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Saturday, August 25, 2007

SPM 2005-2007 Literature in English (Notes: Short Stories)

Posted by Snow

I shall post the random notes I have on SPM Literature in English here. Sincere apologies, it's a little unorganised. Please contact me if anyone requires the assistance of an English Literature teacher for I can refer you to a couple of good teachers.

Short Story
  • A road to discovery, it exposes us to humanity, the human emotions and elements one experiences. (Anger, jealousy, death, etc.)
  • Narrative
  • Short
  • Emotional
  • 1 / 2 main characters.
  • Centres around one theme supported by other themes.
  • One dramatic moment.

Dissecting a short story
  • Focus on TITLE
  • Does the main character change / control the story?
  • Does the author make any human relations? (Murder, love, etc.)

Narrative Techniques
  • What style does the author use, employ?
  • Who is the author’s spokesperson?
  • “I”: Narrator is involved to a great degree. A dramatized character.
  • “He / She”: Narrator may be observer.

Theme: General idea, insight into story.

  • Flat - Unchanging, remains the same.
  • Round - Dynamic, change, blossom, grow, and gives movement + soul to stories. (Can deteriorate)

Random Notes on A White Heron
Looking at it at a deeper level, could the story reflect the search for one's identity in a world that is myriad of harmless beings (the animals)? Within the cacophony of animal sounds, there is harmony, innocence, life. Consequently, one identifies comfortably with nature. And the only "enemy" that one has to contend with is another fellow human being (the ornithologist who intends to preserve those harmless beings).

But then, as one who tends to read "feminism" in literary texts, I also see it as a resistance by a girl, a female being against the dominance of men (the ornithologist is holding a gun, a rather phallic object. He artificially preserves animals and that mirrors his control of nature)

The story does make us look at nature and what we are doing to it! Should we "preserve" nature??? The idea that nature is either terrifying or idyllic is also ironic because what's terrifying is what we do to nature...

It is how we respond to nature. So we have a contrast between the girl and the ornithologist. They each have their own perspective/way of how nature should be "preserved", protected, kept...

One reason the story is interesting is because it opens up several world to us. Primary amongst these seems to be the distinction between the world of the child and the world of adults. By this I mean the different viewing positions provided us of the world. Interesting also is the distinction subtlety made between the urban (man-made and owned?) world and the natural (God created and given?) one. These viewing positions of child and adult allow us to identify the priorities and joys of members of this world.

The fact that the child, however she fond she became of the ornithologist, resists (is able to make this conscious decision) telling the hunter/collector of the whereabouts of the heron.

Essentially one thing seems clear, while the adult seems intent on possession (of the world?) by any means, the child finds joy in immersing and giving herself totally to the world.

What then is the heron? What is it symbolic of? Why does the author insist on describing its colour - white? Has this anything to do with the child?

Obviously there are the binaural existences that are intertwined in the story. (man vs nature, girl vs man, child vs adult, man-made vs owned etc) which probably provides the literary touch to the story.

I think the white heron, like the dove, symbolises peace and freedom. Jewett uses the heron, perhaps because it's local to New England, so it represents the land...

And also... yes, there are lots of association to the colour white... something else to think about.

There are a number of references to white apart from the white heron: white oak tree, white villages, white sails of ships.

There are also references to other colours for example the red-faced boy, red squirrel, rose-colored (red?); purple and yellow (referring to the clouds), yellow sunshine; black mud; blue sky.

The colours of nature? Do the references allude to the richness that is in nature, to its vitality?

I think Jewett uses colour for various purposes and it is worth looking into. I think she does use them in a traditional way, for example, white = good, etc.

However, what I found interesting is the way the male character is described - just look at all the adjectives. Shows how the little girl deals with his presence in her world and the various conflicts he causes.

Suggested reading: Sylvia as Hero in Sarah Orne Jewett's "A White Heron" by Kelley Griffith, Jr.

A White Heron by Sarah Orne Jewett
Sarah Orne Jewett’s “A White Heron” includes Sylvia, a young girl who is in touch with all of nature. She lives with her grandmother, and she often entertains herself by exploring nature and observing the animals. When a man came to their house in search of a white heron, he asks Sylvia for her help in locating the bird. Sylvia knows where the white heron lives, yet she struggles with ever telling the hunter this secret. Nature had become a part of Sylvia. She would feel a great loss if she revealed the location of the white heron. Sylvia decides to protect the white heron, and nature, itself, seems to be defined as an important character in Sylvia’s life.

There is a sexual undercurrent running through “A White Heron”. A young man, dripping with masculinity, appears in a girl’s life. The way in which the man is described is consistently sexual and masculine. Sylvia’s initial impression of him, hearing his whistle even before seeing him, is “determined, and somewhat aggressive” (Jewett 725). When talking after dinner, the stranger is distracted by “his eager interest in something else”, which happens to be Sylvia and her connection with birds, as she sits “very demure[…]in the moonlight” (Jewett 726). To show her love for this young man she “mount[s]” a tree that “seem[s] to lengthen itself out as she [goes] up” (Jewett 728). The language in the description of this climb sends warnings to one’s inner prude. “Sylvia began with utmost bravery to mount to the top of it, with tingling, eager blood coursing the channels of her whole frame[…] First she must mount the white oak tree that grew alongside[…]green leaves heavy and wet with dew[…]” (Jewett 728). After climbing the tree, she seems broken and more withdrawn that ever. “Here she comes now, paler than ever, and her worn old frock is torn and tattered, and smeared with pine pitch. […] But Sylvia does not speak at all, though the old grandmother fretfully rebukes her[…]” (Jewett 729, 730). Jewett speaks in the last sentences about Sylvia losing something from the visit with the woodsman, something important and irreplaceable. “Whatever treasures were lost to her, woodlands and summer-time, remember! Bring your gifts and graces and tell your secrets to this lonely country child!” (Jewett 730). Sylvia’s short relationship with the young man left her shattered and unsteady, causing her to fold into herself in order to protect herself.

The extract below was taken from Sarah Orne Jewett 1849 - 1909.
Jewett's A White Heron (1886) has such a simple plot that it might suggest a children's story. A quiet young girl, raised in the country and happy alone in nature, declines to tell a hunter how to find the nest of a white heron. The way the story is told, however, makes it a remarkable and even experimental work of American regionalism and realism.

1. The pine tree, heron, and other living things in A White Heron seem to have symbolic or even mystical importance. How can such elements be understood and valued in the context of a "realistic" tale? Who attributes symbolic power to these natural presences? What do those values tell us about Sylvia's consciousness?

2. Sylvia is interested in the "young sportsman": he appeals to "the woman's heart, asleep in the child." How does this attraction complicate and enrich the story?

3. Following Sylvia's lead as an interpreter of worldly experience, can we speculate about symbolic or even allegorical echoes in Jewett's tale? Does it make sense to read this story as "about" innocence, awakening sexuality, or the joys and sacrifices that come with interacting with the human world?

Random Notes on Bequest of Love
Find words or phrases that describe the setting.

  • “Encyclopedia in my room…”
  • He stopped moving about the house like he used to, getting in everyone’s way on purpose.
  • He spent hours just staring out the window…
  • “Yesterday, it was that cockroach, reposing on my pillow…” (Indicates that Karim is determined and his willpower will not let his handicap get in the way of him doing everyday things like playing pranks on siblings.)
  • One night in June, Karim collapsed in his bedroom.
  • Thumping up the stairs…
  • “Maybe what?” asked my husband, entering the kitchen…
  • …while I prepared lunch.
  • He leaned against the stove and started pinching onions out of the dish I had just made… (Indicates that Karim appreciates his mother’s cooking.)
  • Rotten potato.
  • One morning, Faroq came into the kitchen. ( Indicates that the kitchen is the place Faroq expects Karim to be in, because it leads to the back garden, where Karim normally spends his time. )
  • I shouted back from the kitchen where the cake I was trying to bake…
  • We often sat on wicker chairs in the verandah of our house in the evenings…
  • Karim would say that he could smell and feel nature there. (Indicates that Karim was in tune with nature, he could fully appreciate the beauty of it all.)
  • “I can feel the roses blooming…”
  • “I’m trying to hear my tomato plants grow…”
  • “I can feel the roses blooming…”
  • “I’m trying to hear my tomato plants grow…”
  • “Run around the garden three times…”
  • He came into the kitchen from the back garden where he normally spent his mornings before it became too hot. (Indicates that Karim loves and appreciates nature. It is his way of reaching out to the outside world.)
  • “…I leave a little of my much loved earth – my garden…”
  • …took him to the doctor who had been treating him since he was a baby…
  • “Please, doctor, can’t you do something?”
  • The doctor shrugged.
  • …that afternoon in the doctor’s office…
  • …met by Dr. Tan, who was luckily on the night shift…
  • …and a beautiful lady doctor by the name of Dr. Manogari.
  • “Wheel him into Observation.”
  • …to put Karim on the IV tube and specified the medication to be used.
  • …the hospital staff running about in all directions…
  • Dr. Tan peered into Karim’s eyes and checked his heartbeat.
  • …they were so impersonal and unaffected by impending death. Nothing penetrated their wall of professional detachment. (Indicates coldness.)
  • I walked about the hospital corridors…
  • They were preparing move him into the children’s ward…

Build up a picture of Karim, his twin brothers Fariq and Faroq, Mak and Pak. Make notes about how they feel, see life and react to situations as the story unfolds.

  • Inquisitive and curious
    “That was one of his many unanswerable questions.”
  • Emotionally strong
    No whining at the extra medication given by Dr. Tan to reduce the pain nor where there any grumbles at having to take extra rest.
  • Sporting
    …the sporting way in which he accepted his disability and coped with it…
    No whining at the extra medication given by Dr. Tan to reduce the pain nor where there any grumbles at having to take extra rest.
  • Intelligent and spirited
    But no one in the house had expected Karim to outrun us in spirit or in intelligence.
  • Happy and cheerful
    Looking at him laugh was like looking at a well of happiness – you fervently hoped it would never dry up.
  • Realizes he will die soon
    “Am I going to die soon…”
  • Hopeful
    Still, his hopeful dreams…
  • Sad
    …all his face ever showed was a deep sadness for what was never to be for him.
  • Determined
    “Yesterday, it was that cockroach, reposing on my pillow…” (Karim is determined and his willpower will not let his handicap get in the way of him doing everyday things like playing pranks on siblings.)
  • Mischievous
    “…I thought it would be fun to watch him jump…”
  • Loved Karim
    …but his father and I loved him intensely…
  • Dense
    …the stupid mother in me…
  • Emotional
    The anger that flooded through me stopped the tears that threatened to fall with the frustration of…
    I broke down then…
  • Sense of humour
    …his father and I teased each other this way.
  • Helpless
    …feeling helpless and defeated...
  • Nervous, jumps to conclusions
    …I anticipated anything from dead rats to fallen roofs.
  • Still feels a link with her deceased son.
    If I ever feel in need of loving now, all I have to do is look at the creased paper on which my son left us his bequests of love and I feel all right again.
  • Self-controllable
    …holding back tears with great effort…
  • Reasonable
    “…I think you should learn to accept the fact…”
  • Sense of humour
    …his father and I teased each other this way.
  • Loved Karim
    …but his father and I loved him intensely…
    “…to my father, who loved me best…”
  • Observant
    It was Fariq who first noticed Karim’s preoccupation with death…
  • Indifferent
    …their previous indifference…
  • Active in sports
    …and the two of them left for their football game.
  • Intelligent and good-looking
    They are good-looking and intelligent…
  • Loved Karim
    …played football less often and spent a lot of time talking and goofing around with Karim…
  • Close to other twin
    They had always been very close to each other…
  • Emotional
    Fariq and Faroq broke down…
  • Guilty and Regretful
    …each wallowing in his own separate world of guilt and regret
  • Caring and wants Karim to be happy
    …getting his girlfriend’s father to publish the cartoons in his children’s magazine as nothing could have made Karim more proud then to see his name…
  • Self-controllable
    …then checking himself…
  • Indifferent
    …their previous indifference…
  • Active in sports
    …and the two of them left for their football game.
  • Intelligent and good-looking
    They are good-looking and intelligent…
  • Loved Karim
    …played football less often and spent a lot of time talking and goofing around with Karim…
    …beginning to make allowances for Karim.
  • Close to other twin
    They had always been very close to each other…
  • Emotional
    Fariq and Faroq broke down…
  • Guilty and Regretful
    …each wallowing in his own separate world of guilt and regret.

Write a short note of about fifty words on death based on your personal understanding.

A common perspective, or rather, misconception of Death is that Death is terrifying. However, we do not know what awaits us after we leave this world. The first reaction when a person hears about a Death is that of a horrible feeling that makes your insides go cold. When a Death occurs, it freezes one’s mind and deadens one’s reaction, the numb shock of disbelieve and denial solidifies all emotion temporarily. It gives relief to the deceased, but brings sorrow to those who are still living. Death helps one to see things in a different light, you never really treasure every moment you spend with your loved ones until they are gone – into that eternal slumber, beyond the point of no return. People hope, because they do not see Death standing behind them. Death is rude – he does not ask before taking, he just claims what is rightfully his when the time is ripe. It is sudden, abrupt and can happen anywhere, anytime. Death helps a person to treasure their lives. Without Death, live is meaningless.

It was Fariq who first noticed Karim’s preoccupation with death. “He reads books on death and horrible things like that, Mak,” said Fariq, for the first time looking troubled about his brother. “I think he’s getting morbid.”

Write a short note of about fifty words on death based on the extract taken from the text.

Karim’s death was not exactly unexpected, but rather an anticipated incident.
Deep within the hearts of his family, they knew that Karim’s death was inevitable, yet false hope surfaced as they passed day after day happily, just as any normal family would. They were in self-denial that Death was standing behind Karim, waiting to take what was rightfully his when the time was ripe. Perhaps some part of them did not remember that Death was rude – that he does not ask before claiming his goods. Karim was the centre of the wheel, he was holding the family together. When he passed away, the family members were struck deeply, and they grew to realize the invaluable role Karim played in their lives, and how he would always remain a part of them. His bequest of love had reached out beyond the usually impenetrable wall of Death and touched them. For our loved ones never truly leave us – their memories and imprints are always stored in a place at the back of our minds.

Patol Babu, Film Star
Some priceless words of advice given in a deep, mellow voice: ‘Remember one thing, Patol; however small a part you’re offered, never consider it beneath your dignity to accept t. As an artist your aim should be to make the most of your opportunity, and squeeze the last drop of meaning out of lines. A play involves the work of many and it is the combined effort of many that makes a success of the play.

It was Mr. Pakrashi who gave the advice. Gogon Pakrashi, Patol Babu’s mentor. A wonderful actor, without a trace of vanity in him; a saintly person, and an actor in a million

There was something else which Mr. Pakrashi used to say, ‘Each word spoken in a play is like a fruit in a tree. Not everyone in the audience had access to it. But you, the actor, must know how to pluck it, get at its essence, and serve it up to the audience for their edification.’

  • Patol Babu valued his mentor’s words and characterizes his mentor as:
    • Wise
    • Fatherly
    • Soothing
    • Reassuring
    • Consoling
  • His mentor taught him to be humble.
  • Patol Babu idolizes him as a saint, not vain yet wonderful man.
  • His mentor’s teachings:
    • Do not let dignity get in the way of achieving excellence.
    • The combined efforts of many make the success of the performance.
    • Try your very best.

  • Satyajit Ray
  • 1921-1992
  • Indian film-maker.
  • Great master of the cinema world.
  • His movies involve very realistic situations, human interaction and simple themes.
  • He is a keen observer of situations and tiny details.
  • Besides being a writer, he is also a composer and a graphic designer.

Main Character in Story
  • Real name: Sitalakanto Ray
  • Stage name: Patol Babu
  • Male
  • Short
  • Old
  • Dark-complexioned / Asian
  • Baldish
  • Ordinary
  • Fictional Character
  • Has passion for acting
  • Poor
  • Married
  • Lives in India
  • Indian
  • Local stage actor
  • Acted in stage plays and a film
  • Average looks
  • Hindu
  • Four syllable stage name
  • Not up-to-date
  • Plays role of extras
  • Ambitious
  • Creative
  • Positive
  • Chubby
  • Not respected
  • Dreamer
  • Dedicated

Reason author choose to write about Patol Babu
  • Writing about a normal person
  • Different point of view
  • Portrays the essence of human contact / relationships.


What are your feelings for Patol Babu at the end of the story?

I felt happy and satisfied that Patul Babu managed to find happiness and joy in simple things – the completion of a job. Patul Babu is also very dedicated and wishes to achieve perfection in everything, thus inspiring me as a reader. It never was about the money; it was doing what he loved doing best. Patul Babu took his job seriously and was a very self- disciplined man for he did not choose to take off is brown jacket while he was waiting under the shade even though he was feeling very hot. This also proves that he is patient. I felt pity for Patul Babu and I was angry as well as annoyed with the film crew when they treated him badly. In addition to that, I respect his creativeness and far-mindedness because he made suggestions to improve his job. Finally, I appreciate and value his choice satisfaction over money. I was also very proud of his decision not to take the money. He had achieved what he could and that was pride enough to raise the head of the lowliest beggar, the satisfaction of a job well done.
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  1. Hi. I am currently in form four and am looking for a Literature in English teacher. Think you can help me?? TQ

  2. Hi, do u have notes for short stories and drama for literature in english for 2011 spm students?


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