CSEC English

Stabroek News Sunday - - CSEC ENGLISH -

Hello there! We’re work­ing now with stu­dents who are in the third and fourth form classes at school—get­ting ready for ex­ams in 2019 and 2020. It’s im­por­tant to work steadily through­out the year; don’t leave it all un­til the last minute. 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.


What is al­lu­sion? When a per­son makes ref­er­ence to some well-known event, or men­tions a fa­mous re­mark by a well-known speaker, we say that they are AL­LUD­ING to that event or to that fa­mous speech.

The Tradewinds have a song which is im­mensely pop­u­lar, and stirs the hearts of Guyanese when­ever bor­der dis­putes sur­face. The cho­rus goes like this:

We ain’t giv­ing up no moun­tains We ain’t giv­ing up no tree We ain’t giv­ing up no river That be­longs to we Not one blue saki, Not one rice grain, Not one cuirass, Not a blade of grass.

Dave Martins ex­plains that the in­spi­ra­tion came to him from a speech made by a North Amer­i­can indige­nous In­dian who was re­sist­ing the white man’s at­tempt to in­vade the Amer­i­can West. Martins con­tin­ues: “The In­dian spoke about his peo­ple’s love for their land; that they would not give up one river, not one buf­falo, not one val­ley, not even one blade of grass.”

So Dave Martins tells us that the words “not even one blade of grass” were orig­i­nally used by the North Amer­i­can In­dian, in­sist­ing that the Euro­pean set­tlers had no right to steal his peo­ple’s land. In us­ing the same words to in­sist that no one has the right to steal OUR land, Martins is AL­LUD­ING to the In­dian’s stir­ring speech.

Use of the al­lu­sion shows lis­ten­ers that the busi­ness of steal­ing land is not new, and it also rouses us to join the re­sis­tance to col­o­niza­tion and land-grab­bing of any kind.


Ex­am­ple 1

In Mervyn Mor­ris’s poem Lit­tle Boy Cry­ing, al­lu­sion is made to the story, Jack the Gi­ant Killer. The speaker in the poem is the fa­ther of the lit­tle boy who is cry­ing be­cause he has just been smacked for play­ing in the rain. The fa­ther imag­ines that the boy sees his fa­ther as a ‘grim gi­ant, empty of feel­ing’. The boy is so an­gry and frus­trated (so the fa­ther imag­ines) that he would love to be like Jack the Gi­ant Killer and deal with the ‘colos­sal cruel’ who has made him cry.

In this al­lu­sion, we have a men­tal pic­ture of young Jack chop­ping down the bean tree, and the ter­ri­ble gi­ant fall­ing to his death: the weak lad tri­umphs over the bully.

What is the ef­fect of the al­lu­sion on the reader?

First, by draw­ing a par­al­lel be­tween the lit­tle boy and Jack, we get a sense of how big the ‘en­emy’ is, and how un­fair it is to be smacked by some­one so big. So we feel sorry for the child. But as we think about it, we re­al­ize that the fa­ther is clearly the kind of dad who reads sto­ries to his son, and can en­ter into his son’s emo­tions. So as well as feel­ing sorry for the child, we now also feel sorry for the fa­ther, who loves his son dearly but ALSO has to pu­n­ish him on oc­ca­sions.

Ex­am­ple 2 Sylvia Plath uses al­lu­sion in her poem Mir­ror. Most of you will be fa­mil­iar with the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In that story we meet the wicked queen who goes to her talk­ing mir­ror ev­ery morn­ing to ask it the ques­tion: “Who is the fairest one of all?”

Be­fore Snow White turned up, the an­swer had al­ways been, “You, oh Queen, are the fairest one of all.”

When the mir­ror starts to re­spond by say­ing that Snow White is now the fairest, the wicked queen goes berserk.

What is the ef­fect of the al­lu­sion on the reader of Plath’s poem?

First, the reader re­sponds emo­tion­ally to the talk­ing mir­ror, who seems to be a re­ally mean, un­car­ing in­di­vid­ual. The mir­ror is so ar­ro­gant, so boast­ful about be­ing com­pletely truth­ful, that we ac­tu­ally hate him!! And of course we feel very sorry for the woman.

Just as in the fairy tale, the sit­u­a­tion here is of a woman re­al­iz­ing she is get­ting older, and is no longer as lovely as she was: “In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman/Rises to­ward her…”

As we con­sider the con­trast be­tween the ag­ing queen and the lovely young Snow White, we feel com­pas­sion for the woman who is los­ing her good looks. We are aware, too, how much im­por­tance so­ci­ety gives to our phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, and how painful it is to be scorned be­cause we are no longer phys­i­cally at­trac­tive.

Thought­ful read­ers may even crit­i­cize the queen (and the woman in the poem) for be­ing so de­pen­dent on the opin­ions of others. What do you think about that?

Ex­am­ple 3 Fi­nally, you can find al­lu­sion in Gabriel Okara’s poem, Once Upon a Time. Those four words, as we all know, form the open­ing of ev­ery fairy tale. They take us into a mag­i­cal world that be­longed to our child­hood.

What is the ef­fec­tive­ness of the re­peated use of this al­lu­sion to fairy tale?

The speaker in the poem re­mem­bers what he USED TO BE like when he was a boy like his son. He re­mem­bers when his smile was gen­uine, and came from his heart. But as he has grown, he has moved from IN­NO­CENCE to EX­PE­RI­ENCE, and he has learnt to be as hyp­o­crit­i­cal and in­sin­cere as those around him. He imag­ines that his smile now looks like a snake’s fangs, and he longs to turn back the clock and be­come once again how he used to be. He wants to be the man he was ‘once upon a time’, but sadly those fairy tales are not real, are they?

The use of the al­lu­sion is ef­fec­tive be­cause it fo­cuses our at­ten­tion on that in­no­cent world of child­hood and then shows us how sad the fa­ther is to re­al­ize that he has left that in­no­cent world be­hind. We feel sorry for him and dis­ap­pointed in the val­ues of the so­ci­ety that he lives in.

WHO’S WHOSE? Here we look at some pairs of words that are eas­ily con­fused. Se­lect the cor­rect word from each pair to fill the blanks in the sen­tences, and then check the bot­tom of the page for the an­swers and ex­pla­na­tions.

1. A.

RE­SPEC­TIVELY/RE­SPECT­FULLY As he en­tered the doc­tor’s of­fice, the el­derly man tipped his hat……… and greeted her with a smile.

Myra Solomon and Meena Per­saud won the Best Speaker Award and the Elo­cu­tion Prize …………… ..

WEATHER/WHETHER I don’t know …………… .we will be able to put up the tent when we get there.

You see, for sev­eral weeks the ………………… ..has been re­ally bad with quite heavy rain.

IM­PLY/IN­FER When our pas­tor told us that “more labour­ers” were “needed in the vine­yard”, do you think he was try­ing to ……………… ..that we ought to of­fer to help?

You came to fewer than half of the Span­ish classes, and you were very late each time you came, so I can only ………… ..from your be­hav­iour that you are not re­ally in­ter­ested in learn­ing the lan­guage.

CHILD­ISH/CHILD­LIKE You are fif­teen now: far too big to be an­noy­ing ev­ery­one with such …………… ..pranks!

The poet Wordsworth urged his read­ers to try to re­tain an at­ti­tude of ………… ..won­der to the world around us; we should be de­lighted by rain­bows and dew on cob­webs, just as chil­dren are.


Here are 15 words that are fre­quently mis­spelt. Ask some­one to test you and see if you can spell all of them cor­rectly. Check any new words in your dic­tio­nary. Write out any words that you couldn’t spell, and make sure they will never catch you again!

Strength, shep­herd, rebel, rep­e­ti­tion, grandeur, sar­casm, tragedy, sim­ile, skep­ti­cal, opin­ion, de­stroy, de­struc­tion, guid­ance, em­pha­size, ten­dency.


Who’s/Whose 1 A re­spect­fully—the el­derly man was “full of re­spect”; B re­spec­tively (“in the order I just gave their names) A whether (means “if); B weather (rain, wind, snow) A im­ply (to drop a hint); B in­fer (to draw the con­clu­sion) A child­ish (im­ma­ture); B child­like (like a child in a pos­i­tive sense— ca­pa­ble of in­no­cence and won­der and trust). 2 3 4

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