Here is a sample answer to the question we had a go at today in class:
How does the writer convince us that he was not very academic or good at school work?
The writer also uses humour, describing his grades as a ‘line of Pac-Men doing the Conga’. The simile is a very light-hearted way of suggesting that he got a series of G grades, but the humour is convincing; we do not feel that he is exaggerating the truth, but that he has a clear view of what the situation was. Similarly, his tone of voice is convincing; even when describing painful memories of ‘chilly emptiness’ he remains he isn’t particularly upset or emotional. He seems detached and objective, which emphasises his certainty and makes us feel that we have no need to doubt him.
Rayner uses emotive language to convince us of his past failures. Words such as ‘dread’ and ‘humiliation’ are suggestive of the intense emotions that he felt as a child when unable to complete the homework tasks set. They make it seem as if he really struggled with his school work, and that his efforts were very much below the standards of his peers, and therefore humiliating.
The journalist also uses triplication in the list of three memories, which lends a certain truth to his writing. Even though these are, indeed, memories (and distant ones from years ago, at that), the effect of listing three of them makes them seem factual. Structurally, this long sentence is then followed by a short one: ‘The fact is that I was not especially academic.’ This makes Rayner sound certain; he presents his opinion as fact.
When describing his attempt to complete his son’s maths homework, the writer comments: ‘This I used to be able to do. Or at least I think I used to be able to do this.’ This is interesting, because it suggests that his memory is not perfect. It is an admission of his humanity which, rather than suggesting that we should doubt his memory of the past, only confirms that he is flawed, like everyone else, and that in all probability he was never any good at maths at all.
As promised, here is a list of critical terminology for LITB3 Elements of the Pastoral. Read it. Know it. Use it. Be it.
Antipastoral: The opposite of the pastoral, in terms of genre. Antipastoral texts are designed to subvert and undermine the ideas and illusions upon which the pastoral genre is founded.
Arcadia:The mountain region found in the Peloponnese, Greece, a place depicted in classical literature as an ideal and rural haven populated by shepherds and shepherdesses tending their flocks and being free from the stresses and strains of ‘real life’.
Bucolic: Another term for ‘pastoral’.
Court/courtly: Befitting a royal court, hence, the opposite of ‘country’/’rustic’.
Doric: Another term for ‘rustic’.
Ecologue: A short poem, usually taking the form of a dialogue between two pastoral characters.
Edenic: Of or pertaining to the Garden of Eden.
Elegiac: Characteristic of an elegy (see below).
Elegy: A poem of mourning, similar to a lament, for a deceased individual or a tragic event. Often, pastoral elegies lament the death of a shepherd, or, in later versions, the death of the pastoral idyll itself.
Georgic: A poem about rural life which instructs the reader in agricultural matters.
Golden Age: A time of idyll, often containing qualities such as prestige, wealth and power.
Idealised: Someone or something that is exalted to a state of perfection.
Idyll: An adjective, used to describe a place or state of tranquility and happiness. To quote the AQA textbook: ‘In contrast to the elegy, an idyll presents a positive vision, and one that is attainable’. Theocritus wrote ‘Idylls’.
Idyllic: An adjective, used to describe something with the qualities of an idyll.
Lament: An expression of grief or sorrow, often sung, for the loss of a person, state or thing.
Lyric: I love this word! It means song-like, melodic, and often expressing intense feeling. Some of you often write that a line of poetry ‘flows’. What you mean is that it is ‘lyrical’. (Writing that a poem ‘flows’ is rather horrid, I think. Don’t do it.)
Peasant:In pastoral literature, a country-dweller, or a ‘rustic’.
Picaresque: A type of pastoral narrative, typically consisting of a journey made by a disreputable servant and his master. During the course of the journey, a series of unfortunate events take place.
Provincial: Within the pastoral genre, another term for ‘rustic’.
Romantic / Romanticised: A text that is designed to capture and evoke intense emotions.
Rural:Pertaining to the countryside.
Rustic: As a noun, a ‘rustic’ is a countryside-dweller, who is unsophisticated. As an adjective, it means something that is characteristic of rural life.
Sentimental: That which prioritises feelings and emotions over reason and the rational.
Swain: A man who is the lover of a young woman, or, more generally, a ‘country lad’.
Urban: Pertaining to the city, hence, the opposite of ‘rural’.