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An Approach to ICSE English provides a platform to contribute, discuss and comment on the various issues related to the study and practice of English for the students and teachers of ICSE syllabus. Even with its focussed nature, An Approach to ICSE English will be beneficial to everyone involved in the learning the niceties of the English language.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Summary: A Horse and Two Goats R. K. Narayan

A Horse and Two Goats
R. K. Narayan

R. K. Narayan, a prominent Indian author writing in English, is best known for his fourteen novels, many of which take place in the fictional town of Malgudi. A Horse and Two Goats, one of the few of his stories not set in Malgudi, presents an amusing dialogue between Muni, a poor Tamil-speaking villager, and an affluent English-speaking businessman from New York. Through the conversation in which neither can understand the other’s language, R.K. Narayan humorously projetcs the conflicts between the rich and the poor, and between Indian and Western culture. 
Against the backdrop of probably the smallest of countless Indian villages, Kritam, the story A Horse and Two Goats begins with the depiction of the poverty in which Muni, the central character, lives. There are around thirty houses in the village but only one, the Big House, is built of brick. The others are mud huts of bamboo thatch. The village has neither running water nor electricity. Muni and his wife were not always so poor. Once, he regarded himself well-off as he had a flock of forty sheep and goats. But years of drought, a famine, and an epidemic affected his flock and now he is left with only two scrawny goats. Being a low caste, Muni was not allowed to go to school or to learn a craft. Since Muni and his wife have no children, their only income is from the odd jobs his wife gets at the Big House.
Daily Muni’s wife cooks their typical breakfast of a fistful of millet flour over a fire in a mud pot. On this day, Muni has managed to get six drumsticks from the drumstick tree in front of his house. He demands his wife to cook them for him in a sauce. She agrees and asks him to get the other ingredients which they do not have in the house.
Muni has run through his credit at all the shops in the village, and today, when he asks a local shopman to give him the items his wife requires, he is disgraced and dismissed by the shopkeeper.
There is nothing else in the house and hence, Muni’s wife sends him away telling him to fast till the evening. Muni takes the goats to their usual patch: a grassy spot near the highway. Here, sitting in his favourite place, the shade of the pedestal of a horse and a warrior, Muni observes trucks and buses passing by. 
As he waits for the time to return home, a yellow station wagon comes down the road and pulls over. A flushed American man dressed in khaki steps out and asks Muni about the nearest gas station. He looks at the statue and is instantly attracted to it. When he sees the khaki-clad foreigner, Muni’s initial instinct is to flee thinking that the foreigner must be a policeman or a soldier. However, Muni is too old to run and moreover, he cannot abandon the goats. Presently, the foreigner and Muni carry on a conversation, neither understanding the other. The American greets Muni using his only Indian word Namaste and Muni responds with the only English he knows-Yes, no.
The American is a New York based   businessman. After lighting a cigarette, he offers one to Muni. Then he gives Muni his business card, and Muni is terrified that it is a warrant. Muni commences a lengthy explanation to establish his innocence. The American presumes that Muni is the owner of the statue and expresses his wish to buy it. In between, he tells Muni about an awful day at work when he was compelled to work for hours without elevators or electricity. He seems blithely unaware that Muni lives this way every day. 
The two strangers chitchat, each about his own life. Muni recalls his father and grandfather remarking about the statue and attempts to enlighten the American of the myth behind it. Muni explains to the foreigner that the statue is the guardian of the village and that at the end of this world, the Redeemer will come in the shape of a horse. The American is charmed by the rhythm of chaste Tamil as Muni recollects his grim and poverty-stricken childhood. The American does not understand a single word but assures Muni that the horse will have the best home in the U.S.A. 
At last, the American shoves one hundred rupees into Muni’s hand and is certain that he has bought the horse, and Muni thinks that he has just sold his goats. Muni runs home to give the money to his wife. The American stops a truck, gets help to remove the horse off its pedestal, and drives away with his new acquisition. Muni’s wife considers Muni’s story to be a deliberate fib, and her misgivings are confirmed when the goats return home. As the story ends we find the miserable Muni facing the ire of his shrieking wife. 
The most important theme in A Horse and Two Goats is the clash of cultures, specifically the clash of Indian and Western cultures. Using humour, instead of anger, Narayan demonstrates just how different the two worlds are. The two main characters in this story could not be more different: Muni is poor, rustic, illiterate, brown; the American is rich, city-bred, educated, white. Each man is completely ignorant of the other’s way of life.
It is essential to fathom R.K Narayan’s humour that is affectionate and sympathetic to humanity and human foibles in understanding the story, A Horse and Two Goats.  The statue of the horse, once glorious and elegant but now tatty and wretched, amusingly alludes to the present impoverished and irrelevant state of the village Kritam. When R.K Narayan creates the laughable characters of Muni and the American, the “two goats”, he jests at them softly and sympathetically, but never severely.

Friday, 7 July 2017

ICSE 2017 English 1: Grammar and Composition Practice 1

English 1: Grammar and Composition Practice 1

Question 1
Write an application in response to the advertisement given below:                                     

WANTED
Suitable young Salespersons- on Part-Time basis-
 to market electronic appliances for a leading Home Appliance Company.
Candidates should be at least a graduate and should be fluent in English.

Question 2
Re-write the following sentences according to the instructions given after each. Make other changes that may be necessary, but do not change the meaning of each.                                                      
1. He has never made such a stupid mistake before.
[Begin: Never…]
2. If I were you, John, I would consult a doctor.        
[Use: the correct form of advice]
3. The fans were saddened when the player decide to retire.    
[Use: noun form of decision]
4. I exercise daily. What about you?          
[Combine the sentences]
5. Who replaced the good umbrella with a broken one?
[Use: substitute]
6. Camilla is said to have been a diplomat.                                
[Begin: People…]
7. Anoushka did not study regularly.  She regrets it now.                
[Use: wishes]
8. Rich as Job is, he is not unsympathetic towards the needy.        
[Begin: Despite...]
9. Jolly said, ‘Let me win the lottery.’              
[Change into indirect speech]
10. But for the injured foot, he would have won the race.            
[Begin: Had…]
Question 3
Fill in the blanks with the correct preposition.                                    
1. He has a passion ……… reading detective stories.
2. I congratulated him ……… his success.
3. He was so amusing that all laughed ……… him
4. I ran ……… Graham in the restaurant.
5. The book consists ……… 21 chapters.

Answers

Monday, 3 July 2017

Summary : Old Man at the Bridge: Ernest Hemingway


Old Man at the Bridge: Ernest Hemingway

The short story Old Man at the Bridge by Ernest Hemingway wholly demonstrates the vicious repercussions of war on disinterested innocents. The short story, narrated by a nameless soldier, sensitively portrays the sorry plight of the refugees who are displaced by war. 
The action takes places at a pontoon bridge near the Ebro Delta on an Easter Sunday during the Spanish Civil War. All the refugees of that area were crossing the bridge to protect themselves from the impending attack by the enemy troops. The young soldier was on a mission to cross the bridge and find out how far the enemy had advanced.
After the soldier had scanned the region for any sign of the enemy troops, he noticed an old man still sitting at the pontoon bridge. The seventy-six-year-old man wore black dusty clothes and his face was dusty grey. He wore steel-rimmed spectacles which suggested that he was neither a shepherd nor a herdsman. He appeared weak and exhausted. The soldier asked the old man where he came from. The old man replied that he was from Sans Carlos. He had already walked about 12 kilometres from his hometown, San Carlos, and was weary and exhausted. Therefore, even after the soldier had advised him to flee, the old man did not move.
The officer asked the old man about his political loyalty and he replied that had no politics. In San Carlos, he owned two goats, a cat and some pigeons which he had to leave behind because of the artillery. His whole life revolved around his animals and his hometown. He was just taking care of his animals without harming anybody just like any other ordinary individual unconcerned with the ongoing war. When he was told to move to safety in view of the advancing enemy troops, he was worried about the safety of his animals and wanted to remain with them. 
The old man is more concerned for the safety of his animals than for his own safety. The animals stand for different qualities. The pigeons, for example, represent peace and harmony and the fact that they fly away, away from the war, maybe is a reference to the refugees who flee from the war to a safer place. The cat being a symbol of independence, does not need anybody to survive, but the goat is often used as a sacrificial animal and this probably represents the old man and his situation. Like a goat which is sacrificed, the old man’s fate is sealed. The old man’s obsession with the safety of his animals brings out Hemingway’s point that this mad war unnecessarily destroys even such useful human beings who help to sustain life. The narrator, the young soldier, advised the old man to cross the pontoon bridge to save himself from the impending assault of the advancing enemies. Although the old man got up and tried to move, he swayed and teetered. So, he sat down again in the dust as he was too tired to move. He finally resigned himself to his fate and the imminent doom.
We, along with the young soldier, arrive at the painful realisation that the old man will not be able to move on and will probably die at the bridge. The irony is that like a goat which is sacrificed, the old man`s fate is sealed on an Easter Sunday, a day of hope and faith. 
Neither the old peasant nor the war is identified by name in the story, for the idea of the tragic sacrifices of uninvolved men in every war is universal. The old man epitomises the victims of war- men, women and children who had to leave their home and their normal life as victims of a war with which they have nothing to do.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Poetry: Study Aid: The Heart of the Tree Henry Cuyler Bunner

The Heart of theTree 

Henry Cuyler Bunner 

Heart of a TreeFrom time immemorial, there is an all-embracing attachment of man with Nature, particularly, his dependence on trees. Trees are essential for his survival. However, as time progressed man’s attitude to Nature, and to trees, were inimical and disastrous. There has been massive deforestation because of our greed for agricultural land and timber and necessity of cheap fuel. This large-scale deforestation remains, even today, a menace to the biodiversity of our environment.In our times, it is significant that we comprehend our role in preserving the balance of the environment in Nature for our own benefit and survival. We should review our stance towards Nature where we realise the importance of the trees. Trees are of great importance to man in all spheres of his life. The planting of a tree is not merely a mechanical action but an act of personal, social and global import. The planting of a tree is a gesture that proclaims one’s intention to serve humanity since the tree benefits not only the individual that plants it but also the society and, in a wider scheme of things, the humanity. In the poem The Heart of the Tree , the poet Henry Cuyler Bunner presents the beneficial aspects of planting a tree both to the person who plants a tree and to the society and, overall, to the humanity. The poem not only appreciates the action of planting a tree but also honours the heart of a person who does this noble and benevolent act.
The poem consists of three stanzas of nine lines each and all the three stanzas begin with a question and the poet himself gives the answer to the question. The poem with its simple and vivid use of diction has an attractive rhyme scheme ababbccaa for each stanza. The meticulous choice of words coupled with the rhyming lines gives the poem an alluring musical quality.
The repetition of the same question as a refrain in the beginning of each stanza of the poem is a poetic technique, known as Hypophora, employed by the poet to accentuate the theme of the poem to his readers.
Hypophora also referred to as Anthypophora, is a figure of speech in which the speaker poses a question and then he himself answers the question. It is different from a Rhetorical question where the answer is implied or not necessary. (A Rhetorical question usually has an obvious answer but you have asked the question to make a point, to persuade or for literary effect.)
Stanza One
The poem begins with a question - What does he plant who plants a tree? - that delivers the spirit of the whole poem, that is, the worth of planting a tree and the rest of the stanza is the poet's answer to the question- the significance and value of planting a tree.
A plant grows upwards as if it aspires to get in touch with the sun and the sky so that they get a new friend in a tree. Moreover, the tree needs sunlight and air to stay alive. Also, the trees appear to soak up the heat and relieve the earth from the sweltering sun.
The poet now says that by planting a tree, man plants a flag that flies freely in the gentle breeze. The poet here compares the leafy branches of the tree to a flag and the trunk of the tree to the splendid shaft or pole of the flag that remains firm and tall.
A tree also becomes a home for the birds singing melodiously high in the sky, close to heaven. Hence, by planting a tree, man renders the earth inhabitable for birds and facilitates in the conservation of the environment. In the serene and joyful twilight, man hears the symphonic song of these birds that twitter in harmony to the melody of the heaven.
Thus, in the first stanza of the poem, the poet highlights the significance of trees in sustaining the splendour of nature. The choice of the words such as ‘heaven anigh’, ‘heaven’s harmony’ and ‘towering high’ emphasises that the action of planting a tree is certainly a blissful and glorious deed.
Stanza Two
The poet begins with the same question - What does he plant who plants a tree? -he had asked in the first stanza and proceeds to explain the motive behind the planting of a tree.
The tree man plants gives us comforting shade and aids to bring rain. In future, the tree will yield seed and bud. Even after the inevitable passage of many years, the tree will remain where it is planted through its seeds producing new trees. Trees enhance the beauty of an unattractive and dull expanse of land with its green foliage and colourful blossom. Hence, the trees are ‘the glory of the plain’. Furthermore, a tree planted today may transform into a forest with the passage of time and hence, by planting a tree now man plants a ‘forest’s heritage’. The poet says that planting a tree today would give fruits in future the coming generations. Our next generations will be able to enjoy its delightful benefits.
In this stanza, the poet makes us realise the importance of planting a tree for making our earth a better place to live for the coming generations.
Stanza Three
By planting a tree, man displays his devotion and affection towards his precious abode, the earth. Planting of the trees is also a fulfilment of his social obligations since his action contributes to the growth of his nation and ultimately to the world that he inhabits. The process of advancement of his country germinates from the forward-looking idea in the man’s heart that plants a tree.
The capitalization in ‘His’ by the poet almost gives a divine status to the man who plants a tree because he has the power and faculty to alter the destiny not only of his neighbourhood and nation but also in an indirect way, the whole of humanity.  The concluding lines of the poem stress the significance of man’s heart, his feelings, dreams and aspirations behind planting a tree.