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“Broken Lives” By Estelle Blackburn Essay

The chapter “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” is a chapter from Estelle Blackburn’s expository text Broken Lives. This chapter focuses on one night of Eric Edgar Cooke’s murderous sprees where he steals a rifle and shoots a baby sitter, once again leaving the city of Perth in the hands of fear and danger. The purpose of this chapter is to fight for Cooke’s guilt. It shows that he had no fear of being caught and was a devious man when it came to him stealing, killing and the plans he came up with. Through particular aspects of its construction including point of view, structure, language, personality presentation and tone, our response to the ideas conveyed are able to be shaped and moulded to the ideas that are presented

The point of view in “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” is from a third person omniscient view, looking in on the world surround Cooke. However the point of view is no ordinary third person point of view, it is in fact shifting, jumping from one character to the next so that we can get into the minds of all the characters and the emotions they are experiencing at the time of the ‘gunman’s rampage.” The point of view is shifting as to present the views of the many characters we come into contact with throughout the chapter. All people views on Cooke come to fruition and to our realisation. The fear that Cooke spread throughout Perth is exposed and our response to him and our feelings moulded. He shoots an innocent girl studying, through the point of view we can look in on his emotions and thoughts and the evil side of him.

“… He had a rifle and was in a killing mood …”

This suggests that Cooke had been in this mood before when he has killed people previously and asks us the question, what sort of man is he if he gets in a killing mood. If Broken Lives was written from a first person point of view, we would not see the same emotions and feeling that we do from a third person omniscient view.

The language goes hand in hand with the point of view. The sort of language that is used in “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” is one to convince people of Cooke’s guilt when it comes to these murders and shows how much of a crazed killer he really was. It also proves how he enjoyed the fear of being caught and the fear that someone could see him.

“… He could see a short woman sitting in the lounge.

He loved the risk…”

What is this saying about Cooke? That he is a quiet, well-mannered, law abiding citicen? Or that he is a crazed madman that enjoyed the risks of robbing people and killing them without any remorse. The language even describes the look on Cooke’s face or the way in which his heart was beating. Even though some of this is fictionalized, it has been incorporated to shape our response towards Cooke so that we feel the same way in which Blackburn does about him.

“Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” is structured in such a way so that many points of view and characters are presented. The chapter jumps from one character to another, which results in many feelings and attitudes being presented. Through the numerous amounts of characters being presented we are able to see that it was not only a handful of residents of Perth that feared for their lives, but it was all people, ranging from the better off people to those that weren’t as well off.

Through the way she has structured “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” Blackburn has successfully conveyed many ideas into one small section. By structuring the chapter in this way, Blackburn can also select the details that she wants to include, those that will support her view, and exclude other, those that will contradict her view. By selecting certain details from certain characters, Blackburn’s point can be made stronger without her need to fictionalise or fabricate some of the ‘facts’ that she is presenting to the reader.

The way in which the characters are presented in “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” shapes our response and how we react when Cooke take the lives of people. When we are first introduced to Shirley Martha McLeod we are told of how she is a hard working science student at St Catherine’s College. She is presented in such a way that sets visual pictures in our head of just what McLeod would have been like.

“… She had a satchel of books with her and told

Dowd how she planned to work very hard for

The rest of the university year…”

This sets up an image of a young girl who concentrates on her school work and is well mannered and polite.

“… Dowd felt comfortable leaving baby Mitchell in her care…”

The way in which McLeod is presented sets up the fact that Cooke stole the lives of innocent, caring people that he did not know and had everything going for them. This proves that it was a case of wrong place, wrong time. By giving us this information, Blackburn can shape our response by playing on this. Blackburn can emphasise how much of a caring young lady McLeod was and ask us to question how Cooke could take the life of a person so innocent.

Then there is also the way in which Blackburn portrays Cook’s personality. She describes him as a monster that was only out to kill and nothing else.

“… The feeling of power began to come over him as ran his fingers along the barrel…”

This is describing the feeling that Cooke got when he found the .22 rifle that would eventually lead to his demise. Through describing Cooke like this, Blackburn is reinforcing her previous opinion of Cooke’s personality. By doing this we are once again being shaped into responding in a particular manner. Does Blackburn know how Cooke felt or has she once again fictionalised sections to fight for the innocence of John Button?

By putting a serious mood and tone to “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” Blackburn is setting up the fact that this was all real and it was not something she made up. Some sections of Broken Lives have a good-natured feel about them, especially when they are speaking of John Button. An example of this is “Life’s a Ball” where the tone is less serious as Blackburn is describing John Button and how he was a fine upstanding member of society. However by using a more serious mood and tone when speaking of Cooke, Blackburn is shaping our response to the ideas she presents.

If “Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” was presented in a lighter mood such as “Life’s a Ball” the chapter would not be as effective in proving Cooke’s guilt. Seeing as the purpose of Broken Lives is to assure us that Cooke was guilty and Button innocent, Blackburn would not go and put a humorous tone on something as serious as a young girl being murdered, especially when it was Cooke that murdered her, the one she is trying to prove guilty.

“Another Gun, Another Unlocked Door” succeeds in it’s purpose of assuring us of Cooke’s guilt. Blackburn does this be presenting particular characters in particular aspects. Or including certain information that supports her argument or even just through the language she chooses. This chapter argues for Button’s guilt and just proves what type of a man Cooke really was. These particular aspects of narrative construction all shape the way in which we respond to the ideas the Blackburn is presenting.

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