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Edexcel English IGCSE: A Hero by R.K Narayan

Q4. How does R. K. Narayan try to show Swami’s thoughts and feelings throughout ‘A Hero’?

In your answer, you should write about:

  • Swami’s relationship with the members of his family
  • Swami’s experience during the night in the office
  • the use of language.

You should refer closely to the text to support your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Swami has a tense relationship with his father, and is terrified while in the office. He is humorously underwhelmed by the experience at the end of the story.

Swami’s desperate attempts to avoid his father’s idea of sleeping in the office reveal both his fear of sleeping away from his granny and his relationships with members of his family. His relationship with his father is difficult, as shown through his underhand attempts to avoid having to carry out his plan of sleeping in the office. For example, he tries to change the subject “very loudly and with a great deal of enthusiasm”. The qualified adverbial phrases show his desperation. Another tactic is to sneak away and pretend to be asleep. The repetition in his speech to his granny – “Please, please, shut up, granny” – again reveals his desperation, and also shows his good relationship with his granny, with whom he feels able to use imperatives. This contrasts his deferential attitude towards his father.

The night in the office is so terrifying for Swami that he thinks that he will die. The writer uses a number of techniques to capture the extent of Swami’s fear. For example, the description of the experience appeals to the reader’s senses. The “ray of light” which “cast shadows” appeals to the reader’s sight, reminding them of how frightening it is to watch shadows on a wall as a child. Onomatopoeia is used to appeal to the sense of sound, reflecting Swami’s heightened senses due to his fear: for example, rustle”, “snoring” and “humming”. The use of hyperbole also shows the exaggerated nature of Swami’s fear. For example, the simile “used his teeth on it like a mortal weapon” shows that Swami believed his life to be in danger.

Following the experience, Swami does not seem interested in his new status as the titular “Hero”. When it is revealed that Swami has accidentally caught a notorious burglar, it is said that “congratulations were showered” on him. The use of the passive voice suggests that he is a passive receiver of the praise. There is no mention of Swami feeling proud or excited about his experience, and he reacts with “politeness” to the police, rather than excitement. This implies that Swami is not very interested in being a hero. At the end of the story, he is “under the blanket” again, creating a childish image, and showing his continuing fear of the office. His overwhelming feeling is “tremendously relieved” that he is able to sleep with his granny, showing that this is the most important thing to him.

In this story, Swami accidentally becomes a ‘hero’ by catching a burglar. However, his main priority is to be able to sleep where he feels safe.

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