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Edexcel English IGCSE: Explorer’s Daughter by Kari Herbert

Q2. How does the writer bring out the thoughts and feelings of Kari Herbert in the passage from ‘The Explorer’s Daughter’?

In your answer, consider:

  • her understanding of the Inughuit people;
  • her description of the narwhal;
  • her feelings towards the hunt;
  • the use of language.

You should refer closely to the passage to support your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Kari Herbert is experiencing conflict regarding the hunting of narwhals. This is because she has understanding of and respect for both the Inughuits and the narwhals.

Herbert has great respect for the Inughuit people, because of the difficulty of survival in such a harsh environment. She portrays them as extremely resourceful, for example by listing all the ways that they use the various parts of the narwhal. By describing the narwhal as an “essential contributor to the survival of the hunters”, Herbert shows how life in the Arctic is a real struggle. By referring to the Inughuits as “the hunters” throughout the passage, she emphasises the centrality of hunting to their lives and identities. In her description of the hunt, Herbert also expresses admiration for the way that they work as a team. The simile “the hunters spread like a net” shows that they are working together so well that they are almost like one whole tool. Herbert’s respect for the Inughuits is a key message in this passage.

As well as respecting the Inughuits, Herbert admires the narwhals in Thule. She uses beautiful vivid imagery, showing how the narwhals add to the natural beauty of the setting: “plumes of spray” which create a “spectral play of colour”. As well as providing factual information about the narwhals, Herbert portrays them as almost mystical; as she watches the narwhals in the water she begins to wonder “if the narwhal existed at all”, making them seem magical and elusive, like illusions. She also emphasises the intelligence of these creatures, as “their senses are keen” and “they talk to one another”, implicitly comparing them with the Inughuits who are hunting them.

Because of her respect for both Inughuits and narwhals, Herbert feels conflicted about the hunt. She recognises that killing narwhals is necessary for the Inughuits to survive, but her appreciation of the beauty and intelligence of the narwhals makes her reluctant to watch them be killed. This results in a conflict between her head and her heart; that is, between her reason and her emotion. She “urged the man on in [her] head”, but her “heart also urged the narwhal to dive, to leave, to survive”. The assonance and use of the triple infinitive here, combined with the repeated ‘v’ sound, add a sentimental and dramatic tone to this feeling, creating a sense of tragedy and highlighting her conflict.

At the heart of this passage is a dilemma: between recognising the necessity for hunting for the survival of our own species, and the desire to protect beautiful animals. At the end of the passage, Herbert admits with simple certainty that hunting is an “absolute necessity” for the Inughuits, confirming her loyalty to the struggling humans in Thule.

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