Extract from The Coral Island by RM.Ballatyne



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)

RM.Ballantyne : A biography

M. Ballantyne (1825-1894)


1. Read the following post on M.R.Ballantyne and write a report on the writer about:

-his origin

-how he came to writing

-the main characteristics of his works

-the main events in The Coral Island

-and what his main book (The CI) can be blamed for.

Scottish writer for boys, noted for the adventure story The Coral Island (1858). The book, which also inspired J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904) and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954), Ballantyne’s narrative skill, colorful settings, and esourcefulness of his heroes have secured his popularity throughout generations.

The formative years
Ballantyne was educated at Edinburgh Academy (1835-37) and privately. Between the ages of 16 and 22 he was employed in Canada by the Hudson Bay Company, trading with local Indians in remote areas. Due to feelings of homesickness, Ballantyne started to write letters to his mother.
After returning to Scotland in 1847, Ballantyne worked as a clerk at the North British Railway Company in Edinburgh for two years, and was then employed by the paper-makers Alexander Cowan and Company. From 1849 to 1855 he was junior partner of Thomas Constable and Company, a printing house.

Ballantyne’s death
In 1866 Ballantyne married Jane Dickson Grant; they had four sons and two daughters. After 1883 he lived in Harrow, Middlesex. Ballantyne died on February 8, 1894, in Rome, Italy.

His works
Ballantyne’s autobiographical work Hudson’s Bay: Or Everyday Life in the Wilds of North America (1848) depicted his youth and adventures in Canada. From 1856 he devoted himself entirely to free-lance writing and giving lectures. The first stories depicted his life in Canada, later works dealt with his adventures in Britain, Africa, and elsewhere. His other early works include Snowflakes and Sunbeams, or, The Young Fur Traders (1856), Ungava: A Tale of Esquimaux-Land (1857), and The Dog Crusoe (1860). Several of his books were based on personal experience. During his career Ballantyne wrote over 80 books. He had a considerable influence on boys and young men of the time, the future builders of the British Empire, who could identify themselves with his unchaperoned boy heroes. A good part of Ballantyne’s popularity can be attributed to the celebration of British racial, cultural, and moral superiority.

The Coral Island
It tells a story of three English boys, Ralph Rover, the 15 years old narrator, three years older Jack, and humorous 14 year old Peterkin, who are shipwrecked on a deserted island in the south Pacific. It is some thirty miles in circumference and ten in diameter.The vegetation is rich and varied. The are two mountains on the island, and an underwater grotto of crystal walls, the Diamond Cave. The beaches are of pure white sand, ringed by a coral reef. The climate is warm and constant, although there are occasional violent storms.
In the true Robinson Crusoe fashion the three young Englishmen create an idyllic society despite typhoons, wild hogs, and hostile visitors. The boys make a fire by rubbing two sticks together and climb palm trees to gather thin-skinned coconuts – a mistake in detail Ballantyne was bitterly to regret. To sail to other islands they build a boat and make a sail out of the coconut cloth. After a fight Jack wins the native chief, Taroro. Then evil pirates kidnap Ralph whose adventures continue among the South Sea Islands. He manages to escape with one of the members of the crew, Bloody Bill, and with the pirates’ schooner. Bill dies and Ralph and returns to his friends. When they try to help Avatea, a Samoan girl, to go to Christian natives, Tararo seizes them. However, an English missionary appears on the scene and Tararo becomes a Christian. Finally the three heroes return to civilization, matured and much wiser. « To part is the lot of all mankind. The world is a scene of constant leave-making, and the hands that grasp in cordial greeting today, are doomed ere long to unite for the last time, when the quivering lips pronounce the word – ‘Farewell’. »

The Coral Island remains Ballantyne’s most famous novel, notably because it is said to have inspired two other famous Scottish writers, R. L. Stevenson who wrote Treasure Island in 1881 and P. M. Barrie who created Peter Pan in 1901. Another reason is its direct link with William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954), a novel seen as its antithesis.

Ballantyne’s achievements in literature
Ballantyne opened views into the world, that just waited for brave explorers, for the sons of the rapidly expanding literati of middle- and working-class families. He became the hero of Victorian youth. Ballantyne’s straitjacketed Puritanism did not rouse any questions, and the lighthearted descriptions of the slaughter of fauna and natives of the islands were then passed without comment. With his books Ballantyne made his contribution to the success of missionaries, soldiers, sailors, trail-blazers, and adventurers of the age of Imperialism.

Source :  Posted in Analyse Voyage, Parcours initiatique | Leave a comment

Extrait 1 de Robinson Crusoe (Chapter IV)



Instructions :
Read the passage to make a psychological portrait of Robinson at this stage of the novel
1.What kind of account do you have ?
2.Stress on Robinson’s stream of consciousness : is he easy-going, self-confident, self-controlled, worried or full of enthusiasm and optimism)

Having now fixed my habitation, I found it absolutely necessary to provide a place to make a fire in, and fuel to burn:and what I did for that, and also how I enlarged my cave, and what conveniences I made, I shall give a full account of in its place; but I must now give some little account of myself, and of my thoughts about living, which, it may well be supposed, were not a few.

I had a dismal prospect of my condition; for as I was not cast away upon that island without being driven, as is said, by a violent storm, quite out of the course of our intended voyage, and a great way, viz. some hundreds of leagues, out of the ordinary course of the trade of mankind, I had great reason to consider it as a determination of Heaven, that in this desolate place, and in this desolate manner, I should end my life. The tears would run plentifully down my face when I made these reflections; and sometimes I would expostulate with myself why Providence should thus completely ruin His creatures, and render them so absolutely miserable; so without help, abandoned, so entirely depressed, that it could hardly be rational to be thankful for such a life.
But something always returned swift upon me to check these thoughts, and to reprove me; and particularly one day, walking with my gun in my hand by the seaside, I was very pensive upon the subject of my present condition, when reason, as it were, expostulated with me the other way, thus:“Well, you are in a desolate condition, it is true; but, pray remember, where are the rest of you? Did not you come, eleven of you in the boat? Where are the ten? Why were they not saved, and you lost? Why were you singled out? Is it better to be here or there?” And then I pointed to the sea. All evils are to be considered with the good that is in them, and with what worse attends them.
Then it occurred to me again, how well I was furnished for my subsistence, and what would have been my case if it had not happened (which was a hundred thousand to one) that the ship floated from the place where she first struck, and was driven so near to the shore that I had time to get all these things out of her; what would have been my case, if I had been forced to have lived in the condition in which I at first came on shore, without necessaries of life, or necessaries to supply and procure them? “Particularly,” said I, aloud (though to myself ), “what should I have done without a gun, without ammunition, without any tools to make anything, or to work with, without clothes, bedding, a tent, or any manner of covering?”
and that now I had all these to sufficient quantity, and was in a fair way to provide myself in such a manner as to live without my gun, when my ammunition was spent: so that I had a tolerable view of subsisting, without any want, as long as I lived; for I considered from the beginning how I would provide for the accidents that might happen, and for the time
that was to come, even not only after my ammunition should be spent, but even after my health and strength should decay.
I confess I had not entertained any notion of my ammunition being destroyed at one blast – I mean my powder being blown up by lightning; and this made the thoughts of it so surprising to me, when it lightened and thundered…
I now began to consider seriously my condition, and the circumstances I was reduced to; and I drew up the state of my affairs in writing, not so much to leave them to any that were to come after me – for I was likely to have but few heirs – as to deliver my thoughts from daily poring over them, and afflicting my mind; and as my reason began now to master my despondency, I began to comfort myself as well as I could, and to set the good against the evil, that I might have something to distinguish my case from worse; and I stated very impartially, like debtor and creditor, the comforts I enjoyed against the miseries I suffered, thus:
– Evil: I am cast upon a horrible, desolate island, void of all hope of recovery.
Good: But I am alive; and not drowned, as all my ship’s company were.
Evil: I am singled out and separated, as it were, from all the world, to be miserable.
Good: But I am singled out, too, from all the ship’s crew, to be spared from death; and He that miraculously saved me from death can deliver me from this condition.
Evil: I am divided from mankind – a solitaire; one banished from human society.
Good: But I am not starved, and perishing on a barren place, affording no sustenance.
Evil: I have no clothes to cover me.
Good: But I am in a hot climate, where, if I had clothes, I could hardly wear them.
Evil: I am without any defence, or means to resist any violence of man or beast.
Good: But I am cast on an island where I see no wild beasts to hurt me, as I saw on the coast of Africa; and what if I had been shipwrecked there?
Evil: I have no soul to speak to or relieve me.
Good: But God wonderfully sent the ship in near enough to the shore, that I have got out as many necessary things as will either supply my wants or enable me to supply myself, even
as long as I live…

Daniel DEFOE, Robinson Crusoe, An Electronic Classics Series Publication, p.53-56

Commentaire de l’extrait 2 de R.Crusoe

1. Robinson’s evolution

In the second passage, Robinson is no longer the same man he used to be. He has grown older and knows better his environment. He is more confidentand does not appear as a frightened character. He is no longer hesitating, panic-stricken and questioning himself about his fate and future.

He is no longer alone, separated from mankind. He is self-sufficient and has  a degree of control over his environment.

He has a goat for milk for his subsistance. He has a shelter over his head to face cold and heat. At this stage of the novel, Robinson appears to be a new man, healthy and controlling his environment. His relationship with Friday is a good example of Robinson’s  evolution of condition :

He looks very active. He is not static. He has full control over Friday, his slave. Robinson saved Friday who was pursued by strangers. Friday was grateful to Robinson by accepting of being his slave. So, Robinson has a slave. He named him as he wished to recall the day he saved him which was on Friday.

He sheltered Friday. He gave him clothes because he was naked. He taught Friday how to speak but above all, he taught him submission and obediance. He told him to call him Master.

 2.Robinson and Friday

The passage is still built on a contrast between the two characters. Robinson symbolises good and Friday evil. Robinson is the one who helps Friday to leave his life of wilderness and savagery.

 Friday can’t speak. He appears as a cannibal. He buries his enemies in order to eat them later. Robinson made him understand that it was bad to eat human flesh.


The writer’s message is ambivalent He has a special vision of the western world which is consideredto be superior. Robinson as a character embodies power, superiority and wisdom.

M.José Robelot

Commentaire de l’extrait 1 de R.Crusoe


The passage is at the beginning of the novel which is an adventure novel. The extract is taken from chapter 4 entitled  « first weeks on the island ». So the author Daniel Defoe provides the reader with all the necessary information to understand the plot.

He stresses on the the setting (Part 1) which helps understand the protagonist’s stream of consciousness (Part 2). In the following lines, I will deal with these two points to make a portrait of Robinson Crusoe at that stage of the novel.


This adventure novel appears as an autobiography as the narrator repeats the pronoun « I » and the possessive adjective « my ».

So we are supposed to penetrate Robinson’s state of mind. Here, the setting plays an important part. As there is nobody around, the setting can be regarded as a character.

 1.The setting as a character

The place where Robinson lives is a deserted one with « wild beasts and « savages ». He lives on an island that is a secluded place surrounded by water. His house is very modest. What he plans to build is « a cave » or a « tent ». So the setting influences Robinson’s mood. Being on this island, it is quite normal for Robinson to be dejected.

Robinson hardly rejects his faith by blaming God for his fate. We have a list of words linked to sadness. Words and expressions like « without help, abandoned, depressed ».

Robinson is weighing the pros and the cons. His terrible condition makes him dejected but at the same time he realises how lucky he is to be alive. He was shipwrecked and appears to be the only survivor. Besides, he could get some tools from the ship to make his life bearable. He had a gun and ammunition. In such a desolate condition, he can’t be consider these tools as a treasure. Thanks to these tools he can get food and defend himself against all his enemies.

 2.The setting and Robinson’s character

The setting appears here as an obstacle for Robinson. It challenges Robinson’s mental state and reason. It takes Robinson some time to have a clear vision of his own situation.

First of all, he looks panic-striken because he feels alone. Loneliness is considered as an evil in his list. He expresses this feeling of loneliness in different ways. He wrote :  « I am singled out and separated…», « I am divided from mankind – a solitaire; one banished from human society ».

However, Robinson is able to overcome his loneliness, his fear of the unknown or of his fate and of death.

The fact that he is able to recognize that he is lucky and that it’s probably his God who helped him, we realise that he recovered from his initial fright and fear of death. He is aware of the notion that he is a survivor and it’s better than being a dead body. Hope is possible. He is no more pessimistic.


As a conclusion, we can say that Robinson evolved all through the passage from a dejected man to a more optimistic person realizing that he is alive and there is still hope. He has some tools to help him survive but we must mention paper and ink which helps him feel less alone and even discuss with an imaginary person

  M.José Robelot