Half-Caste Learning Objectives: 1. Consider the context of the poem 2. Use the poem to consider cultural implications and views of different races 1. To note how these are presented in the poem What does the term HALF-CASTE suggest? Discuss this in your pairs and be ready to present your views in 2mins HALF Less than whole Less important Not properly formed CASTE Indian term for social class, the lowest of which is considered untouchable Used as in colour; the cast of
something Cast, made or formed 'The diversity of About thehere poet cultures is very exciting'. I think humour can be very powerful. Humour breaks down boundaries, it topples our self-importance, it connects people John Agard came to England from Guyana in 1977. Like many people from the Caribbean, he is mixed race - his mother is Portuguese, but born in Guyana and his father is black. One of the things he enjoys about living in England is the wide range of people he meets:
He doesn't like the view of racial origins, which is implied in the word 'half-caste', still used by many people to describe people of mixed race. The term now is considered rude and insulting. The poem uses the following techniques Do you understand them? Repetition Repeat to reinforce an idea or image Non-standard English English that doesnt follow the normal rules Patois/Creole language Non-standard, dialect form of a language Important pictures and Key ideas/images
thoughts John Agard - Half Caste Poem opens apologetically or belligerently? Opening stanza is a joke Excuse me standing on one leg Im half-caste. Speaker stands on one leg because he is only half made/half a person Using the word caste as if it is cast i.e. made Explain yuself Tone is more demanding and blunt than the 5 wha yu mean first stanza
Written in his dialect (patois) with when yu say half-caste non-standard punctuation yu mean when Picasso emphasising the fact that the mix red an green speaker stands outside of society is a half-caste canvas/ 10 explain yuself Agard ridicules the notion of Half-caste by wha yu mean applying it to art and, notably, the British when yu say half-caste Weather yu mean when light an shadow mix in de sky 15 is a half-caste weather/ explain yuself Agard puns the well in dat case wha yu mean words half-caste england weather 25 when yu say half-caste
and overcast for nearly always half-caste yu mean tchaikovsky humour in fact some o dem cloud sit down at dah piano 20 half-caste till dem overcast an mix a black key so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass wid a white key ah rass/ 30 is a half-caste symphony/ The poet reprises his earlier joke/pun on a mixed race person being half formed: the halfcaste uses only half of ear and eye, and offers half a hand to shake, leading to the absurdities of dreaming half a
dream and casting half a shadow. Once again the poet uses humour and absurdity to emphasise his view of the term 35 40 45 50 Explain yuself wha yu mean Ah listening to yu wid de keen half of mih ear Ah looking at yu wid de keen half of mih eye an when Im introduced to yu
Im sure youll understand why I offer yu half-a-hand an when I sleep at night I close half-a-eye consequently when I dream I dream half-a-dream an when moon begin to glow I half-caste human being cast half-a-shadow but yu must come back tomorrow wid de whole of yu eye an de whole of yu ear an de whole of yu mind. an I will tell yu de other half of my story. The poet is asking/telling you to be more open minded and thoughtful both in terms of your attitudes and the way you speak
Final pun on the word half, like a joke, the poem ends with a punchline Repetition gives a rhythm to the poem and emphasises the number of reasons that this term is stupid/racist What is the tone or mood of this poem? Angry, Unhappy, humorous? Stanzas vary in length, possibly like the rambling
of an upset speaker? What is Agard suggesting about the listener? Patois and nonstandard punctuation suggest this is a poem to be heard rather than read EVIDENCE I half-caste human being/cast half a shadow What mood or emotion would you associate with each line? Angry?
Im sure youll understand/ why I offer yu half-a-hand Sarcastic? Yu mean Tchaikovskyis a half-caste symphony Amazed? Explain yuself/Wha yu mean/Ah listening to you wid de keen/half of mih ear Excuse me/standing on one leg/Im half-caste When yu say half-caste/yu mean when light and shadow mix in de sky Well in dat case/England weather/nearly always halfcaste Assertive? Shy/Apologetic?
Perplexed/Confused? Ironic/Sarcastic? What are the themes of this poem? Agard attacks the assumptions behind the term half-caste and ridicules it in the process Though the poem is light-hearted in tone, the argument of the last six lines is very serious We need to give people our full attention and respect Dont use the term half-caste when discussing the poems meaning. Instead, use the term mixed race How is mixed race better than half-caste? Why did Agard write the poem? "This imposition of half, half, half on a person's total human complexity implies that some sort of 'purity' has been subverted. A child of mixed race is a tangible, loving expression of human beings from different cultural backgrounds getting together - that should be seen not as something threatening, but as something enriching..."
Writing about poems The poet says excuse me standing on one leg I'm half-caste. Halfcast means when you have two different races, like when a canvas is red and green. mix red and green is a half-caste canvas. But he says if you come back tomorrow you will see a different (whole) person instead of only half the story. and I will tell you de other half of my story. candidate seems to have grasped roughly what the poem is about however, the paragraph is poorly expressed, so the ideas are very unclear the writing is poor with words being joined together the quotes don't quite connect with what is said about them suggests F/G candidate Writing about poems The argument of the poem comes out in the way it is written. You could almost say that the poem is written in a mixed language - it's a kind of English, but it's also in Caribbean. The poet writes 'wid' and instead of 'with' to show that the speaker has a Caribbean accent. Some people might call this half-caste language, saying that it's not proper English, but Agard would say it's just a different variety of English. Also, he writes in a jokey style, like I explained above, it's like he's teasing people who think he's "only" half-caste, and taking the mickey is a good way of putting your ideas across, and making people think again, which
is why Agard wrote the poem. So the way the poem is written suits what it's trying to say good drawing together of ideas two good general points clearly made because this is a conclusion, it relates to detailed points made earlier suggests A/B candidate Review How important is it for the poet to write in non-standard English? The poem makes a serious point but uses humour to do so. What kinds of humour do you find here and how well do they work? How does John Agard explore the meanings of half and whole in this poem?
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