Last Updated 02 Aug 2020

Across the Nightingale Floor

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Suitable for students, Australian literature comprises of a variety of thought-provoking concepts that challenge readers’ minds, as opposed to the simple texts that students are confronted with nowadays. A mythic novel, Across the Nightingale Floor is an example of modern literature that most students read these days. A highly praised novel, it has received awards such as the German Youth Literature Prize. Written by the pseudonymous Australian author, Lian Hearn embraces a contemporary writing style, and her novel shows little resemblance to that of Australian literature.

Based on high recommendations from my peers and seeing that the novel was intended for teens of both genders, I was compelled to explore this novel. Although a well written quest, I believe that it is an inappropriate book for high school study due to its incomplex storyline and weak moral sense. In the mythic novel, Takeo, a young boy living in the Three Countries, is on a quest to kill Iida, the callous leader of the Tohan clan, after Iida burnt Takeo’s village and killed his family. Takeo is taken in by Lord Shigeru and begins training as a warrior.

Having being brought up by the Hidden, a peaceful clan who are against war, Takeo demonstrates reluctance to kill. This creates problems in his training and his teacher is determined to help him overcome this. Across the Nightingale Floor takes on a traditional and contemporary trend, incorporating ideas such as teenage love and arranged marriages. Gender discourses are embedded within the novel and are shown through the domination of males over females. Being a female, Kaede is without freedom and is forced into an arranged marriage with no objection. Lord Iida on the other hand, being a domineering male, overpowers Kaede.

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The majority of the novel consists of a war discourse which is apparent through the feud between Lord Shigeru and Iida. Family discourses are also seen at the very beginning of the novel with Takeo’s family. Contrasting themes are cleverly entwined, as the novel revolves around strong themes such as love, beauty, honour, vengeance and death. Love is portrayed through many parts of the novel; Takeo and Kaede, Lord Shigeru and Lady Maruyama and all the friendships and alliances that Takeo and Kaede make throughout the novel. Beauty is shown through Kaede’s striking appearance which men die for.

Honour is seen in Kaede’s obligation to marry, as well as Takeo’s pledge to avenge Iida. Vengeance and death are portrayed in both Iida and Lord Shigeru’s death, and is also present throughout the entire novel as Takeo seeks to kill Iida. In terms of moral perspectives, Across the Nightingale Floor does not depict conceptions of peace as it holds many unethical ideas. Although mentioned early in the novel, Takeo’s religious upbringing is overlooked as his trainings as a warrior requires him to kill. Iida’s vindictive character is emphasized through his intentions of strengthening his power base by destroying defenceless villages.

Innocent village inhabitants are brutally punished by Iida through methods such as suspending them in midair to be further eaten alive by crows. Such immoral concepts would not be suitable for school students to absorb. While the novel contains figurative language, it is also accompanied by plain prose which dissatisfies the story, and the reader’s opportunity to broaden their vocabulary is miniscule. Through the course of the novel, the reader follows three perspectives: The protagonist, Takeo, Kaede, and the narrator.

Much confusion is brought about as the story switches from first person to third person, and a considerable level of concentration is required. The reader is needed to position themself in three perceptions, as well as being able to sympathize for both Takeo and Kaede. The novel’s intermittent pace also further complicates things as the author fails to describe the situations in detail. An example of this is the death of Takeo’s family. Although Takeo’s grievance for his dead family is obvious, it is difficult for the reader to sympathize for him due to their lack of understanding of his family bonds, caused by a deficiency in information.

It can be easily assumed that the imagery contained in Across the Nightingale Floor is based on feudal Japan. A tell-tale sign of quests, the maps at the very beginning of the book lead to this preconception. Although this is the case, very little references are made to the surroundings within the novel, consequently decreasing the reader’s ability to visualize the exotic Japanese backdrop. Most of the characters’ thoughts are incoherent within the novel. Takeo’s thoughts on his new-found supernatural powers are unheard of, as well as what he thinks of having to use weapons, something which disagrees with his anti-war nature.

As the antagonists of the novel, Iida and his men are undeveloped characters and do not seem to make much progress throughout the novel. They are not given a chance to portray their strengths, nor are they seen to fall. Because Takeo’s role as a warrior conflicts his reluctance to kill, his personality is divided thoroughout the whole novel. Takeo takes the centre of the many conflicts between the other characters, and this mainly influences and emphasizes his divided nature.

As a result, Takeo’s issues remain at the end of the novel and he is unable to resolve them. It is evident that Australian literature is gradually dominated by simple texts and to my disappointment, Across the Nightingale Floor further highlights this issue. While its intended audience is young adults, I would recommend this novel for primary school students, due to its simple-crafted language and easy to grasp concepts. Although it may not be suitable for teens, as a children’s novel, Across the Nightingale Floor is an enjoyable read.

Across the Nightingale Floor essay

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