Atmosphere and setting - task

Have a look at the following extract from Collision Course by Nigel Hinton. Ray, the main character in this extract, has stolen a motorbike and caused an accident that killed someone.

He has told nobody, but knows that he can't hide for much longer. He is about to get on a bus, but realises that the one person who can link him to the crime is the conductor of that very bus. Before he can run off, he bumps into Mrs Fitzroy, his best friend's mum.

Once you have read the extract, answer the question below using the IDEAS technique and then check your ideas against the ones below. Write one paragraph for each bullet point.

'He hung back, groping wildly for some excuse to prevent him getting on, but the bell rang and the engine increased its impatient rumble and his legs carried him upwards on to the platform, and he felt Mrs Fitzroy clamber on behind. The bus began to move. He turned towards the stairs, but she caught hold of his arm.

"Let's go downstairs. I don't like the smoke." Again he felt her hand guide him, and he ducked his head and began to walk along the aisle. "Yeah".

"This'll do," she said, and he turned back and sat beside her - the less fuss he made, the less obvious he was, the better. As he settled, he kept his face bent low, aware of the conductor walking towards them. He brushed past, and, noticing things with a total clarity, Ray saw the dark blue uniform that he was wearing and noted the heaviness and thickness of the material. He heard him clumping up the stairs, and he wondered, absurdly, if he was wearing heavy boots, too.

Mrs Fitzroy was opening the bag which she had on her lap, and Ray felt in his pocket for his fare. If he had the right change, he could just hand it to the conductor without looking up. Yes, he had a ten and two pence piece. He glanced at Mrs Fitzroy and saw to his dismay that she was taking out a pound-note from her purse. That would mean a delay while she got her change - plenty of chance for him to be recognised. Could he offer to pay her fare? It would seem strange, but anything was better than being seen.'

Collision Course by Nigel Hinton


What kind of atmosphere does the writer create in this extract and how and why do they do this?

Refer to:

  • Ray's thoughts and actions as he gets on the bus
  • his bahaviour as the conductor speaks
  • how the writer uses language to create the atmosphere

In this text, the writer creates an atmosphere of fear and tension. Ray's thoughts and actions at the start of the passage show that he is under a lot of pressure. He tries to think of an excuse to prevent him getting on the bus, 'groping wildly for some excuse', suggesting that he is desperate to think of anything he can to avoid it; however, he knows that this will just make Mrs Fitzroy suspicious. When he tries to go upstairs, she insists they stay downstairs. Nothing seems to be going his way, and this leads us to believe he may well be spotted by the conductor.

As the conductor approaches, Ray's fears increase which creates more tension. He keeps his 'face bent low' to avoid being recognised, and also notices things 'with a total clarity'. This shows that he is very scared and alert, ready for something to go wrong. When he realises Mrs Fitzroy has no change, he feels dismay. The reader is kept on the edge of their seat waiting for the conductor to come along.

The writer uses language, as well as events, to create tension. The phrase 'groping wildly for some excuse' shows Ray's panic and gives the impression that he feels he has no control over events as he does this 'wildly', implying that there is no logical thought in what he does and reveals his desperation. The writer’s use of 'groping' suggests that he is just reaching out for any excuse he can, adding to the idea that he will think of anything to avoid this situation, therefore creating even more tension. The way he notices the 'heaviness' of the conductor's uniform, and wonders if he was wearing heavy boots as well might mean that he is afraid of the man. Ray asks himself 'Could he offer to pay her fare?'. This shows he is tense; he is running through possibilities in his mind.

The writer uses Ray's thoughts and fears to create this atmosphere of tension for the reader. The reader is left wondering why Ray does not want to be seen on the bus.

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