Past Paper Questions – Paper 1

Summer 2015

Paper 1 – Poetry and Prose (1 hour 30)

Section APoetry
Songs of Ourselves: from Part 4

1. Read this poem, and then answer the question that follows it:

The City Planners

Cruising these residential Sunday
streets in dry August sunlight:
what offends us is
the sanities:
the houses in pedantic rows, the planted
sanitary trees, assert
levelness of surface like a rebuke
to the dent in our car door.
No shouting here, or
shatter of glass; nothing more abrupt
than the rational whine of a power mower
cutting a straight swath in the discouraged grass.

But though the driveways neatly
sidestep hysteria
by being even, the roofs all display
the same slant of avoidance to the hot sky,
certain things:
the smell of spilt oil a faint
sickness lingering in the garages,
a splash of paint on brick as surprising as a bruise,
a plastic hose poised in a vicious
coil; even the too-fixed stare of the wide windows

give momentary access to
the landscape behind or under
the future cracks in the plaster
when the houses, capsized, will slide
obliquely into the clay seas, gradual as glaciers
that right now nobody notices.

That is where the City Planners 
with the insane faces of political conspirators 
are scattered over unsurveyed
territories, concealed from each other,
each in his own private blizzard;

guessing directions, they sketch
transitory lines rigid as wooden borders
on a wall in the white vanishing air

tracing the panic of suburb 
order in a bland madness of snows.

(Margaret Atwood)

To what extent does Atwood make you feel that human activities are pointless in The City Planners.

2. How does Rossetti create a sense of extreme emotion in The Woodspurge?

The Woodspurge

The wind flapped loose, the wind was still,
Shaken out dead from tree and hill:
I had walked on at the wind’s will, –
I sat now, for the wind was still. 

Between my knees my forehead was, –
My lips, drawn in said not Alas!
My hair was over in the grass,
My naked ears heard the day pass.

My eyes, wide open, had the run
Of some ten weeds to fix upon;
Among those few, out of the sun,
The woodspurge flowered, three cups in one.

From perfect grief there need not be
Wisdom or even memory:
One thing then learnt remains to me, –
The woodspurge has a cup of three.

(Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

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– Two extract questions and both with lovely poems! I don’t know what the people who put the exam together were smoking – too easy.

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Section B – Prose
Anita Desai: Fasting, Feasting

3. Read this extract, and then answer the question that follows it:

Arun stands looking at his shoes, dusty from the long walk out of town, and carefully refrains from informing him that Melanie is indoors, gorging on peanuts. He waits for the dreaded moment when he will have to confess what he wishes he did not have to confess – again. Will Mrs Patton make the confession for him? Will Mrs Patton be brave and make it unnecessary for him to speak, publicly reveal himself as unworthy, unfit to take the wafer upon his tongue, the wine into his throat?

‘Come on, bring me on your plates,’ Mr Patton tells his foot-dragging communicants, trying to sound jovial and only managing to sound impatient.

Mrs Patton advances, holding her plate before her. She stands very upright before the grill, trying not to flinch but evidently fully aware of the gravity of the ceremony. ‘Thank you, dear,’ she says as she receives the slab of charred meat on her plate, making it dip a little with its weight so that grease and blood run across it and spread.

‘And now you, Aaroon,’ commands Mr Patton, sliding the spatula under another slab that is blackening upon the coals. ‘This here should be just right for you, Red,’ he jollies the nervous newcomer to his congregation, not yet saved but surely on his way. Arun has made the mistake of telling the Pattons once that his name means ‘red’ in Hindi, and Mr Patton has seized upon this as a good joke, particularly in conjunction with his son’s name, Rod. Fortunately Arun has not elaborated that it means, specifically, the red sky at sunrise or Mr Patton might now be calling him ‘Dawn’. 

Instinctively, then, Arun steps backwards and even puts his hands behind his back. Some stubborn adherence to his own tribe asserts itself and prevents him from converting.’Oh, I’ll just have the – the bun and – then salad,’ he stammers and his hair falls over his forehead in embarrassment. 

Mr Patton raises an eyebrow – slowly, significantly – holding the spatula in the air while the steak sputters in indignation at this denial. 

Mrs Patton rushes in hurriedly, but too late. ‘Ahroon’s a vegetarian, dear -‘ and then her voice drops to a whisper ‘-like me.’

Mr Patton either does not hear the whisper, or does but ignores it. he responds only to the first half of the statement. ‘Okay, now I remember,’ he says at last. ‘Yeah, you told me once. Just can’t see how anyone would refuse a good piece of meat, that’s all. It’s not natural. And it costs -‘

Mrs Patton begins to play the role of a distracting decoy. She flutters about the patio, helping herself to bread and mustard, pattering rapidly, ‘Ahroon explained it all to us, dear – you know, about the Hindoo religion, and the cows -‘

Mr Patton gives his head a shake, sadly disappointed in such moral feebleness and turns the slab of meat over and over. ‘Yeah, how they let them out on the streets because they can’t kill ’em and don’t know what to do with ’em. I could show ’em. A cow is a cow, and good red meat as far as I’m concerned.’

‘Yes, dear,’ Mrs Patton coos consolingly.

‘And here it’s all turning to coal,’ Mr Patton mourns, patting the scorched slice.

Arun follows Mrs Patton to a table set with platters and bowls of lettuce and rolls. Sadly he resigns himself to the despised foods, wondering once again how he has let himself be drawn into this repetitious farce – the ceremonies of others tribes must seem either farcical or outrageous always – as bad as anything he remembers at home. Thinking of his father’s stolid face and frown at the table, grave and disapproving, he feels he must assure Mrs Patton as he would his mother, ‘I will eat the bun and salad.’

Mr Patton says nothing. He is prying the scorched shreds of meat off the grill with his spatula and scraping them onto his plate, grievously aware of the failure of this summer night’s sacrament.

Mrs Patton settles onto a canvas chair and pantomimes the eating of a meal while playing with it with her fork. ‘Mmm, it’s real good,’ she murmurs. ‘Rod and Melanie just don’t know what they’re missing.’

How does Desai make this such a memorable moment in the novel?

2. Explore the ways in which Desai persuades you that there are similarities between Papa and Mr Patton.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

5 thoughts on “Past Paper Questions – Paper 1”

  1. Hi
    I have a doubt on the structure of paper 1 literature igcse.
    Is paper 1 based on TWO printed poems or ONE?
    Can we choose any question without the typical “Answer at least one passage-based question (marked *) and at least one essay question (marked †).” or is it still the same structure of the. paper?
    If you have any useful piece of information I would be more than willing to take it.
    Thank You.

  2. If its possible can you e-mail me the May/June papers for IGCSE literature 2015.
    Apart from that can you also e-mail me the notes for the poems in ‘songs of ourselves’ and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

    Thank You.

    1. Sorry I don’t have electronic copies of the exam papers and all my notes are on the site – not too many for AMND mind you. 🙂

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