“Hurricane Hits England” by Grace Nichols and the article from the Times by John Young Essay
“Hurricane Hits England” by Grace Nichols and the article from the Times by John Young
Comment particularly on how and why the media text differs from the literary one.
When a disaster such as this occurs, it is important to analyse the responses in the aftermath. We can tell a great deal from people’s reactions. In particular we can observe which things matter to people in life. For example, many people would be upset by the destruction to the trees and so we can see that the environment is very important to them. However, others, such as Grace Nichols, would be looking for meaning in this and so it is obvious that she is a fairly religious person who believes that everything is done for a purpose.
The differences in responses to the hurricane can be traced back to how a typical newspaper article would be written and presented in comparison with that of a poem.
The title of a newspaper article is all important to its success, regarding readership. The first thing to note is the devices employed in the title. Apart from its primary purpose to give minimal information about the article, the title is, for the most part, the way in which the author attracts the reader. In a diverse newspaper such as the Times, a reader could not possibly read every article and so an article has to do something to catch the reader’s attention. This is done in the form of a title. However, the title is not just eye-catching because of its size; methods such as alliteration and puns are employed so as to distinguish the article from others in the paper. An example of this can be found in the title of the article we are studying.
“Countryside counts the toll of uprooted trees” (Title)
Here, alliteration is used twice to attract the reader.
However, when we cast the same analytical eye over the title of a poem, we realise, after having read the poem, that its title does nothing more than offer a vague insight into the subject of the poem. In our poem, “Hurricane Hits England”, the title does nothing more than show the background thoughts of the poet. This is the same for almost any other poem as well.
As a result of this, for both the media and the literary text, we can see that the requirements of the title often dictate its meaning and consequently the response to an event
Unlike the title, the layout of a literary text has a definite purpose and is of great importance in the interpretation of the text. In almost any poem you will read, you will find that the text is fixed. This is done to help guide the reader to the ideas lying behind the words. Just as a children’s poem would have the words that rhymed at the end of the line, so too, in “Hurricane Hits England”, the important words containing key ideas, are carefully placed so as to exploit their full potential.
“Talk to me Huracan
Talk to me Oya
Talk to me Shango
My sweeping back-home cousin.” (Stanza 2)
Another example of strategically placed phrases can be found on line 26.
“O why is my heart unchained?”
This line is placed by itself so as to convey its importance and significance of meaning. It is an important spiritual moment for her as she feels she is reconnecting to her culture and this is brought out in the layout.
Layout is also very important to the success of a media text. For instance, in our text, the whole article is presented in columnar layout. This format helps to reduce size of the article as the reader perceives it. Another similar method is that generally, the paragraphs in a newspaper article consist of just one sentence.
“A national assessment was impossible yesterday as workmen struggled to clear blocked communications and to forestall further danger from damaged trees and branches.” (Column 1 paragraph 3)
Most readers will not want to read a huge article so the smaller the article appears, the greater success it will enjoy.
This shows us that in a literary text, the layout can very often affect the meaning and response of a poem to an event and in a media text, the way a report on an event is presented is governed by the need to attract people to the article.
The language in a media text can always be said to be straight-forward. The purpose of this is so that most readers could understand the article after having read it only once. People do not read a newspaper article when they are in need of spiritual enlightenment or on a quest to find their true nature. They do not want to be challenged. They want to sit down with a cup of coffee and be told in nice, simple English that a hurricane has blown down a few hundred-thousand trees.
“Responsibility for removing trees and branches rests primarily with local authorities, who will also have to bear the cost of the operations.”(Column 3 paragraph 6)
One would not have to read that twice to fully comprehend its meaning.
However, if we look at “Hurricane hits England”, we can quite easily find examples of multivalent phrases which have to be read several times and then thought about before the full multifaceted meaning becomes clear.
“The blinding illumination,” (Line 18)
The literal meaning of this phrase is that the lightning flashed, illuminating the night sky. The deeper meaning which will only become clear with thought is that this is a moment of spiritual and cultural revelation for her in the midst of all the chaos. She has experienced a rare moment of sparkling clarity where she feels that she fully understands herself and her relationship to her ancestors. The metaphysical, cultural block of ice inside of her has just thawed and this is her way of expressing that to us.
Another example of a technique the poet uses is metaphor.
“The howling ship of the wind,” (Line 3)
This is an excellent metaphor because the wind here is being compared to a ship. This is the howling ship of the wind that has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to England, bringing with it the poets culture.
We can certainly see in the media text how the straightforward language gives a definite, immediate response to the hurricane. The literary text uses a range of techniques to show how the poet has responded to the hurricane and the meaning she finds behind it.
The content of a media text is based on certain principles. For example, a media text will almost always begin with the most important details and work down to only the minor details. In our text, the first paragraph talks of,
“Hundreds of thousands of trees” but by the time we reach the end we read,
“A large oak” referring to just one tree. In this way we can see that the proverbial pyramid is pointing downwards.
Secondly, the audience must also be considered. Consequentially, the text will generally contain some specific references to individual towns. In this way, readers can glance through the article looking for references to their town and so they will be interested to read about themselves. We can see this in our media text when three consecutive paragraphs in the first column beginning with the sixth paragraph, all contain references to individual counties.
Another technique used is involving the human interest factor.
“The town of Sevenoaks lost six of the trees on which its name rested” (Column 2 paragraph 6)
“A woman whose baby escaped death by a few feet when a tree crashed into a bedroom.” (Column 3 paragraph 3)
These are the type of stories that will interest people. The reporters know this and so that is why they are included in an article essentially about a hurricane.
The poem is just the opposite. The first line refers to one event,
“It took a hurricane to bring her closer”
Then on the last line we read an almost eternal statement referring to everyone,
“That the earth is the earth is the earth.”
In this way we can see that the proverbial pyramid is pointing upwards.
In this article, the author had to write about lots of different people and places in order to gain readership but here, in the poem, the poet writes about herself and her thoughts. She is not jockeying with other poems for readership and so she is free to express herself.
“O why is my heart unchained?” (Line 26)
This becomes even clearer with the change of perspective that can be observed after the first stanza. She suddenly switches from the third person to the first person. This can be seen as a shift in her mentality to her culture and so we can see that poem really is about the poet expressing herself.
We can see that in the media text, the response is very much defined by what the public want to read about. The literary text shows us how the poet has responded to the hurricane without the restraints of readership to consider.
In conclusion, I believe that the response of any media text is severely limited by the desires of the public. A media article would be nothing if the public would not read it and so any media text must comply with the wishes of the public. As a result the response will always be factual, specific with a human interest angle.
In a literary text, the author or poet is much freer to express his or her opinions. In our poem we see that the poet has really used this poem as an outlet for the cultural revelation she experienced during the hurricane. So I believe that the real difference comes in the rules governing the two types of text. One is compliant to its readership whilst the other has free reign over thoughts and emotions therefore producing a different response.