Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 5
|Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.|
Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text
Indicator 3. Analyze elements of narrative texts to facilitate understanding and interpretation
Objective c. Identify and describe the setting and the mood and explain how the setting affects the characters and the mood
In The Coastwatcher, interaction between the character Hugh and the setting establishes the mood of a portion of the text.
To begin tracking the mood, note the date: August 1943. The time is during World War II, and it is reasonable to infer that during a time of war, people become apprehensive. The narrator, Hugh, is watching the ocean and sees a "speck" which, from onshore might be something ordinary, but its movement is "too fast" and "too straight" and creates a "wake splashing along behind it".
In the second paragraph the "speck" now becomes "the thing" and it is "coming closer all the time." Hugh now develops "goose bumps" at the prospect of the unknown moving closer.
In the third paragraph the sea oats in back of Hugh "rustle" which startles him until he discovers that the noise was made by his dog. The "thing" in the water moves in front of them whereupon Hugh pronounces it a "periscope."
In following paragraphs, after Hugh's mother has called him indoors, he registers physical reactions to the setting. Sweat comes down his face, and his eyes burn from staring at the ocean. Now the "thing" in the ocean moves very little, and Hugh, once again, is convinced that it is a periscope. The "thing" disappears from sight, and Hugh's "heart thumped."
Before leaving the beach, Hugh stares at the ocean and feels that "something was out there" that will be "a secret. His secret."
Mood is the feeling that a text imparts to a reader. In The Coastwatcher, the character's reaction to the setting conveys the mood. Setting includes both time and place, and in this passage, it is wartime on an isolated beach. The apprehension in that setting is heightened when the main character observes a hard-to-identify object, which behaves in peculiar ways. The character's reaction to this object accelerates the apprehension.
Word choice also plays an important role in determining mood. For example, the unknown object begins as a "speck," progresses to "the thing" and ends as a "periscope." Against a wartime background, the choice of words conveys increasing unease. In addition, words that describe Hugh's physical reactions are telling. In "broiling hot sun" … "he was all goose bumps" Hugh's eyes burn rather than hurt; his heart thumps rather than beats. The physical reactions speak to a high level of anxiety. Finally Hugh acknowledges that the unknown object in the ocean is a secret but not just any secret "his secret." That Hugh wants in some manner to "own" this potentially dangerous situation increases the threat.
A student who examines the text to determine mood might identify the mood as mysterious or tense, which speaks to the more threatening aspects of the situation. But a student who strongly identifies with Hugh might identify the mood as adventurous, which embraces the more exciting elements of the circumstances. Either choice can be supported with the text.