Sie sind auf Seite 1von 7

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

Satire and Cynicism:


a critical look at teachers and the educational system.

By Hayley Manwaring 11473146

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

This essay will discuss how satire and cynicism are used as literary techniques to provide a critical outlook on common issues faced within the educational system. When these techniques are used in Stan Doenau s novel Catch a Teacher by the Toe (1970), they consequently dampen the audience s negative view of the system with the use of language devices inclined toward humour, thus defining the nature of satire. Satire is a technique we use to draw humour from severe issues that we observe in our world. Satire is defined in the dictionary as: the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. We can also define cynicism as; an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest; scepticism . The way in which characters are examined in the novel are the oppressed (Gavin and the students) and the liberated (teacher s committee), with the liberated characters upholding a cynical and sceptical view of the oppressed and then reprimand their lower associates by patronisation. This is evident by reactions the teachers boast toward our protagonist s loving and passionate integrity and his opposing methods of teaching. Our protagonist, Gavin Burbury, is a passive and devoted character, much to the dismay of the teacher s committee. Gavin s characteristics are juxtaposed to the experienced teachers on page 31, where they are all exchanging insults as a disciplinary technique to grasp the children s attention. The insult of Goat is followed by Gavan who suggests the use of a simple question, Could you please pay attention? . To make him seem even more pathetic, a female teacher (the only female teacher in the novel) is brought into the scene; Miss Trumpington looked at him. . . . the sort of expression reserved for wounded doves and moths with fractured wings and this subsequently emasculates Gavan from a patronising

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

approach. This section of dialogue continues through pages 30 35 and develops the teacher s collective cynicism by describing them in insults such as drivelling dunce and deplorable delinquent , then on to form a very descriptive and formal insult which alliterates artistically with the letter D . The satire here is being paired with cynicism and used as a way to draw attention to the delusional, demented and extraordinarily demeaning behaviour of the teachers in an exaggerated manner. Furthermore, to say this novel gives a critical outlook on the teaching system is not entirely accurate and the argument here is that while we are given a story which harshly criticises the educational system satirically, should not mean we can analyse the way schools are run in reality. One important theme we experience in the novel that communicates this kind of humour is the idea of nonsense . For example, there are sections in the novel that are made up of extended uninterrupted dialogue which seem ridiculous and repetitious to readers, but the illogical and sporadic nature of such section inspire a reaction of twisted humour. Page 4 9 of the novel teachers discuss the benefits of making the children march upon entry to the school. The overly formal language style that is conveyed with most of the teachers dialogue, characterises them in a way that derogates them, especially when they go into immense detail about preposterous notions, such as, I am rather taken by the mathematical symmetry of marching , Correct amplification is vital. The music cannot possibly be too loud, but it certainly ought not be too soft and the fibres of emaciated calf muscles would be nourished by marching . This section is extremely satirical as we can understand the link between forcing these children to adhere to marching around the school, and doing that without complaint or rebellion, symbolises a fascist society. It is as though nothing else exists outside of the school and anything that does simply does not take

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

priority over the imminent dominance of the teacher s committee. Gavan is conflicted by these notions as he believes in upholding love and respect for the students, though in the course of this conflict the author accomplishes a cynical standpoint from what can be analysed as a tremendous issue in our world and in politics. With the former statement kept in mind - this novel is a work of fiction and it must be treated so, but we can analyse the seriousness of the disciplinary system, and the ways in which this school practises it as an extremely critical point of view on how harmful it truly is. While it is a work of fiction, this may indeed be an indicator of the true nature of the education system as it stood at the time of the novel s publication. When compared to Pink Floyd s concept album The Wall (1971) we can make connections between the character of the Vice Principle, Mr Conrik, and the character of Pink in the song Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 1 , as they both fabricate a mental wall between themselves and the world as a defence mechanism to disassociate themselves from the pain inflicted by domestic problems. Conrik is confronted by a young boy, Peter Sutton, who is not coping well with the violence inflicted upon him at home and the boy pleads An e gets so mad that e its us. . . . e goes on an on, abusin me mother. . . . (pg. 46). This outburst diminishes the defensive wall of Mr Conrik s emotions as The boy s words and experiences were tugging at shreds of Mr. Conrik s past, almost dragging them out from the crevices into which they d been wedged many years ago. It is this exposure of emotion that is seldom distinguished in the personalities of each teacher, (with Gavan as an exception) as they express cynicism that obstructs any emotion from beneath a distrustful and sceptical facade. Nonsense permeates throughout this novel quite literally as the curriculum of the school is avid upon teaching nonsense syllables , a fictional language that is taught by forming

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

nonsensical sentences. Many ideas and themes seen in this novel, especially the formation of nonsense syllables , are reminiscent of Gorge Orwell s 1984 and his fictional language Newspeak . The protagonist of 1984, Winston, is akin to the character of Gavan as they both think individually and feel disconnected from the hysteria which engulfs their fascist governing societies. In 1984 it was the State, and in Catch a Teacher by the Toe their equivalent of the State is in fact the school. To characterise Gavan we are given a pleasant introduction to juxtapose the outrageousness that follows. Upon entering the school we assume Gavan is unpoised, clumsy and contemplative to the point where his thoughtful scrutiny of this new environment leads us to believe he is optimistic, but naive in turn. His first impression of the school gives us an example of his meditative and appreciative nature where we read, He turned to admire the welded metal shape that guarded the school entrance, and to ponder its jagged symbolism. To elaborate further on the passiveness of Gavan, we see a change in text type as narrative turns to the form of letters exchanged between himself and his friend Miles. These letters are our window into the mind of Gavan as he is driven mad by the chaos inspired within his classroom. He uses syllogisms to try and reason his way through the conflicts he faces, such as on page 20 where he writes To save my sanity I have devised a plan. . . . illustrating him as a stronger and smarter character than perceived by the teacher s board. We can compare this honest and simple reasoning to salvage sanity with his friend Miles, who in the exact same situation as Gavan, composes a short and concerning letter near the very end of the novel (pg 108) - . . . an object (say, a human object) may be simultaneously treated with love and pain inflicting stimuli. In fact, the latter is simply a manifestation of the former . This is a confronting philosophy that bemuses us as a questionable conclusion to the novel

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

and implies that he had been afflicted with the trait of cynicism, which lead to abusive disciplinary action. This is one way of interpreting the conclusion as we can gather from the line, I am in the most terrible rush to keep an appointment at the police station. , that something of great severity had occurred. Domestic violence, fascism, the oppressed/liberated and discipline are all criticised as negative viewpoints within the education system and this novel addresses these issues with confronting scenes and characters. Without satire we cannot supply entertaining, yet critical approaches, to the cynicism in which this novel is based upon. Furthermore, without the use of such techniques, we cannot properly ascertain the reception of an audience. This is especially useful where the author s main concern is to truthfully interpret the pessimism of the system in the form of fiction.

Hayley Manwaring

Student - 11473146

Reference list

Definition of cynicism http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cynicism Definition of satire http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/satire Doenau. S. Catch a Teacher by the Toe (1970) (pg 4 9) (pg 20) (pg 30 - 35) (pg 31) (pg 46) (pg 108) Orwell. G 1984 (1949) Pink Floyd The Wall (1979)