Opening WorldsThe six stories you will study are:The Pieces of Silver the Young Couple Games at TwilightThe Red Ball Leela’s Friend the Winter OakThe Pieces of Silver - Karl SealyThe story:Pieces of Silver begins as the school bell is rung and the boys line up in the playingfield for inspection by their teachers.An assembly is called where the acting head, Mr. Chase, asks for contributions to theretiring head’s present. The retiring head is called Mr. Megahey.The boys give their contributions, although many of them are poor and their familiescannot afford to part with any money. The boys who do not contribute are brought uponto the stage and humiliated by being marked with a white (chalk) ‘X’ on theirforeheads. They are told that if they do not contribute to the collection the followingday they will suffer further humiliation.Clement, who is one of the boys singled out by Mr. Chase, goes home to his family toask for some money. His father refuses, however, because they are poor and need allthe money they have for themselves.Evelina is Clement’s sister; they are close and she cares for her brother like a mother.She supports him by suggesting that they go singing to raise some money. They dothis and raise a decent sum of money. The last house they call at is a pretentious redbrick building which turns out to be the home of the retiring headteacher, Mr.Megahey. He gives them a generous donation of sixpence, their biggest of the night.The next day at school Mr. Chase eyes the boy’s bowed heads’ as they stand on theplatform in anticipation of further humiliating them. To his surprise, Clement presentseight pieces of silver to him saying ‘there is one for each of us’. The final impressionwe are left with is one of hope and triumph. At the end of the day the one who wasembarrassed was Mr. Chase. ***The action of this story covers twenty-four hours in the life of Clement Dovecot fromone morning at school to the next.
Themes: • poverty • family relationships • the cruelty of officials • unfairness • suffering and hardship • education/pupil/teacher relationshipsImpressions of Clement’s school: • the boys are reluctant to attend and live in fear of punishment • the teachers are casual, self-important and badly educated themselves • the pupils are drilled as if they are in the army • the discipline is violent and unfair • the teachers enjoy humiliating their pupilsImpressions of Clement’s home: • his family has very little to eat • their home is tiny and run down • they have very little money to spend • the children have to make do with what they have got • Evelina was unable to carry on with her schoolingLanguage: • the use of contrast – different characters and settings • irony • simile and metaphor • adjectives/verb phrasesKey terms: • dialogue • irony • contrast • characterisation • dialect/non-standard English • rhetorical questionsCharacters – what are they like?
Mr. Chase: • he is ‘stout and pompous’ • the smaller boys ‘straightened and stiffened under his cold gaze’ • when he sings he emits ‘an untrue, faltering note’ • he shows the ‘gleaming gold of his teeth’ • he is ‘fierce-eyed and unsmiling’ • he threatens the boys with the ‘lash’ • he enjoys making the ‘hapless boys the laughing stock of their schoolfriends’ • he eyes their ‘bowed heads in enjoyment’Evelina: • she picks at her ‘coarse food’ • she has a ‘close bond of understanding and companionship’ with Clement • Clement feels the ‘cheering warmth of her arms’ • she listens to him ‘as attentively as a mother’ • she puts her lips down to his ‘harsh curls’ • her voice is ‘clear and true’ • she lets out the laughter that has been ‘welling inside her’ • She says ‘now I going to tell you how we’ll fix that brute, Mr. Chase.’The plot – conflicts and twists:Clement has to stand on the platform in assembly, with a cross drawn on his forehead,and is made to recite a speech on ingratitude in front of 400 pupils.In view of this you should consider: • Mr. Chase’s treatment of Clement • the idea of forcing children to give money for the Headmaster’s leaving present • the reasons why Clement is unable to make a contribution • The irony of a boy like Clement giving money to a man like Mr. MegaheyThe Red Ball - Ismith KhanThe story:The Red Ball is about Bolan, a young boy who moved to Port of Spain, (the capitalcity of Trinidad), with his parents.The story begins with Bolan sitting in Woodford Square on his own. Some other boysask him to play cricket. Bolen hesitates at first but then he accepts the offer to join inthe game in the park. When everyone agrees that Bolan is a good player they ask himto play with them again the following day; Bolan feels that he has been accepted bythe boys.
Bolen takes money from his dad to buy a cricket ball which he uses to play cricketwith his friends. Bolen is happy that he has become part of the group. However,Bolen’s family is very poor and his father beats him for taking the money. This is oneof the themes of the story – poverty. Bolen’s mother explains to his father why hetook the money and Bolen’s father apologies to him. He does this in his own uniqueway by going to Bolen in the middle of the night and telling him that he loves him. ***The story is presented to us almost entirely from Bolan’s point of view. However, inline 286 we are given his mother’s point of view; this gives us insight into hercharacter and her understanding of her son.Themes: • Poverty and hardship – the suffering which poverty brings. • Feeling left out – the need of the individual to belong. • Adjusting to new situations – the difficulty of adapting to a new home. • Parents and children (love and conflict) – the need to be loved and appreciated; the differences between fathers and mothers.Language: • Extreme poverty suggested through dialogue – conversations about money, the names Bolan is called, Bolan’s admiration for the cricket set, descriptions of living conditions. • negative verbs/adjectives that suggest unhappiness • Contrast – between unhappiness and joy. I.e. the grace and power of Bolan’s bowling. • Symbolism (the use of one thing to represent another) – the use of the green statue at the start of the story which we are reminded of again at the end. • detailed descriptions • similesKey terms: • symbolism • imagery • personification • characterisation • contrast • antithesis • point of view • alliteration • repetitionCharacters – what are they like?
Bolan: • Lonely - He watches the boys playing cricket every night. • Dignified - He refuses to answer to the names the boys give him. • Sensitive -He touches the powerful-looking statue. • Proud - He refuses free black pudding from the vendor. • Desperate – he takes the money to buy the red ball. • Generous – he pays for black pudding for all the boys.Bolan’s mother: • Defends her son strongly. • Stands up to her husband and stops him from taking out his frustrations on Bolan. • A loving and protective mother. • She knows Bolan is unhappy in the city. • Her character is in strong contrast to Bolan’s father.Bolan’s father: • A drunken and violent bully. • He is just as miserable as Bolan. • He is embarrassed by his poverty and lack of education. • Has his family’s best interests at heart – he has moved to Port of Spain for their sake. • Proud of the honest reputation of his family. • Hard working. • Worries about money and feels a sense of failure. • Loves his son deeply but finds it hard to show his feelings.The Young Couple – Ruth Prawer-JhabvalThe story:The story begins on a happy note when Cathy and Naraian go to India. They are fullof hope and have great plans for the future. On arrival they look for somewhere to liveand seek work for Naraian as they wish to be dependent and not live in the familyhome. They see life in India as a challenge and they are envied by all their friends.However, the seeds of discontent have already been sown as we see Cathy’s role asbeing a traditional one with her staying at home while her husband goes out to work.We also see the beginning of ‘the family’s’ influence.The couple enjoy a varied and exciting social life which revolves around Naraian’sfriends. For Naraian this is nothing new; it is simply an extension of the life heenjoyed while he was single when he and his friends used to sit around discussingpolitics and other issues surrounding the country.
We soon see signs that Cathy is beginning to tire of this life. Naraian’s behaviour withher begins to change and he becomes less affectionate towards her, particularly whenhe is with his friends. These friends irritate Cathy and we become aware of thedifference in culture that Cathy has to get used to. The men in India are not used totreating women as equals socially. They are polite to her but no more than that, andCathy finds this difficult to deal with. The irony is that she sees it as an insult whereasthe men are simply showing her the respect they would give any woman in herposition. This shows how behaviour expected in one country is completely differentto that expected in another country.Naraian does not notice any of this because he is used to it. He also treats Cathydifferently to when they were in England. He is less affectionate in public andcriticises her for the way she dresses, especially if he considers it inappropriate. Thesethings irritate Cathy no end and as all the original excitement she felt wears off shebegins to feel trapped. Naraian’s family do not help the situation. They see themselvesas a modern and progressive family and the fact that they have accepted Cathy intothe family proves this, but they still like to maintain control on their son’s life anddespite his independence they still have a strong influence on the decisions he makes.Every Sunday Cathy and Naraian go to the family home for lunch and there is usuallyand argument about Naraian living away from the family home and him not beinginvolved in the family business.Cathy begins to feel oppressed and claustrophobic in a way that she never felt inEngland. Not surprisingly, their relationship begins to deteriorate. They start to bickerabout things and Naraian becomes dissatisfied with Cathy’s housekeeping.Cathy’s pregnancy is the turning point in the story and the point at which the familystart to take control over their lives. Cathy allows them to do this and willingly takespart in family ceremonies. The next stage is Naraian’s acceptance of a job with thefamily which Cathy doesn’t know about. Cathy’s misery in conveyed by the fact thatwhen she closes her eyes she can still see the family in her mind. Naraian alsobecomes frustrated and less tolerant of Cathy. He has failed in his dream to beindependent and has had to compromise instead. Cathy knows she will be out-wittedin any protests against the family and so she goes along with everything to keep thepeace.The family is presented to us as being all powerful. We see the family as beingintrusive, yet they are only doing what they think is right for the young couple.Despite all their problems, however, Cathy and Naraian still love each other. Theyrealise that it doesn’t matter where they live as long as they are together. At the end ofthe story the couple kiss passionately but even as they are locked in each other’s armswe get the impression that Cathy is still not happy. She is trapped within thisclaustrophobic existence with this family because of her love for Naraian. At the endit is still Cathy who has had to accept the change, not her husband. ***
Most of the story is told from Cathy’s point of view. This helps us to share herfeelings and sympathise with her. We also share Cathy’s standpoint as an outsider andit also helps build suspense in that information is withheld from us as well as Cathy.Themes: • family relationships • culture clash • love • power • moneyCharacters:Cathy: independent; determined; loving; ungrateful; discontented.Naraian: idealistic; determined; loving; weak; dependent; selfish.Naraian’s parents: interfering; possessive; bossy; devoted; generous; unselfish.Language: • powerful descriptions – of food, the parents, furniture. • powerful imagery, especially water imagery • metaphor • vocabulary choicesKey terms: • irony • reversal/twist • contrast • point of view • imagery • symbolism • repetition • characterisationLeela’s Friend – R.K. NarayanThe story:The story begins when the Sivasanker family hire a servant called Sidda. Sidda is alikeable boy who gets on well with the family and becomes particular friends withLeela, the daughter. Sidda and Leela play together and after a while they becomeclose.
One day the family notices that Leela’s necklace has gone missing. After somethought they realise that Sidda must be to blame and the mother accuses him ofstealing the piece of jewellery. She is so convinced of his blame that she even tells thepolice what he has done.Sidda is arrested and charged with theft even though there is no proof of him havingdone anything wrong. Leela is very upset. She doesn’t care about the necklace. Shejust wants her friend back so they can carry on playing the way they used to.Sometime later Leela finds her necklace hidden in a pot. She tells her family what hashappened and everyone realises that Sidda is not a thief after all. However, the storyends without Sidda receiving an apology.Themes: • family relationships • prejudice • poverty and class divisions • unfairness • the cruelty of officialsCharacters:Sidda: • he is vague about his previous employer • he makes false claims about the moon and misleads Leela • he is uneducated and illiterate • he is guilty at the mention of the chain and then runs away • Mrs. Sivasanker thinks of him as a ‘villain’ • he has a criminal record for stealing jewellery from children • the inspector calls him a ‘devil’ • Mrs. Sivasanker calls him ‘a rough fellow’Leela’s parents: • they are generous with their daughter – they give her a gold chain • they give her many things – books, crayons, a companion to play with • they are concerned for the safety of their daughterLeela: • spoilt • thoughtless • bossy • naïveKey terms:
• Irony • Reversal/twist • Contrast • Point of view • Characterisation • Hyperbole • DialogueGames at Twilight – Anita DesaiThe story:At the beginning of the story it is a very hot day and all the children are confinedindoors. The language used conveys the sense of restriction and claustrophobia theyare experiencing and the impatience of childhood is effectively conveyed to usthrough the choice of verbs the writer uses.The children are finally allowed to play outside because the mother is also feeling theheat of the day and can no longer struggle against the children when they are wailingso horrendously. Most parents would give in under such insistence; they know theyare being manoeuvred and yet give in for a quiet life.The children’s behaviour when let loose is typical of children anywhere. This gives ussome idea of the relief that they felt at escaping their confinement. The main businessof their day is play. This reminds us that play is a serious business to children. Theydecide to play hide and seek. This game is played everywhere all over the world andthe way the children behave is also universal. They argue about who should be ‘it’and when the playful fighting gets more serious we are reminded of how we have allat some time in our lives been told that it ‘will all end in tears’.As in any group there is always a peacemaker, in this case, Mira. She is the oldestsister. She splits them up and makes the play fair by splitting the group up anddeciding who should be‘it’ by chanting a count down sequence. In this we feel theintensity of such games and in the way children behave. Raghu still protests, however,accusing the other children of cheating and again, we see this as typical children’sbehaviour.The children are selfish; they are all for themselves. ‘Small Manu’ is left behind andwe feel the loneliness he experiences at being the youngest. He is undecided andcannot make up his mind where to hide. We share his sense of panic and fear andempathise with him at being caught so quickly.The behaviour of the oldest, Raghu also strikes a chord and we understand what it isalso like to be the older child who treats the younger ones with disdain in order toassert their authority. He wants to strike fear in the others and make them tremble.
Much of the story concerns Ravi. Again we can identify with the way he behaveswhatever our background. We are given images of Ravi’s sense of smallness as hetries to decide where to hide and his inferiority. He sees himself as a small burrowinganimal seeking security in his hole. He also compares himself to his older brother whohe clearly admires. He admires Raghu’s skill as a footballer and envies him in the waythat any younger boy would see his older brother as a role model. However, hissmallness is also conveyed; we sense his dejection, the way he cannot reach thingsand the way he hides amongst discarded household items as if he has been thrownaway as a lower form of life.When he realises that he isn’t going to be eaten alive we also see his confidence growand we experience his delight in success and the mixture of exhilaration and fear thatwe all experience in childhood, whatever country we are brought up in. Ravi has avivid imagination and this also typifies childhood. His biggest fear is snakes, a fearuniversal to all mankind regardless of whether or not you happen to live in a countrywhere snakes abound. Children everywhere terrify themselves with their vividimagination.Once Ravi has survived these fears he starts to imagine what it would feel like to bethe winner. Again we can identify with the fantasies that children build up around animagined success. This is a natural defence mechanism against our smallness andunimportance. He imagines himself as the centre of attention, surrounded by olderchildren and again we see the universality of this sort of behaviour.When Ravi realises that he has forgotten one of the most important rules of the gamehis sense of smallness sets in again. He feels frustrated and disappointed with himself.He ends up behaving like the baby he was trying so hard not to be.His reception by the adults and the other children make him realise how ordinary heis. The game is over and he hadn’t even been missed. He feels that when he washidden it was as if he didn’t even exist. No one gave him any thought at all. Theenormity of this smallness and lack of importance overwhelms him.At the end of the story Ravi refuses to join in the game even though the others try toinclude him. He is too proud. It is not a game he likes and is too much of a contrast tothe triumph he had hoped for.The final sentence in the story effectively conveys his misery. However, despite thefact that he is miserable he is no longer crying. We know that Ravi has grown up andwe can all identify with this situation with an experience of our own that makes us dothat. Once more we see why childhood experience in this story is so universal.Themes: • family relationships • death • feeling left out • growing-up • achievement or disappointment
Characters:There are many children in this story – brothers, sisters and cousins – and there is aclear hierarchy as the children compete for attention.Main children: Ravi, Raghu, Mira, Manu.Language: • detailed descriptions • images of life, death and time • images of violenceKey terms: • irony • reversal/twist • contrast • point of view • characterisation • symbolism • repetitionThe Winter Oak – Yuri Nagibin.The story:It starts when Anna Vasilevna begins her lesson and greets the pupils. Her attitudetowards the children is firm but respectful; there is a friendly atmosphere in theclassroom.She begins work immediately and has clearly grown in confidence as a teacher sincelast year when she was new and unsure of herself. Her voice is calm and she seems tobe enjoying her job.She realises that one of her pupils, Savushkin, is not in the room and when he walksin late we see that her reaction is one of disappointment rather than annoyance. Hislateness reminds her of similar occasions when he has behaved in this way and this, inturn, causes her to think of similar complaints she has had about the boy from thegeography mistress. Anna Vasilevna appears to be critical of this older woman’sclassroom discipline and the content of her lessons. This shows us that Anna is quickto judge people and feels very self-assured about her own skills as a teacher.Anna’s lesson is about naming nouns; the children appear confident and quickly movefrom naming things they are immediately familiar with to those outside the classroom.They name things like, ‘wheel’, tractor, and well’. This tells us something about the
agricultural environment in which the children live. Eventually they start namingthings in the wider world and Anna’s encouragement in this again shows us her skillas a teacher in developing their confidence.It is at this point that Savushkin, (who has been quiet up until now), appears to wakeup out of a dream to offer his contribution of ‘winter oak’. The rest of the classrespond with laughter, but Anna is intrigued by his response, noticing the passionwith which he spoke which was unlike the other children. By the end of the storyAnna Vasilevna has more understanding of what this tree means to Savushkin. In themeantime she must correct him as he has also used an adjective in his answer and shedoes this politely asking Savushkin to see her at break.During this conversation we learn more about Anna. She is exasperated withSavushkin when he cannot give a straight answer to any of her questions and werealise that she is more concerned with his correct use of grammar than what the boyis actually saying. However, we are also shown how concerned she is about her pupilswhen she offers to visit Savushkin at home.From the moment they enter the wood Anna Vasilevna takes on a different role. Shebegins to discover a whole new world – the world of nature – and her responsebecomes one of excitement and wonder and child-like enthusiasm. When she makesan incorrect observation it is Savushkin who corrects her and she realises that in theforest it is she who is the pupil and Savushkin the teacher. When Anna sees the‘winter oak’ she continues to be delighted by the world revealed to her by her pupiland her interest increases.It is Savushkin who reminds her of their appointment with his mother and she isquickly brought back into her role as teacher. She realises how she has been ‘taken in’by her experience and reminds Savushkin that the route through the forest is clearlynot the quickest one. It is at this point that she has her moment of truth and realisation.She reflects on her lessons in the classroom and realises how ‘dry’ they are and howshe needs to look at the beauty and richness of the wider world in order to bring newmeaning to them.At the beginning of the story Anna Vasilevna was feeling pleased and slightly self-satisfied about her skills as a teacher and was even critical of other teachers in theschool. She now realises that she has a lot more to learn and her understanding of thechildren reaches a new level.She thanks Savushkin for the walk and assures him that he can continue to use thepathway as a route into school. When she loos at the ‘winter oak’ for the last time sherealises that the most amazing thing in the forest is not the tree itself but the smallhuman being at the foot of it – Savushkin. She has learnt a powerful lesson about thechildren she teaches – that they are wonderful, future citizens of the world. ***The plot appears to be based on the conflict between a dedicated teacher and adifficult pupil. However, the plot changes direction in the forest section.Themes: • prejudice
• poverty • education • unfairness • the cruelty of officials • a culture clashCharacters:The story has two main characters, Anna Vasilevna and Savushkin.Anna Vasilevna: • hard-working • dedicated • serious about teaching • young • inexperienced • quick to judgeSavushkin: • polite • self-assured • confident • different – he belongs to the world of nature • observant • understanding • modest • protectiveLanguage: • vivid descriptions • imagery • personification – of the forest • symbolism • dramatic short sentences • onomatopoeia • metaphor • alliterationKey terms: • irony • contrast • point of view • characterisation • symbolism • personification
• dialogue Bringing the stories togetherThe exam questions will invite you to refer to more than one story, so you need to dosome grouping of the stories as part of your revision. The questions are likely to focuson thematic links between the stories, for example, similar problems, conflicts, waysof life.Revision tips: • Read the stories again then write a summary of each to remind you what they are about (or use the summary contained in this booklet). • Give each story a new title that helps to remind you of its themes. e.g. The Young Couple could become Family Domination. • Construct a mind-map that maps out all the stories’ titles and all the links you are able to make between them. • Try to group the stories under broad thematic headings. For example, stories with a theme, and therefore under a heading of Family Relationships, might include: • 1. Pieces of Silver 2. The Red Ball 3. The Young Couple 4. Leela’s Friend 5. Games at Twilight Other headings to consider are: • the world of the child • culture clashes • unfairness • poverty • school • fitting inYou can also establish links between the ways in which the stories are written. This ismore difficult but you will gain more marks in the exam if you can make a connectionbetween the styles of different writers and the effects they achieve.Remind yourself of the stories which use: • a particular character’s point of view • flashbacks, time shifts and long time spans • contrasts – of characters, dialogue, settings
• suspense and unexpected twists • symbolic details • striking descriptions of setting or physical appearance • a particular tone – chatty, serious, humorous, ironic, angry • a particular mood – pathos (feelings of sadness), triumph, disappointment • hopeful endings, unhappy endings, unresolved endingsWhat are the examiners looking for? 1. Relevance: you must answer the question they have set. 2. Response: you must express your view of the stories in relation to the question. 3. Textual detail: you must support your response with direct quotation and detail from the stories. 4. Evaluation: you must try to look closely at the way the stories are written.