This guide complements the study of the novel Tyger Tyger by Michael Hyde. The guide offers a selection of activities to help students form an understanding of the issues and themes of the novel. It is divided into eight sections and concludes with a list of essay topics.
Tyger Tyger is the story of a promising young footballer named Johnny Carbone. Johnny is blessed with talent and athletic ability, and at 17 is playing senior football for his local team, the Ballantyne Tigers. The novel begins with Johnny struggling to fulfill expectations: he has all the elements, but just ‘can’t seem to put it altogether.’
Hyde employs a first person narrative, and has Johnny tell his own story. Johnny’s narrative is complemented by articles on the games from the local newspaper, written by his best friend, the enigmatic Morrison.
The story is told in chronological order and examines an intense ten-week period in Johnny’s life where he falls in love, reconciles the death of his father, and comes to terms with his footballing talent.
The novel is predominantly set in the inner city suburb of Ballantyne and Johnny’s world involves two key locations, the local football club and the house he shares with his supportive mother, Angela. However, perhaps the most important part of the story takes place in rural Tasmania, in and around the house and farm of Johnny’s Italian grandparents. Importantly, this is also the site of Johnny’s father’s death in a motorcycle accident a decade earlier. All three locations share a sense of warmth, and Johnny receives critical support from a number of characters throughout the novel.
One of the most impressive elements of the novel is the way Hyde captures the sense of community surrounding the football club, with its convincing array of colourful and affectionate characters.
Task: Keep a reading journal while you read the novel. Write a short entry for every chapter, and for each entry include the following:
- A short summary (1-2 lines)
- An important quote
- A personal comment (3-4 lines)
Ever felt like the weight of the world was on your shoulders – rock hard and heavy as death? (p. 9)The first chapter of a novel is always critical: it introduces the plot and the characters, but more importantly sets the tone (feel) of the
The first chapter of a novel is always critical: it introduces the plot and the characters, but more importantly sets the tone (feel) of the story; and it’s the tone more than anything else that influences your decision whether to keep reading the book, or return it to the library.
In the first chapter, Hyde:
- Introduces the two most important conflicts of the novel: Johnny’s form slump and Johnny still not coming to terms with his father’s death.
- Sets the tone with some effective use of symbol and imagery.
- Provides a strong example of his writing style with frank and robust dialogue.
a) Find two quotes in the first chapter relating to each of the following:
- Johnny’s form slump
- The memory of Sam Carbone (father)
- Symbol and imagery
- Frank and robust dialogue
Imagine a conversation between Sam Carbone and Bernie Crow when they were both playing for the Ballantyne Tigers more than a decade earlier. The conversation doesn’t have to be about football, but just a typical exchange the two would have shared. Look at Bernie’s words in Chapter 1 as a guide. You’ll have to be more imaginative with Sam. (200 words)
Passage of PlayCarbone lays a tackle on
Carbone lays a tackle on Batty like a wrecking ball, footy breaks free, Lensky, the Tige’s oldest player, charges at the play, collecting the ball on the way through, bounces once, steers his way around center circle and kicks to Mitchell, who marks the ball. (p. 18)
The newspaper column, Passage of Play introduces the slightly odd character of Morrison. It also serves the function of bringing the reader closer to the action on the football field. It seems that the idea here is to paint pictures with word, in much the same way as sporting commentators do on radio, and to a less extent on television.
Watch a sporting event either live or on television and try commentating a 5-10 minute ‘passage of play’. The sport doesn’t have to be football, but keep in mind that different sports require different styles of commentary. Cricket, for example is slower and requires more padding. Sports like basketball, netball, hockey and soccer will have similar demands to football.
Record the your commentary onto audio tape so that you can play it back for your teacher and the rest of the class. You will probably have to practice this several times before you end up with something you are happy with.
An alternative idea is to use a video camera (the school should have one you can borrow if you don’t have your own) and record a local or school game while you commentate on the action, allowing you to show both the game and commentary to the class. You may need a friend to record the play while you commentate.
With a lunge the animal crashes into a thick patch of grass and reeds. There’s panic, a scurried last moment, then a screech that cracks the night sky. The beast, still at last, raises its head and opens wide its jaws, still dripping with flesh and blood. (p. 28)
“So how many times have you had this dream?” (p. 29)Angela says, “… there’s no formula for analysing [dreams]. You know if you’ve had an important one but what it means is up to you.”
Angela says, “… there’s no formula for analysing [dreams]. You know if you’ve had an important one but what it means is up to you.”
a) Carefully read the details of Johnny’s dream on pp. 27-28, and analyse what you think the dream means. (100-200 words)
b) Write down the details of one of your own dreams, it could be a dream you have repeatedly, or even a dream you have once only. It helps to have a pen and paper next to bed so that you can write down the details of your dream when you wake up and the dream is still fresh. (200-300 words)
c) Then analyse what you think your dream means. You may wish to consult a dream guide, ask your teacher or librarian to organize this for you. Or if you are particularly keen you can consult a dream interpreter; they sometimes appear on radio, otherwise you can look them up in the yellow pages. (100-200 words)
I’m not sure what episode Morrison and I were up to in the great classic, Katherine – Birth of an Absolute Babe. All I know is that any time and any place was good enough to talk about our female trainer. I saw her heaps, but Morrison used to come down to the rooms to get a quote for his column. It was amazing how often Katherine was quoted. (p. 23)
Johnny Carbone is the hero of the novel. He narrates the story and dominates the plot. Furthermore, the other characters in the novel seem to exist solely to support Johnny overcome his football troubles. Johnny is a likeable young man and somewhat unaffected by his reputation as ‘gun’ footballer. To his credit, Hyde has made his character a little different from the stereotypical footballer type. Johnny appears to be sensitive, open minded and even socially progressive. He has a strong relationship with Angela, his mother, and her influence has clearly had a positive affect on Johnny’s character.
Hyde has created two other positive young characters: Johnny’s best friend Morrison; and Katherine, first Johnny’s trainer and then also his girlfriend. Morrison is not sporting and a little odd, yet he has a way with women, a talent with words, and real ‘feel for the game’ of football. Morrison writes article about the games for the local newspaper and whilst he often documents Johnny’s successes, he is not afraid to also document his failures, and even asks, ‘Will the real Johnny Carbone please stand up?’ Like Johnny, Morrison is a talented and impressive young man. Abandoned by his parents, Morrison lives with his grandmother, and whilst that’s not always easy, Morrison seems have a deep love for her. Again like Johnny, Morrison has difficulty coming to terms with having a missing father. Katherine has an important role at the football club as the trainer. She is 18 and attractive, knows the game and is respected for her work. She is also Johnny’s dream girl and seemingly off limits as she’s the coach’s niece. However she shows that she is a confident and independent young woman and it is she who engineers the romantic connection with our shy and nervous hero.
Write character profiles for Johnny, Morrison, and Katherine. Include the following categories:
Five dream dinner guests
Favourite holiday destination
Favourite item of clothing
On the wall was a framed photo of Charlie holding the Premiership Trophy. (p. 49)
But Charlie’s Guernsey from the old days was a dusty brown, with a couple of thin, dark stripes going across the jumper. I’d seen photos of them but never for real. (p. 50)
TygerTyger . . . burning bright
In the forests of the night
What . . . immortal hand or eye
Dare frame . . . thy fearful . . . symmetry. (p. 118)Perhaps the standout character is Charlie, the former club legend who is now old and dying. Charlie is a founding member of the club and his knowledge and wisdom
Perhaps the standout character is Charlie, the former club legend who is now old and dying. Charlie is a founding member of the club and his knowledge and wisdom helps Johnny connect with his dreaming. For Johnny has a series of dreams during the first part of the novel where more details are revealed with each dream. The dream involves thick forest and an unknown animal, a predator of some kind. After seeing photographs of Charlie in the Tasmanian bush and hearing a critical story, Johnny finally realises that the animal in the dream is the extinct Tasmanian tiger, the ‘Tyger, Tyger’ of the title.
Like Hyde’s previous novel Max, Tyger Tyger has a strong spiritual element. The character Charlie acts as messenger who helps Johnny confront past trauma and connect with his dreaming. Johnny’s experiences in Tasmania provide him with a sense of calm and balance, which results in dramatic improvement on the football field.
Charlie Farrell was dead. (p. 167)
Charlie dies at the end of Chapter 17, the funeral and wake are described in Chapter 18. Piece together information about Charlie’s life and write an obituary for The Changing Times about the former club legend. (200-300 words)
An obituary is, ‘a notice of the death of a person, often with a brief biographical sketch, as in a newspaper.’ (The Maquarie Dictionary) You can find obituaries in any daily newspaper, and should read a few before you begin in order to get a stronger understanding of the style of writing required. You will find information about Charlie in Chapters 5, 12 and 18.
TygerTyger . . . burning bright
In the forests of the night
What . . . immortal hand or eye
Dare frame . . . thy fearful . . . symmetry. (p. 118)
Read the poem ‘The Tyger’ (1794) by William Blake. Hyde has drawn on this poem for the title of his novel and also quotes it on p.118 and then again on p.171. The poem appears to take on the qualities of a mantra, and becomes a source of strength and inspiration for Johnny. Even though Hyde is mixing his religions here, he seems to be drawing a link between spirituality (‘immortal hand’) and achievement, specifically achievement in sport.
a) Find out what inspired Blake to write this famous poem.
b) Explain what you think the poem is about.
c) Explain how the poem might relate to the novel.
It made my blood run cold, my bones ache with fear and my flesh turn to jelly. (p. 153)In Chapter 17 Johnny gets lost in the bush and is forced to spend the night there huddled under some leaves and branches. During this time he has two important visions. He sees a rock pool and a Tasmanian tiger, reminding him of his earlier dream:
In Chapter 17 Johnny gets lost in the bush and is forced to spend the night there huddled under some leaves and branches. During this time he has two important visions. He sees a rock pool and a Tasmanian tiger, reminding him of his earlier dream:
A breeze blew up the gully and rippled the water. I put my hand to my cheek and as I did my dream came rushing back to me. (p. 156)Later Johnny sees the incident (accident) that led to father’s death:
Later Johnny sees the incident (accident) that led to father’s death:Then … then for some reason – a rock, a shadow, something, it’s impossible to tell –
Then … then for some reason – a rock, a shadow, something, it’s impossible to tell – he brakes and the back wheel begins to slide out. (p. 162)Johnny remains composed despite these disturbing images and in the morning calmly finds his way out of the bush. This inadvertent adventure proves critical for Johnny as he finally comes to terms with the death of his father, and he does this by discovering his dreaming – the ‘weight of the world’ that has been puzzling him from the very start of the novel.
Johnny remains composed despite these disturbing images and in the morning calmly finds his way out of the bush. This inadvertent adventure proves critical for Johnny as he finally comes to terms with the death of his father, and he does this by discovering his dreaming – the ‘weight of the world’ that has been puzzling him from the very start of the novel.
dreaming n 1. an Aboriginal’s awareness and knowledge of the dreamtime 2. the Dreaming, ®Dreamtime. [from the Aboriginal notion that in a dreaming state one is receptive to this form of awareness] (The Maquarie Dictionary)
Read Chapter 17 carefully and then make a collage representing Johnny’s night in the bush. Remember to note the images and thoughts in Johnny’s mind as well as the physical environment he gets himself trapped in.
Alternative task: If you are a confident at drawing you might like to draw a montage instead.
I looked up the gully. I had all this energy in me; I breathed easily, my leg felt strong. I don’t know why I was so … in a way, calm. It like a feeling you sometimes have on the footy field – although I hadn’t had that experience for some time. (p. 157)
Find out more about the dreaming and explain how it relates to Johnny’s problems in Tyger, Tyger. How does the vision of the Tasmanian tiger help Johnny recapture his form? (300 words)
When Charlie started the club, we were the Tassie Tigers. Not Indian tigers. Not African tigers. Thylacines – and thylacines are more like wolves. They track and hunt like ’em. They work at it. They’re patient. They look for the angle, the opening and when the smallest chance appears, they make no mistake about it. They lunge and finish the job off in no uncertain manner . . .
“Well I guess I’m saying we’re the Tassie Tigers, coach. We’re the Ballantyne Tassie Tigers.” (p. 187)
Now that the Ballantyne Tigers have become the Ballantyne Tassie Tigers, they will need a new logo, so design and draw the new logo for the Ballantyne Tassie Tigers Football Club.
Hint: look at logos for other sporting teams to help get ideas for this task.
It’s play on. Play on – and Carbone is down in the mud scabbling around for the ball with a hundred other players, with time ticking away and twenty metres out from the thylacine’s goal. A knee collects Carbone in the side of the face, looks like he’s seeing stars … staggers, gets to his feet, sees the ball falling from a tackle, into his waiting arms, facing away from goal, Johnny Carbone twists his body and slams the footy onto his right boot. It goes throught the middle, right through-the-middle. Between the posts like a skull split in two. (p. 190)Johnny returns, plays the last game, recaptures something like his best form, and scores the winning goal to put Ballantyne into the finals.
Johnny returns, plays the last game, recaptures something like his best form, and scores the winning goal to put Ballantyne into the finals.
What’s next for Johnny Carbone?
- How do the team perform in the finals?
- How does Johnny perform in the finals?
- Does he get drafted in the AFL?
- What about his relationship with Katherine?
- His friendship with Morrison?
- Angela and Dave Richards?
Predict what will happen to Johnny Carbone (and those around him) over the next 5-8 years. (300 words)
Hint: You may like to draw on the material you’ve put down for Task Four.
- Johnny’s night lost in the bush proves the turning point in the novel, as it is here that Johnny finally discovers how he might just ‘put it all together’. Discuss.
- Even at the lowest point of his form slump, Johnny can count himself lucky on account of the support and guidance he receives from those around him. Discuss
- Tyger, Tyger shows that sport is ‘90% mental and 10% physical’. Discuss.
- While Sam Carbone dies well before the beginning of the story, and never appears in novel directly, he still looms as one of the most important characters. Discuss.
- ‘Tyger, Tyger is about young men growing up; the symbols that guide our lives; fathers and sons; and the poetry of sport.’ Discuss