Strange Objects is a novel by Gary Crew. The following are questions you may have to answer in essays!
1- Why do you think that Crew has chosen to present this fictional narrative in the form of a series of documents that appear to be factual?
Each article in the text describes specific details to date, time, place, and reference to historical documents. This creates an ambiguity of whether the narrative is fact or fiction.
I think that Crew has presented this narrative in a series of short documents as this is an interesting way to rely a simple plot from a lot of different perspectives. If Crew had written the story all from the one perspective, there would not be much of a story line and the story wouldn't be able to deal with in depth issues such as conflicts of ideas.
By writing these documents in a factual manner, Crew has been able to draw upon actual historical events and his life experiences. This means that all the characters in the narrative produce themselves in their own texts in such a way that the reader can relate to certain experiences and feelings.
2- Choose three contributors to these documents whom you consider to be authoritative, giving reasons for your choices.
Strange Objects is a collation of documents written by many different people for a variety of reasons. The more authoritative documents tend to be the secondary sources which are interpretations of primary sources. These secondary writings have generally been written by a well known or learned individual that the public regards highly. Some of the contributors to the more authoritative documents are:
Dr. Hope Micheals- A learned public figure who works at the Western Australian Institute of Maritime Archaeology. All of Dr. Micheals' writings are backed up with historical knowledge and facts that does not present a bias view.
The Standard- The Standard is the daily newspaper that supplies news to the public. The articles in the paper are written by many different journalists and include interviews and extracts from books and journals. Though each article displays different evidence and ideas, they are generally considered authoritative as they have been published in a well known editorial.
Senior Sergeant Ron Norman- The town policeman. Sgt. Norman hasn't actually written any of the documents in this book, but he has been referred to in many of them. These references include taped interviews and police reports. I consider these to be authoritative as policeman enforce the rules and have authority over the general public.
3- Which documents do you consider to be most authentic? Why? To me, the first person accounts like journal entries and letters seem to be authentic , but sometimes they have been exaggerated as they are one sided arguments. Some of the most authentic documents include:
The Messenger Journals- These journals have most likely been written by Steven Messenger about his daily experiences. These documents are likely to be authentic as they have been written in a dairy style about first hand experiences. These entries have not been written for a specific audience.
Item 3 Transcript of Audiotaped Press Conference- This is a very authentic document as it should be the exact words of a press conference between Sgt. Norman and interviewers. The Journals of Wouter Loos- These journal entries were written a long time ago by a man named Wouter Loos. When he wrote them, Loos had no intent of them being used as documentation in a murder mystery 300 years later.
The only thing about these entries that may make them not 'authentic' is that they were written in Dutch and needed to be translated. The translation may have slightly altered the exact meaning of the sentences.
4- Various forms of information are provided in this text. Give an example of each of the following:
fact- a point which can be verified.
Item 31: "Charles Sunrise was admitted to the Hamelin Base Hospital with head injuries. His condition is critical."
interpretation- someone's version of a particular event or thing.
Item 15: "After many painstaking readings of this journal, it appears to me that Wouter Loos was a young man with a great deal to put behind him."
correction- a document which indicates where supposed facts are wrong.
Item 26: "That entire story is pure fabrication and a cruel hoax. I would like to set the record straight for the benefit of your readers."
speculation- a process of thinking about why something has happened.
Item 7: "The research team believes that the document under study is an authentic seventeenth-century manuscript, probably a journal...."
5- What is the particular significance of each of the "strange objects"? The four strange objects were found in a cave by Messenger whilst he was on a school camp. The objects are quite separate, but connected by the narrative. The first strange object to be found was the 'cannibal pot'. This iron pot also held two other strange objects inside of it- the hand and the ring. The fourth strange object was a man's leather wallet.
Each of these four objects played a great part in making the narrative into a series of interlinked documents.
The First Strange Object "Locals believe it could be of Malay origin, since it resembled those once used to prepare beches-de-mar, or sea slugs, for sale as a delicacy in South-East Asia"
The iron 'cannibal pot' was used by Crew to introduce the idea that newspapers exaggerate facts. This is clearly shown in Item 1 as the headline is 'Schoolboy Stirs Cannibal Pot in Mutilation Mystery'. From this headline, the public is given distorted facts right from the beginning. As readers will find, it is nothing more than an iron storage pot used in the 1600's by a Dutch explorer.
After the pot's initial impression on the public, this strange object is mentioned throughout the book mainly just to complicate the existing issues.
The Second Strange Object " The thing I touched was stiff with a rough sort of surface that felt dry like leather... It was a hand"
The hand, which was found inside the iron pot, created scope for many of the documents found in this book. At first, because no one knew the origins of this hand, it sparked attention by the police, the newspapers, historical groups and the magazines. Documents written by these groups have been used to create different interpretations and ideas behind the mysterious findings.
Once it had been established that the hand was that of a young white person from hundreds of years ago, historical writings and publications were able to be used as evidence into Australia's history.
The Third Strange Object "the boy idled with the ring hung around his neck"
The third strange object is a ring believed to have only been seen by two contributors to this book- Wouter Loos and Steven Messenger.
Whilst investigating the hand (2nd strange object), people realized that a gold ring which was believed to be on the hand at the time of discovery has since disappeared. When this was announced, public newspaper appeals and police reports were conducted. The main suspect was Steven Messenger.
Though Messenger denies to police that he has seen the ring, it becomes evident through his diary entries that the ring had been in Messenger's care for some time. Gary Crew uses this situation to create an onlookers view of ongoing negotiations to the public over who has the ring.
A more in depth study of the ring reveals that it has mythical significance as it is the only object, or piece of history, that is stolen and hidden away. Though rings are supposed to be worn on the outside and shown off, Steven wears his ring on the inside and cares for it like a living thing.
The Fourth Strange Object The man's leather wallet which was first believed to be a 'red herring' turned out to be a bound leather diary. The whole diary is written in old Dutch by Wouter Loos.
The diary is first translated by a professor, and then it is published in sections in a weekend editorial. Each publication of the journal is supported by a fore and afterword which back it up using historical evidence. Following the serialization of the journals are letters written to the editor speculating and correcting ideas mentioned in the journals. This created an effect of people expressing their points of view on certain issues.
The journals also allow the reader to gain an insight into how the four strange objects were used in the past compared to how they are seen in the present.
6- Write 150 words on the implications of bringing the past into the present.
We are all involved in making history- the good as well as the bad. It is continually changing as history is said to be a 'living thing'.
Bringing the past into the present will always eventually lead to at least one person having to take responsibility for past actions. These actions may have either been for the benefit of society, or the opposite extremes. This means that once certain things from the past are revealed someone people, races, or nations will be looked down upon whilst others will be congratulated.
The main historical events which are still remembered to this day are usually events which have had great significance on the modern day society. Things less talked about are either not as significant, or they have been deliberately erased from history books. These events which have been deliberately forgotten are generally events which have caused much heart break, hence the saying 'Let dead bodies rest'. If these events are brought up once again, eg. Pauline Hanson and her ideas on racism, it splits the community in anger once again.
Though there is much against bringing the past into the present, sometimes it is very exciting to find out about our ancestors. This should still be allowed to continue although perhaps we should not blame others for the misdoings of the past.
7- What function do the following have in the narrative:
Steven Messenger's Double
Steven Messenger's double is an idealized image that Steven has thought up and made to be like a live being. This image adds ambiguity to the story, and makes us wonder about the state of Steven's mind.
This double also compliments the curious mentioning of a fictitious mirror mentioned in several of the Wouter Loos journals. The imaginary mirror allows Loos to see an unideal figure of himself as described "Vile matter seeps from the hollow eyes. This is a stranger's face. This is not myself".
The notion of having doubles adds suspense to the narrative as the reader hopes that at the end perhaps this will be resolved in some way.
The alias 'Nigel Kratzman' is Steven's only contact with normality. Though the bond between them is neither close nor respectful, they both are able to gain from each others existence. Because of this, Steven is able to swap things with Nigel to gain the materials for making the life frame. There is strong contrast between the boys shown throughout Steven's journals..
At the end of the book, the reader is presented with a note from Krazt which presents us with a different point of view about Steven. This is one of the only representations we get of Steven that has not been written by Steven himself.
The Life Frame
The life frame allows the reader to see into Steven's rather bizarre way of thinking. The way the life frame is talked about in detail in the journals reveals that Steven has no feelings about life and other living things, yet he is fascinated by it at the same time.
The life frame may also be an intended metaphor about history. The life frame may represent history. When the life frame is eaten away over time, history is partly forgotten and changed. Eventually, when only the bare skeleton of the lizard is left, so to are only the most important events throughout history, with the events of lesser importance falling into the dust. And, if these bones were to fossilize, it would be like us writing down history in a book so that it could be remembered and not changed ever again.
Charlie Sunrise represents the complexity of aboriginal history- their dignity in the past, and their depredation in modern years. Because of this, Charlie acts like a living link between Wouter Loos and Steven Messenger. This helps to correct our impressions of the Aboriginal people and explain how they once lived their lives.
Charlie first enters the text when his hand emerges from the darkness, as if from an unknown past. Then, as we find out more about aboriginal, we are also able to link Charlie's hand with the mummified hand which 'grabs' people from the present.
The Cave Paintings
"Inside was the narrowest fissure in the rock....my face pressed against one wall and my shoulder blades grazed the other...I had to keep going because to stop would be worse."
The journey that Steven had to go on to see the cave paintings was like going backwards in time into the unknown. And once he had arrived even more questions and surprises were posed.
Whilst the cave paintings posed many mysteries, they resolved them as well. One of the few questions which was not answered was the arrival of white man to Australia. As illustrated in the cave paintings, another perspective of the aboriginal past had been drawn by a white girl leading. Thus, leading us to believe that perhaps white people were once able to get along with the aboriginal.
8 Read Steven Messenger's journals as a continuous narrative. What is the effect of reading his story without interruption?
There are various different effects received by reading the Messenger Journals as a continuous narrative. The first is that the reader is unaware of any other happens except those mentioned in the journals. This leaves the reader to think that everything in these journals is probably believable as it has been written in a blank tone
9- Formulate three questions about Crew's text?
1- By examining the specific details written in Steven and Wouter's journals, do you see any similarities between their outlooks on life? Why?
2- Which character in this book do you think portrays the way Crew thinks about history? Give reasons for your answer.
3- If you were the editor of the Standard Weekly Supplement, would you allow extracts of Wouter Loos journal to be published? Write about the problems that this causes and whether the forewords to the journals are really necessary.
10- Whose story is told in Strange Objects?
For Further Reading