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The poem Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan, by Moniza Alvi, is about a girl who has emigrated from Pakistan to Britain

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Introduction

Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan The poem "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan", by Moniza Alvi, is about a girl who has emigrated from Pakistan to Britain. In the poem, she describes the presents her Pakistan aunts send her, and how she left her home country at a young age. It is set in England in the present day. The form of the poem seems to be quite random - the stanzas are irregular and there is a mixture of short and longer lines. The poet makes use of dashes to indicate pauses when reading aloud, along with regular full stops. There are many different types of language used in the poem. An imaginative simile is "glistening like an orange split open", in reference to the girls' salwar kameez. This conveys an image of brightness and freshness. If an orange was cut in half, you would be able to see all the juice inside, shining and sparkling. ...read more.

Middle

Although she lives in Britain, she is always being reminded about Pakistan by the beautiful clothes she is sent. She doesn't fit in to England or Pakistan. Her friends probably wouldn't have found the clothes to be fashionable or understand why she wears them, causing her to feel separate from them. She is proud of her Pakistan dresses and accessories, as they bring her memories of where she comes from. The statement "I tried each satin-silken top - was alien in the sitting room" could refer to the differences between the Indian and British cultures, and how one may appear alien in comparison to the other. The girl may feel alienated from Pakistan in that she can't be as beautiful as Indian women, and so is happier in English clothes. The lines "My costume clung to me and I was aflame, I couldn't rise up out of it's fire" might be a reference to the myth about the phoenix being burnt and rising more powerfully out of the ashes, but the girl can't do that. ...read more.

Conclusion

Her aunts are solid with their identity, but she isn't - the gifts unsettle her. I would speaker softer and slower when talking about the girl's home country, as her memories make her feel a bit sad. I would want the audience to feel envious when I describe the pretty clothes the girl has, but then sorry for her when I say about her having to flee from Pakistan. Due to the war, eastern Pakistan split to become Bangladesh. However the girl was too young to remember properly, and must imagine her birth place from photographs, and read about the war in newspapers. In this image, she sees herself with beggar girls. She feels that she is in the same caste as them - the lowest of the low. To conclude, I think "Presents from my Aunts in Pakistan" is a poem with mixed emotions. There is more to it than first meets the eye; it is not just about a girl talking about clothes, but about her emigration and ultimately, her identity. ...read more.

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3 star(s)

Response to the question

The candidate introduces the essay well, s/he is clear in their approach and for the most part the essay flows well, though at times it feels at little jumpy. I would recommend that each point is discussed in more detail, ...

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Response to the question

The candidate introduces the essay well, s/he is clear in their approach and for the most part the essay flows well, though at times it feels at little jumpy. I would recommend that each point is discussed in more detail, and the poem is discussed chronologically, this would make the essay easier to read. This essay has some very short paragraphs which I would advise against and not all points are brought to a close. This is shown in the second paragraph, which could be improved by further discussion of the poems structure, with the addition of a personal suggestion as to why the poem has been laid out this way. For example the poet occasionally uses dashes as a pause and this shows that Alvi finds it difficult to talk about her past. The candidate has attempted to discuss several points including the structure of the poem and attempts to give reason to the emotions portrayed within the poem, which shows a good level of understanding. A good example of this is in the fifth paragraph where the candidate states “She feels like she has no identity” “Although she lives in Britain, she is always being reminded about Pakistan by the beautiful clothes she is sent. She doesn’t fit in to England or Pakistan.”.

Level of analysis

For the most part the candidate successfully analyses key points from the poem and goes into a reasonable level of detail. S/he discusses linguistic terms such as the use of metaphors and onomatopoeia, though they do so in a crude way and it feels forced, it doesn’t flow with the rest of the essay. My advice is that the essay could be restructured, so that the candidate talks though the poem as it progresses so instead of one complete paragraph that mentions technical terms, these are discussed throughout the essay, making it more coherent. Also the candidate fails to mention the pain and uncertainty that the poet felt, her lack of knowledge about the country in which she was born causes her emotional turmoil. She feels uncomfortable when trying on her Aunt’s extravert gifts, she’s more comfortable with her English clothes as they allow her to blend in with everyone else. She doesn’t want to be noticed by others. She is suffering from an identify crisis, she doesn’t know who she is or who she should be. The candidate talks about the girl in the poem and I feel like s/he has missed the point, the girl in the poem is Moniza Alvia, she is talking about her teenage self. Therefore the candidate fails to make links between the poem and the poets feelings and emotions. In addition the candidate fails to discuss the variety of language used through the poem, such as the conflict between England and Pakistan, how they seem to clash in every way possible, for example the bright colours of the salwar kameez compared to the almost dull colours of denim and corduroy that the poet had a childlike desire for. Finally there is no solid conclusion. A conclusion should answer the initial question, summarise your key point and ideas and include your personal opinions of the poem. This is important as it brings the essay to a close and gives you a chance to leave the reader with a good impression.

Quality of writing

The quality of writing in this essay is of a reasonable standard, the candidate could improve their essay by using a wider range of vocabulary as the language used is rather simple. Although there are no real issues with spelling and grammar. Overall I think this an average example of work expected at GCSE.


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Reviewed by PicturePerfect 25/02/2012

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