Commentary on ‘Keeping Mum’ Essay

‘Keeping Mum’ is a dramatic monologue, written for a broad teenage and adult audience, with the purpose to entertain and create an aura of unease within the audience. When writing ‘Keeping Mum’ I anticipated how it would be performed on stage and subsequently tailored it for this use. Because the pace is erratic, reflecting the confusion in the character, I felt it would have a greater impact if it were being watched on stage with the use of paralinguistics to enhance the piece. ‘Too Late? is similarly written for a broad audience although its purpose is to give a true representation of Fuerteventura thus informing the reader of the country.

Humour is also employed, to entertain and maintain the audience’s attention. Primarily, I expect the readership to be single, intrepid travelers who are looking for adventure, rather than the more common tourist retreats, although I believe it would appeal to couples of all ages also. I wrote ‘Too Late? ‘ in the style of a feature article in a magazine or newspaper. I have employed two main styles when writing; persuasive and entertaining, from the point of view of a traveler.

These two contrasting styles maintain the audience’s attention whilst reflecting the stimulating and varying style of holiday they may have, is they visited Fuerteventura. The linguistic techniques and literary content used in both pieces has considerably been affected the purpose, audience and genre. I wrote ‘Keeping Mum’ with the anticipation for it to be performed on stage. By leaving the piece free of stage directions, I felt the audience and actors would be able to interpret the character in a more fascinating way.

I felt the language and techniques used are substantial enough to allow the reader to readily anticipate the characters appearance and paralinguistics similarly but do allow a degree of individual interpretation which in my opinion makes it more appealing. This idea was supported when I collected opinions from a selection of people who read my piece who although had similar idea of the character, thought it was particularly interesting to see how each person interpreted his characteristics. I adopted the title ‘Too Late? ‘ as it reflects one of my initial thoughts about the country.

As I reached the Fuerteventura, I had realized many of the surrounding islands have lost their individuality and have become almost entirely reliant on the tourist industry and I asked myself the question, “am I too late? “. I was initially anxious that, like the other islands, I had visited Fuerteventura too late to see its historical, natural beauty and was anticipating a busy, tourist driven environment, although I was soon put to ease. ‘Keeping Mum’, is a title that has many suggestions. Reflecting the style of the exposition, I wanted the title to be ambiguous.

The title ‘Keeping Mum’ refers to the childs game, ‘Mummy’s and Daddy’s’. Extending this beyond a child’s game, I feel I have emphasized his child-like attitude, reflecting on the subjects damaged childhood. Similar to Edgar Alan Poe’s, ‘Tell Tale Heart’, I wrote my monologue in the style of a psychologically unstable, man’s confession. The use of rhetorical questions, employed throughout ‘Tell Tale Heart’, directly appeals to the audience. Similarly in ‘Keeping Mum’, I dramatically opened the monologue with the question, “Haven’t you ever just watched someone?

This eerie opening implies that my subject could and may well be a stalker. In ‘Tell Tale Heart’ it is obvious from the very beginning the subject is volatile, by the use of erratic speech and repetitions, however I chose to steadily trickle in information, fueling the undertones; which adds question to his motives and doings. They are also used as a persuasive device, which lays emphasis on the subject’s mental instability. I used the cataphoric reference, “Well that’s what I do” which relates to him watching people.

This is one of the first clues that allow the audiences to feel a little chilled “what I do” gives the illusion that the subject does this not only as a pastime but more for a kind of living. The use of repetition at the end of the paragraph begins to subtly highlight his psychological instability and confusion to the audience. Throughout ‘Too Late? ‘, I have used anaphora in the text to emphasize my judgmental attitude toward the surroundings. I have repeated some of the initial impressions, such as “lunar landscape” and “hotbed of hedonism” in the conclusion of what I discovered in Fuerteventura.

This illustrates to the reader that my initial expectations of Fuerteventura were, to an extent wrong; foreshadowing the judgment I anticipate them to make when they arrive. Structurally, it gives the text a beneficial construction and flow, allowing parallels to be made more easily by the audience. In the exposition of the travel writing, I used alliteration, “Sahara-scale sand dunes and sun-parched beaches”, personification, “wild sea”, and metaphors, “drove into the past” to fascinate and appeal to the readers’ senses.

Paul Theroux’s “The hell of Kabul, from a bus with a hole in it” has a very specific style of humour, containing numerous sarcastic comments and hyperbolic lists; “We started off with 18 people and picked up seven more along the way: a blind child, a very old woman, a man with a rifle, a family of four and their five chickens”. I reflected this style in my description of the family in ‘Keluchia’; “Agnana, her husband, six children, three chickens, two dogs and ten goats” for a similar effect. The use of a list changes the pace of the text and aids in maintaining the readers interest.

Due to the descriptive nature of the exposition, I used many adjectives and adverbs such as “spectacular” and “timeless” to heighten the imagery. Edgar Alan Poe’s use of repetition, exclamations and statements that are directed toward the audience, clearly displays the subjects’ madness. Toward the end, I used these techniques to display my subjects increased confusion, urgency and psychological instability, “She wouldn’t stop speaking at me. What was I supposed to do? She wouldn’t stop speaking at me. At my face. And then my hand was over her mouth”.

In contrast to the monologue, the purpose of the travel writing piece is to inform and as well as entertain. I used historical allusion to add substance and fact, making the piece more believable and authentic, “Miguel de Unamuno, a Spanish poet and philosopher exiled on the island in 1924, called it ‘an oasis in the middle of civilization’s desert, a rock thirsting in the sun”. I also used religious allusion, “Mecca of surfing”, for similar reasons. To create a sense of Fuerteventura’s true culture, I incorporated an amusing description of Agnana, “wearing a flowery brown oversized dress and a pink beaded necklace”.

This plays on the connotations of the past, and rustic and unfashionable living, reflecting the idea that in the mountains, away from the tourist-stricken towns, they are lost in the past. I included this anecdote because I felt my audience would be interested in exploring all the aspects of the island and if I were to leave this out, I would have missed out the idea that the past and present metaphorically ‘live’ along side each other on this island, emphasizing the diversity of Fuerteventura. In both pieces I have used persuasive techniques, but for different effects.

Throughout ‘Too Late? , the purpose was to encourage the reader to visit the island of Fuerteventura. This was done by the use of vivid anecdotes and linguistic techniques such as adjectives and imagery. However, the textual content of ‘Keeping Mum’ is more in tone with persuasive speech writing, using rhetorical questions, justifications and statements. This is because the subject is trying to almost internally justify his actions. In the travel writing piece, I have used expressive discourse, aided by adverbs such as “luckily” to express my opinion and persuade the audience to visit Fuerteventura.

I used the connotations to enrich my description, without explicitly saying it, “the public transport was rather ‘eccentric'” and, “my accommodation was rustic”. The connotations of ‘eccentric’ portray a somewhat radical and to an extent, careless driving experience. ‘Rustic’ gives connotations of basic living and amenities, excluding the need for excess description. This example also corresponds with the reference to Agnana and my visit to Keluchia, a mountainside village. Tautology was also used for further emphasis, “impressive, remarkable, sheer drop”.

This effectively describes just how magnificent the drop off the mountain was. Asyndetic listings and alliteration, such as “warm, white sand and cool, crystal clear pools”, heightens the images conveyed to the audience and allows their sense to associate more easily. I used similar linguistic techniques in ‘Keeping Mum’. Alliteration is used to show the emphasis is him noticing little details “so much beauty in this world to watch”. The “w” resonance gives quite a harsh sound that accentuates his disturbed mind to the audience.

I have used various adjectives to add the small details that my subject noticed, “circular”, “flecks” and carefully crafted”. In contrast to ‘Too Late? ‘, I have used direct speech. A tricolon, “I watched his jaw open and shut, flecks of spit flying from the chasm of his mouth. I watched his arms flap wildly, his carefully crafted comb over stray from its formation” is used to emphasize the description, similar to the asyndetic listings in the travel writing exposition.

It is especially important in this description because it highlights the smaller details he notices; something which mesmerizes and fascinates him because of the beauty. The variety in sentence length, syntax and structure in the monologue is very important. The short sentences are used to give a sense of action speeding up and a sense of breathlessness, although he is getting worked up even when giving his confession. They are also used dramatically for emphasis, such as, “But I wasn’t. I had been caught. The longer, compound sentences slow down the narrative and complex sentences, “If you watch them for long enough; every sway of the hand, every purse of the lips you begin to tap into their life, you can attach yourself so wholly, you become involved. ” it creates a contemplative, philosophical mood. I have varied the sentence structure to give the audience a variety and therefore sustain interest. In both pieces I have used humour, although to a much greater degree in the travel writing.

In ‘Keeping Mum’, I have used subtle wit, which to a degree creates sympathy in the audience as it is naive, “A lot of people think I’m suspicious, especially when I stand on street corners just watching”. It makes the audience pity him; innocent to think that what he is doing is not wrong. In ‘Too Late? ‘, the sarcastic humour used is similar to that used in Bill Bryson’s, ‘Neither Here nor There’, “I could have had the same experience by going to Blackpool! ” and directly addressing the audience, using a personal pronoun, “If you do decide to take a visit, (with emphasis on visit)”.

Bill Bryson frequently makes similar addresses, such as “Norwegian coins began slipping one by one from my pocket and dropping onto the floor behind me, where (one supposes) they were furtively scooped up by the little old lady sitting there”. Directly addressing the audience helps to establish a more relaxed relationship between the audience and writer and makes them feel more trusting toward the author and what is recounted. I used litotes and exaggeration for the purpose of humour to enhance the anecdotes, “wandering aimlessly in circles until a nutty shell collector found me”.

The use of exaggeration also heavily reflects the work of Bill Bryson, where, in “The Lost Continent”, Bryson is describing Des Moines, “There’s a New Jersey couple up the street from my parents’ house whom you see wandering around from time to time looking faintly puzzled but strangely serene. ” In conclusion, I feel the influences of Bryson’s exaggeration and gentle humour and Theroux’s sarcasm and hyperbole have inspired me to comically give an accurate, yet interesting account of Fuerteventura. Poe’s influences in ‘Keeping Mum’ inspired me to write about an interesting subject matter; a madman.

His innocence was initially difficult to bring across, but through the use of repetition, displaying his confusion, I felt I did this quite well. The two pieces have many similarities; however one of the major contrasts is the denouements. In ‘Too Late? ‘, the audience is left with no questions unanswered and an honest conclusion but in ‘Keeping Mum’, the audience is left with no idea how it ends. The title ‘Keeping Mum’ plays on the idea of the childs game; ‘Mummy’s and Daddy’s’ and questions arise as to the whereabouts of Kym and whether she is alive or not; these questions chillingly remain unanswered.