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Part 2: In My Father’s Den Maurice Gee Written Text Study: Novel. THE NOVEL GENRE A Brief Overview. Add to your detailed notes on the novel. narrative point of view flashback sub-plot ‘voice’ diction tone dialogue narrative. character development descriptive prose protagonist

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Part 2 in my father s den maurice gee written text study novel

Part 2:

In My Father’s Den

Maurice Gee

Written Text Study: Novel

The novel genre a brief overview

Add to your detailed notes on the novel.

Novel toolkit literary terms

narrative point of view








character development

descriptive prose





Any of these terms

could be used in a

Level 3 exam question.

Novel Toolkit: Literary Terms

What do we mean by a novel
What do we mean by a ‘novel’?

  • A novel is an extended work of prose fiction created by a writer from experience and imagination .

  • The central element is the STORY.

  • Stories and novels often allude to earlier stories especially the myths and legends of the culture they are written in e.g. classical, Polynesian …, and to historical events and people e.g. wars, rulers, celebrities …Paul alludes to well-known great writers and books in English literature to show how ‘liberated’ and ‘intellectual’ he is.

What does a novel give to the reader
What does a novel give to the reader?

Novels can do any or all of these things:

  • Entertain – tell a good story Crime mystery – who killed Celia? Was it Paul?

  • Involve us emotionally _________________________

  • Enlarge our understanding through showing diverse experiences __________________________________

  • Create memorable and powerful personalities


    5. Make us think about life’s problems and coincidences _________________________________

  • Give us insight into our own society New Zealand social values and attitudes in 1930s – 1960s.


What are the main themes
What are the main themes?

Confinement and control - the impact of repressive moral values on children and the adults they become.Paul and Andrew, Jonathan, Celia.

The New Zealand male as a loner who rejects emotional intimacy as a sign of ‘weakness’.Paul.

How the past impacts on the present – in our attitudes, feelings, and behaviours.Paul, Andrew, Joyce.

  • New Zealand society and its Protestant ethics in the 1930s – 1960s.The ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to behave, Mother, Celia.

  • Letting go of the past, forgiveness.Paul, Andrew.

What other new zealand novels convey related themes
What other New Zealand novels convey related themes?

  • Man Alone John Mulgan

  • The God Boy Ian Cross

  • Smith’s Dream C.K. Stead

    + stories such asA Good Boy by Frank Sargeson

Close reading strategy 1
Close reading strategy 1


Plot / Structure



Point of view



  • We are going to use these elements in our analysis of each section of the novel.

  • NOTE: EXAM QUESTIONS often focus on one of these aspects.

Close analysis the beginning of the novel

How does the novel begin?

With two very contrasting sections.

The Catalyst

The Prologue (pp. 9-11)


Chapter 1 1928 – 1937 – first flashback (pp. 13 – 25)


Analysis of the prologue
Analysis of The Prologue

------ = description/ what I notice

------- = analysis/ what I understand about Gee’s purpose


Add in relevant quotations from the text.

Plot/ Structure- novel opens withnews report of murder – sets up mystery – who killed Celia? Tension – why is this event important to the story? Catalyst sets up for first flashback & signals tragic story.

Setting – time & place identified clearly, sense of small community & its attitudes conveyed – revenge/ anger, young girls as victims of violence, history of violence. Reporter’s bias evident – emotive language – part of wider historical background – New Zealand in 1960s.

The prologue
The Prologue

Add in relevant quotations from the text.

Character – not clear yet who the main characters are. Focus on police and teachers who are named. Special link between Prior and Celia is emphasised.Implication – this relationship is important to the story & personal crisis/ tragedy is involved.

Point of view – third person but bias evident in reporting. Implied suspicion of Paul Prior & support for vigilante ‘revenge’.Moral tone taken clearly. Community is quick to judge situations.

Theme – Small community disturbed by unexpected act of violence. Quick to ‘point the finger’ & expect retribution.Underlying tensions/ violence beneath ‘civilised behaviour’, esp. men. What’s going wrong?

The prologue1
The Prologue

Add in relevant quotations from the text.

Style – Combination of factual summary of events + details of the violence to Celia’s body + bias conveyed through quoted comments & emotive statements. Past tense implies events are now the ‘past’ in terms of the novel story.

No ‘narrator’ yet – reader is distanced from the story – we are to be observers – why? (Paul is also an ‘observer’ in life?) Details to shock us & give us a sense of unease about the community. Report is fiction but style is credible so it seems like fact.

Use the photocopy chart and complete the empty boxes1
Use the photocopy chart …and complete the empty boxes

Chapter 1 1928 – 1937 – first flashback

Analysis of chapter 1 1928 1937 first flashback
Analysis of Chapter 1 1928 – 1937 – first flashback

Add in relevant quotations from the text.

Plot/ Structure- Paul describes his early childhood. Focus on family + relationships + incidents that had an impact on him. Highlights tension between parents & how Paul’s thinking was shaped. Identifies key moment when he changed his allegiance from mother to father (John’s birth) – therefore rejecting his mother’s Puritan moral code.

Setting – 1930s, semi-rural small community. The family’s ‘place’ in the social strata – accepted as ‘good’. Domestic tension increasing as parents’ values conflict. Mother’s values more extreme than most – the threepence incident.

Chapter 1 1928 1937 first flashback
Chapter 1 1928 – 1937 – first flashback

Add in relevant quotations from the text.

Character – Paul’s significant memories & self-analysis, using hindsight.Showsmother’semotional manipulation & his response. He links his mother to God. He is both confused (his questions) & judgmental. Something a bit unnatural & self-absorbed in his attitudes towards guilt & the power games he was consciously aware of & involved in. Key word – ‘lazy’ is repeated.

Point of view – First person narrator. Flashback to memories. Reader positioned inside Paul’s mind. Subjective + emotionally charged. Question raised – did Paul kill Celia, and if so, is the key to why to be found in his childhood?

Theme – Impact of rigid morality on children – a form of abuse or violence. The shaping of adult attitudes shown through Paul’s narration – he equates guilt with pleasure – warped mentality?Paul’s family showing signs of dysfunction & deep unhappiness.

Chapter 1 1928 1937 first flashback1

Add in relevant quotations from the text.

Style –

Emotionally charged first person narrative voice.

Formal, correct diction.

Somewhat clinical tone – Paul ‘analyses’ his childhood and his own character.

Simple sentences for blunt facts that obviously had a huge impact = observer’s tone.

Repetition highlights key words.

Realistic child/adult dialogue, with New Zealand colloquial flavour of the period.

Realistic, detailed autobiography overlaid with subjectivity of character’s point of view and self-analysis.

Paul’s lack of emotional engagement conveyed in ‘flat’ factual statements is in conflict with his harsh judgments of others conveyed in emotive language e.g. ‘bullying’, ‘ridiculous’.

Chapter 1 1928 – 1937 – first flashback