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Emily Matthews

Skylarking oral presentation

After arguing with Emmaline in the washroom, Kate runs, paying "no heed at all to [her] flying skirts", highlighting her carefree and incautious nature. Mildenhall’s characterisation of Kate, as inelegant and somewhat wild and therefore not conforming to the societal norms for her sex, is also suggested in her “unpinned” hair and that she runs “straight into a man” (who she soon learns is McPhail). This clumsy introduction to McPhail in which “he seemed to pay [her] no heed” foreshadows his opinion of her as childlike and undesirable. The first-person narration allows the reader to share Kate’s worldview as she looks up and sees McPhail for the first time, describing him as having “[g]rey eyes, like the sea at dusk". This vivid simile, evokes the ocean and its mysteries and the mysteries of McPhail. He is described as wearing "a beard, quite short but full and thick. He did not smile but was not severe". Mildenhall’s intense description allows the readers to clearly imagine the scene and makes them feel connected to the book. Thus, also enabling readers to feel as if they too are experiencing the emotions that Kate is feeling. Kate's description also suggests that she pays an immense amount of attention to McPhail while he ignores her and treats her like an obstacle that he needs to get past to get to Harriet. Kate pulls herself up and McPhail introduces herself, as Kate realises who he is she senses "a blush" beginning "to creep up (her) neck". This is the start of Kate's unusual obsession with McPhail. He then tells her that he is "after the head keeper" so Kate walks with McPhail to the lighthouse and thinks to herself "for everything that came after, I have held the fact of it warm in my heart: I saw him first, Harriet, I saw him first". Her thoughts foreshadow the fact that tragedy is soon to occur. The foreshadowing in this passage creates dramatic tension and suspense which keeps the reader engaged. Here, Kate reflects upon the fact that she met McPhail before Harriet did, but despite this McPhail chose Harriet. The repetition of the phrase "I saw him first" emphasises Kate's psychotic obsession with Harriet's relationship with McPhail. Kate states the fact that the lighthouse keeper is her father and begins "babbling", but she soon notices that McPhail is paying no attention to her, and she falls quiet. Here, the reader can see how uninterested McPhail is in Kate. Mildenhall chooses to emphasise McPhail's indifference towards Kate by making his dialogue short and sharp, thus highlighting his mysterious and reserved personality. Kate and McPhail reach the lighthouse and Kate calls out for her father. As McPhail and Mr Gibson have a short conversation, Kate is "taken aback by the fact that" McPhail "did not seem to place any particular regard on (her) father's position". Since at the time the head lighthouse keeper was often greatly respected by all those on the island, it was shocking to Kate that McPhail did not seem to care much about Mr Gibson's high-ranking position. McPhail’s disregard for others forces the readers to reconsider what they may have first thought about him and allows Mildenhall to emphasise McPhail's egotistical disposition. It also suggests that he may have come from a middle- or upper-class family before he came to the island, thus meaning it is in his nature to look down upon others and he has not yet corrected his behaviour. After McPhail and Mr Gibson have finished conversing, McPhail leaves and Kate notices that "he had not even asked (her) name". His dismissal of Kate yet again shows how he only ever saw her as a child or someone who did not matter enough for him to pay attention to. During this passage, Mildenhall depicts Kate as an annoying young girl who is trying to secure the attention of an older man but her many attempts fail, and he only ignores her. By doing so, the readers can see Kate the same way McPhail sees her, young, naïve, and undesirable.

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