on all the other pages. Also, the motif of the hands of god in the background emphasises the feeling of safety. As a result, the viewer feels relieved that the boy and cat are safe away from the dangers of the city.
Through the various textual features, the composers of the three texts explore human experiences and suffering in both the brutality of war and the dangers of the city. The composer’s effectively engage the audience through the use of distinctive features, appealing to their emotions and thoughts.
In John Misto’s play ‘The Shoe Horn Sonata’, the themes of helplessness and death in the brutality of war are demonstrated through the clever use of distinctively visual techniques. Similarly, through distinctively visual features, Wilfred Owen demonstrates the themes of helplessness and death in the brutality of war in the poem ‘The Last Laugh’ and Libby Hathorn explores the ideas of helplessness, the dangers of the city and companionship in the picture book ‘Way Home’. It is evident that through each composer’s use of various distinctively visual features, they are able to engage and affect the audience by bringing a connection that appeals to their emotions. The audience is moved, shocked and left to ponder dismal situations of brutality, suffering and isolation.
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