The Beach of Falesá by Robert Louis Stevenson describes a journey from the perspective of the Narrator in the style of a biography. In the beginning of the story the author plants seeds that he develops later in the book such as the captain’s comment that ‘nobody lives to windward - I don’t know why’ which only becomes important when the main character uncovers what is happening on Falesá.
A noticeable feature of the text is the use of the word and. ‘I took the glass; and the shores leaped nearer, and I saw the tangle of the woods and the breach of the surf, and the brown roofs and the black insides of houses peeped among the trees’.
Stevenson also uses a series of sub clauses, a form of grammatical parallelism, to keep adding more information with the repetition of the word and used at the start of each to stress the additive nature of the information, as each extra clause builds on what has gone before to create a greater sense of excitement for the reader at what is being described, again matching the excitement of the narrator as he arrives at Falesá.
When Stevenson starts with ‘that island’, it could be any island. He chooses to call it Falesá , but it could be anywhere. He chooses to say that it is in the South Pacific).
Stevenson is slowly revealing information for the reader to use in creating their own imaginary world based on their mental map of what Falesá is like. By involving the reader the reader in this way, Stevenson is drawing them into the story because they feel involved in creating Falesá. Stevenson was living in Samoa at the time that he wrote The Beach of Falesá so was able to draw on his knowledge of the area, although his readers wouldn’t have had much knowledge of the area to draw on and would have treated Stevenson as an expert. Stevenson indirectly reinforces this sense of the exotic by using words such as ‘wild’, ‘strange’ and ‘rare’ in the first paragraph.
In Beach of Falesa the narrator is the author and he is narrating the story to the reader. This is a simple one to one discourse structure between the author and the reader. But in the beginning of the story the direct speech from the captain takes over the role of narrator as he is better informed and able to pass on more information than the narrator, who is arriving at Falesá for the first time. He is able to provide more information, such as ‘Coral built, stands high, verandah you could walk on three abreast’, than the ‘bit of white’ that the narrator can see, even using a telescope, so by deduction he must have been there previously. This is an example of Stevenson providing the reader with more detail than is contained in the words themselves. Whilst the captain is respectful in his use of the formal ‘Mr Wiltshire’ to address the narrator, he gives him an order to ‘Take my glass’ which is obeyed when the narrator ‘took the glass’. The connection between the instruction and obeyance is reinforced by the repetition of the phrase. This suggests to the reader that the captain is in control and the authority figure in this scene. This is reinforced by the fact that only the captain speaks as the narrator does as he is told rather than taking his turn in the conversation. This lends weight to the credibility of the captain’s description. However, the position of the narrator as a man of some standing, albeit below the captain, is maintained by the use of a formal version of his name and that the captain is talking to him.
By positioning the narrator through the clauses where the captain is the sayer and the narrator is the recipient, the narrator returns to the role of agent in material action clauses as he ‘took the glass’ and ‘saw the tangle of the woods’. In this way Stevenson gives the reader the impression that the narrator is a man of action, but that he is not an all powerful hero as he is at the mercy of nature.
There are times in the story where the narrator engages in direct communication with the reader, like for example when he answers the imaginary questions that the reader is asking when he says ‘Yes, it was another typical bonfire night at Bull Pot Farm, and yes I’m probably exaggerating a bit’. By speaking directly to the reader, the author is deviating from the norm to increase the reader’s personal connection to what they are reading.
. At no time does Stevenson explicitly say that the narrator is on a ship or has any nautical knowledge but throughout he uses a nautical lexis to suggest these two facts to the reader. In the first paragraph, when the narrator uses ‘amidships’, a nautical term meaning the middle of a boat, to mean the middle of the sky, Stevenson is indirectly telling the reader that the narrator has spent enough time on ships that nautical terms come naturally to him. He then moves on to ‘The captain blew out the binnacle lamp’ which strongly suggests that the scene is taking place on a ship. When this nautical lexis continues in the direct speech of the captain, such as ‘windward’, it adds an authenticity to his voice. The nautical lexis also gives the reader the context they need in order to understand words such as ‘line’ and ‘glass’, which have specific distinctive meanings in this semiotic domain.
Stevenson also demonstrates creativity in his use of linguistic deviation to create a poetic flow. There are alliterations such as ‘but still broad and bright’ and ‘breeze blew’ as well as examples of assonance such as ‘wild lime’ and phrases that combine the two such as ‘set me sneezing’.