Juno of Taris, by Fleur Beale Close Reading Questions for Juno of Taris by Fleur Beale

This young adult novel has been chosen to support IS1: Order and Chaos

How: Juno is a young teen who is living in a society that has fled the chaos that the 21st century brought to our world: pollution, disease, famine, lack of fresh water, war…
A group of pioneer scientists volunteered to start a new civilisation on an island “somewhere in the southern ocean”. They live beneath an enclosed dome with the atmosphere, water, rain, temperatures all being regulated by computer, and separate to “the Outside”.

Your topic: Order and Chaos centres on how societies are regulated by rights, rules and responsibilities. This includes how laws are made to regulate, rule and protect citizens, and the kinds of governments that exist in our world as a result of different people’s responses to the problem of governing their particular society at a particular time in history, to fit in with culture and environmental and economic pressures.
Sometimes order creates chaos for people’s lives After the economic collapse of Germany after WW1plus the burden of carrying the war guilt clause, and the laws surrounding its army, navy and airforce redevelopment, Hitler’s Nazi policies presented an attractive order that would rebuild Germany economically and restore the German pride. However as the story goes… his new order “meant to last for a 1000 years” drove Europe and its people into chaos.

The Taris Project Taris begins hopefully, but the ruling Governance Committee decides to create a period of “chaos” in the history of Taris. It is not entirely clear whether they “pretend” that they lose communication from “Outside” or that the world IS in such chaos that it can’t support Taris with supplies any longer. In any case the period of “chaos” came about because everyone on the island started to run out of supplies and guard their belongings. Harvests rotted in fields because everyone was so worried their belongings would be taken while they were away from their houses.
For the inhabitants of Taris to survive they had to work together with the same goal – survival. ..
To do this they had to set aside their differences and jealousies…
To do this it was decided by the Governance Committee that “things” that were not essential would be burned or broken. Hair was to be shaved to remember and honour this commitment to building a new life and how close Taris had come to breaking down. Citizens would not speak of life, possessions, hair as it had been, or they would be killed. This was the price that the people living on the island of Taris were prepared to pay to see that their existence continued.
However absolute power corrupts. The Governance Committee took it upon themselves to cover up the fact that they had regained contact with “Outside”. They also created a mythical history for Taris that even its founders started to believe – all in the name of the greater good of the community’s survival, and the fact that they also trusted their Governance Committee. This committee had the knowledge to control the computers keeping their atmosphere and temperatures in check. Strangely, when it seemed that some kind of questioning or disobedience began in the community, things would go on “the blink” and the community’s survival depended on the great Governance Committee to fix things – which they magically did.

Further, The Governance Committee got rid of writing, or “the ancient script” as it was called. They did this so that knowledge of the history of mankind “Outside” could be reshaped into “pictograph” language. This became all that was available to the people of Taris, particularly those born on the island. This meant that knowledge, ideas and history could reflect the beliefs and needs of the Governance Committee: Propaganda. It also meant that people could no longer text or email to each other or write letters to each other: Control of the spread of ideas. All news was dispersed at meetings in the arena: controlled rallies or meetings or by word of mouth as they passed each other during the day.

People who did not conform to the ideas of the Governance Committee were then branded as dangerous to the whole community’s existence: political, religious, social dissidents. They would either mysteriously die of an accident, or the community “withdrew” from them: they would be dead to the eyes of the group until they conformed again.
But you can’t count on the younger generation to exist and conform without explanations for things…..enter Juno and the story…

Beale makes reference to the Nazis in this book through the vehicle of Juno who finds information about them.
The Governance Committee existed as a dictatorship and used propaganda, fear of the destruction of their lives and island, control of information and assembly as their means of keeping their power over the people.
Hitler did the same things. He even burned books and rewrote Germanic history in terms of a mystical Aryan past, and a race to blame for everything that ever went wrong for Germany – the Jews. He had huge rallies where information was passed on to thousands. Radio and street speakers broadcast Hitler’s Nazi Propaganda re the fight for survival against the Jews, “the Outside” and the advancement of the Germanic race of people. So there are similarities that can be drawn.

How you can use this book:
As an English novel study you can:
-predict what the story may be about using the information on the cover.
-Study the characters, themes/ideas and structure of the novel: How much independence are we willing to sacrifice for the survival of the group? A beautiful island in the Southern Ocean does not guarantee freedom from the usual pressures and worries faced by teenagers: intergenerational conflict, patriarchal rules, teen pregnancy, forbidden love, peer group pressure and parental lectures. Does human nature ever evolve?
-Study how the first person narrative helps us learn about the characters – especially Juno: We learn about life on Taris through Juno's interaction with per parents, her learning stratum, and the communities weekly meetings.
-Hunt for metaphors, similes and interesting adjectives. Discuss what these gave to the writing and the effect that this may have had on the reader.
-Discuss the kind of language used. Short sentences? Reflecting Juno, how and why?
-Students could rewrite the ending.
-Students MUST be able to write a SEXY/SEXAS PARAGRAPH about the novel: theme/idea, a character…
As part of the topic Order and Chaos you can:
-consider how far individual freedom must be given up for the greater good for society to function: History has demonstrated that the human spirit is always vulnerable under totalitarian rule.
-consider what happens to individual freedom if responsibilities, roles and rules start to encroach on the rights of the individual.
-Consider what and how much class members would be prepared to give up to ensure the survival of their society, class or year group if they were faced with a life or death situation.
-consider the similarities between the rules, responsibilities and rights of Tarisians and those living in dictatorships: Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Communist China, Cambodia under the Kmer Rouge….