As an English teacher who is teaching in a primary school, I fully support using literature to teach English as a second language. I feel that literature can help students to expand their imagination and to acquire literacy. Apart from that, literature helps the students to cope with cultural, racial or whatever problems that crop up in dealing with life in the real world. It also helps to inculcate specific social attitudes which are acceptable in their community. From my experience, I can confidently vouch that using literature in my classes helps to instil and inculcate the reading habit among the students. This is due to the fact that literature provides lively, enjoyable and high-interest reading. When students love to read, their vocabulary and language content is highly enriched. This definitely leads to the improvement of English Language proficiency among them. Thus it is important for the teacher to explore effective ways in which literature can be used as a teaching and learning resource. This assignment looks at a short story ‘A Devoted Son’ by Anita Desai and ways to use it in the classroom.
QUESTION 1 THE NARRATOR OF THE SHORT STORY : In `A Devoted Son', Anita Desai uses a third person omniscient narrator to convey the tone and theme in her short story. The third person narrator makes the reader feels like an outsider who is watching as the action unfolds. Compared to a first person narrator, the third person version brings in more complex plots and widens the horizon of the characters’ persona. This type of narrator shows the story from more than one set of eyes and can always be recognized by the usage of `he’, `she’ and `they’ which can clearly be found in this short story. In addition to that, the third person omniscient narrator opens the thoughts of the characters to the reader. This type of narrator allows the reader to observe the situation in the story through the senses and feelings of more than one character. As can be seen in this short story, the narrator lets the reader know that Varma is extremely proud and pleased with Rakesh’s act of obeisance when he received his excellent results. Another example can be seen when the reader knows that Varma’s neighbours are envious and a bit jealous of his perfect son.
It is of utmost importance for students to understand who is telling the story. The narrator is a very useful asset to the students as someone who conveys the plot and story. This is because the narrator helps, as an explainer, introducer, and facilitator to help the students understand the elements and characters in the story. The narrative style influences the way events and characters are described. For example, a partial view of events given by a narrator requires the students to use imagination to make inferences. Therefore the students need to analyze and interpret the short story to discover the hidden and underlying meaning. When students read a story, the narrator's style and intent help them to develop their critical analysis skills. At the same time, the students also learn to derive pleasure from reading which will lead to lifelong learning.
QUESTION 2 ‘A Devoted Son’ by Anita Desai is an ironic story about how good things that you wish for have a dark underside. The story opened up the age old debate of generation gap. It examined the result of the differences between generations in modern day India. It also delved into looking at how traditional Indian society had collided with modernity. The influence of modernisation could be clearly seen throughout the short story from the main character’s changes in behaviour and choices. The story highlighted the relationship between an elderly father and his ultra successful son which was greatly affected by the western culture and values. It showed how exposure to modern societies adversely affected how a son coped with the expected role in a more traditional family setting. In India, whose majority of its people still live traditionally while being exposed to increasing modernisation, this kind of dilemma is becoming a familiar situation. India is proud of its rich culture which is jealously and proudly guarded within a traditional family. Hindu families emphasise on respect for parents and elders. At the same time, raising children is considered as a religious act. In the eyes of the children, parents are divine and always right. In `A Devoted Son’, the story revolved around Rakesh who came from a poor family. His parents never attended school and his grandparents sold vegetables. Thus it was considered a great achievement for him to have gained such miraculous accomplishments. Rakesh received praises from his family and community who were understandably very envious. At a young age, he achieved educational success by scoring the highest level of achievement in an Indian high school based on the British academic model. The family celebrated his success with great revelry and joy. Then, he wrote a great thesis for his M.D. and was given a scholarship to the U.S.A. where he acquired professional skills and expertise in his field. In all these years, what amused everyone were not his achievement alone but his respect and humility to his parents. Many wondered that he still paid obeisance to his parents at every occasion.
Then, contrary to popular expectations and to his family’s relief, he came back to his humble
hometown and set up his own clinic. He did not bring home a foreign wife. Instead, this ideal son showed great respect to his roots by accepting an Indian bride of his mother’s choice. This precious value in Rakesh remained through his mother's life as well as his father’s. He sat by his mother's side and held her feet in his hands while she took her last breath. Rakesh ,the ideal son, surgeon and husband was at the peak of success and fame. Sadly, he lost his mother and had to watch his geriatric father going to pieces. The devoted son, who all this while had obeyed his parents more than ordinary offspring, suddenly found himself in a lurch. As a loving son, Rakesh was keen to see his father living healthily. Thus he prescribed a variety of medicines, pills and tonic for his father. It was obvious that the influence of the western society changed the actions of Rakesh because he believed that by changing his father's lifestyle and diet he would be able to keep him from dying. Although his intention was noble, all the actions that he took were against his father’s wishes. Rakesh altered his father's diet to include nothing sweet, spicy or fried, and produced a strict list of what he was allowed to consume. His father, Varma felt insulted by all these activities. He felt it was unbecoming of his son to behave in such a manner. Though from Rakesh’s point of view he was only doing his duty to his father, Varma perceived this as being starved by his own flesh and blood. As if adding insult to injury, the daughter-in-law who carried out the instructions seemed to relish the act of denying something that the old man liked most, eating his favourite food. As Varma was denied the greatest pleasure left to him in his last days, he preferred death to the ‘prison’ of restricted diet. Here arose the clash of attitudes. The aged father suspected his devoted son who was a very competent doctor as being a tyrant and accused the afore- idolised son of maltreatment. Rakesh faced a dilemma which was being faced by most sons and daughters who were caught between traditional values and modern influences. How should he balance his professional obligations against his personal duties? Though Rakesh did everything with affection and care for his old father, Varma was not ready to believe it. His loneliness and frustration intensified. There came a time when he had to react sharply to his son's advice. He began to wish for death. He made it clear to his son that he had no intention to live anymore. Despite the fact that Rakesh was indeed a devoted son, Varma refused to recognize it and stubbornly went to his grave with that belief. QUESTION 3
a) Pre-reading activity 1. The teacher displays PICTURE A on the LCD screen. 2. The teacher asks the pupils to look at the picture carefully. 3. After a few minutes, the teacher starts to ask questions pertaining to the picture :
a. What do you think ‘devoted’ means? b. Name the country where this scene took place. Why do you say that? c. What do you know about the country? d. The young man is doing something at the old man’s feet. Do you know what he is doing? e. Why do you think he is performing the action? f. From the title and the picture, guess what the story is going to be about.
4. The pupils try to answer the questions, facilitated by the teacher and a discussion is held.
b) While-reading activity: 1. The teacher distributes copies of `A Devoted Son’ to the students. 2. The students are told to take out their dictionaries.
3. The teacher tells the students to read the story silently and refer to the dictionary when necessary. 4. The students start to read silently. 5. The teacher puts on instrumental Indian music softly to provide inspiration and add authenticity. 6. When the students finish reading, the teacher asks the students to brainstorm about their feelings when they read the story. 7. The teacher writes down the list of feelings voiced out by the students. 8. The teacher starts a discussion about feelings. 9. The students respond to the discussion and the teacher guides them by explaining about the feelings.. 10. The teacher distributes Worksheet A and asks the students to work in pairs to complete the task. 11. The students start to tackle the task. 12. The teacher walks around and gives guidance when needed. 13. When the students finish the task, they discuss the answers with the teacher. 14. The teacher gives the correct answers and guide the students to achieve further comprehension. 15. The teacher praises the students for their efforts.
WORKSHEET A The expressions below describe feelings. For each of the following expressions, write down the related feelings. Complete sections A, B and C. Use the list given below. Some words can be used more than once.
It was as though he were straining at a rope, trying to break it, and it would not break, it was still strong. _
The in man????gave a start nodded with melancholy triumph. corpse position. at the very sound, the tone of these words. _________________ man sighed, and lay downold the ____________________ her asked, beaming, reaching for the papers. _______________________ _____________________ he spat out some words, as sharp and as bitter as poison, into his son’s face. ____________ Then
A) Varma’s feelings 1. 2.
B) Rakesh’s feelings
oated chiefly over the strange fact that he had not married in America. most tearing his hair ?and his mother died soon after, giving up the ghost with a sigh that sounded positively ha as he shouted through compressed lips. ________________________ ____ But he did not reply or even glanced in her direction. __________________________ ____________________________
C) Mother’s feelings 1. 2.
c) Post-reading activity 1. The teacher divides the students into five groups. 2. The teacher tells the students that they have to act out different scenes from the short story: Group 1 : The scene where the neighbours and friends come to celebrate Rakesh’s
success. Group 2 : The scene of the birthday party where Varma was wrongfully assumed to be dead. Group 3 : The scene where Varma bribed his grandson to buy him the forbidden goodies and was scolded by Rakesh. Group 4 : The scene where Varma and Bhatia were talking Group 5: The final scene. 3. The teacher tells the students to write their own scripts using simple words. 4. The students work in their groups. 5. The teacher facilitates the activity, motivating and guiding the students. 6. The students present their short sketches . 7. The teacher and the students comment on the performance. 8. The teacher praises the students for their cooperation and efforts. 9. As homework, the teacher asks each of the student to write one sentence about the ending of the short story: In your opinion, what happened to Varma in the end? Write one sentence about what you think.
When using literature to teach English language, the teacher must try to inject fun into the literature and make it relevant to the students. If the students are correctly exposed to the wonderful world of literature, they are able to experience the delights of beauty, wonder, and
humour . They will also be able to ponder and ask questions creatively. If the love of literature is inculcated in pupils, then they will reap life-long rewards not only in the area of language learning but also in the area of moral, ethics and culture.
Lazar, Gillian. (1993). Literature and language teaching. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.
Yap, Jade. (2007). Let’s Explore Contemporary Literature. Petaling Jaya : Mega Setia Emas Sdn. Bhd.