Anyone studying Small Island by Andrea Levy?Watch
I've got three essays. They are all A grade except the characters one which is a B
One is annotated by my teacher
Hope this helps
I'll start with Voices in the Text (My AoN were scenes/places, time/sequence, characters/characteriation, voices in text, points of view/narrative: I think my teacher took them from a textbook).
Firstly, the narration is actually just like speech for each of the characters and their narrative and speaking style tend to be the same. For each of them, this develops an aspect of their character: Hortense is very formal, such as 'the bell was not operational' as opposed to 'not working' as a native Brit would say. Her speech sounds like she has learnt it rather than developed it and this highlights how she is an outsider: She does not fit in with the white British, but her contrast with all the other Jamaicans shows how she is an outsider in her own country too. Hortense tries to escape her Jamaican roots because she sees England as something aspirational and romantic (I could link this to Jay Gatsby).
By contrast, Gilbert is a very traditional Jamaican, using all the slang ('cha man!'). However, he is not stupid and enjoys jokes ('your mother never tell you pawpaw is to go in your mouth?') and this is an important aspect of Small Island (by which I mean it is always on the mark scheme, so lazy examiners will like it) which is the humourous language and tone.
Bernard's voice is very traditional, and reflects his somewhat bland personality with its short, clipped phrasing: 'Hundreds of troops' and 'Hands out' are two sentences within his first paragraph! The short sentences are used to emphasises how he does not embellish with poetic language or emotion, but remains detached as much as possible the scene with the whore is a great example of this emotional detachment).
Lastly, Queenie's voice is the least distinct of all the main characters and if I had to describe it, I would say that at times it is gossip-like and at others is fairly modern, so does not stand out. This modernity of speech is related to Queenie's forward-looking attitudes. The gossip comes from her use of indirect speech, where she mimics her Neighbours ('How many is it now? they'd have said to each other.' Note the use of 'they'd' a very modern, informal phrase). By doing this, Levy might be commenting on the hypocrisy: she is unfairly putting words into another's mouth in order to slander them, just as Mr.Todd might do to his 'darkies'.
Now, to move away from the specific characters we should ask why Levy has used such stereotypical voices. It is to capture the people of the time and reflect them honestly: her novel is trying to capture the 1940s and the zietgeist (spirit of the times - this again has links to the Great Gatsby as a Great American Novel, sorry if you don't study it). But what is important to think about is also why she did this as opposed to other styles, specifically a third-person 'omniscient' narrator. This could be because she wants to link her novel in with the oral tradition of her (Jamaican and hence African) roots: It is like a story told around a campfire, but adapted for modern times and to reflect current ideas (such as racism and xenophobia with the opening in 2004 of the EU into Eastern Europe and the influx of immigrants that was feared). Another interpretation, along similar lines, is that she wanted to make the novel personal because the story is very personal and intimate (affairs/scandals/racism). In order to fully experience 1948 and what it was like to arrive in Britain at the time, the reader has to be able to understand the characters and to sympathise with them. The best way to do this is to present the novel as a collection of oral, spoken tales rather than a novel that feels as if it was written.
If I can be motivated, I might do another AoN, possibly narration (which links with voices in SI) because Scenes and Structure/Sequence came up in June 2011.
I attempted Small Island for Section A last year but just scrapped a C :\ so I'm answering it for Section B for my resit.
Firstly, the key point is Levy's use of 4 narrators.This gives us four unique perspectives on the events of 1948 as well as 4 life-stories. Given that each character narrates quite a few chapters in long chains, it is surprising a third-person narrator was not used because within their life-stories you do not get the same sharing of viewpoints. However, Levy uses this for a reflection on oral tradition, as explained above. She wants the stories to be personal and intimate so that we can sympathise and really get to grips with the spirit of the times. Alternatively, you could say that an unbroken 'before' section emphasises a need to not forget the lessons of the past, which is possibly why Levy set the whole novel in the past. When making a point about the first person narration and its conversational tone, you might want to mention that the narrators often seem to recognise that they are telling a story and they have an audeince because they address the audience directly with rhetorical questions ('how could such a person get to the top of this tall house?')
Secondly, and just because there are some nice structure and language (AO2) points to be had in an AoN that lends itself to form, I would mention the difference in voice between narrators, such as Hortense's formal speech and Bernard's short sentences.
Thirdly, the use of 4 narrators rather than 1 allows Levy to make links between all four characters to make the point that some things are universal: for example, most of the characters are nostalgic, such as Hortense's horror at 'this is how the English live?' or Bernard's hatred of India (and in their 'Before' sections there tends to be much more positive language than in 1948 possibly with the exception of Bernard). All the characters are also more optimistic than possibly they should be: Gilbert wants to fly, Hortense dreams of life in England and Queenie expects an exciting marriage with Bernard. Perhaps Bernard is an exception from optimism and nostalgia because he is so miserable and unemotional (OK, I'm straying from narration here).
I'd like to hear what you or anyone else has to add to these if you can think of anything.
- Rather than being in chronological order, the story is told to us in a serious of long extensive analepsis (flashbacks). For example, we read about Queenie and Bernards courting well before we find he has been lost in the war. The lack of chronology symbolises how chaotic the war had made the character's lives and sense of time. It could also demonstrate how disordered the character's lives had become and how priorities became disordered (Like how Bernard didn't seem to really realise that not returning to his wife after 2 years is a LONG time - he mis-assessed what he did as being alright)
-The narrative shifts between '1948' and 'Before'. This could signify how the war and moving on after it was hugely significant for the characters - its effect shattering. It is as though 'Before' is like an entire separate era that doesn't need a specific date or time, it is just 'Before'.
OMG that looks tiny now that I've typed it up!!
Added: In chapter 13, Gilbert shifts between the present and the past (another analepsis). He begins to tell us, saying 'Come, let me explain...' warning us that now he is going to be shifting into the past. There is often such a sudden shift of time through the novel, suggesting that much of the time, the characters have their heads in the past and are not fully present in the present-tense. This allows Levy to give us a clearer picture of the character's motives as well whilst also telling us their back-story in snippets (I'm not entirely sharp with this..)
In 'Small Island', Levy starts off with a prologue rather than a first chapter. In this prologue, Queenie relates her first experience with black people. It is of low standard - when they get 'lost in Africa' she sees 'dirt', 'huts', 'mud'and 'dirt houses'. Graham and Emily tell Queenie they all live like this and can not speak english as 'they are not civillized' and comically (and ignorantly) tell her 'they only understand drums'. This highlights misconceptions in the 1930's and 40's about black people. Emily and Graham are both silenced however when the black man speaks to them in an english more eloquent than theirs, which is perhaps an attack on these misconceptions presented earlier. Queenie, as a child, is absorbing all this and the black man's eloquence in speaking is perhaps one reason why Queenie is not discriminative of black people later in the novel. The black man's eloquence mirror's Hortense's manner of speaker - someone who Queenie attempts to take under her wing in due course of the novel. Levy could simply be starting the novel with a statement showing wildly racist concepts in that era to highlight what a hard time immigrants would have had integrating into British white society.
A very interesting thing to note is when 'lost in Africa', there is a repetition of the word 'chocolate'. The black man looked like he was 'carved of melting chocolate' and the very reason they were in Africa was because they had been allured by the 'syrupy brown smell of chocolate'. Chocolate connotes childish innocent (which is relevant as Queenie is a child at the time of this narration) as children like sweets and treats. Arguably, this could be an indirect foreshadowing of Queenie's later affair with Michael as she was 'seduced' by his 'nut-brown' skin and sensual nature. Queenie, allured by the chocolatey aspects of Africa could have learnt to make a link between the sweetness of chocolate and black people. This is a rather sexual interpretation, however the occurance of the prologue of Emila and Graham pushing Queenie to kiss the black man emphasis the underlying sexual element and foreshadowing of the later sexual events.
That was copied from a hand-written essay I did that I got an A for. Although now when I read it, the AO1 doesn't sound too good
-parallels and contrasts
-openings of texts
-motifs, themes, symbols, allegories
-settings (not places. Theres a difference)
-Conflict (not crisis)
-Imagery (although descriptive language came up in June 2011)
Bernard is a very traditional, old-fashioned Englishman and this is represented by the fact that for the majority of the novel, he is stuck in the past, in 'before'. However, towards the end Bernard does enter into 1948 and this shows how he has begun to accept the new world that has appeared from the end of the war. Levy leaves us with an overall optimistic feeling: even Bernard can change his ways and embrace the present rather than being stubbornly old-fashioned (and Hortense and Gilbert finally stop bickering, both couples are together, etc).
There are also parallels drawn between the past and the 'present' to show that while many things change, not everything does. For example, Gilbert is first seen protecting Hortense during the riot in Jamaica, and then at the end he protects her from the man in the car who mistakes her for a whore.
1. Crisis/Issue of Gilbert and Hortense not getting along particularly well is sorted out when Hortense sees around London and Gilbert takes her to their new house. These two events, which allegorically are taking steps towards the ‘British dream’ Hortense had been expecting, soften Hortense up. She initiates physical intimacy with Gilbert and they start a loving relationship which was exactly what Gilbert also wanted. Thus, the house signifies a resolution to their problems and a new beginning for the.
2. Queenie’s child. This issue is solved when Gilbert and Hortense accept to bring up the child ‘as their own’. This additionally softens Hortense further – makes her remember Michael, her own childhood given away by her parents and awakening a maternal instinct, calling the child ‘me sprigadee’. The money Queenie gives Hortense also signifies a better future for them as Hortense puts them away ‘to put them to good use when required’.
3. In the end, all the loose ends are tied together. Bernard is back with Queenie and they plan to start a new life, Hortense and Gilbert also have their own house in ‘The Mother Country’ and the baby Michael is also being taken care of.
And this is a sample paragraph I did:
Throughout the novel, Hortense and Gilbert display a clear lack of love and bonding which remains until the near-end. In chapter 51, when Hortense fails at being accepted a teacher as she had dearly hoped, Gilbert comes to brighten her spirits up by showing her around the sights of London she had ‘seen in books’. He succeeds at making her happy and in this chapter Hortense demonstrates a softer side to herself – a side which initiates the start of their emotional relationship. Further on in chapter 56, Gilbert takes Hortense to see their new house in Finsbury Park and this also ignites Hortense’s softer side. Upon seeing the ‘good room’ they can ‘fix up’ with just ‘a little hard work’, Hortense is reminded of her ‘golden’ English dreams of a house (as repeated in the first chapter) with ‘a bell at the door… (that goes) ding-a-ling, ding-a-ling’. This instantly brings out the loving side of her to the extent that she later invited Gilbert to the bed and initiates physical intimacy – something Gilbert longed for. Thus, the house and the sights are allegorical for a resolution to their previous disliking of each other and for their new beginning.
^^Perhaps I could have compared Hortense's contrasting language for Gilbert in the beginning ('fool', 'buffoon') with her language in the end ('noble', 'a man of honour') for some AO2.. although it doesn't really link in with the point of resolutions much
1. Writers often choose their titles carefully to allow for different potential meanings. Write about some potential meanings of titles in the three texts you have studied
2. Write about the significance of one or two key events in each of the three texts you have studied.
1. Write about some of the ways characters are created in the three texts you have studied.
2. Write about the ways authors use time to shape the order of events in the three texts you have studied.
1. Many narratives have one or more significant moments of crisis. Write about the sigificance of crises in the work of the three writers you have studied.
2. How do writers use repetition to create meanings in their texts? You must refer to the wrok of the three writers you have studied.
1. Write about the significance of the ways writers end their narratives in the work of the three writers you have studied.
2. Write about the significance of narrators in the work of the three writers you have studied.
1. Write about the significance of the ways the three writers you have studied have structured their narratives.
2. Write about the significance of the ways the three writers you have studied have used places in their narrative.
1. ‘In narratives, what we are not told is just as important as what we are told’ Write about the significance of gaps or of the untold stories in the narratives of the three writers you have studied.
2. Write about the significance of descriptive language as it is used by each of the three writers you have studied.
1. A key choice writers make is how they name or refer to their characters. Write about the significance of the choices writers made in naming or referring to their characters in the three texts you have studied
2. Writers draw upon the conventions of different genres when in constructing their narratives; for example, ballads, monologues, elegies, fictive biographies, thrillers, romances. Write about the significance of generic conventions in the narratives of the three writers you have studied.
Further points on time and sequence I have un-Earthed:
Bernard is a very traditional, old-fashioned Englishman and this is represented by the fact that for the majority of the novel, he is stuck in the past, in 'before'.