LESSON 6: Literature
I do hope you made time to answer the assignments set last Sunday.
Your literature questions are worth 20% so you should spend no longer than 21 minutes (one-fifth of the allocated time of 105 minutes) on them.
Therefore, always try to answer these short responses within five to eight minutes and the longer response question on the novel within 10–12 minutes. Some of you might have more time, as you whiz through the other objective questions in Paper 1, but as I’ve mentioned earlier, you are not given too many lines, so learn to answer concisely and relevantly.
Now, for the answers:
IF by Rudyard Kipling
a) What two qualities are suggested in the first stanza of this extract?
Kipling talks about a sense of daring when you are willing to take calculated risks. Your venture might fail but you should not grumble. Instead you “start again” without harping on your losses. Besides daring, Kipling admires perseverance and determination because willpower forces people to go on despite being tired and wanting to give up.
b) Paraphrase the first four lines of the second stanza here.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can mix well with everyone and yet be uncorrupted by anyone; if you can mix with the high-born just as easily as with the commoners; if you are unaffected by the words of friends or foes because everyone matters to you but they have no undue influence over you.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
a) What is the message of this poem?
In his poem, Frost is talking of the difficulties in making important decisions. He uses the metaphor of roads to represent the choices we must make in life. Even if there are only two choices, we usually ponder long and hard over which road we should take. Once we decide, we should not have any regrets over our decision.
b) What does the poet mean by saying he will be “telling this with a sigh”? Why do you think he would have this feeling?
Frost means that at a future time he may be narrating the story of how he came to that particular decision with some regret. He probably has this feeling because he wonders what might have happened if he had made a different choice.
Now let’s turn our attention to the three novels again. How did you manage with last week’s assignment on how the character you have chosen changes or develops as the story progresses? You might have the points but it’s not easy to articulate your thoughts on paper.
That’s why it’s essential that you make notes for your chosen novel under various headings (e.g. character, setting, the importance of family relations, comparison between two characters, etc) along with page references and some useful quotations. That way it’ll be easier for you to revise without having to read everything again. You might be able to do this with The Pearl which has only 87 pages, but the two Malaysian novels are considerably longer!
Also, you should do a chapter-by-chapter synopsis of your novel, along with a brief analysis of each chapter. This will help you back your answer with relevant incidents or quotations, so that your response is not too general, but specifically answers the question.
And now for the answers to last week’s question: Choose any character from your chosen novel. Based on your reading of the text, show how this character changes or develops as the story progresses. Your answer should include reasons why the character changes.
Jungle of Hope
Karim is Pak Kia’s son and Zaidi’s nephew. At the beginning of the novel, he is a carefree teenager often playing catapults with his cousin Udin and the Penghulu’s son, Nazri. His headmaster, Cikgu Hashim describes him as “intelligent, hard-working and robust” (page 102). Obviously Karim enjoys school and Cikgu Hashim is certain that Karim “will be somebody one day, given enough education.”
Thus, when Pak Kia ends his schooling abruptly so that his son can help him clear the jungle, Karim becomes sullen, and his relationship with his father becomes strained: “There was resentment in his heart against the difficult journey and against his father” (page 82), and during the first trip to Janda Baik, “he walked as if he were being dragged by his feet” (page 81).
He is also confused and afraid because he does not know what lies ahead of him, but he doesn’t voice his feelings to his father whose word is law within the family.
But these negative feelings are gradually replaced by his youthful adaptability to his new environment. It is a hard life but Karim is resilient and has a natural curiosity. He learns how to sharpen a parang from his father, set traps and net and hunt wild deer. He even saves his father’s life when he shoots a wild boar that was attacking Pak Kia.
At the end of Jungle of Hope, Karim has become more decisive and takes a more active role. Having “matured into a young farmer and pioneer, big and strong” (page 273) and no longer “an ordinary youngster who knew nothing about life”, and he is able to talk with his father on equal terms.
At the beginning of the novella, the protagonist Kino is contented with his life, though he is very poor. He loves his wife and young son for whom he works hard as a fisherman to provide.
When he finds the Pearl of the World, he begins to dream of a better life for his family, and envisages a future in which his son is educated, unlike himself, so that he will not be looked down upon by people like the doctor.
But the pearl does not change his life for the better. Because it is not merely a beautiful object but a commodity which requires Kino to sell to fulfil his dreams, Kino has to go to the town and deal with people who are jealous of his good fortune and others who are eager to cheat him.
It is not possible that Kino will remain untouched by this venality. Gradually he becomes “a man transfigured” (page 26). For example, when the first pearl buyer offers him only one thousand pesos for his pearl, “Kino’s face grew dark and dangerous.” The gentle Kino we saw in the beginning becomes furious: “his rage blood pounded in his ears” (page 51).
He becomes suspicious of everyone and even gets violent with Juana when she tries to throw the pearl into the sea because she realises instinctively that the pearl is evil and wants him to destroy it before it destroys them (page 55). He is angry with her for daring to throw away the one thing that will rescue them from their poverty and help their son escape from oppression.
In The Return, the protagonist Ravi starts his schooling with a Tamil teacher, Murugesu, but is sent to an English school shortly after. The world he grew up in among the Tamil-speaking hospital workers and their children widens to another world which is at first alien to him.
Ravi does well in the English school and learns to speak English better than the other boys who taunt him for being a “white monkey”. Indeed, CD or Ayah who sees him as a threat to the status quo, tells Kannan to stop Ravi’s education because he is afraid that Ravi might order him about if he becomes too educated.
But Ravi has absorbed his grandmother’s lesson well: “Never let anything break your spirit” (page 8) and unlike his father, he is not afraid of Ayah whom he sees as a bully who loves lording it over the Tamil families living “in the lines”.
Determined to succeed, Ravi works diligently to pass his exams: “Shutting myself in an empty classroom, I went through the homework, (and) revised that week’s lessons.” He knows that education is a way out of the environment he grew up in, where there can be no crossing “the lines” without punishment from Ayah.
With this single-minded attitude, he can remain oblivious to the often chaotic conditions at home, and through his intelligence and perseverance, he eventually wins a scholarship to England where he becomes more and more Anglicised.
Thus, he feels even more distant from his family when he returns and is glad to be living away from them. Nevertheless, because of his early upbringing in traditional Indian values, he helps his family out financially.
Did you find this article insightful?