English Commentary – Maiden Voyage
The prescribed passage, Maiden Voyage from Denton Welch’s novel is rich in action and suspense. Several literary devices are employed by the author to create such an appealing effect. The first person narrative is introduced in the first line of this passage and is very important throughout the prose, especially when the protagonist encounters the decapitated head. The narrative style enhances the sensations of utter surprise and horror by describing the experience in a more personal viewpoint. Simple descriptions such as “I stared into its raw eye-sockets until waves of sickness spread over me.
Then I ran’’ enhances the disgust of the scene for the reader, and such feelings can only by the protagonist, which is why first-person view-point is made very effective here. The setting plays a big role in this passage, especially in the lines leading up the climax point of discovering the head. Welch describes everything as being ‘’still and silent,’’ and along with the aid of the line ‘’ Harsh spears of grass stuck up through the sand. The soles of my shoes began to burn and I looked round vainly for some shady place. ’’ the reader begins to envision a serene but hot afternoon setting, although this slowly alters towards the eerie when it is revealed that the wind is the only sound. It gives the impression that as if the place is deserted. Mr Welch also spends considerable time describing the setting of the house that the protagonist was staying in before leaving to venture outside. There is sense of confinement as if the protagonist is trapped in the house and is being held back against his own will thus the word – ‘’imprisonment,’’ .
The contents of the house is simple for example ‘’moth-eaten’’ worn out balls and the “old tennis racket” were the only objects lying in the hall for entertainment. The sombre setting as described by Mr Welch would allow the reader to understand the ardent desire of the protagonist to leave the villa and explore the surroundings. Welch’s usage of diction is also very successful in this passage. By describing the flies as with the simile ‘’buzzing like dynamos,’’ Welsh enhances the disgust the protagonist encountered at the scene.
When the protagonist finally realises what the object that appeared to cat crouching in the middle of the road actually was, Welch describes the protagonist reaction as awaking (‘’my numbed senses suddenly awoke again’’), This gives the impression that she is shocked by how only then she realised what the object really was, hence the line “I stared into its raw eye-sockets until waves of sickness spread over me. Then I ran”. However, the words used to describe the decapitated head stand out the most in this passage, as they are well applied to convey repulsion. ’Shrivelled lips,’’ ‘’ coarse hairs growing out of its ears,’’ ‘’raw eye-sockets’’ as well as the simile ‘’old white teeth stood up like ninepins in the dark’’ all portray intense repulsion, to the extent of invoking nausea to the reader. The shock to the reader upon the revelation that the object is a human head is heightened by the fact that the protagonist initially thought it was a cat lying in the middle of the road which to the actual object seems to be a contrasting and innocent suggestions.
After seeing the head the protagonist decides to run for safety along the bare hills maybe he has realised the meaning of the line Mr Butler said earlier – ‘’Foreigners are not very popular here, so I don’t think you ought to go out alone. ’’ This would enhance the sense of peril towards the protagonist herself, thus making him suddenly fear for his life. The irony in the final passages is clearly evident. The protagonist wants nothing more than to return to the house (‘’my only idea was to get back to the house’’) however, not too long ago she was desperate to leave the house.
There is suspense at the end of the passage as the protagonist still feels in harm’s way as he turns desperate in his attempt to find safety (“I began to feel desperate”). This is also emphasised by the short sentence ‘’I was wondering if I could climb up to it in any way. I knew that I could not. ’’ This passage is effectively portrayed by Denton Welch to entice the reader to immerse the reader into the story. The reader is provided with the means to do this by first-person narrative, ample descriptions to depict the scenario, as well as the usage of various literary tools.