The extract from “New World” by Jonathan Raban is a piece of travel writing that deals with one of the writer’s journeys on a ship. Apparently in the passage, the travellers believe that they are close to the North American shore and this is indicated in the beginning: “We had picked up the scent of North America and it was suddenly real enough to plan on”. However we find out at the end of the extract that this was only but false hope. The writer involves a lot of details on the history, such as that of the Grand Banks, into his writing. This adds a little more variety to he writing, as it diverts the reader’s attention from the travelling.
If the writer were to only describe his travelling, because at times nothing much happens as you wait and progress on your journey, for the reader it would become quite boring. Thus, by just switching the subject of writing to history, it would interest the reader due to the fact that there is a change. Also more often than not, this reader of travel writing is a modern traveller. Another, more direct, effect of including the history of the Grand Banks is that it gives a modern traveller a sense of the atmosphere. In a sense it describes the setting of the place and a modern traveller looks for a new place to travel to.
Therefore it is always useful to obtain information about a place you may want to visit. Hence, modern travellers may read travel writing only for the sake of this information. In the passage, the writer looks to develop a personality as a narrator. This gives the passage more flair compared to having a straightforward description. One way the writer does this is by the method already mentioned – that of including the history into the writing. Another way this is achieved is by describing the urroundings and then following it up with more information and reasoning.
For example this is seen on line 8 where he writes: “This sudden mixing of hot and cold produces the chilly steam in which the area is almost continuously embedded”. This is a description of more or less what he sees but then he follows this up with information of his own: “It also produces the… water in which krill and zooplankton breed”. On the other hand this is what you wouldn’t normally be able to see and therefore it is always interesting to hear about. You can put yourself into a situation where you may be looking at something – or example a small insect.
Whilst wondering why the insect behaves in such a manner somebody comes up to you and answers your question to which you are left quite amazed. Therefore you will regard this person quite highly. Similarly the writer raises his status by including extra information and thus impresses upon the reader. The word `fish’ or `fishing’ or any other similar form are used on a number of occasions in the passage with varied meanings. This is ironic since first of all the writer is travelling by ship over the seas and secondly the history of the Grand Banks has a lot to do with fishes.