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IGCSE short stories
Transcript of IGCSE short stories
The narrator gains a ghostly aspect at the end, when we find out he is dead, and this introduces the idea of Spiritualism that is key to the story. The narrator characterises himself as a risk taker, admitting, 'one often does foolish things', to the reader. This adds to his sense of honesty but also makes us question his decision-making. Somewhat strangely, he does not seem at all afraid of dying, using phrases such as, 'great, roaring, golden death', that seem to celebrate our end as some kind of ultimate sensual experience. Similarly, he seems enthralled to the machine with its, 'brilliant', lights and its, 'whirring', wheels. This is important to remember when considering the modernist setting of the story.
Perkins is presented as a thoroughly decent man, although his importance to the plot is not as crucial as the narrator. His offer to, 'keep her steady', is heroic, yet when the narrator tells Perkins to jump to safety, he decides to, 'stick it out'. Does this suggest that Perkins too is in awe of the machine, or is it simply human nature at its finest? What perhaps is most interesting about Perkins, is that he can be seen as symbolising the fact that man no longer relies on other men now that he has the machine. The stories climax is the crash. This is emphasised by the repetion, 'and then', as well as the hyphons that seem to suggest a dramatic change is imminent. At first we think that Perkins must have died, but the real surprise is when the naarrator is informed by another spirit that he, himself, is dead. The, 'wave of amazement', that passes over the narrator is in many ways, an epiphanic moment that supports the earlier suggestion that death is in many ways, the climax of our physical lives. Technology:
'The new life of iron and the machine, the roar of automobiles, the glitter of electric lights, the whirring of propellers, have awoken the soul', Kazimir Malevich, 1916 Futurism, amongst other modernist movements, celebrated the machine and mass production as powerful symbols of mans creative power. How It Happened, written during this era, clearly tries to imitate this celebration of the machine. Although the car is personfied as a woman, the compound nouns and adjectives that are used to describe it, such as, 'polished brass', 'thirty-horse power Robur', and, 'great, roaring, golden death', serve to emphasise its potential and power. Indeed, notice how as the story goes on, Conan Doyle presents the car as being in control, 'she righted and darted onwards', as opposed to the driver. Death:
Arthur Conan Doye was a Spiritualist. This mans he believed that after your death, you could continue to live on as a spirit. It was also believed that these spirits could communicate with the living through people known as, 'mediums'. Obviously this belief is present in the story where the narrator has to have survived his death in order to tell us how it happened. This idea is given more credence when we know that the story originally started with the line, 'This story was told to me by a medium'. Think about what death appears to mean to Conan Doyle in comparison to the story Secrets. Meteor Plot Summary Setting Atmosphere Narrative Voice Characterisation Climax Themes Plot Summary Setting Atmosphere Narrative Voice Characterisation Climax Themes The world of the humans is distracted around dinner time by a large crash. We can guess it is in the future because the people appear accustomed to meteors crashing into the earth and other things such as the, 'secret list', and the, 'inspector'. As the story unfolds, it turns out that while the humans think that a harmless piece of stone from outer space has crashed, they have in fact been discovered by an advanced alien race that wishes to live in peaceful co-existence. Unfortunately the aliens are so small that the humans do not take them seriously, and the story ends with the aliens being killed with an insecticide. The atmosphere changes depending on which narrative we are reading. The human world appears to be involved in an everyday mystery involving a strange crash and conflict between the Inspector and the people. Onn's version of events is far more action packed. It is full of action and sensation and, depending on how quickly you guess the meteor and the globe are the same thing, mystery.
The human world comes accross as an extremely hostile world. All the animals in it seem interested only in attacking or killing other animals and the ruler of this kingdom are the humans, who are the most indiscrimatory in their killing. The murder of Onn and his men is committed so quickly and with so little thought, that we are left with a feeling of anger towards the humans. Narrative Voice is key to the story. The first obvious point is that it has two narrators, which is unusual. This serve more than one purpose. On the surface, it enables Wyndham to contrast the opinions of two different characters and therefore make the story more interesting and involving. However, it also enables him to create a contrast between what can be seen as the human world vision, and that of an outsider.
This second point is central to understanding the story. It is obvious fairly quickly to us, from Onn's diary, that the 'meteor' is, in fact, a highly advanced space craft. However, the humans are not capable of imagining this, even when at the end they seem to have discovered all of the supplies hidden inside of it. This alludes to human arrogance which is a central theme to the story.
There is also a clear contrast between the mentalities of the two species. Where man sees the meteor as a potential weapon and destroys the 'bugs' with insecticide, Onn and his men have come in search of peace and wish to share information and discoveries. What is Wyndham tryoing to tell us through his dual narration?
Finally, think about the form. Onn's narrative is in the form of a diary. An organised journal, associated with science, reason and order. The human narration is not. What could this be symbolic of? The climax of this story would seem to be the death of Onn and his crew. This represents the ultimate stupid and destructive act of the humans. Up until this point, the reader is possibly still expecting one of the human characters to realise what is actually happening and the end of the story to be based around that. The fact it does not adds a twist to the tale and makes the reader feel as stupid as the humans in the story. Human Arrogance:
The story suggests man is an arrogant creature and that this arrogance makes him too stupid to be able to communicate with other species. Think about the time that the story was written and why Wyndham may have felt that humans were nothing but a self-obsessed, war-like species. Technology:
Technology in the story can be both constructuve and destructive. The globes are almost like artificial civilisation eggs. They are designed to create and their creation is a peaceable race. This contrasts with most of man's inventions that are created to destroy. Interestingly, a modern audience also realises the insecticide that kills the bugs will also damage the plants it is supposed to protect.
Secrets Plot Summary Setting Atmosphere Narrative Voice Characterisation Climax Themes A 17/18 year old boy witnesses his Aunt's death and this triggers memories of when he was young. He remembers how much he loved her. However, she caught him reading her private letters once and never forgave him, leaving him deeply sad. The letters were from a lover from her past who went to war and then joined the priesthood afterwards, meaning she could never marry and love him as she wanted. The setting is important in this story. Physically, the story starts at the Aunt's bedside. This is a personal place for anyone and introduces us to a story that deals with extreme personal sorrow. The other locations are all inside the house of the Aunt, adding to this sense of intimacy. Furthermore, the letters are based from the War, which naturally gives rise to sadness and regret in the modern reader.
It is important to remember that all of this story is a memory and that in many ways, this is a setting. The events occur in the memory of the boy and this ties up the ideas of sadness, regret, love and loss with memory. The story seems to suggest that all these feelings are somehow related with sadness being the feeling that is left once all the others have gone. There is a sense of inevitability to the emptiness left at the end of the story and you may wish to consider how the author creates this. The narrative voice is split between the third person narrator and the letters from the Aunt's lover. This leaves the reader to work out for themself that John becomes Brother Benignus after the war, and is therefore, 'dead', to the narrator's Aunt. Again, the fact that we learn these details through a letter show how personal this is. Furthermore, the letters are symbolic of the ideas, or themes, suggested in the story: love, memories, secrets etc... their burning is deeply symbolic because once gone, they exist only in the memory of the boy. There appears to be a cycle of love that turns to loss and then a regretful memory. Think about what fire can represent. Often it is passion. Once the letters are burnt, all that remains is ash and similarly, once love has gone, all that remains is loss and regret. All the characters in this story are human and none of them has particular characteristics that make them that different to anyone we know. This adds to the sense of this being a personal, but everyday story that anyone can empathise with. Notice how the Mother's careless burning of the letters is reminiscent of the human's killing of Onn and his men in Meteor. This serves to emphasise how something that is deeply important to one person can be totally insignificant to the next.
Both the boy and the Aunt cared deeply about someone else. The boy loved his Aunt and the Aunt loved John. However, the overiding memory both have of their loves is one of dissapointment and being let down. In many ways, the story's climax can be seen as the burning of the letters. As mentioned, this is symbolic and is the destruction of the last evidence of the Aunt's story. The events are made more brutally tragic once we know that the records have been destroyed. Like the letters, love is terminal and will end.
However, after this climax, the story continues to play on our emotions and the final lines, where the boy finds out his Aunt never forgave him, are perhaps the most powerful in the story. Secrets:
Why do we keep secrets? The Aunt never tells the boy about her love, even though she knows he has read the letters. The boy never reveals what he knows to his mother, even when she is going to burn the letters. Does this suggest that pain is something we can not share, but must bear alone? Love:
Love, although enjoyable, appears to be terminal and finite. This means that once it has gone, it does not come back and we are left empty. There is something tragic about love that is difficult to understand and in many ways it is inevitable. Interestingly, John joins the church instead of returning and marrying the Aunt. There is an irony here that in joining an institution that claims to unite people, John in fact alienates his true love. Memories:
Memories are clearly important in the story as everything is narrated from them. Memories are personal to all of us. For example, two people might experience the same event and have totally different memories of it. For this reason, the memories make the story personal to the boy and his Aunt, through her letters. There Will Come
Soft Rains Plot Summary Setting Atmosphere Narrative Voice Characterisation Climax Themes This post-apocolyptic science-fiction story describes how a robot house is all that is left after a nuclear weapon has destroyed a city. The house continues in its programmed routines even though there is no one there to enjoy the food, drink and orderliness of the house. Eventually, the house runs out of supplies with which to defend itself and is consumed by a fire. The story is based on a poem of the same name, and it is essential we understand this before discussing: There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone. Swallows are a migratory bird that come to the northern hemisphere in Spring. ALong with the rain, they give an image of renewal, refreshment and rebirth This line suggests there has been a large scale war and that that is the reason there are no people. Human concerns are of no importance to nature Spring is personified as her. This is because Spring symbolises birth. However, man is portrayed as being in opposition, an enemy, to Spring. This is crucial to understanding the story Setting is essential to this story. It is set well in the future which enables Bradbury to invent new technology etc... As well as this, we are told that,'The house stood alone in a city of rubble and ashes'. The city is man's ultimate symbol of civilisation as within it, thousands and thousands of people live side by side. However, this city is destroyed and that metaphorically suggests that civilisation itself has been torn apart. The house is where the family lives, a personal space, yet this house has nothing personal about it. If anything, the personification of it serves to underline the fact that machinery can never replace humanity.
Also consider the weather. We are told, 'it was raining outside'. Is this the, 'soft rain', from the poem, cleansing the earth and facilitating the re-growth of nature. Importantly, the rain can not get inside the house. What does this suggest about man and nature? Are they harmonious? The atmosphere is somewhat empty, or lonely ion the story. It is difficult to reead a story about a robot as we are unable to empathise with it. Bradbury personifies all the little machines that work in the house, yet we still feel no attachment to them. Even when the animals appear in the nursery, we can not really recognise them because they have been corrupted, the lions are blue, the antelopes pink and the panthers lilac. The computer has malfunctioned and, like man, has misunderstood nature.
Weather and the sun are crucial here and you may wish to track reference to them throughout the text. The final lines tell us that, 'Dawn showed faintly in the east'. Is there imagery here and what does it suggest? The story is narrated from a third person point of view. This third person seems detached from humanity and does not offer sympathy at man's plight, or fate. This in many ways, makes the story darker and more hard-hitting, as we do not get the sympathy we expect. The story's climax is the final destruction of the house. This is introduced with the line, 'At ten o'clock the house began to die'. The personification adds emphasis to the idea that unlike nature, humans and their creations are not able to re-generate or experience re-birth. We die and that is it. Also, this is the last time that a specific hour is named and the story then ends with the repetition of the date and year. Is this challenging our concept of time? We try to classify it by creating numbers and names to organise days, weeks and years, but in reality, this is pointless as there is no beginning and end to a cycle.
The house is consumed by fire, but it has no water to save itself. Notice that the rain has stopped, nature does not save the house as the house does not belong to nature. Like man, the house is responsible for its own destruction as it does not have suffiecient supplies to protect itself. The house is characterised throughout the story with relentless personfication. However, it is still difficult for us to treat it as a 'character'. Despite Bradbury's efforts, the house remains a machine that we can not empathise with. How much does the personification add to this? By using so much, it becomes clichèd. Ignorance and Arrogance of Man:
Man is portrayed as self-destructive. Considering that typically art celebrates man's place in nature, this story would seem to suggest that nature is better off without us and therefore we are not only ignorant, but arrogant for thinking we were so important or special. Man and the Gods:
The story suggests that the machines serve the house in the same way man once served God. As this is futile and pointless, is Bradbury suggesting that our own religions were also shown to be pointless over time. Think about the line, 'But the Gods had gone away'. Who are the Gods and what is it saying about the people who made the house? Religion is described as a, 'senseless', ritual. The atmosphere in the story is full of mystery and energy. Notice how quickly the plot moves, imitating the speed of the automobile and emphasising the lack of control the driver has over it.
The title also immediately introduces suspense as we wonder what, 'it refers', to. The fact that the narrator can only remember, 'some things most distinctly', whereas the rest is a, 'vague, broken dream', adds to this. However, the biggest red herring is how the narrator speaks from memory in the first person, fooling us into believing he must still be alive. It is this that makes the twist at the end so much more powerful. Plot Summary Plot Summary Plot Summary Plot Summary Narrative Voice Narrative Voice Narrative Voice Narrative Voice Setting Setting Setting Setting Atmosphere Atmosphere Atmosphere Atmosphere Characterisation Characterisation Characterisation Characterisation Climax Climax Climax Climax Themes Themes Themes Themes The Yellow Wallpaper The Yellow Wallpaper is a story about a lady who appears to be suffering from a nervous disposition. Although today this would appear to be Post Natal Depression, it is important to remember that this was not a recognised illness at the time. Her husband, a physician, decides that the best treatment for her would be some time in the country where she can rest and reinvigorate herself. As the story goes on, the woman appears to become more and more obsessed with the wallpaper in her room until eventually she seems to lose her sanity. Setting is hugely important in this story as it is set in the United States during the Victorian era. At that time, particularly in the United States, it was believed that men and women had different temperaments which were the opposite of one another. For example, men were believed to be rational and straight thinking. This meant that women had to be emotional and irrational. The man was supposed to work and earn a living for his family, meaning that the woman must stay at home and ensure that the house was in good order for her husband. Both these beliefs are strongly protrayed and in many ways criticised in the story. The story was also written just before what is known as the modernist era in art and culture. Many movements blossomed during this time including, amongst others, feminism. This story is most definitely an early feminist text and its writer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, was an early feminist thinker. The story unravels at a country manor. In particular, the main location is the bedroom where the protagonist seems to spend all of her time. The house is a powerful symbol of not only family life, but also American Society and the American Dream. The actual room used to be a nursery and you may wish to consider the importance of her being trapped here. Like the Victorian Woman, the narrator is restricted by Victorian marriage convention and the role it gives her. This idea is supported by the rings and bars, things that were of use to the children, evoking a prison-like atmosphere. Finally, the wallpaper itself can be seen as a metaphor for the narrators mind. She sits in the room all day looking at the wallpaper and into her own mind. Eventually, she sees another woman, apparently trying to get out of the wallpaper. Again, this appears to allude to the position of the Victorian woman, trying to escape from male dominated society and express her own mind and ideas. Notice how the woman she sees is more of a form. She lacks identity or individuality. The following quote is from Perkins Gilman herself and is difficult to overlook when thinking about the woman in the paper: 'Slow advancing, halting creeping,
Comes the woman to the hour! -
She walketh veiled and sleeping,
For she knoweth not her power' The woman is unsure of herself and lacks confidence She is veiled and so you can not see her face. She lacks identity Women are just as inteligent as men perhaps more, and therefore should have just as much power. The atmosphere is in many ways chilling as we witness a woman having a nervous breakdown. There is an energy to the text, created by the inconsistent paragraphs and multiple explanation marks that fuels the feeling that her emotions are spiraling out of control. Indeed, althogh the ending would seem to confirm that the narrator has lost her mind, the reader can not help but feel she has somehow won her battle for freedom and self expression. There is a constant contrast between the ideas of freedom and imprisonment. Think about how the room has so many windows looking out into the garden, yet they are barred. Why do you think this is? Does it represent the paradox of John, the Victorian man who clearly loves his wife but does not understand her and in trying to help her, only damages her further? The story seems to climax right at the end when the narrator locks the door of her room and tries to tear all of the wallpaper down. This is clearly symbolic of her attempts to break from societal norm, or the norms of society. Symbolically, her walking over John represents her having conquered him, or beaten his male prejudice and broken free as a woman, however, it would appear that she has lost her sanity doing this. This in many ways frames her as a heroine. Can we therefore call the narrator a feminist heroine?
The story ends here and it is left to the reader to imagine what would happen next. Again, the quote from earlier would seem important as it speaks of the power that women hold and yet are not able to exert on society. Although the narrator loses her mind, the story is deeply rousing and finishes on an emotional high. Characterisation is important and there would appear to be three characters to consider:
John is a physician and therefore a symbol of male rationalism and belief. He clearly cares for and loves his wife and is the model of a good Victorian husband. It is not him, but the beliefs of his time that are criticised and he appears completely blind, or ignorant to what is really happening. His intention in calling his wife, 'blessed little goose', is sincere, yet sounds patronising to us.
Jenny is important because she fills the role of the traditional, or perfect Victorian wife. She is able to manage the house and look after the baby without causing any trouble or fuss. Notice how she is interested in the wallpaper, but unable to see through it. Like the woman in the quote before, she seems not to realise her own power. She is happy to conform to society and therefore does not see it as a prision.
The narrator recognises that society and convention restrict her personal freedom to think and be a woman. This is why she sees the images in the paper and why she sees her room in the nursery like a jail. Her erratic, or irregular sentence patterns and paragraphs reflect her gradual emotional breakdown. The quote on the opening page, 'one expects that in marrige', can not be overlooked and you may wish to consider if the tone her is sincere or sarcastic. Gender - what were the roles of men and women in Victorian society? How does Gilma seem to feel about them? Think about the role of the woman within a marraige and how fair this is.
Imprisonment/Discrimination - Obviously this links with other stories and you may wish to consider how the narrator defies these things, for example by writing in the first place.
Male arrogance - Again, this links nicely with other stories where male arrogance is criticised. Man has little time for Art, feelings and emotions.
Love and Relationships - It appears that the woman has to give up everything for her husband. How does this compare to the emotional climax in the Third and Final Continent, for example? The Lemon Orchard The story involves a group of white South Africans who have taken a black man prisoner and wish to teach him a lesson. The black man is a teacher in a school and was, 'cheeky and uncivilised', towards a white church minister. Obviously this could mean very little, but he was beaten for it anyway. The black man complained to a magistrate and demanded payment. For this, the white men have decided enough is enough and he must be beaten. This aspect of the plot immediately identifies unfariness or injustice as a key theme. The story takes place in a lemon orchard. A lemon is a fruit that has a bittersweet smell and is very sour to taste. This contradictory nature seems to be associated with the version of humanity on show. Furthermore, an orchard is a cultivated group of trees. This not only suggests order, but also civilisation as the ability to farm land is often associated with man's progress form savage to civilised. The fact that the events occur in an Orchard reflect that these incidents can and do happen in 'civilised' countries under the protection of governments and the ruling politicians. The incident is all the more brutal as it occurs in this location. You may wish to consider if the story would have been so powerful if it had happended in an inner city or a slum. The atmosphere is very tense and is manipulated using variuous techniques, most importantly, nature. To begin with, the moon is, 'hiding'. This suggests that it does not wish to see what is happening. Traditionally in Art, nature is seen as a good power and so it makes sense that it is not involved in the actions below. Similarly, the men have had to dress to protect themselves from the cold. This suggests that they are working against nature and not with it. It is not man's nature to kill or hurt other men. All the darkness and cold do however, forebode something bad will happen.
At the end of the story, this changes. The moon comes out and covers, 'the leaves with wet silver'. We are told that the men are now at, 'a small amphitheatre surrounded by fragrant growth'. Nature has created the perfect scene for them to commit their crime. This is known as a perversion of nature as the author has used nature as a bad, or evil force. In many ways, it serves to emphasise how unnatural, or wrong the actions of the men are. Furthermore, in describing the scene as an amphitheatre, the narrator suggests that these actions are part of a play. Is this saying that the events are not a once off, but ones that are repeated throughout the history of humanity by different civilisations and cultures? The story is written in the third person and would appear to be un-biased. This lets the reader draw their own conclusion as to the characters of the men and their actions. However, the fact that the narrator does not seem sympathetic to any of the characters adds to the harsh reality of the situation. The story seems to end just before it's obvious climax, as we are perhaps expecting to see the prisoner punished. The fact that we do not witness this helps make the ending more memorable as there are a number of questions left unanswered. It seems likely that the prisoner will at least take a beating and at worst could end up dead. The author is careful not to include too much physical violence in the story, only one punch is thrown. This makes it extremely tense and gives us more time to consider why the men are doing this. Characterisation is very important in the story. The author describes Oom as if he is a demonic spirit. Instead of describing his nose, mouth or hair, for example, he descirbes the lines on Oom's face. This helps to de-humanise Oom. The africaans words that are used are full of threat and violence and even if we don't understand them, we can sense they are both offensive and aggressive. Ooom is dressed in military-style khaki clothes and two of the men carry military whips. This gives the group both a sense of organisation and authority and also can make the mission seem more like a ritual.
The prisoner does not say a lot, but his silence is how he defies his captors. They want to see him afraid and angry and in denying them this, he is resisting them. We are told that he is educated and a teacher so we can assume that he is intelligent and therefore his situation is even more apalling to us. Social Injustice is clearly a theme here and as a reader we can find it difficult to believe that the men can get away with that they are doing. By ritualising the event, the author is perhaps suggesting that these things happen in all culures and civilisations and that it is perhaps in our nature to be cruel to each other.
Defiance, or Resistance is also present in the story as the black man does his best to ignore the men's insults and instructions. His defiance is passive, unlike in the Yellow Wallpaper where the woman defies her husband by writing her diary.
Racism is obviously also important to the story, although we can consider this alongside Social Injustice. The Taste of Watermelon This is a story about Coming of Age. You may also refer to this as a Loss of Innocence. In the story, the narrator recalls an incident from his childhood when he stole a watermelon from a local farmer, Mr. Wills. The narrator tells us how he was not from the country originally and still felt there was a distance between himself and his friends. He decides to steal the melon from the fearsome Mr. Wills to prove himself to his friends. However, once he has stolen and eaten part of it, he regrets what he has done and ends up apologising to Wills. Setting is used in the story to great effect. The story happens in summer, and the idea of the fruit all being at it's most mature ties in with the idea that the narrator himself is maturing and growing into a young man. The idea of being able to control nature and farm it seems to be associated with adulthood and it is telling that at the end of the story the narrator is invited to help Mr. Wills in planting next years seeds. Seeds themselves, of course, are symbolic of growth.
The story seems to relate very strongly to the original loss of innocence told in the bible when Adam and Eve ate an apple form the tree of knowledge. Notice how the narrator compares himself to a snake when he is approaching the melon and how the character of Wills changes from a vengeful, angry man before the theft to a forgiving and caring father figure after it. The atmosphere is in some ways full of tension as we wonder if the narrator will be shot trying to steal the melon. Once the act is committed, the narrator becomes depressed and we are left thinking about what will happen to him when Mr. Wills finds out and how he is going to make up for it. The story climaxes when he smashes the melon and returns home depressed. The story is emotinoally charged and this outbreak is the climax of these emotions. After this, we wait for the denoument, or conclusion to come. He has become self aware and begins to take responsibility for his own actions. Characterisation is important as we can see similarities in the way Mr Wills is characterised at first and the character of Oom in The Lemon Orchard. Wills is described like an animal, with, 'glistening', teeth and an angry temperament. However, once the narrator has admitted his crime, Wills is shown to actually be a loving father and husband. His tears when he destoyed the rest of his crop were actually for his wife who he had been hoping to please with the melon. This outburst of emotion makes him more human than he was before and we can see that the boy's original description of Wills was wrong.
The narrator himself is a typical teenage boy, who's desire to impress his friends and the girl he likes pushes him into a bad decision, to steal the melon. Although he becomes more self-aware and apologises to Mr. Wills, he remains bold as we can see when he offers to sit on the porch with Willadean at the end of the story. The Third and Final Continent The story is about a man who travels from India to England and then to the United States. Along the way, he has to adapt to changes in culture and environments as well as to a new family life. The story contrasts everyday frivolties with extraordinary achievement and you may wish to consider how this adds to the emotional climax of the story. Setting is extremely important as the story, fundamentally, is about change. It begins with his journey out of India and to England, where although in a different geographical location, he is able to enjoy similar things that he could in India with many Bengali friends. However, he does tell us things towards the end of the story that show us it was not as easy to adapt to as it at first seems. It is also important that he leaves India in 1964. The sixties was an important decade in recent cultural change. Although not really important to your essay writing, this was the year that the Civil Rights Bill was signed in America, setting in motion huge change in racial relations in that country. As well as this, the Vietnaam war declared, the Beatles launched themselves in the USA and the young boxer Cassius Clay won the World boxing Heavyweight title. The story moves onto the city of Boston where the narrator has to come to terms with differences between British and American culture. He meets Mrs. Croft who influences him a lot and eventually sets up his own home and family in the area. The atmosphere becomes more and more emotive as the story goes on. To begin with, the narrator seems cold and does not really give us any deatils on how he felt about things and how they effected him. This makes him seem distant. He also frequently presents extraordinary achievements in very everyday terms, such as the astronauts who return to earth with only, 'rocks', in their pockets. This ambivolence makes the emotion all the more striking when it arrives and you may wish to consider quotations such as: when thinking about this. 'I began to worry', page 389
'Mala laughed then. Her voice was full of kindness', page 393
'one day her death would effect me', page 393 The narrative voice is important as it is in the first person and this should therefore give us greater insight into the emotions of the narrator. The fact that it does not do this adds to the power of the few occasions it does. As a reader we can't help but feel distant to the narrator because of his lack of feeling. However, as the story goes on, we grow closer as he slowly opens-up. Think about how this reflects his own gradual integration, or adaption to the places he lives and how this is cleverly effected by the author. We have talked about how the narrator characterises himself. Mrs. Croft is an important figure who was born in 1866. Her stiff clothes and personality reflect how she rigidly sticks to the attitudes and beliefs of her generation. Her own daughter is different to her in these attitudes and the narrator realises that his son will lose some of his Bengali heritage as he grows older and makes more friends. The author suggests therefore, that we can lose our heritage or culture both through time and from physically moving.
Similarly, Mala, his wife, gradually changes from when she arrives. We know that the narrator begins to eat beef and we can assume that eventually his wife also adapts to these Western traditions that were alien to them. The story is emotive and the climax can be difficult to point. The moment when he first begins to soften towards his wife, on page 393, would seem to be the first surge of emotion and therefore the obvious climax. This consists of the final paragraphs beginning, 'Mala rose to her feet', until the bottom of the page. Importantly, he is only able to openly laugh at Mrs. Croft's strange routine when there is someone else to share it with him. What do you think this suggests about cultures, traditions and routines? Themes such as adaptation, culture and relationships are prevalent. The central conflict in the story is the author's battle at first to adapt to a new country, a new wife and then family life. However, it is then suggested that having adapted, he mourns the loss of his heritage and in particular, the fact that his son and his children will lose their Bengali heritage even further. This conflict is not resolved and you may wish to consider the paradox of the situation. A paradox is two conflicting problems that can not be resolved. In this case, he wants to adapt and he wants to keep his heritage. He can not do both and therefore has a paradox. On Her Knees The story is about a University student and his mother who cleans houses in order to pay for his tuition fees. Conflictingly, he is both proud of and embarrased by his mother. These feelings are brought together when she is wrongly accused of stealing earrings from one of her clients. The author is Australian and so we can assume the story is set there during modern times. What is important is the class background of the narrator and his mother. She was previously a secretary at a Doctor's but stopped working once she married and had a child. Now however, she is a single mother who works as a cleaner. Think about how this may effect her social status. She saves her money to pay for her son's University education, and he admits his friends are, 'wealthy', suggesting there is a conflict between his social stanging as a Student and hers as a cleaner. The atmosphere is emotive as we are presented with the narrator's conflicting love and embarrassment for his mother and his background. This is made clear right from the beginning of the story where he talks about her, 'honour', and ,' stiff-necked working class pride' as well as the fact that he is too embarrassed to help her and stays home, 'stewing with guilt'. This is continued right up until the end when the emotion climaxes in the final lines of the story. Narrative voice is first person and this is important as it enables the author to show us the internal conflict suffered by the protagonist. There are also interesting language features as the voice is extremely informal, using slang and colloquialisms frequently. This not only makes the story more accessable to a young modern audience, but also helps add to characterisation of the protagonist as working class. Art has traditionally, over the last few hundred years, been produced by the educated classes who have been to University and studied. The author, Winton, came from a working class background and wanted to express this in his works. Compare the loose informal language of the story to others such as Dickens' Signalman or Perkins' Room with the Yellow Wallpaper. Characterisation is essential to this story as the mother is supposed to symbolie the working class ethos. She is hard working and proud of doing a job well that other people may think below them. She is professional at all times and regards the honour of her work more important than the socil status or money it provides. This is contrasted by the narrator himself who finds it difficult to accept the fact his mother cleans the houses of his richer friends. He feels that this degrades her and is also embarrassed by it.
The end of the story seems to suggest that he has settled his conflict and is now proud to subscribe to his mother's beliefs. Notice how she is described with, 'the light of day poiring through her limbs'. This characterises her like an angel and so we can assume that the narrator now shares her value for honour and wishes to show the reader the importance of this.
Although no richer characters appear physically in the story, it is important to note that they are portrayed as generally quite shallow, bragging about the quality of their personal cleaner and happy to accuse that person of theft before checking they haven't actually lost something. This clearly relates to morality. This is not really a suspense story, as it focuses more on the internal conflict of the narrator. Therefore the climax would appear to be the very end, where he leaves the earrings for the house owners to find and walks outside to join his mother. His description of her seems to suggest that she is the character in the story that we should admire and this realisation is the end to the stories main conflicts. The main themes are to do with social class, adaptation, morality and goodness. Social Class has been discussed a lot, but you may wish to compare the narrator's position, as a working class youth at University, to the Third and Final Continent's far travelling narrator.
When we talk about morality, we talk about what is right or wrong. For example, is it always wrong to lie or can lie sometimes be the correct thing to do? Current moral issues may involve things like abortion, capital punishment or whether or not a war can be justifiable. In the story, we see opposing moralities. The mother is accused of stealing, but still continues to do her job as best as she can, whereas the son wishes to seek vengance or simply stop cleaning the house. Furthermore, the morality of richer people is questioned. They assume poor people will steal from them and it is this morality that leads the house owner to accuse the narrator's mother. Remember morality was also a theme in The Taste of Watermelon. Plot Summary Setting Atmosphere Narrative Voice Climax Characterisation Theme This is a ghost story about a signalman who is killed when a train hits him. Before his death, he sees visions of a man that forebode his own death. However, the visions do are indecipherable and so although they are curious, they should not have prevented his death. Setting is important as Dickens goes to a lot of effort to make the story seem ghostly and surreal. Remember that the signalman works in a valley and that the descent into this place is described as if one is descending to the underworld of Greek Mythology. The, 'clammy stone', and the fact that it becomes, 'oozoer and wetter', help create this sense. The tunnel as well is described as having, 'wet stains', suggesting that this is a place you would not want to visit. Think about how this helps make an eerie atmosphere and makes it easier for us to imagine spirits, apparitions and other ghostly aspects. In a ghost story, atmosphere is important as the author needs to create both suspense and mystery. The appearances of the spirit help to create suspense as we expect them to lead us to the climax. However, they are really red herrings as it is the signalman himself who dies.
Dickens creates a strong atmosphere of mystery through the characterisation of his characters as well as his long complex sentences that can be difficult to unravel. He also describes things very ambiguously, such as the signalman who is not only,'dark', and, 'sallow', but has a, ' dark beard', and, 'heavy eyebrows'. This makes him difficult to imagine because if ecerything is dark, you would not be able to make out his features.
Also, you may notice that Dickens does not always use quotation marks when telling us what people say. This undermines the narrator as we can not be sure if he is quoting directly, or making up what was said by the signalman. Indeed, for much of the story we find ourselves doubting either the signalman, the narrator, or both of them. The narrative voise is first person and we find that until the end of the story we are not sure if we can totally trust it. This is due to the ambiguities in the descriptions of things as well as the lack of information about the narrator himself. Indeed, he tells us that he is, 'a man who had been shut up within narrow limits', until, 'at last set free'. Can we understand this to mean he has spent a long time in prison or is he referring metaphorically to something else? TRUE? FALSE? The way in which the two men are characterised has been discussed briefly and you may wish to do a quote hunt to find ways in which they are both characterised in very indefinite terms. Usually, when you read a novel, you feel you know the protagonist intimately and that you can picture them in your mind. Both these characters remain shrouded in mystery and this adds to the sense of curiosity that surrounds the story. The story climaxes with the death of the signalman. We are perhaps expecting someone else to die or the signalman to save someone, so this is a great surprise the reader. Furthermore, to ensure that the story ends as mysteriously as it began, there is no real conclusion or denoument to the story. The narrator ends it without trying to offer any kind of explanatino leaving the reader confused and mystified. ? Themes in the story include death, the supernatural and reason. Notice how the writer contrasts reason with the paranormal. Structurally, he sometimes uses the convention of quotation marks and sometimes does not. This also reflects the contrasts of rationality and supernatural goings on. The narrator tries to apply reason to the visions that the signalman has, yet the final image of the story is of the narrator seeing the image of the signalman and the ghost himself. Think about how haunting this final image is and how Dickens cleverly manipulates tension to give it this effect. The story was written in 1918 and involves a high-powered automobile. This suggests to us the the story must have been written about the present at the time, so is set in the early 1900's. It is also set in London. At that time, London was still the centre of an empire and this is important as the story involves aspects of modernism. The story is Science Fiction and is set in the future. This is important as the author, Wyndham, is able to offer a darkly comical criticism of humanity at the same time as what would appear to be a simple story about misunderstanding. In creating a situation whereby an alien comments on the action of man, he can disassociate himself from the obvious criticisms made by Onn. In many ways, Wyndham seems to characterise humans as arrogant, stupid and warlike. This is directly contrasted by Onn and his men, who are peaceable, civil and only use force when necessary. Notice how everything about Onn and his kind is organised and efficient. Atmosphere is sad and emotive. There are a wealth of modern films, poems, songs etc... that deal with the tragedy of war. For this reason, when we find out that the boyfriend went to war, we immediately expect the worst. However, this atmosphere is cleverly introduced at the beginning with the image of the withering flowers that reflect the shrunken form of the narrator's once beautiful Aunt. There is no real hope in the story and the reader senses very early on that something tragic may happen. This is known as foreboding and you may wish to find examples of imagery or events that create this.
The text is written as a series of diary entries. This makes it intensely personal and is reminiscent of Secrets. These diaries allow the author to explore the emotions of her protagonist. The narrator is not supposed to write, denying her any form of self expression. To her, this is an awful punishment as it leaves her no identity and this is emphasised by her remaining nameless to us. Perkins Gilman had a very similar experience in her own life and spent time with the physician Weir Mitchel. He appears in the story and these facts mean it can be difficult to seperate Gilman's character from Gilman herself. Finally, the story occurs at night. The men are able to see, but only thanks to a small light. Can this be associated with their actions. If light is often associated with knowledge and goodness, is the author saying that they are acting out of a lack of these things, as opposed to their own nature? To begin with the text is set in apartheid South Africa, where the legal and political system openly discriminated against black people. Although it was illegal to murder, there are historical instances of whites not being punished for such crimes amongst other acts of bruality and violence. Of course, the same crimes comitted by black people on whites would not have been tolerated. The story is narrated in the first person and it is an adult recalling an incident from his youth. Although the narrative could be biased, the honest admissions that his friends had not totally accepted him allow the reader to empathise with the protagonist. The emotions that he describes of young love and ambition are ones that we can all relate to helping the reader form a bond with the narrator. stories OF ourselves