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Kissing The Toad

Kissing the Toad   by Chris Corbett is written in a conversational and light-hearted tone from the point of view of an overweight and pimply high school male, and details the apparent triumph of wit, charm and sincerity over hunky good looks and cool behaviour, to win the heart of a beautiful girl.

The plot seems straightforward. Boy meets, girl, boy falls in love with girl. Girl rejects boy, boy finally wins girl. Or so it seems. The protagonist, the main character, confides (shares his doubts, fear and secrets) in the reader in a relaxed and apparently frank (open, honest) manner. He talks to us, as though is writing in a diary. It is as though he is confiding in us, revealing  a significant aspect of his personal life. We discover however in this convoluted (twisted and winding) narrative through the protagonist's diary-like revelation, that what we have been told by the narrator is not all true.

The reader is manipulated by the author. Ultimately we are positioned to understand that each of us has a preferred version of parts of our life. Fantasy is better than reality. The world would have us believe that there is justice; that, like in Shrek, you don't need to be hunky to win the beautiful Princess. However, the truth for the writer is that you do. And we need to lie (to ourselves), or fantasise at least, sometimes to deal with the harshness of reality.

As well as possessing depth in its examination of the marginalised teen psyche, Kissing the Toad  has a complex narrative structure and subtlety of theme.

While the plot seems straight forward, the protagonist's narration is not chronological. His story does not begin a the beginning, proceeding in chronological order through a series of events and concluding with the last event. There is no triangular plot diagram of rising action from an established setting moving toards a straightforward climax.

We discover our narrator is unreliable. Only at the end do we find that we have been deceived, toyed with. The "sting-in-the-tail" or twist to the story is that the Toad never did kiss Dianne or roll around on the floor with their "legs entwined".

The final scene has the Toad walking down the street to a chorus of dogs yowling, laughing at him

Narrative Techniques

What are the most significant narrative techniques (narrative strategies / fiction techniques) which engage the reader? Well, to answer this in an exam essay you need to discuss your own response. What did it for you?

Flahback

The writer is telling or recalling these incidents from some future point. The opening is a flashback from this point in the future to the Toad waiting in Diane's room while she showers. On page 5 the protagonist talks about "all those afternoons and evenings" from some point in the future again. It is as though he is telling us a story about his past, an anecdote. He returns to the narrative. From time-to-time he comments about himself, interjecting into his own story, moving from present to past.

On page 7 the Toad flashes back even further to the kissing the toad episode. From this point the narrative is updated chronologically, bringing the reader up to the point in time where the Toad is watiing for Diane in the shower. We then realize as the protagonist updates his tale that the incident at the commencement of the story never actually happened. The climax comes, I believe, around about the point where the protagonist reveals that it was dumb to even think about wanting to be involved with Diane.

Style

Chris Corbett's style is a significant engaging element in this story. Under 'style' we can include descriptive language, colloquial language, dialogue re-creating everyday speech, "teentalk" or the words a teenager would use to construct character ands so forth. There is a great deal of evidence here to argue for the role of the writer's style in engaging the reader in the character and the action.

Characterisation

At what point is dialogue a factor when this is one element of characterisation; ie how character is revealed through what (and how) a character says? Whatever the answer, character is a significant engaging element in this story. What sort of person is the Toad? How is this revealed by Corbett? The character is very cleverly constructed. Do we find him sympathetic. Obviously some may and some may not.


Activity 1 KTT :  Identify those narrative elements which most significantly engage you in the story, AND PROVIDE EVIDENCE.

The most important aspect of your essay, apart from addressing the question itself and not wandering off, is to suppport your argument with substance from your stories.

NOTE : You may have already identified a dilemma in this activity. You will be required to write about TWO short stories. How do you adequately deal with each story while providing evidence for both, as wellas develop a sound essay response to the question.? Great question!

No I haven't got the answer. That is your task. Know your quotes. Work out what your evidence is. Your argument and capacity as an essay writer which you will develop over time, is to weave your responses to two texts and your argument, into one cohesive essay response.

Your task is to find what engages you and analyse how the author as grabbed you, supported by evidence.


 

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Feel free to access these resources for study purposes or classroom use. However where they have been directly dowloaded for distribution or copied and provided as notes, please acknowledge as a courtesy. John Watson