1- This passage is the very beginning of the Fifth Child. It is the introductory scene. The first pages of a novel are very important because they present/ introduce the main characters and the setting of the action/ the plot. They also set the atmosphere of the plot.
2- The beginning of the fifthchild brings us information about the 2 main characters of the story, Harriet and Harry Lovatt: we learn about their jobs, their physical appearances , their states of mind and the circumstances of their first meeting.
3- We gradually get acquainted with them ( little by little )even if the first approach given of them is a rather negative one ( 1st paragraph)
4- The scene takes place at anoffice party (end - of - year party), in the boardroom of a firm.
5- We could divide the text into 2 or 3 parts: L.1 to 28: the party: this passage sets the atmosphere of the party.
L.29 to 38: a portrait of Harriet: we get acquainted with Harriet.
L.39 to 54: aportrait of David: we learn about David.
2) MAIN POINTS.
1) THE PARTY.
1- The party is the starting point of Harriet and David's future relationship. They wouldn't have met if they hadn't been to this party! So, the party is very important in the process of the novel : it triggers their meeting, it is the "opening incident", the element enabling the building of the plot.
2- The numbers inthe 2nd paragraph ( " 2 hundred people"(l.11), "3 hundred and thirty-four days" (l.12) (over)emphasize the importance of the party : it seems to be an exceptional event in an unusual place with a crowd of people. the reader feels lost/submerged in a series of numbers as if he was himself lost in this crowded/ overfilled boardroom. This accumulation of adjectives and numbers makes us feel the roomis really packed and very noisy. We see the scene through the 2 protagonists’ eyes and we feel as apart from the other guests as they do!
3- In this second paragraph, the party is described as a "famous"one,with so many people that they are crammed/packed close in the long room.There's an obvious lack of space.
It is overcrowded/overfilled with people who are chatting and dancing. Every detailis overemphasized/ exaggerated: women are showing off, they clearly want to attract men's attention by their clothes and their behaviour : they are "dressed up", "bizarre", "dramatic" (l.19) . They want people to look at them. So do some of the men who "demand(ed) as much attention" (l.20).
The dancers are seen/viewed through Harriet and David's eyes: they have faces "distorted in screams andgrimaces of pain as in enjoyment" ( l.25). Once again, their attitudes/features are exaggerated, they look ridiculous, grotesque. They look like puppets in a sort of puppet show, a farce, a frantic masquarade that can't be stopped.
4- As opposed to the crowd of attendants, Harriet and David are described as "observers": they are standing motionless whereas the rest of the people are constantly onthe move. They are not on the same wavelength. They seem to be "odd" elements in a crowd of similar individuals.
5- On the one hand, the crowd of attendants is depicted as a frantic group of people constanlty moving and on the other hand, Harriet and David (are) standing static around the walls. There is a sharp contrast between the dancers and H and D. They are set apart from the others.Therefore we understand that they are different from the others and that their future will be different too. They feel caught in a situation they dislike, they suffer and this foreshadows their future.
2) THE CHARACTERS.
| |Harriet |David |