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Critical analysis of the opening chapters of Waterland.

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Introduction

Critical analysis of the opening chapters of Waterland "...and each one of them was once a tiny baby sucking his mother's milk..." This conclusion to the book's opening paragraph epitomizes the first 4 chapters - a seemingly ambiguous idea that bears no real resemblance to anything. However, this is because Graham Swift writes deliberately, and even the strangest subject is actually entirely relevant to both the plot and story. This allows him to develop his novels in his own, unique way (Although numerous parodies of other writers are present in his words; the most apparent example being Thomas Hardy and his descriptive style, where Swift describes the setting for periods of time, relating it to his characters) and fully explore his setting through his words, in this case The Fens. The first four chapters of Waterland do not introduce a plot that has lots of substance, save for the discovery of the body, which "belonged to Freddie Parr", and the "cutting back on history". However, this is not Swift's aim - he attempts to acclimatise the reader to his world (Most evident in the Chapter 3 description "About The Fens"), through first the introduction of the characters (Sometimes brief, sometimes more developed) and then the region they live in. Swift begins his book writing "About the Stars and the Sluice". ...read more.

Middle

The silt acts as the colonizer, and colonizes the land, claiming it from the water. The inhabitants have to co-exist with it, and live by its ruling. When post-colonialism occurs (i.e. the water leaving the land, either through dredging or actual retreat), the colonized take on its way of life, i.e. they try to fight the water as the silt did, and learn to control it. History plays a big part in the novel. Tom, as the narrator, explains his story as well as exhibiting his own knowledge. To the reader, this mix between fact and fiction presents a credible story, but also leads to a distortion of fact, as he would perhaps manipulate them to correspond with his own personal story. One of the main links with history is that of fairy tales, i.e. made-up stories. These are referred to numerous times by Tom to his class (Thus merging them with history) and the single-line paragraphs such as "'Once upon a time...'" (The classic fairy-tale opening, surreal in that Tom is telling us a fictional fairy-tale). The most extensive use of history, however, is Chapter 3, where Tom explains his family history, especially Jacob Crick (Swift highlighting him as the main ancestor simply through the amount of time spent on describing him), "mill-man and apprentice hermit". ...read more.

Conclusion

Tom's life. Repetition is a common technique of Swift's, as, in Chapter 3, he repeats the phrase "Not to", showing Tom's anger at the exclusion of certain facts (Such as "the men who cut the throats of King Charles's Dutch drainers"), as well as "Perhaps", questioning what lies ahead in his [Tom's] future. Certainly Swift's descriptions are believable, due to the timescale he covers, as well as the fact the dates and statistics give his story more weight (Make more real). Swift is a great user of pace throughout these chapters. He places two short chapters either side of the long, descriptive Chapter 3, as to break up the flow of the piece (As well as the fact the longer paragraphs and chapters decelerate the pace so that the importance of the facts are not ignored). Swift also integrates imagery and symbolism into his work. One of his more distinguishing images is that of the eel (Especially the trapped eel), which represents the situation of Tom - caged in a world and life he can't escape from but, dissimilar to the eel, this is partly through choice. So while Swift appears vague and very obscure at times, he does so for a reason. This is a recurrence throughout the first 4 chapters, which do not see a lot of (if any) plot development, but see a lot of theme and character building, the apparent main focus. ...read more.

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