"The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing (sm)



= Compulsory

What to do...

Mål: eleven skal
1b kunne forstå autentisk tale
1c kunne uttrykkje eigne meiningar og haldningar
2a kunne forstå skjønnlitteratur og andre typar tekstar som handlar om kultur og samfunnsforhold
2b kunne uttrykkje og grunngi eigne meiningar og haldningar (skriftleg)
2c kunne forstå språklege verkemiddel og oppbygginga av tekstar
4b munnleg og skriftleg kunne analysere og drøfte innhald, personar og tema og vise korleis litterære verkemiddel er brukte i eit representativt utval tekstar frå tida etter 1900.

You must have read the novel "The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing before you go any further!

Read the story about Icarus, and be sure to understand the real meaning of the term "hubris" (Greek: hybris).

There are strong elements of something medieval and supernatural in "The Fifth Child" which create much of the same athmosphere as a Gothic novel.
So, please, do read the introduction to Gothic fiction below thoroughly!

Introduction to Gothic fiction:

"A type of novel or romance popular in the late 18th and early 19th century. The word "Gothic" had come to mean 'wild', 'barbarous' and 'crude', qualities which writers found it attractive to cultivate in reaction against the sedate neoclassicism of earlier 18th century culture. Gothic novels were usually set in the past(most often the medieval past) and in foreign countries; they took place in monasteries, castles dungeons and mountainous landscapes. The plots hinged on suspense and mystery, involving the fantastic and the supernatural."

Source: "The Cambridge guide to Literature in English"

"...Gothic writing emerges at a particular and definable stage in the development of class relations: we may define this as the stage when the bourgeoisie, having to all intents and purposes gained social power, began to try to understand the conditions and history of their own ascent. This, surely, is the reason for the emphasis in the literature on recapturing history, on forming history into patterns which are capable of explaining present situations.... The coming of industry, the move towards the city, the regularization of patterns of labour in the late eighteenth century, set up a world in which older, 'natural' ways of governing the individual life--the seasons, the weather, simple laws of exchange—become increasingly as parts of a greater, less easily comprehended whole. The individual comes to see himself at the mercy of forces which in fundamental ways elude his understanding. Under such circumstances, it is hardly surprising to find the emergence of a literature whose key motifs are paranoia, manipulation and injustice, and whose central project is understanding the inexplicable, the taboo, the irrational."

Source: David Punter, The Literature of Terror (London: Longman, 1980).


"Elements of the Gothic novel" by Robert Harris is a splendid summing-up of the main elements of Gothic fiction.
When reading it, do bear "The Fifth Child" in mind! Which similarities do you find between the novel and Gothic fiction?


Your group of 'engelsk grunnfag' students have been asked to prepare an oral presentation of the novel "The Fifth Child" by Doris Lessing. You are allowed to use keywords during the presentation, and you have access to an overhead projector as well as the whiteboard of the auditorium.

Task 1)

During the presentation you are supposed to delve into the traditional aspects of theme, motif, setting, point-of-view, character description and style, etc. However, your audience will also expect an in-depth analysis of the novel as a modern example of Gothic fiction as well as a very generalized interpretation of the theme based on the ancient Greek attitude to hubris and its fatal consequences.
You decide to share the responsibility of the presentation among the members of the group, and your first task will be to specify the duties of each of the team-members.
Below is a suggested outline of the final presentation:

A. Introduction (about the author and a short presentation of the novel)
B. Context (the author's relation to the topic and the setting)
C. Resumé (of the chapters/sections of the novel)
D. Theme(s)
E. Plot summary
F. Characters and character analysis
G. The group's opinion(s) with regard to the thematic relevance

Task 2)

As it is important to have a common platform, you have a meeting where you discuss possible thematic approaches. In order to clarify the most important aspects of the novel you decide to write a book review. This review should be a 150-word synopsis of the novel that mentions major themes.
One of the group members should get the responsibility to organize the review, which must be commented on and discussed by everybody before it is finalized and handed in to your teacher.

Task 3)

Once again this is your time to get really creative! You'll need some comic strips or paintings to illustrate the themes you have presented above as well as your individual manuscrips mentioned below. When searcing for these do remember that they should deal with significant themes, events or symbols from the novel.
Daryl Cagle's professional cartoonists index is a site which could produce ideas and creativity. Microsoft's Design Gallery Live is also a convenient place to search for relevant pictures.

Task 4)

Prepare your part of the oral presentation by writing a very concentrated manuscript illustrated by the comic stip(s) or painting(s) found in task 3.
Your presentation should merely be an outline of maximum 1 x A4 page.
A copy must be handed in to your teacher for comments before the oral presentation takes place.


In the auditorium you will be rewarded for a well-prepared and free (not bound by your manuscript) presentation of your part of the work. During your presentation you should not worry too much about grammar and other formal conditions, but consentrate on being communicative with your audience.
The over-all impression of the presentation is important!

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