Identifying meaning

Task 1

Look at the following extract from Floella Benjamin's autobiography, Coming to England. Here she is describing her family’s home in Trinidad, a large island in the Caribbean.

While you are reading the extract, think about the impressions you get of the room and how the writer creates these impressions.

This room was my mother's pride and joy. Its brilliant white curtains always smelt fresh and the mahogany furniture was always highly polished, as was the wooden floor. My sister and I spent many hours polishing that room from as far back as I can remember. We had to do the polishing before we left for school each day. The comfortable wooden chairs in the room were draped with crisp white headrests and the round table, which we ate from on Sundays and other special occasions, had a doily in its centre, on which sat a glass of glorious fresh flowers.

Coming to England by Floella Benjamin

To analyse this section of the text, you can use the IDEAS technique. Here is an example of how you might approach it:

Identify:

The room is made to sound quite special, as she says, 'This room was my mother's pride and joy'.

Describe:

By using the description of it being her pride and joy, the writer creates the idea that the room made her mother feel both proud and very happy.

Explore:

By adding extra detail and description, for example, 'brilliant white curtains' and furniture that is 'highly polished' we are given a further impression of the room being special.

Analyse:

The adjectives 'brilliant white' here suggests that the mother works hard to keep the curtains the best they could ever be. The furniture is described as not just 'polished' but 'highly polished' suggesting that is was done over and over again by a woman who is very proud of the room.

aSsess:

This is further demonstrated as the writer tells us that she was made to do the polishing before she could go to school. We are also told that the room was only used on 'Sundays and other special' days, suggesting her mother was religious and quite proud.

Task 2

Look at the following extract from Tricia Holford's book, Fly Away Home. The extract describes a pair of lions in two very different settings, one in their natural home in Africa and, the second, in captivity at a rooftop bar in Tenerife.

Side view of a lion's head.

The two lions lay on their backs in the shade of an acacia tree, their massive paws limp and relaxed. We had been watching them for 20 minutes when the male slowly stood up, stretched, and padded over to a clearing. He began to roar. It was a deep, heart-stopping roar which echoed along the ancient African Valley. It was an announcement that he, Raffi, had arrived and it was his territory now. Slowly he turned to his mate and lay peacefully beside her. It was quiet once more.

It was a dramatic contrast to my first encounter with them on a Tenerife rooftop in 1994. That image of two thin, grubby lions pacing back and forth in their tiny cage is forever etched on my memory. The corrugated iron roof turned the cage into an oven. Without a water bowl in sight, the only features in the cage were an old rubbish bin and narrow sleeping shelves with nails sticking out. For five years Raffi and Anthea had mentally survived in these conditions – how? I never believed I would one day see them in their ancestral home.

Fly Away Home by Tricia Holford

Imagine you have been asked to explain the difference between the lions in the different situations, using quotations to support your ideas:

  • behaviour
  • home
  • atmosphere

A good place to start would be to draft your thoughts as a rough table, then to use these to help develop your answer.

ExplainTenerife barAfrica
The lions' behaviourVery stressed and unhappy. 'Pacing back and forth' and barely surviving.Relaxed and peaceful. Lying in the shade 'peacefully' and roaring to mark their territory.
Where they are livingIn a 'tiny cage' with no water, a rubbish bin and 'narrow sleeping shelves'.In an 'ancient African valley'. Their natural habitat.
The atmosphereStressed and horrible. The lions are cruelly treated and are 'thin' and 'grubby'.Relaxed, peaceful and natural. Very quiet.

You can then take these ideas from the table to write your answer.