Moving on up the Bands: LITB1 AO2

"If only I could stare at those woods a bit longer," thought Robert. "They are so lovely."
“If only I could stare at those woods a bit longer,” thought Robert. “They are so lovely.”

Here be the notes from today’s lesson on Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods’. Just a note: the responses are cumulative. (You’d need to all 3 things to get a Band 6…)

The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

Band 4: In these lines, Frost appeals to us to listen closely; what can we hear? Only two things: the sound of the wind and the sound of the snow falling. The first is a more common sound – it would be impossible for us to hear the sound of snowflakes falling – precisely because they are ‘downy’, they make no sound. (You are explaining the quotation.)

Band 5: The sibilant sounds contribute to the sense of silence Frost describes here. Like the sounds of the wind and snow, they are soft. Similarly, the alliteration of the voiceless ‘only other’ lends a hollow, spacious quality to the sound. The metre creates movement across the lines; the enjambement: ‘sweep / of’ allows the iambic tetrameter to remain unbroken, building the pace towards the end of the stanza. It is almost as if the poem is brought to a sudden halt at the end: ‘flake’ suddenly stops the rhythm, abruptly. The harsh ‘k’ consonant emphasises this, and the A rhyme with ‘shake’ and ‘mistake’ lends the line a sense of closure, as if it has finally reached its destiny. (Here, you are analysing the quotation.)

Band 6: In this way, Frost creates a ‘sense of sound’ (his own phrase), whereby the sounds of the lines capture something of their content. The halting feeling at the end of this verse is precisely the feeling of ‘stopping’ in the title. The hollowness of ‘only other’ emphasises the importance of space – we must make space in our lives for contemplation. (Finally, you are evaluating the quotation.)

How does Hosseini begin the story of ‘The Kite Runner’?

The novel’s opening establishes a highly personal, intimate first person narrative voice that has distinctive qualities. It is very much a speaking voice, with fragmented sentences (‘Because the past claws its way out’) that lend it an informal, conversational quality. It is also serious and reflective in tone: ‘I became what I am today…’ and ‘I thought of the life I had lived…’ are pensive, perhaps heavy. We may sense a cathartic quality beneath the surface of the language, as if the narrator is somehow cleansing himself of past events through the act of storytelling.

Secondly, there are a number of unanswered questions posed by the beginning, most obviously: What was it that happened on that day in the winter of 1975? How did it ‘change everything’? The answers are hinted at; we can infer from the ‘overcast’ and ‘frigid’ weather that it was a negative experience, and the mention of a ‘past of unatoned sins’ hints at a guilty act, a shameful ‘sin’ of unspeakable nature. We must continue reading to find out the precise nature of this sin.

In terms of setting, it is clear that we are in the real world – references to actual places such as ‘Golden Gate Park’ in ‘San Francisco’ make this clear. It is not explicitly stated, but we may well deduce that the past events of the winter of 1975 occurred in either Kabul or Pakistan, as someone called ‘Rahim Khan’, calling from Pakistan, is depicted as synonymous with ‘my past of unatoned sins.’ The two settings are interesting; readers may well detect a tension between the East and West, or, more specifically, make connections with the recent conflict between America and Afghanistan.

There is a gap of 26 years between the ‘today’ of the narrative’s frame and the events that form the main plot. This considerably lengthy period of time may lead us to presume that the novel will tell the story of those 26 years, and to deduce that the narrator – if 12 years old in 1975 – is now 38 as he tells it.

Other characters are mentioned briefly – we are told that Rahim Khan is a ‘friend’ and that Hassan is (was?) ‘the hare-lipped kite runner’. Who exactly Baba is remains unclear for now. Interestingly, there are the voices of both Rahim Khan on the telephone in the present and Hassan ‘whispering’ from the past. Both have a memorable, haunting quality, as if their speakers are communicating from a far away time and place.

Finally, the ‘kite runner’ of the novel’s title is revealed, and the image of the kites in the sky acts as the catalyst for Amir’s memories. They are depicted as vivid and free – ‘high above the trees’ and ‘floating side by side’, hinting at some of the novel’s key themes of childhood, freedom and friendship.

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The Kite Runner: Final revision session at 1:20 in L38!

Firstly, are you able to use the following terms confidently?

epistolary
Bildungsroman
Realism
Diaspora
Postmodern

Make sure you are! Use them to answer the following questions:

1. “The Kite Runner is a realist novel.” Discuss Hosseini’s use of realism.
2. “The reader can only identify with the characters because they are essentially Western, rather than Eastern in outlook.” What do you think about this view?
3. Explore the significance of dreams in the novel.
4. “The heavy use of symbolism and narrative techniques in the book detracts from the subtleties of the real situation in Afghanistan” (Megan O’ Rourke). How do you respond to this view of The Kite Runner?
5. How far do you agree that “The Kite Runner explains the political through the personal”? (Edward Hower)
6. To what extent might The Kite Runner be classified as a fable?

See you there. It’s going to be AMAZING.

Robert Frost: Section A part b

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As there are no past exam questions about Robert Frost for you to complete as part of your preparations, you will have to do a bit of extra work and consider possible questions that may be in Section A of the exam.

You know what Section A part a will be:

Write about the ways Frost tells the story in One Of The Poems We Have Studied.

Preparing for this part of the exam is relatively straightforward. Re-read the notes we have made in class, and then have a go. Give yourself half an hour. Remember that you are being assessed on your response to language, structure and form, so this part of the exam is all about close reading.

To prepare for Section A part b, you should bear in mind that you will be asked to respond to someone’s opinion of Frost’s poems. The question will be worded something like this:

How far would you agree with the view that…
Some readers think that… How do you respond to this view?
Readers have responded differently to the idea that… How do you respond?
What do you think of the view that…

Clearly, you are being asked to engage in some kind of debate. This requires you to offer more than one point of view. Avoid simply agreeing or disagreeing with the idea that is offered in the question. You should respond to it with a number of different points, which offer different insights.

Have a go at these:

How far do you agree with the view that Frost presents manual labour negatively in his poems?

Some readers consider Nature to be the dominant theme of Frost’s poetry. How do you respond to this view?

‘The most striking quality of Frost’s poems is their power to disturb.”
How do you respond?

What do you think of the view that Frost’s poems resist any one meaning?

What do you consider to be the significance of journeys in Frost’s poetry?

To what extent is it possible to sympathise with the ‘outsiders’ in Frost’s poems?

“In his poems, Frost is chiefly concerned with death, in various shapes and forms.”
What do you think of this view?

If you hand it in by Wednesday I’ll even mark it by Friday…