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guide complements the study of the novel Hey Joe 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.
Joe, written by Michael Hyde, is the story of Jimi
Thorn, a young man who has been brought up almost solely by
his mother, Molly. His father Joe Thorn played a prominent
role in the anti-Vietnam War protests, but seems to have felt
a little lost ever since, and has only ever drifted into Jimi's
reaches a point in his life where nothing seems to make sense,
and he decides that he has to finally get to know his father
properly. Unfortunately, Jimi discovers that Joe too has experienced
some kind of crisis and has taken off to Vietnam to try to
sort himself out. So Jimi follows in his father's footsteps,
but frustratingly always finds himself a step behind. He walks
the same roads, talks to the same people, and even sleeps
in the same rooms as his father, but can't quite seem to catch
up. Along the way Jimi begins to learn a whole lot more about
Joe and the war, courtesy of a collection of Joe's writing
passed onto him by his mother before he left. He also seems
to discover more about himself. He learns about mateship,
about loyalty, both to a cause and to a friend, and even a
little about love when he meets Thao.
Hey Joe, Michael Hyde successful recalls the
tumultuous times of Vietnam War period; and also provides
an insight into post-war Vietnam, a country still trying to
rebuild after decades of war.
Reading activity: Map the story
a map of Vietnam, and as you read the novel, map Jimi's movements.
For each stop, briefly record Jimi's actions. Use the following
list as a guide:
out exactly what you want to write before you write it on
You can either trace a large map of Vietnam and include all
of your on the map, or a smaller map and draw arrows to the
writing around the outside of the map.
on the map for access to a bigger map of Vietnam
memory of July Fourth, 1968, will probably never leave me.
The violence at the demonstration - I've experienced nothing
like it before. The night still spits and crackles in my brain.
Some incidents I can see and hear clearly, but who did what
and in what order, I haven't a clue. It was a riot. (p.
back at Melbourne newspapers around the 4th of July 1968 and
see if you can find 5-8 newspaper articles about this demonstration
(or about the wider issue of the war). Look for editorials,
opinion articles and letters to the editor as well as news articles.
Complete the following for each article:
the details: headline, writer, publication and date.
a short synopsis; noting the position of the article, that
is, pro-war or anti-war. This may be implied (as in a news
article), or directly stated (editorials, opinions and letters).
write a summary of your findings. (100-150 word)
task: repeat this task for the 2003 Iraqi War see if you
can draw any comparisons between the two.
the Vietnam War features heavily throughout the novel, it is
also a story about personal struggle and relationships and explores
the key themes of family, mateship, and romance.
quest to find Joe, his father.
boundless love and support for her son.
need to reconcile his relationship with Brian Hamilton.
a) Jimi and Joe
A couple of weeks was all it had taken for me to break
up with my girlfriend, Sally, leave work, organize uni, money,
visa, plane ticket and say my farewells. And now that I am
ten thousand metres above sea level and on my way to Vietnam
everything seems more real and terrifying at the same time.
And for what?
It sounds so trite, melodramatic: I am going to find Joe Thorn,
my father - a man who has rarely been a part of my life, who
has no idea that I was looking for him and who may not want
to be found. (p. 17)
and write about three important experiences you have shared
with your own father - or a father figure. (200-300 words)
Explain why you think Jimi feels such an urgent need to find
Joe. (100-200 words)
Does Joe have valid excuses for his neglect of Jimi over the
years? (100-200 words)
task: The relationship between father and son is one that
is often explored in literature and film. Find three other stories
that explore tension between father and son, write about these:
explain the conflict and the resolution if there is one.
Jimi and Molly
the midst of this, I had dinner at Mum's partly renovated
house in Clifton Hill. We regularly saw each other.
relationship between Molly and Jimi is very loving and supportive,
Molly seems to allow Jimi a healthy amount of space, but knows
when to step in and give him the help he needs.
Document three occasions where Molly aids Jimi's search for
his father, use quotes to help illustrate your points. (40-50
Joe and Brian
I used to think I was indestructible. I figure that most
of us at nineteen or twenty think that. And I thought that
I'd feel pretty shit when I killed my first. But I don't.
Well, maybe a bit, but you can't afford to. We've got a job
suppose you are the last person I should be telling this to.
hear about the protests from time to time but they don't bother
us that much. Although some of the guys reckon they're going
to come round and punch the students' fucking heads in when
they get back. I haven't told the, that I know one of those
leftie pinko pricks.(p.
So you see, Brian - there were other paths to take. Not
easy ones but ones where you wouldn't have had to go to war
at the command of the supercop of the world
mate. You shouldn't have gone. We would've looked after you.
crept out onto the deck and sat watching the moon play hide-and-seek
with the night clouds. I wished I had a joint so I could chill
out and dream of my father and Brian Hamilton surfing the
waves, sitting on cliff tops talking about life, being mates,
crapping on about footy, music, women
all I could see was a dark time when two friends grew apart
and finally no longer saw each other. (p. 107-08)
the theme of two friends falling out and joining opposite sides,
or becoming enemies, is a popular one. Think of Macbeth and
Banquo, or any western or mafia film, and stories of the American
Civil War or even the Holocaust in Germany often feature former
friends on opposing sides. Like Macbeth, Joe can't escape 'the
ghost of Brian Hamilton', but unlike Macbeth there is no clear
villain, there is just circumstance.
If you had the chance to write to Joe about his relationship
with Brian, the friendship, the different paths, the letters,
and the search - what would you say? Did Joe act honourably?
Was Brian guilty of a lack of conviction, or was he following
his heart, doing his duty for his country? Write to Joe about
this. (200-300 words)
d) Jimi and Thao
in the morning and we drove off, my cheek warmed by Thao's
kiss and a rosebud she dropped in my lap.
safe and come back to me," she had whispered. (p.
were many paths I could follow. And many combinations. Perhaps
Joe had found his home. But here wasn't for me. I had found
my father. I'd gone further than I thought I could. And now
I wanted to go home.' (p. 212)
Chapter 1 - 'Here He Comes' Jimi breaks up with Sally because
he feels compelled to go on a search for his father. In the
final chapter, 'Hey Joe' Jimi meets his dad and is now free
to find his own path; a path that could involve Thao, a young
Vietnamese woman from the guesthouse in Hanoi, 34 Luong The
Write the next chapter of Jimi's life. (Remember he only has
a day or two left on his visa.)
you went, people worried, debated, discussed and yelled.
Joe documents a time when there was a lot of discussion
in Australia about politics and national identity. The novel
raises a number of very interesting issues, many of which are
still pertinent in contemporary Australia.
is a list of debating topics lifted from some of the actions
and discussion in Hey Joe, but which have implications beyond
the Vietnam conflict. You will need to form teams of three and
choose a topic for debate (your teacher may prefer to devise
teams and assign topics). Your teacher will also supply you
with material outlining the principles of good debating. Once
you've been assigned your topic look both to the novel and beyond
it to find material to help build your arguments.
Australia enter a war simply to protect its relationship with
a powerful ally?
conscription a fair and just way to recruit service men and
women in times of war?
your government [is] committing an atrocity, [is] it right
to support those they wish to oppress?' (p. 140)
it right to use violence to combat a perceived injustice?
below me, Melbourne slipped away - the city, factories, schools,
footy ovals, the bay, suburbs, friends and family. All disappearing
into the ether as I sit here in limbo. (p. 17)
Hey Joe the main character Jimi embarks on a
physical journey. He is trying to track down his father who
has also embarked on journey. Joe, an anti-war protestor, is
trying to come to terms with the death of his friend Brian Hamilton,
who was killed in action in Vietnam. The journeys in the novel
are not just physical, but have a strong spiritual element to
them as well. The ideas of journey and growth have been connected
for thousands of years, for example, pilgrimages in the Bible
and Homer's epic poem Ulysses.
Recall a travel experience from your own life that also involved
personal growth. It doesn't have to be something grand like
an overseas trip; it could be something as simple as a bike
ride to the next suburb, or a cemetery walk at night, or the
first time you walked away from your parents on the beach and
you begin you need to think about your structure. You could
wrote about the journey from start to finish and gradually reveal
what you learnt, or you could try something more complex and
start in the middle and flash back and forward, or at the end
and work backwards. The important thing is that you plan your
piece and think about why you want to structure it a particular
Notes for a Novel
uses Joe's NOTES FOR A NOVEL to tell Jimi (and
the reader) about Joe's life, the sixties, and the Vietnam War.
The writing is passionate and vivid, and filled with dramatic
images. It helps explain why Joe hasn't been a stable presence
in Jimi's life and why he travels to Vietnam again. It also
provides clues as to where Joe might be. There are twelve excerpts
from Joe's writing in the novel, as well as two letters from
THE FOURTH, 1968 (p. 11)
MILKO'S HORSE (p. 42)
DID WE GET HERE? (p. 55)
PEOPLE'S ARMY (p. 79)
from Vung Tao (p. 100)
from Nui Dhat (p. 104)
SHOULDN'T HAVE GONE (p. 106)
TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN (p. 108)
EIGHTH MORATORIUM (p. 110)
TO THE NLF (p. 139)
TRAMS ON GLENHUNTLY ROAD (p. 162)
SOLDIERS NEVER DIE (p. 181)
TAKES ALL KINDS (p. 189)
BAKERY (p. 199)
Choose one of the excerpts (or letters) and make a collage that
visually represents the writing. You could work in pairs for
this task and your teacher may wish to assign excerpts so that
they are all covered.
task: Choose 4-5 dramatic or momentous events from your
own life and write about each using a style similar to that
used by Joe in the novel. He uses a first person narrative and
writes in past tense. The writing is similar to journal writing,
in that he uses a mix of reportage and reflection. Remember,
when you write the first draft just try to let the words run,
and resist any urge you may have to shape or edit them; that
can come later.
mother was crazy about Jimi Hendrix when I was born
Of course, that's where my name comes from . . . (p. 77)
Hendrix is not only responsible for the name of the main character,
but the novel itself is named after one of his songs, 'Hey Joe',
as are all of the chapters. Furthermore, Hendrix's music helps
set the tone of the novel.
one of the sites below for the lyrics of 'Hey Joe'
Why is the novel called Hey Joe? Carefully read
the lyrics of the song and suggest reasons why Hyde has named
his character after the character in the song, and also why
he has named his novel after song. (100-200 words)
learn some important things about the war from the 'Notes for
a Novel' written by Joe Thorn and the 'Author's Note', but there
is lots more to uncover. Here are some topics to explore, again
your teacher will help devise groups and assign topics.
rule of Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh
Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War
about the Vietnam War
anti-war movement both in Australia and in the US
inspired by the anti-war movement
your presentation try to link some of your findings back to
to include some visual material in your presentation.
will also be useful to have an interactive element in you
presentation, such as a quiz or an activity related to your
presentation should be between 5-10 minutes long.
of research and planning
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(including links to Hey Joe)
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his problems, Joe must accept full responsibility for the
neglect of his son, Jimi. Do you agree?
search for his father also becomes a search for his own identity.
many of the characters in the novel, the Vietnam War isn't
completely over. Discuss.
'I will miss you like crazy. I hope you don't hate me because
I have no hatred for you. I only have sadness . . . And love.'
Hamilton's death is critical to the sense of disaffection
in the novel. Discuss.
the sadness and the hurt documented in the novel, the ending
is full of hope and possibility. Do you agree?
guide by Lou Scacciante, English Teacher at The University High