What are some scenes and techniques in Clay, the novel by Melissa Harrison, that relate to people and landscapes?

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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There are many scenes in the novel Clay by Melissa Harrison which say something to us about our perceptions of landscape in modern society. For example the image of a child creeping through the murky dawn light of a city evokes feelings of concern, curiosity and anxiety in the reader. Readers may wonder what a young boy is doing outside at that time in the morning without his parents' supervision. Reader perception of his lifestyle is coloured by the greyness of the image of a mediocre urban apartment block in the background. These feelings are then juxtaposed against the the joyous sentiments evoked by nature in the form of a fox and the weather at its most beautiful but deadly: glittering frost. The weather could be both uplifting and fatal for the child. The fox footprints are tiny and perfectly formed, crisply patterning the frost. The author’s technique contrasts the innocence of childhood against the stark reality of life in the city. The boy is innocently enjoying the last crumbs of wild nature to be found in the urban wasteland and forgotten corners where nature still hangs on by a thread. Nobody notices he is out and he absconds from school, so the author uses her techniques to draw a likeness between the feral nature of the child and that of the wild fox.

Another character who shows the relationship between people and the landscape is Sophia, an elderly widow. The author uses a technique of micro-detailing to show us the pain of her bereavement; she still wears the shoes of her dear departed husband. Perhaps she gains a crumb of comfort from the last vestiges of the worn-out landscape outside her window as she peers at the tiny piece of scrubby parkland outside her flat, even though the grass is worn and muddy and soiled with litter. The author shows us that she takes her comfort where she can.

Another character tries to fashion long lost dreams of wild nature through basic sculpting. Again, the technique uses light and atmosphere to convey mood as we see him in the gloomy twilight. He is trying to carve a beautiful wild hare from an old piece of wooden junk under depressing street lights. A long way from his countryside home in Poland, he now earns a living from clearing out houses but dreams of his Polish farm and his country life there. The author uses careful description as a technique to show us how man and countryside were so close that they are now still one. The one consolation is that the boy and the man meet and find that they have a yearning for nature in common, which is a comfort to both.

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