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Edexcel English IGCSE: Veronica

Q1. How does the writer try to bring out the contrasts between the life of the narrator and of Veronica?

In your answer, you should write about:

  • their differing family backgrounds;
  • their attitudes and what each expects of life;
  • their differing experiences after the narrator goes to the city;
  • the use of language.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Despite coming from the same village, Okeke and Veronica have very different lives, which become increasingly disparate throughout the passage.

Okeke and Veronica have very different experiences growing up, because of the differences in their families. Okeke describes Veronica’s parents thus: “Her father was a brute and her mother was weak”. These terrible things are presented as blunt facts, in simple clauses, showing the immutability of her family situation. Moreover, the responsibility to care for her siblings had “fallen on her”. This metaphorical language makes the responsibility sound like a physical weight which could crush her. Okeke’s tone of disapproval when describing Veronica’s family implies that his own upbringing was less turbulent. Despite her unhappy family life, Veronica remains family-oriented, which contributes to her entrapment in the village. When Okeke asks why she doesn’t leave, she simply states, “I can’t just leave my family.”

One of the main contrasts between Okeke and Veronica is in their expectations for life. Okeke is ambitious, and is lucky to have the opportunity to gain an education and escape the village. In contrast, Veronica is accepting of her ‘fate’ to remain in the village. Using basic, monosyllabic language to express the simplicity of her view, she explains, “my own place is here”. Highlighting the differences in their attitudes, Okeke is frustrated by Veronica’s lack of ambition. He is “both appalled and frightened” by it: these intense adjectives reflect the strength of his feelings. His frustration is captured in the gesture of snapping a twig and throwing it into the stream; the stream symbolises escape and movement, and the fact that the twig “vanished from sight” provides an ironic comment on the ease of leaving the village.

When Okeke leaves the village, his life changes drastically over the years; in contrast, Veronica’s situation stays mainly the same, then worsens through war. Okeke becomes successful and prosperous, as reflected in the quantitative phrases used to describe his almost extravagant return to the village: he had “a couple of nurses, three male assistants and a suitcase full of medicines”. In contrast, he finds Veronica “in the same hut she had grown up in”. This physical stillness reflects the static nature of her life, which is completely centred in the village. When he visits again after the war, Okeke finds her again in the same hut. In contrast to his strength and prosperity, she is weak and ready to die. By now, she is “a figure huddled on a mat”; she is in a small and vulnerable position, and has almost lost her identity. The image of Okeke carrying Veronica like a child as she dies is a poignant comment on their differing experiences of life.

This is a moving account of the difficulty of escaping poverty. The differences in the two characters’ upbringing and attitudes lead to striking differences in their life experiences.

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