THE CORAL ISLAND
Understanding the facts:
1. Explain what you are told about:
– the boys’ routine and the basic needs they fulfill;
– the kind of life they are leading;
– their relationship.
2. Conclude about how the boys handle their situation and what traits of characters are stressed.
3. How does nature appear? What can you say about the characters’ relationship with it?
4. Pick out words or phrases that refer to the image which is given of this island. What is this image?
5. Pick out references to the outside world. How is it seen? What place is it given?
6. Draw conclusions about:
– what the boys’ present world is likened to;
– the role the boys have in this world.
7. Discuss whether this passage corresponds to your personal idea of what being stranded on a desert island may offer or imply.
Three boys, Ralph Rover (the narrator), JackMartin and Peterkin Gay, are the sole survivors of a shipwreck on the coral reef of an uninhabited Polynesian island.
For many months after this we continued to live on our island in uninterrupted harmony and happiness. Sometimes we went out a-fi shing in the lagoon, and sometimes went a-hunting in the woods, or ascended to the mountain top, by way of variety, although Peterkin always asserted that we went for the purpose of hailing any ship that might chance to heave in sight. But I am certain that none of us wished to be delivered from our captivity, for we were extremely happy, and Peterkin used to say that as we were very young we should not feel the loss of a year or two. Peterkin, as I have said before, was thirteen years of age, Jack eighteen, and I fi fteen. But Jack was very tall, strong, and manly for his age, and might easily have been mistaken for twenty.
The climate was so beautiful that it seemed to be a perpetual summer, and as many of the fruit-trees continued to bear fruit and blossom all the year round, we never wanted for a plentiful supply of food. The hogs, too, seemed rather to increase than diminish, although Peterkin was very frequent in his attacks on them with his spear. If at any time we failed in fi nding a drove, we had only to pay a visit to the plum-tree before mentioned, where we always found a large family of them asleep under its branches.
We employed ourselves very busily during this time in making various garments of cocoa-nut cloth, as those with which we had landed were beginning to be very ragged. Peterkin also succeeded in making excellent shoes out of the skin of the old hog, in the following manner. He first cut a piece of the hide, of an oblong form, a few inches longer than his foot. This he soaked in water, and, while it was wet, he sewed up one end of it, so as to form a rough imitation of that part of the heel of a shoe where the seam is. This done, he bored a row of holes all round the edge of the piece of skin, through which a tough line was passed. Into the sewed-up part of this shoe he thrust his heel, then, drawing the string tight, the edges rose up and overlapped his foot all round. It is true there were a great many ill-looking puckers in these shoes, but we found them very serviceable notwithstanding, and Jack came at last to prefer them to his long boots. We also made various other useful articles, which added to our comfort, and once or twice spoke of building us a house, but we had so great an affection for the bower, and, withal, found it so serviceable, that we determined not to leave it, nor to attempt the building of a house, which, in such a climate, might turn out to be rather disagreeable than useful.
We often examined the pistol that we had found in the house on the other side of the island, and Peterkin wished much that we had powder and shot, as it would render pig-killing much easier; but, after all, we had become so expert in the use of our sling and bow and spear, that we were independent of more deadly weapons. Diving in the Water Garden also continued to afford us as much pleasure as ever; and Peterkin began to be a little more expert in the water from constant practice. As for Jack and I, we began to feel as if water were our native element, and revelled in it with so much confidence and comfort that Peterkin said he feared we would turn into fish some day, and swim off and leave him; adding, that he had been for a long time observing that Jack was becoming more and more like a shark every day. Whereupon Jack remarked, that if he, Peterkin, were changed into a fi sh, he would certainly turn into nothing better or bigger than a shrimp.
Robert Ballantyne, The Coral Island (1857)