VIEWS: 152 PAGES: 7 POSTED ON: 4/26/2010
Jetty Rats by Philip Gwynn Jetty Rats is a rite of passage novel. Hunter, the hero of the story, is an individual attempting to surmount an event in his life: he is in denial about his father’s death and this is having major ramifications in every aspect of his life. In particular, his relationships with other people is difficult, and sometimes strained to an unbearable level. However, throughout the course of the novel, he moves on, and in the process of doing so, he moves to a new level of understanding about himself, and others. Although Jetty Rats is essentially about Hunter, and his journey of self-discovery, it is also a novel which asks the reader to think about their own situation and more importantly, explore what they hold to be true, valuable and enduring. More challenging still, Gwynne presents scope for the reader to ask what it would cost to let go of emotions, feelings long harboured and coveted hopes. Hunter is a brine-washed kid who struggles with himself but he also wrestles with notions of family, friendship, the first tremors of sexual attraction to girls and above all, how to face up to and cope with loss. In addition to the rites of passage experience, Gwynne provides a deft analysis of contemporary society. Although this is not heavily addressed, there is potential for readers to evaluate just what is meant when Hunter says: ‘The public are pigs. They’re rude, demanding and ignorant.’ (p.12) Besides the credible characters and believable physical setting, Gwynne establishes a certain tone of voice which has street credibility and resonates with the way many teenagers speak. It is a book which asks the readers to listen to the story unfolding. And what a story it is. Hunter Vettori is thirteen. He lives with his mother who manages the Dogleg Bay Caravan Park. She used to do this with Hunter’s father but he has disappeared owing to a suspected fishing accident. Hunter will not accept that his father is likely to be dead. The consequences of his father’s disappearance, and as the novel develops we realise he is indeed dead, affect the community of Dogleg Bay. Hunter’s father was a legendary fisherman. We read that he, ‘...loved hooking salmon more than any other fish. Every year he’d walk into the pub, hoisting the first sambo of the season, a crazy smile on his salty face.’ (p.19) Hunter’s father was a ‘rock-hopping’ fisherman, (p19) and on the fateful day of his disappearance, he had broken the ‘golden rule of rock-hopping. Dad went by himself.’ (p19) The impact of this decision is twofold. He disappears into the Murk and we assume that he has been washed off the rocks by a wave. Hunter loses a father and his mother, a husband. But others are also deeply changed by Hunter’s father’s disappearance. Hunter reminds us that ‘Drilla is Dad’s best mate.’ (p.19) The fact that Drilla did not accompany Hunter’s father on the morning he disappeared, has weighed heavily on him since. Drilla blames himself for what Hunter describes as his father’s ‘alien abduction.’ (p.19) Hunter, in wanting to emulate his father’s great fishing prowess, goes after Mulloway or ‘Jewies’. These fish are notoriously hard to catch. Although Hunter’s father’s enviable reputation as a fisherman has carried to Mullaranka, the nearest town to Dogleg Bay, Hunter is yet to establish his own sense of self at Dogleg Bay. He does so through the catching of a mammoth mulloway but more than this, establishes his own place in the folklore of Dogleg Bay by releasing the fish. Even so, his ambition early on for catching the mulloway was clear: ‘... When Dad was around, before I decided that I would devote my life to catching mulloway, to becoming richer and more famous than Rex Hunt.’ (p.24) Into this mix of loss and a search for Hunter’s identity, Gwynne enables us to see the power of friendship. The Jetty Rats is a name given to the kids who hang out on the jetty of Dogleg Bay. Hunter’s closest friends are The Photocopies, twin girls, and Miracle, a mate. It is Hunter’s friendships that sustain him as he tries to come to terms with simply growing up. Then there is the Skullster, ‘this rich Geeky kid’ who is on the periphery of Hunter’s friendship group until he is required to help Hunter. Gwynne brings his readers to the realisation that for Hunter to not only maintain contact with his father, but equip himself as a man, he too must distinguish himself in some way. This is through catching a mulloway, not matter what it takes. To do so, he takes risks. Initially, this seems impossible. As Hunter reflects on his nemesis Rex Hunt,: ‘...it’s a piscatorial lottery out there’ (p.5), the Jewies have long left Dogleg Bay. The fact that he does catch one – with more than a little help from his unlikely alliance with the Skullster – is a triumphant moment in the story. The ending of the novel, where the mulloway is released, is not fully explained and the reader is left with a number of questions: was Hunter right to release the mulloway? What is Hunter feeling when he releases the fish? Complete the following concept map… Pretending that… Troubled Hoping that… about… Planning to… Changing his mind Hunter is… about… Confused about… Concerned about… Themes that are developed within the novel A theme is a concept that runs throughout a story. In most examples of the Western story-telling tradition, themes introduce problems and ideas that need to be resolved by the story's conclusion. For example, a theme that runs throughout the text has to do with family structures. There are a number of different family structures depicted in the novel which reflects the dynamic nature of contemporary Australian culture. These representations in turn require the reader to consider the nature of families in modern Australia. A number of problems are developed in the story relating to families - for example, the relationship the Skullster has with his mother is very different from the one Hunter has with his. A number of problems that spiral from these relationships are resolved by the end of the novel. The following themes tend to dominate the storyline of Jetty Rats. Each needs to be considered independently, as well as in context to each other. Family ‘Of course my poor old mum deserves a hug every now and then. It hasn’t been easy for her. Her hubby gone missing, like that. The Whole Dogleg Bay Caravan Park to look after. A Kid like me to bring up. But sometimes she’s like this giant squid, like Architeuthis dux, wrapping her tentacles around and around, squeezing me, suffocating me.’ (p.8) 1. The novel presents several forms of family structure. What are they? Look at how families are organised in the novel and note what differences you can see. Family #1 Family #2 Family #3 Family #4 2. Is there any kind of family which is preferred in the story? What are some of the pressures the Skullster feels in his family as opposed to Hunter and the Photocopies who through different circumstances, are in single parent households? What does Hunter mean when he says: ‘When Dad was around, the division of labour was much fairer – he scrubbed the dunnies and Hunter went a-fishin,’ (p.10) 3. Consider the place of affection in families. How does Hunter express his feelings to his mother and how does he remember his father? What does he hold onto? 4. Hunter is loyal in remembering his father. The place of memory is important in the novel. Hunter has no other means of keeping in touch with his father. Do you identify in some way with Hunter’s commitment to his absent father and if so, how? 5. Mother figures are strong in the novel. What are the similarities and differences between the mother characters? How do they express their care for their children? What are the basic qualities of motherhood consistent in each? Friendship ‘Poor Mrs Crevada. I mean, Mrs C. All she wants is to have kids eating her food and kids calling her Mrs C. But nobody visits her geeky son, because his friends are all cyber-friends. Cyber-friends don’t scoff cream puffs and they don’t gulp down home made ginger beer.’ (p.129) 1. There are several types of friendship in the story between children and adults. Identify the different types of friendship and what are the features of it? 1. 2. Hunter and… 4. 3. Now complete your own table, choosing your own characters… Character name: Answer the following questions in your workbook… 2. What makes a good friend? Does the relationship between the Jetty Rats provide a good example of this, and how is this different from the friendship between Saphonia and Hunter’s mum? (p.13) Is Zappo a good friend to Hunter? If so, how? 3. The Jetty Rats are not a gang (p.45) Why do people congregate in gangs and what are the advantages of doing so? Why are the Jetty Rats not classed as a gang? 4. What are the costs of friendship? Was Hunter right to use the Skullster with his ‘cyber proposition’ (p.126) to crack the Barrages or what should/could he have done? 5. Do you think that all friendships are essentially opportunistic? Or do they mostly just begin that way? The term ‘fair-weather-friend’ is often applied to a person who is only around when things are going well, or when things are interesting. Is there an example of such a parasitic relationship in the novel? Absent fathers/parents ‘He’ll be back, I think. Dad always comes back. I wait for him sitting under the ‘VACANCY’ sign, until it’s dark and Mum tells me to come inside. The next day and the next day and the next day, I wait or him.’ (p.40) Answer the following questions in your workbook in as much detail as possible. Remember to use correct grammar and spelling. 1. What impact does not having a father have on Hunter? Is Hunter revealing in this quote above, commitment or loyalty or simply not facing the reality that his father will not return? 2. Hunter is not the only character who is fatherless. The Photocopies also have no father with them. Why? Hunter says: ‘I miss my dad too, I feel like telling Storm. More than you’ll ever know. At least you know where your dad is. At least you know he’s alive. Mine could be anywhere.’ (p.89) What are the differences between the Photocopies and Hunter not having fathers? 3. How do the mothers compensate for the lack of a paternal figure in the family? Are there other father figure characters represented in the novel? Does Drilla or Warwick fulfil this role? 4. What makes a good father anyway? Write down a list of all of the qualities you think make a good father. Teenage love ‘My heart is beating harder, bouncing around my chest, a pinball gone beserk. Boing! Boing! Boing! It goes. Boing! Boing! Boing!’ (p.171) 1. How does the love interest between Hunter and the Photocopies affect the way Hunter Feels and acts in the novel? Does he fall in love, or is he merely experimenting with his own feelings? What do you think falling in love means and how is this different to ‘friendship’? 2. Is Hunter ready for a relationship? He says: ‘I’m just a thirteen-year-old kid who wants to catch himself a big mulloway.’ (p.169) 3. Can mates love one another? What kind of love is it? 4. Do you imagine Hunter’s relationship with the Photocopies and in particular, Jasmine, would be long term? Why or why not? 5. What makes some relationships last? Is it more than love? Rite of passage ‘I can feel tears running down my face. Ancient tears. Uncried tears. I open my mouth and scream. The water enters into me. And I too become the sea.’ (p.240) 1. What are the kinds of experiences which are a rite of passage? Do you think you may have experienced this in some form? 2. Did Hunter know that in battling with the mulloway, he had crossed something significant? 3. Is a rite of passage only for the young? Characters Although in Jetty Rats there are several characters who make cameo appearances, the story functions around Hunter, his mother, the Photocopies and Miracle. Important secondary characters are Saphonia, Drilla, Warwick and Zappo. Depending on how the novel is read and interpreted, other characters may complete for significant secondary status. All the characters in Jetty Rats are easily visualised and imagined. The narrative is told in the first person and in Hunter’s voice. Besides what he tells us about himself and those important to him, other characters also reveal much about Hunter. The concentration on Hunter is both necessary and clear. Jetty Rats is his story. Apart from what might appear at first to be superficial treatment by Gwynne of secondary characters, in terms of their development, all the characters are actually well explored. Hunter’s mother wants a tattoo. This in itself is interesting as it suggests that there is some motivation for doing so. Similarly with the gradual establishment of the Photocopies as individuals in their own right. We see clearly that Storm and Jasmine are searching for understanding of their feelings towards boys as Hunter is for girls. The following questions need to be answered in as much detail as possible. 1. Choose three characters from the novel. (One of them must be Hunter). For each character, answer the following: What kind of character is he/she? Are they immediately involving or does it take a while to warm up to them? How are they first described and what changes do you note throughout the course of the novel? 2. How do each of the characters speak? Consider the language they use. Are there particular expressions they employ in their speech? 3. Which character would you like to meet most and why? Which character would you like to meet least and why? 4. In terms of their attitudes and actions, list distinctive examples of behaviour and say why characters acted in particular ways at certain times. How much choice do they have and how do they exercise this? 5. On a character map, try to show what you know about all of the characters in the novel. 6. Does any character remind you of yourself? Why? 7. Would you like to be a particular character? Why? 8. If you were introducing the character to a group of people, how would you summarise his/her qualities? 9. How do you relate to the character? If you could ask the character five questions, what would they be? 10. Do you become emotionally engaged with any characters in the story? How? A Note on the Wider Significance of the Story of Jetty Rats Symbolically, Hunter’s catching the mulloway fulfils a hunger for him to get closer to his father. This is particularly so in relation to the struggle Hunter has in regard to holding the mulloway on the line all night. The fish is a symbol of Hunter’s fear of letting his father go and admitting to himself that he is dead. During this fight with the fish, Gwynne offers insights into Hunter’s thinking and an awareness that he must not lose the fish but have the choice of keeping it or releasing it. The associations are many. Not least in the description Gwynne gives of the fish as it struggles: ‘He will start circling soon and then I must work on him. I wonder what started him so suddenly?’ Hunter develops a relationship with the fish he is trying to land. It is the key to knowing more about him and in a way, finding a certain wisdom about letting go of long-cherished dreams and desires. For Hunter, there was no option, he must liberate the fish. Why? Moreover, it is Hunter who brings the fish back to life. What does this represent? ‘I wrap my arms around the mulloway and I kiss the mulloway. I kiss it hard, my lips pressed hard against the cool, salty scales.’ (p.239) 1. Why does Hunter do this? How does he feel when the fish responds? How do you feel? Soon after this, Hunter is a changed person. He has undertaken his rite of passage journey. In the departing fish swimming out to sea, there is a coalescing of what he has let go and how far he has grown. He has let go of his father and in so doing, Hunter has begun to be a man himself. This is symbolically developed in the wedding ceremony, where Hunter must take the place of his father and be Drilla’s best man. Symbolic Treatment The mulloway at the story’s end brings the townsfolk of Dogleg Bay to the Jetty to watch the epic battle. It is the only time we see all the characters together. It is like a curtain call and allows the reader to experience each individual’s reaction to the moment when the great fish is brought into the shallows. 1. How does each character react and why? What does the mulloway symbolise for each character? What does it symbolise for you? 2. The catch and release of the mulloway seems to have influenced many of the characters. Hunter’s mother finally gets her tattoo; the Skullster, too, becomes a Jetty Rat. Can you find other examples of this influence? 3. Is the fish a symbol for good? In what way? Hunter has fulfilled his dream and in the process has grown up. At the novel’s end, there is a sense that he has discovered much about himself but also the power of human relationships. He says that if the Photocopies leave town, then he’d miss them. (p.255) The novel has a sense of fulfillment and offers us hope. Where can you find examples of this? List several examples of these, along with the page numbers.
Pages to are hidden for
"Jetty Rats"Please download to view full document