Deep Plunge Between the Lines: Noise

Deep Plunge is a definitive commentary on key aspects of children’s and adolescent literature. Offered freely by Vernon the Reading Primate for the betterment of all reading primates everywhere, it reveals invaluable insights into how books work and why you should read them.

One of the biggest challenges we face today is to develop multicultural literacy that will help us understand those who may be very different from us. Literature fosters multicultural literacy, among others by suggesting strategies to deal with Noise.

Terry Pratchett’s Nation (2008) starts with two tsunami survivors. Mau is a Polynesian teenager and the only person left alive from his tribe. Daphne is a teenage Victorian lady whose ship crashed on the rocks of the island. They are complete strangers from different cultures. They speak different languages. Yet, they must cooperate to survive.
In their first encounter Daphne is terrified. She aims a pistol at Mau and warns him not to come closer. Mau, who’s never seen a pistol, recognizes Daphne’s fear but interprets her behavior as“come and take the scary object from my hands.” As he approaches her, Daphne fires. The powder is wet and the only effect is sparks from the lock. Daphne is now frozen with fear, but Mau is excited because he’s lost his flint. The girl has given him the gift of fire! He accepts the pistol and offers Daphne food in return.

In this and similar episodes Nation offers models that illustrate the effects of Noise and how to overcome it.

Why it’s important?

We live in a Noise-laden world and our lives are full of Noise. In relations across cultural difference noise-related misunderstandings are potentially more frequent. Young people must learn that misunderstandings happen but if one automatically interprets them as threats, cooperation is impossible. However, if you remain open and welcoming of difference, even misunderstandings are likely to get sorted out. Literature offers models to help us deal with Noise in stories and in real life too.

By Marek O. and Vernon

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