Hello there! CSEC exams are going on right now, so we at Stabroek News are turning our attention to students who are getting ready for exams in 2019 and 2020. We urge you not to wait until the last minute to do your studying; keep at it steadily throughout the year. We want to help you, so we invite you to join us every Sunday to look at various aspects of the CSEC English A and B syllabi. Read on now, and enjoy your CSEC English page.
LITERARY TECHNIQUES—Choice of speaker/narrator Over the past few weeks we’ve been discussing some poetic devices with you. We’ve looked at simile, metaphor, personification and allusion. All of these come under the general heading of imagery, because all of them create an image or picture in your mind.
Today we’ll look at another technique that writers can use: for poets it’s their choice of speaker and for writers of short stories of novels, it’s their choice of narrator. When the poet settles down to write the poem, a decision to be made is: Who will be the speaker? Similarly, the short story writer has to decide if the hunter will relate the tale, or if that can be done by the lion. You will agree that the same event will sound very different according to whether the lion or the hunter tells us about it!!
Let’s look at interesting choices of speaker in your poems.
A talking mirror. “Mirror, Mirror on the wall…Who’s the fairest one of all?”
Sylvia Plath writes a poem about how women are so preoccupied with their ‘image’, and with what other people think and say about them. She wants to say something about the superficiality of being concerned only about your looks instead of being concerned with the kind of person you are on the inside. So who does she choose to be the speaker in her poem? A mirror!!! And that mirror is so arrogant and unfeeling. He boasts about the way the woman comes every day to get his opinion on her, and is unmoved by the distress he causes her! He even thinks he’s some kind of god! Read the poem, Mirror, again, paying attention to the fact that it’s the mirror talking, and you’ll find yourself really hating that mirror and feeling very sorry for the woman!
Parent or child? The poems Little Boy Crying and Once Upon a Time both present a situation in which a father speaks to his son. In the first, the father has just slapped his son for playing in the rain. He is dismayed at the child’s tears, and imagines, sorrowfully, that the boy hates him—would like to kill him like Jack the giant-killer killed the great big giant. By having the father relate the incident to us, Morris lets us see how much the father loves the boy, how he loves playing with him and reading to him, and how it pains him to have to discipline the child. The choice of speaker ensures that the reader understands the father’s situation and sympathises with his predicament. Similarly, in Okara’s Once Upon a Time, it’s the father who speaks. Observing the sweet innocence of his son, and the genuineness of his smile and his love, the father realizes how much he himself has been corrupted by the hypocrisy and self-interest of people in society. The reader is moved by the father’s yearning to be innocent and genuine again, and by his humility in asking his son to teach him.
A wonderful example of a good choice of speaker is in Elma Mitchell’s poem, Stone’s Throw. Mitchell takes an incident from the life of Jesus recorded in the Bible. Some Pharisees, devout Jews who insisted on the importance of keeping the Law of Moses, brought to Jesus a woman whom they had caught in the act of adultery, and asked Him what should be done with her—reminding Him that the Law said she ought to be stoned to death.
What is really clever about this poem is that Mitchell has decided to let one of the Pharisees be the speaker. As the man speaks, it becomes clear that he actually lusts after the woman himself, and has enjoyed roughing her up a bit: stoning her will be quite a thrill for him. As we say in Guyana, “Mout open, story jump out!” Mitchell allows the religious leader to do the talking, and his own words condemn him, showing what a nasty piece of work he is—lustful, sadistic, and self-righteous into the bargain!
AFor you to do. Now that you have the idea of how important a literary device the choice of speaker is, take a look at these poems: ● Dreaming Black Boy and My Parents this affect your response? ● Ol’ Higue has an ol’ higue as the speaker. How does that affect your response to the poem? both have a child as the speaker. How does ● The speaker in is a citizen of the Caribbean and a passenger on a plane that stops briefly in transit in San Juan. Do you think the poem would be different if the speaker were, say, a Canadian tourist? Would that tourist react in the same ways as our speaker does?
CORRECTING FAULTY COMPARISONS
In the sentences here, the writer has made some faulty comparisons. Your job is to correct them. Step 1: Identify the two items you want to compare. Step 2: Write the first of the two items (up to the comma just before the main
clause). Step 3: Put the second item in the comparison immediately after that comma. Step 4: Change whatever else you need to change so that the new sentence will
make sense. Step 5: See the bottom of the page for our answers, and make sure you understand
1. Like Belize, Guyana’s rainforests have potential for sustainable development. 2. Unlike a female doctor, a nurse must be present when a male doctor examines a
woman. 3. Unlike Dozy tablets and Sleepy-top capsules, you are assured of a good night’s
rest with Snooze-easy at bedtime. 4. Unlike a bicycle or scooter, running expenses are high with a car or minibus. 5. Like Cuffy, fighting for freedom and self-determination was Damon’s goal. 6. Compared to the serious problems Sara encountered at the office, Cathy had had
minor ones. 7. In comparison with fresh cherries, you get little or no vitamin C in stewed cucum
ber. 8. Unlike minibuses, which are noisy, crowded and quite dangerous, comfort and
safety on your journey are guaranteed at Rentum Taxi Service. 9. Compared to boys, who often are unemployed for several months after leaving
school, jobs are usually found immediately by girls. 10. In much the same was as parrots crack seeds in their beaks, the hardest nuts can
be cracked by these stainless steel nutcrackers. 11. Unlike a university, which has an academic orientation, offering practical train
ing is our aim here at Westside Polytechnic. 12. In comparison to cats—surely the most undomesticated of domestic animals—
anyone can train a dog to behave in the house.
MAKING PRONOUNS AGREE
● A pronoun takes the place of a noun, so if the noun is singular, then the pronoun must be singular, but if the noun is plural, then the pronoun must be plural. For example, we would ask: Where did you put the scissors? (scissors are plural) The answer SHOULD be: “I put THEM back in the drawer.” (As you know, we tend to say, “I put IT back in the drawer”—and that is an example of faulty agree ment of the pronoun. ● Make sure that you use the object form of a personal pronoun after a preposition. For example, it would be wrong to say, “Between you and I.” After the preposition “between” we need to say, “Between you and me.”
Work through this exercise, correcting any pronouns that are incorrect. The correct answers are at the bottom of the page.
1. Marva cut sheself when she was opening the tin. 2. Is your pants still damp? Then hang it up on the verandah overnight. 3. The children helped theirself to bread and peanut butter that they found in the
cupboard. 4. One day, myself and mother were going to market when we witnessed an acci
dent. 5. It is not easy to translate ideas into English and then write it down correctly. 6. We were told to share the sweets among weself. 7. The tweezers were here in this drawer. Have you taken it? 8. Look after yourself, boys, while you are at camp. 9. The news was all about money this evening; we found them most depressing. 10.The fire damaged equipment in the store, but the building self was not badly
affected. 11. In the photo, Colin is standing between her and me, so we have proof that he
came to the wedding. 12. We saw two lovely dresses with sequins on it.
ANSWERS Let’s practise 1 Like Belize, Guyana has rainforests that…; 2 Unlike a female doctor, a male doctor must have a nurse present…; 3 Unlike Dozy tablets and Sleepy-top capsules, Snooze-easy guarantees you a…; 4 Unlike a bicycle or scooter, a car or minibus incurs high…; 5 Like Cuffy, Damon set himself the goal of…; 6 Compared to the serious problems Sara encountered at the office, Cathy’s were minor. 7 In comparison with fresh cherries, stewed cucumber provides you… 8 Unlike minibuses, which are….dangerous, Rentum taxi service offers you…. 9 Compared to boys, who… school, girls usually find… 10 In much the same way as parrots crack seeds, these stainless steel nutcrackers can crack… 11 Unlike a university, which…orientation, Westside Polytechnic aims to offer… 12 In comparison to cats, dogs can be trained…
Making pronouns agree 1 Marva cut herself, 2 Are your pants…then hang them up, 3 Children helped themselves, 4 One day, my mother and I, 5 …and then write them down, 6 among ourselves, 7 Have you taken them? 8 Look after yourselves, boys… 9 We found it (news is singular) depressing, 10 the building itself, 11 This sentence is CORRECT! 12 dresses with sequins on them.