Tag Archives: #revise2017IGCSE

TKAM: Characters of Cal and Tom. A give-back

I have just been marking Y11 practice essays on Mockingbird relating to the characters of Calpurnia and Tom. Given the stem: ‘how are the characters…. presented?’ the focus is clearly on Lee’s technique but also on her intention in creating these two characters. Students need to ask themselves what the function is of any character in a question such as this and then address the ways in which the author brings out that function in the writing.

Functions:
Both are black and in a book focused on the racial divide of the deep south, this is an obvious point to make. More than this , both are ‘good’ and therefore can be seen not only as ‘Mockingbirds’ but also as the antithesis of the ‘white trash’ defined by the Ewell family. This is important since Lee is at pains to point out that there is inherent worth in Tom which cannot be seen at all in Bob, though Bob, being white, will receive the benefit of the bias of the jury.
Thus both symbolise an essential concept of goodness. Both are also part of Scout’s education though in different ways. Calpurnia, from before the start of the text is an active teacher whose role is criticised by society in the shape of Miss Caroline; Tom is himself a lesson – he never meets Scout, but is as much a part of her education as anything undertaken by Calpurnia or Atticus.

Calpurnia:
An intelligent and hard working black woman employed to replace Atticus’ wife in the Finch household. It is clear from the early stages of the narrative that Scout is utterly indebted to Calpurnia for her education and her burgeoning awareness of the world around her. Cal is not the only surrogate mother – Maudie and Alexandra must also be considered in this light, but Lee uses her for clear social education -whether when teaching Scout not to disrespect Walter or when taking the children to her church and responding to Lula’s verbal aggression.
It is Cal to whom the children turn when upset and it is Cal who will be chosen by Atticus to accompany him to call on Helen following Tom’s death. She has the feminine virtue of compassion and empathy in a way that Atticus does not. This is not to say that she is a ‘soft touch’ -Jem’s comments about the strength of her hand in a beating make that eminently clear.
Towards the end of the novel Calpurnia is presented in two scenes: Alexandra wishes to be rid of her and Atticus is clear -he can’t live without her. This is not a romantic attachment, but one of support and mutual respect. Look again at the little scene in which she enters the body of the courthouse to tell Atticus that his children are missing – she bears herself with dignity in the lair of the white folks and carries out one of her last duties in regards to the children. After this in the novel she will wait and serve at the tea party and help to comfort Helen, but her role as educator in chief is no longer relevant. In Part 1 she seems to be Atticus’ accomplice in educating the children. By the middle of part 2 she is replaced by circumstance and by Tom.

Tom

Although mentioned in Part 1, Tom plays no part in the text until part 2 – as though Part 1 has been preparation for the key idea: the black man, however poor, is not to be written off because of the colour of his skin. His trial takes up around a quarter of the text and is without doubt the central event of the whole text. In it Tom is set against Bob Ewell and the pair are held up to scrutiny. Tom is as much portrayed by his own deeds and speech as he is by Bob’s: the one is the antithesis of the other. Where Tom is quiet, respectful and unwilling to use Bob’s own words in his evidence because they are too uncouth. Bob, on the other hand, is brash, disrespectful and boorish. Lee uses the trial to give the reader a detailed description of the Ewell home which will later be contrasted with the homes of the black community. Both are near the tip but Bob’s is virtually on it – there are no windows and a fence made of savage-looking ruined tools. The only touch of softness is the attempt by Mayella to grow geraniums in a poor copy of Maudie’s garden in the centre of town. The Black community dwellings are, in contrast, cosy and carry the scent of cooking to the visitors, despite their poverty.

This is the key: despite poverty, at the middle of the depression, Tom finds time for dignity and honesty. This is seen time and again in the court house and also in the fact that he is employed at all, and a good worker. Not only this, he pities Mayella. Whilst this is used against him in court, it is so important – his thoughts are not for himself but for others. For this caring nature he is held up as a scapegoat by a jury of bigots. When he is killed trying to escape, he has run out of hope and his death presents the reader with a clear recognition that a terrible injustice has taken place.

His death is the last piece of Scout’s jigsaw. She sees Calpurnia being asked to provide comfort outside her family and also sees her Aunt – until this time a figure of hostility and perceived unkindness – in a different light. She too can see that it is time to grow up and to find dignity in the face of adversity.

Many will write that Tom is a ‘mockingbird’ but few refer to the jail scene. Here after the lunch ob has dispersed it is Tom’s weak voce which pierces the evening air. A frightened and vulnerable soul in a violent and cruel world.

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Y11 planning Anthology A: Boys messing and Goat.

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Two hexagon plans: Boys messing around and Goat from Edexcel IGCSE Anthology A.

new-doc-2017-02-27-09-18-35

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Much Ado: Comedy and Marxism

 

I gave a short lecture as an extension exercise for y11…

maan-comedy-and-marxism

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Year 11: exploring key passages in TKAM

Sheets created in class in 25 minutes in order to focus on aspects of context, language and plot devices in TKAM.

passages-pdf

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Much Ado: Deceit planning

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One of the joys of working in such a strong department as I do is finding evidence of the work left behind.  This is Miss Boyle’s classroom wall this morning.  I attach a PDF copy for closer scrutiny. Thank you.

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The Theme of Innocence in TKAM: A giveback

Again, a PowerPoint for students to refer to after a lesson.  In this case an essay question from May 2014 from the Edexcel IGCSE Literature paper.

innocence-exam-question

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Chinese Cinderella: Revision and Review

A short PPt accompanying a revision-type lesson.  Trying to use fewer prepared PowerPoints, but I like to leave something concrete for students to use in their own revision slots…

Here I consider the passage Chinese Cinderella in the Edexcel IGCSE/Certificate Anthology.

cc-revision-and-review

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Notes from class: Year 11. Most memorable character

These are notes from class to share with my y11 class in a lesson following up from the post looking at the most memorable character in TKAM

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The IWB was not working and I am trying to wean myself off PowerPoint…

Mainly for their benefit (you had to be there…).

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feedback: Who is the most memorable character…

… in TKAM?

When answering this type of question, popular in the Edexcel IGCSE students might want to use these steps as a guide:

1: There is no right answer, but you must have enough material in your chosen character to establish a good, detailed and broad response in order to show, at least, “thorough” knowledge as required to attain 19-24/30.
2: If a character is truly memorable that is because the writer wished the readers to remember that character. Bear this in mind. The character must embody something about the messages which the writer wishes to impart. If you are not sure about the underlying themes or philosophies being discussed, then this is a tricky essay to write well.
3: This essay is not a straightforward character essay. Yes you will need to explore their character, but also explain what it is that makes them memorable.
4: Any character is a construct. Try not to write as though they are real, autonomous characters who think for themselves. They don’t. They have been created in a certain way to convey a certain purpose. Try to show you understand this…

With this in mind, students have just been writing a response to this question based on TKAM in a past IGCSE Lit paper.

I will show an outline plan here for 2 characters: Atticus and Bob Ewell…

Atticus: role- educator, personification of justice, father. Lee is writing to point up the parlous state of bigotry and justice in the South in the 30s. She is intending her writing to reflect the mood of the late 50s and early 60s. This Atticus is needed to be memorable since he embodies the role of the “righteous”…
Here are some ideas:

a: For Atticus to teach the children the fundamental character traits needed to deliver a better world he needs to be put into a series of “lessons”. Throughout part 1 there are a number of these, from stopping the playing of the Radley-game to the lesson in courage which bis Mrs Dubose. Choose wisely and explore a couple to develop the idea that both the children and the reader need to be educated before the trial starts to ensure that the lessons are fully learned.
b: The trial is the centre piece of Part 2 and the lesson here is about justice and the idea that there is a natural justice which is not always represented by the justice delivered by a society which has formulated laws to reinforce the status quo within that society. Atticus is not necessarily free of the taint of racism, but he is clearly embodying the idea that what is just should be fought for, whatever the odds. This section can be used for what Lee evidently intended to be the set piece – his summing-up speech. This speech is so clearly an attack on the complacency of a white hierarchy that it becomes, almost verbatim, the centrepiece of Gregory Peck’s Atticus on film – a depiction of the novel which is so Atticus centered that it tends to slew our recollection of the novel. Clearly we are meant to remember this speech if little else!
c: Atticus is self-effacing yet has deep courage. It is no accident that two passages complement each other in this text: the shooting of Tim Johnson and the threatening second mob scene. In both Atticus is depicted as the calm “ever fixed mark” at the centre of a tempest. Highly memorable scenes which serve to stress the idea of justice being immovable at the centre of a wild world.
d: As a father Atticus is a model – almost too good to be true. He is a single parent who manages to bring up his children in an era of poverty and yet manages to teach them about fairness, courage and honesty despite the challenges he faces. You can choose any of his interventions, but cast an eye to the structure of the novel. Jem is useful. We recall how he is “disappointed” in Atticus early in the story, and becomes hero-struck during the trial, hanging on every word. This book is a bildungsroman. Atticus is particularly memorable because it is his interactions with the children which show the pair develop from the innocence of the opening pages to the worldly experience of the end of the novel. He is memorable because Lee despite Atticus’ input, it is the children who seem to make this journey for themselves.

I use Bob briefly to show how one can approach another character, with much less input on the pages of the book.
a: He embodies Lee’s message that despite social adversity, a good human does not fall below a certain standard of behviour. She needs her readers to recognise this and to take this message away from their reading.
b: His character is memorable because of those to which he stands in apposition. The main difference can be found in the description of his home compared with that of the poor black community. Here setting meets character – Bob’s home is Bob. It is destroyed by his selfish obsession with his own pleasure and his general laziness and careless cruelty. His character is set into by Mayella and her pathetic attempts to bring beauty and colour into the home. This makes his savage assault on her, possibly the mother of some of his children, all the more horrific.
c: He opposes Atticus in the trial and is all Atticus is not. He shows scant respect for the proceedings and an arrogance born of the colour of his skin seems to lead him to ever greater excess of behaviour. He is memorable by comparison, and he does not come out of the comparison well.
d: He seems to embody a cowardly, disreputable white bigot of a kind which Lee wants to hold to account. In a book full of racism, hypocrisy and scant regard for the dignity of those worse off, the best one can say about Ewell is that he is not a hypocrite, unlike the fine Maycomb ladies. He is shown to be a shallow and cowardly being from the moment Burris is scornful (children in this book are a direct product and reflection of the mores of their parents) and cruel to Miss Caroline to the final murderous attack on the children. He acts when drunk and in the comfort of a protective group of hangers on.
We should remember Bob just as much as we remember Atticus – he is the figure against which we are being warned. Men like him should be challenged, says Lee. He has to be memorable if the story is to have any lasting purpose.

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Out, Out- yr 11 revision tables

Work derived from a lesson revising Frost’s poem

new-doc-60

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