How does John Agard make the poem Half-Caste seem controversial? Think about the main features of the poet's language which make it different from Standard English. Is the poem mainly directed against white people who use the term 'half-caste'?

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How does John Agard make the poem Half-Caste seem controversial? Think about the main features of the poet's language which make it different from Standard English. Is the poem mainly directed against white people who use the term 'half-caste'?

The poem is controversial because it is challenging the idea that people of colour are, somehow, lesser beings than white people. This idea is ingrained in the term 'half-caste', which is used by many people — most of whom would consider themselves to be racially tolerant. Though many people deny it, words are a powerful thing.

I don't know if the poem if just directed towards whites, though it is probably mostly directed towards whites. There are members of the black community who look down on those from mixed parentage. It is interesting to note, however, that the term is about black/white mixed parentage, not any other kind of ethnic mix. What the poem does do (which suggests that it is mostly directed towards white people) is challenge certain notions about black people. The images associated with 'half-caste' are often quite sophisticated, with references such as Tchaikovsky and Picasso, which many white people would (ignorantly) assume black people have no idea about. It also makes many critical references to English culture and weather, which is generally associated with white people.

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The poet switches between Standard English and dialect, which shows intelligence and sophistication while at the same time remaining in contact with one's roots. The features which indicate the language isn't Standard English are alternate spelling of words (which indicate how they are said); a lack of capital letters and standard punctuation; irregular use of tense ("when Picasso / mix red an green"); and the use of Afro-Caribbean terms ("ah rass").

It’s pretty much a humorous poem. Above all, John Agard pokes fun at people who use the term "half-caste" (meaning somebody of mixed race, obviously) in a nasty ...

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The essay has its merits: the student demonstrates a sound understanding of the themes of the poem. The student begins to take a close look at some of the language used by Agard and offer an interpretation into the effects its use has on meaning, However, the essay loses focus as to how or why the poem is controversial. Some of the latter points are insufficiently developed to warrant it achieving a grade in the upper bands, as the student veers towards feature spotting rather than language analysis. Three Stars.

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The Quality of Written Communication is good. There is no real grammatical or syntactic prowess on display here but there is no real need if the candidate is not aiming for full marks. Varying sentence lengths and vocabulary will retain an examiner's interest far better than a simplistic, clichéd essay structure, but this falls somewhere in between; a pleasant compromise between accuracy of QWC and a more stylistic flair.

The Level of Analysis shown here is good, though as stated earlier, is not very well-focused on the question. The candidate makes good reference to language in the first paragraphs, commenting with a wonderful written fluidity (good because it shows the examiner that the candidate is a comfortable writer with a natural flair), and I like the expression of the analysis about non-Standard English and the resonance of the use of "Tchaikovsky" and "Picasso" with regards to the ignorance of white people, but after these paragraphs the candidate resorts to explaining in a more literal sense what Agard is writing, and this elicits no marks at all. The deficit is not made up by a good conclusion as one doesn't appear to exist - I strongly recommend candidates write a conclusion, as in all essay questions, candidates are marked on their ability to construct effective essays with rounded introductions and conclusions. It is therefore imperative that candidates include these.

A lot of what is written here is good and accurate analysis (though a few times it feels as if the candidate is merely interpreting the poem in a more literal manner), however, after the first couple of paragraphs the candidate's answer neglects to form an analysis appropriate to the task the question sets. There is little explicit analysis focused on the controversiality of Agard's 'Half-Caste' beyond the first few paragraphs, so whilst the analysis shown is indicative of a fairly high-achieving candidate, they cannot achieve higher than a low C grade for GCSE given that their analysis is not focused or applied to the correct objective.