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Poetry Exam Questions on "Conscientious Objector", "Our Sharpeville", "Cousin Kate", "Half-Caste", "August 6, 1945" and "The Drum".

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Introduction

English Work ? Poetry Exam 16th January 2013 English Q1) Explore how the writer presents her ideas about death in ?Conscientious Objector?. (15) The poem ?Conscientious Objector? by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a poem based on the cruelty of war. It was written during the Second World War, at a time where conscientiousness was a moral standard. The narrator expresses her opinion towards the expected behaviour of society, and how she objects towards it. The language used in the poem has a significant impact on the way it is perceived. Death is used as an obstacle in the poem. The beginning line involves the noun ?Death?, which immediately insinuates that death is a person; a living thing. This is used to create a sense of fear of death and let readers know he cannot be escaped; she will not succumb to his temptations. This relates to the narrator?s strong beliefs and chivalrous attitude, 'I shall die, but that is all I shall do for death.' She is determined and resilient. There is also an idea of torture being taken lightly, 'Though he flick my shoulders with his whip.' A whip is a harsh, tormenting weapon. The verb ?flick? presents the pain as mild and the narrator mocks Death?s attempts of torture. This is also used ironically, as a whip would usually cause a great deal of anxiety and excruciating pain. Millay does this to show that death and torture is taken lightly. ...read more.

Middle

The miners arriving bring disruption and resistance to the village, ?their chanting foreign and familiar, like the call and answer of road gangs.? ?Foreign and familiar? is an oxymoron, perhaps representing the feelings of the residents towards the miners. They are familiar as they have passed the girl?s house frequently in the past few years, showing that they are essentially part of that area. However, they are also foreign because they do not belong; they are different to the residents of Sharpeville, and they are treated differently by being given lower-class related jobs (miners). The miners also bring violent behaviour to the village, ?call and answer of road gangs? insinuates a careless approach towards the mines. The noun, ?gangs? represents a group of similarly related people whom are separate to outsiders. They are written to suggest they are going to cause trouble or turmoil, however they are simply going about their daily business, and have no bad intentions. This is used to represent how actions can be misconceived, and also influenced by race. Our Sharpeville is structured into five different stanzas. The third stanza is significantly shorter than the rest, signifying that it is the climax of the poem and holds an important message. ?Come inside, they do things to little girls.? This is simply a generalisation of black people being violent and assertive. Kok may have used this dialogue ironically, as it was spoken by the girl?s grandmother, whom would have been assumed to be wise and unbiased. ...read more.

Conclusion

This sets the scene for the poem, allowing the reader to understand that the narrator isn?t genuinely serious about his apologies. Instead, it seems the narrator wants to put a point across. This relates back to the initial theme, prejudice. This is a concept not taken lightly, yet the narrator presents this issue as a joke, something to laugh about. He perhaps feels that the idea of prejudice is ridiculous, and to treat someone differently because of difference is preposterous. ________________ ________________ Q1) Compare August 6, 1945 and The Drum. (15) August 6, 1945 and The Drum covey a similar theme of war and destruction, yet the way which this is presented differs significantly. August 6, 1945 is a ballad, an anecdote of a past event, which was unmistakeably life-changing for thousands of families in the past. The poet emphasises the themes of nature, which creates a symbolic interpretation of how the bomb disrupted the natural world. ?Bees drizzle over.? The word ?drizzle? is not essentially powerful, but dreary. This emphasises the insignificance of nature; what has been done has been done, and it cannot be changed nor prevented by nature. The poet advocates that man overpowers nature, that nature will always be inferior and defenceless. This is further reinforced with the final lines, ?Ladybirds, ladybirds? This is based on a children?s poem, which implies that ladybirds are free and able to fly away at will. The poet gives the impression that this is not the case, that nature, under the influence of man, is powerless. Ladybirds are bright red, with black dots, mirroring the victims of the bombing. Blood red, speckled with jet black dust. ...read more.

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