Sunlight on the grass Compass and Torch

These cards will highlight the key elements of the short story 'Compass and Torch'.

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  • Created by: Saira
  • Created on: 19-05-12 14:42


A young boy is excited to go on a camping trip with his father. This seems more exhilarating for him as his parents have separated and now he lives with his mother and her boyfriend, Jim.

The child is enthusiastic as he has brought his torch along with him to the trip. They stop on a moor where they are surrounded by many wild ponies one of which approaches the man who tries to 'bat' it away.

Once they get out of the car and take the tent out, the man realises he has forgot his compass. At night they go to sleep in the tent with many wild ponies circling them. In the short story we are not told what happens next but we understand that for years to come the boy will be haunted by the experience.

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The boy: he is eight years old boy and is known to be very innocent and he admires his father a lot and tries to be like him. He is excited yet anxious for the camping trip.

Dad/ The man: he no longer lives with his wife and son as they have been separated, though no information of why they have divorced is given to us. However, we know he is not happy as it refers in the story it is written that he is an expert at blocking out pain.

Mother: she appears to be horrible towards her ex-husband as she makes it out that the man is 'mad' and is only showing off however when the boy and the man leave she gets upset. She seems to have gotten over the separation in some aspects as she has a boyfriend, Jim, who lives with her and the boy.

Jim: he is the mother's boyfriend who is very friendly and tries to befriend the boy. He seems to feel sorry for the man.

Jim is the only person in the story to be named, the rest are given names belonging to a family, making Jim an outcast.

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Language/ Structure


  • Repetition: 'Watching Dad. Watching what Dad is.'
  • Typography: 'Mad'.
  • The language is colloquial between conversations- The man replies to his son in short and monosyllabic tones whereas the mother appears to reply violently.
  • Symbolism: The compass and torch are important symbols. What do you think the significance of leaving the compass behind is?


  • Mixture of present and past tenses (flashbacks) but at the end there is a glimpse of the future tense.
  • Written in third person narrative.
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Family: the family is split apart and now that they are confronting each other it is a traumatic time for them.

Masculinity: In the story the father tries hard to make the trip appear more like a 'male bonding' so that his son remains happy and excited. On the other hand his mother mocks the plans.

Relationships: the relationship between the father and son dominates the story as it is targeted mostly on how they spend their camping trip together.

Hope: the boy goes camping with his father with the hope that they have a good time and the father goes camping with his son to bond with him however he feels that he is becoming a stranger to him.

Nature: the wild ponies make the father and son feel weak and insignificant out in the darkness.

Anxiety: the boy is nervous along with the son to how they will be spending their time and so is the mother. 

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The story is set either at the boy's house or the moor where the father and son go to camp. The countryside includes many wild ponies which make the boy and the man in a vulnerable state.

In the boy's house it is both Jim and the mother in the kitchen where she is expressing her anger to him, or it is either the boy in his room excited and waiting for his father's car.

In addition to this the final sentence is in future tense hinting what could have happened towards the end of the trip. 

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