The extract from Maiden Voyage by Denton Walsh is about his time as a young boy that was spent in China. This short extract contains many ideas that Denton intends to bring to the reader through his own experiences. This extract gives an insight into Denton’s mind when he was a young child.
The setting of the poem is set in China, which is far away from Denton’s hometown in Sydenham. “I might have been in Sydenham for all I could see-a European villa and a line of poplars, yet outside lay a Chinese city that I was longing to explore.” The quote gives a clear sign of what is to come, Denton an adventurous European boy in a Chinese city that he is desperate to explore. The phrase “a line of poplars,” describe the European regimentation and orderliness that the boy wants to get away from. The grass in the area was described as “tall rank grass grew in the shadow of a wall. It was dry and sharp as knives.” This shows the unwelcoming nature of the area, the phrase “dry and sharp as knives” further pushes the issue that the area is dangerous and unsafe for people that are intending to explore the area. This serves as a warning of the hostile environment that he would face if he was to continue through the grass and continue exploring the area like he originally intended to.
The start of the passage clearly indicates that Denton does not feel comfortable about the area that is surrounding him as he is in a foreign country. “You ought not to go out alone” this adds to the feeling of being a prisoner in the narrator’s new country. This warning that is issued to him from Mr. Butler indicates that he is not welcome in the new country that he is going to be spending significant time in. This hits the narrator right where it hurts most, this means that his days are going to be painfully boring. The attitude that the narrator demonstrates towards the news shows that he is still a young male teenager.
One of the themes that are shown in the excerpt is the clash of the two different places. This reflects in the walled and organized European villa that is juxtaposed with the ‘turrets and bastions’ that the boy is surrounded by along with the skull of the person and potentially the person’s murederers. The uniformity of the trees in then contrasted with the “harsh spears of grass” that exist in the barren desert along with other items that signify death and destruction. The outside world is contrasted with the safe haven that the villa offers. The outside world signifies death, disease and complete insecurity. This is contrasted with the safe, known and secure rich comforting world that the boy has escaped from to satisfy his curiosity.
The age-old phrase ‘curiosity kills the cat’ applies here as if not for the curiosity of the narrator, he would not have ventured out beyond the boundaries of the villa. This curiosity leads to him finding himself in some trouble as he tries to get away from the skull and ends up in a former military stronghold, which is when desperation starts to creep in and he slowly starts to feel as though he is trapped and destined to die in this deserted land that has been destroyed and abandoned. This shows the author’s idea on curiosity, which is that too much of it can lead to the person finding trouble, as evidenced in this extract.
Denton Welsh presents many different ideas during the passage that demonstrates how certain characteristics that many male teenagers exhibit can negatively affect a safety of the person. The headstrong attitude that is exhibited by the narrator is common amongst many young male teenagers. This headstrong characteristic along with the curiosity that the narrator had, lead him into a lot of trouble as shown in the paragraph above. These could possibly be the different view of the behavior that he exhibited as a child know that he is an adult.
This extract is from an autobiography that describes a short part of his life that he had spent in China as a young male teenager. It expresses his feelings towards many of the characteristics that he had shown as a teenager, which is similar to many male teenagers in today’s world.