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IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 05

IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 05

Edexcel English IGCSE: Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

 

Q5. How does the writer use the senses to engage the reader in ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’?

In your answer, think about:

  • the descriptions of light;
  • the use of the sense of sound;
  • the descriptions of nature;
  • the writer’s use of language techniques.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

The writer of the poem ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’ uses a range of language techniques to portray the exciting events of the poem. One such technique is the use of the reader’s senses.

The poem is centred around lights, and the image of light echoes throughout the poem. There is tension between the lights of nature and the artificial lights which everybody is so excited about. The writer evokes colours when describing the sunset – “yellow, orange” – showing that nature can also put on an impressive display. The electricity cable is described with a simile that seems to suggest that it is an unwelcome human imposition on nature: it is “drawn like a pencil line across the sun”. This very visual image offers a disapproving view of human intervention in nature. The fireflies have “their lanterns off”, as if respectfully creating darkness for the artificial lights. The irony of this situation is highlighted by the use of the word “lantern” – a human invention – to describe the fireflies’ natural light. It highlights the fact that nature is able to create its own light display. The reader is engaged in this tension between nature and humanity.

The sense of sound is used to engage the reader in the excitement of the revelation of light. The first line of the stanza is a one-word exclamation: “Light!”. This reads almost like a shout, which is particularly striking following the quiet anticipation built up in the previous stanza. Onomatopoeia is the most obvious use of the reader’s senses. There is a “gasp” when the lights come on, capturing the surprise and excitement of the lights. Nature also reacts noisily, contributing to the release of tension: “fluttering” and “tweet-a-whit”. The repetition of “such a” before these descriptions of noise and movement contribute to the build-up of excitement and activity.

Following this noisiness, the final part of the poem plays on the reader’s senses by contrast. After the noisy gasping and fluttering of birds’ wings, there comes a very quiet sound: “a voice in the wind whispered”. The onomatopoeic effects of the word “whispered”, the alliteration of the letter ‘w’ and the sibilance in this phrase create a gentle tone which contrasts with the earlier lines of the stanza. This sense of quiet is emphasised by the claim that nobody “heard a sound”; even the quiet whispering on the wind goes unheard, rendering it effectively silent. These frequent shifts in tone maintain the interest of the reader, as the message of the poem seems to be constantly shifting and changing, and undermining our expectations.

In conclusion, the writer engages the reader’s senses by highlighting tensions between nature and humanity’s lights, and by creating shifts in noise and tone. The result is a poem which draws the reader into the scene and evokes reflection on the event.

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IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 04

IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 04

Edexcel English IGCSE: Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

 

Q4. How does the writer of ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’ make the arrival of electricity seem like a mystical and almost magical event?

In your answer, you could write about:

  • the portrayal of nature;
  • the build-up of suspense and tension;
  • the description of the event itself;
  • the writer’s use of language.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’ is a poem describing the arrival of electricity to a small village. Reflecting the importance and significance of this event, the writer portrays it as magical and even religious. She does this by relating the event to a fairy-tale or a performance, and by using religious references in the description of the event itself.

In the first stanza, the writer builds up suspense and tension, which contributes to the idea that the event is going to be amazing. One way that the writer builds suspense is by creating a story-like tone. By starting with the word “Then”, the poem starts as if it is part-way through a story. The names in the poem are also reminiscent of a fairy-tale: “Cocoa Bottom” sounds a bit silly, and fairy-tales often have a “Grannie” in them. By making the event seem like a fairy-tale, the writer builds tension by suggesting that something magical could happen. The language used by the writer is also suggestive of a performance – perhaps a magical performance – such as the birds “congregating” like an audience and the evening coming in like a “curtain”.

The writer’s portrayal of nature also contributes to the idea that the event is magical and mysterious. Nature is strongly personified, to the extent that it seems even more excited and shocked about the arrival of electricity than the humans. For example, even the breeze is personified as having “held its breath” before the event. Similarly, the birds react strongly to the lights coming on, suggesting that they are shocked and excited. By suggesting that nature is ‘conscious’ and reacting to the electricity, the writer creates an almost magical world, in which nature can have opinions and act according to events going on in the human world.

The description of the event itself creates a strong sense that the arrival of electricity is almost akin to a religious occasion. Mr Samuel is portrayed as almost god-like: he is “smiling” like a benevolent and omniscient figure, and has a “yellow shimmer behind him”, like a halo. Furthermore, there are subtle Biblical references throughout the second stanza. The exclamation “Light!” is reminiscent of the story of the creation in Genesis, and the “swelling and swelling” wind is a reference to the story of the Pentecost. The personified image of the grasses with their “bowed heads” is also suggestive of a congregation in church.

By implying that the arrival of electricity is a magical or religious event, the writer emphasises the significance of the technological advancements on the island. It is perhaps also a subtle hint that humans, with their abilities to imitate nature in unnatural ways, are ‘playing God’, hence the shocked reaction of the natural world.

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IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 03

IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 03

Edexcel English IGCSE: Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

 

Q3. How does the writer try to bring out the importance of the coming of electricity in ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’?

In your answer, consider:

  • how the people in the poem are presented;
  • how nature reacts to the event;
  • how the event itself is described;
  • the use of language.

Refer closely to the poem in your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

In ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’, the writer uses people, nature and the description of the event itself to portray the momentousness of the occasion to the reader.

The people in the poem are portrayed as excited and perhaps apprehensive about the coming of electricity, showing how significant this event is to the people of Cocoa Bottom. The fact that “all the children” went to watch the event shows that it is a big event for the village. The repetition of participles opening lines – “waiting” and “watching” – creates a sense of immediacy, highlighting their anticipation. One other character is described in the first stanza: Grannie Patterson. She “peeped” through her door. This word connotes apprehension, and perhaps even fear, suggesting that the older generation of the island is more frightened by the new technology on the island. Whether the people of the island are portrayed as excited or nervous, the significance of the event is clearly displayed through their behaviour in the first stanza.

Nature is personified to be expectant and excited about the arrival of electricity, like the humans. Fireflies “waited” and birds were “congregating”, like the children, to watch the lights come on. Even the breeze “held its breath” in expectation. This personification exaggerates the sense of anticipation that is felt regarding the coming of electricity. Nature also reacts strongly when the lights come on. The use of onomatopoeia in “tweet-a-whit” displays the vocal reaction of the birds, contributing to the sensory overload in the second stanza. Also playing on the reader’s senses, the writer uses repetition and participles to show nature’s movement in reaction to the electric lights: “fluttering”, “swaying, swaying” and “swelling and swelling”. This strong reaction, especially in contrast to the lack of information about the people’s reactions, suggests that nature is more ‘conscious’ of the importance of electricity than humans.

The writer’s description of the switch-on of the electric lights contains several literary techniques which highlight the importance of the event. In stark contrast with the slow pace and quiet finality of the first stanza, the second stanza opens with a sudden change in pace: the exclamation, “Light!” This surprises the reader, highlighting the drama of the arrival of electricity. Mr Samuel is also portrayed as a god-like figure, since he has a “yellow shimmer behind him” like a halo. The religious connotations suggest that the event is of miraculous importance.

The poem ends with concern that the event has not been recorded. Throughout the poem, the writer shows how important the arrival of electricity is to the island and its human and non-human inhabitants. However, the anti-climactic ending suggests that humans quickly move on from technological advancements, and start to take such miraculous things for granted.

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IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 02

IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 02

Edexcel English IGCSE: Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

 

Q2. How successfully does the writer present an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation in ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’?

In your answer, you should write about:

  • the feelings of the people and animals described;
  • the way the writer uses the senses, especially sound and sight
  • the writer’s use of words, phrases and techniques.

Refer closely to the poem in your answer. You may use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

In this poem, both people and nature are portrayed as expectantly waiting for the revelation of Mr Samuel’s electric lights. The writer builds an atmosphere of suspense and tension, followed by an excited release. Throughout, the writer makes use of visual and aural imagery to capture the scene.

In the first stanza, both nature and humans are portrayed as being excited for the electric lights. As if united by their expectation of the event, the children and the animals are shown to be waiting. Their expectancy is shown with verbs which denote stillness and tension: the children were “waiting” and “watching”, and the fireflies and birds “waited” and were “congregating”. The repeated use of the present participle draws the reader into the moment, as if we too are involved in the atmosphere of anticipation. Personification suggests that even inanimate elements of nature are excited about the event: a breeze “held its breath”. The writer also makes use of an extended metaphor comparing the event to a theatre performance. There is a congregation like an audience, and the comparison of the evening to “curtains” is reminiscent of a theatre stage.

Whilst the first stanza is dedicated to anticipation, the second stanza creates an atmosphere of frenzied excitement. The first stanza ends with a slow pace and sense of finality, created by the repetition and full stops in “Closing. Closing.” This emphasises the excitement created by the sudden exclamation, “Light!”. The exclamation mark and the one-word line make this word seem like a joyful shout, which is repeated later in the stanza. Also contributing to the excitement is the religious imagery, which makes the event seem almost miraculous. The swelling breeze is reminiscent of the Pentecost: a religious event in the Bible. The grass, too, is personified as having “bowed heads”, which is suggestive of people praying.

The writer makes use of the reader’s senses to contribute to the excitement and anticipation. After the stillness and quiet of the anticipatory first stanza, the second stanza is a flurry of movement and sound, representing the release of tension when the lights come on. Verbs denoting activity create vivid visual images of sudden, excitable movement: “fluttering”, “swaying, swaying”, “rose up” and “stretching”.  Onomatopoeia also contributes to this exciting scene, by appealing to the reader’s sense of hearing: “gasp”, “fluttering” and “tweet-a-whit”. This sensory overload is particularly emphatic following the quiet tension of the previous stanza, and thus highlights the excitement of the moment.

The poem ends by returning to a quiet, reflective mood, in which the writer seems disappointed by the brevity of the reaction and the lack of recognition of the momentousness of the event. Ironically, however, this poem serves as a successful rendition of the anticipation and excitement of the moment.

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IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 01

IGCSE Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas Model Essays Question 01

Edexcel English IGCSE: Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom by Marcia Douglas

 

Q1. In ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’, how does the writer portray the reactions and responses towards the revelation of light?

Refer closely to the poem in your answer. You may use brief quotations

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

The poet of ‘Electricity Comes to Cocoa Bottom’ builds up an atmosphere of suspense surrounding the coming of the light. The revelation of light creates a flurry of movement and excitement. However, in the end, the reaction is anti-climactic.

The tone of the first stanza builds a great deal of suspense, and suggests that both people and nature are expectant and excited about the revelation of the light. Several verbs denote stillness and expectancy, such as “waiting”, “watching” and “stopped”. This creates an atmosphere of anticipation, showing everyone’s excitement. Even nature is portrayed as feeling the suspense, through personification: “the fireflies waited” and the breeze “held its breath”, as if they also know that something is going to happen. Another example of personification is that the birds were “congregating”. This is also part of the extended metaphor of the theatre, as the birds and people seem like an audience waiting for a show. This portrays the revelation of light as an entertaining event for which people are excited.

In the second stanza, the revelation of light prompts a complete change in tone: from suspense and stillness to excitement and movement. There is a contrast with the first stanza in the use of verbs which now denote a flurry of movement, including repetition: “fluttering”, “swaying, swaying” and “swelling and swelling”. These verbs show the sudden excitement caused by the revelation of light. The repeated exclamations also show the excitement about the lights. The stanza begins with the sudden, glorious exclamation, “Light!”, which is on a line of its own to quicken the pace. This highlights the shift from quiet tension to thrilling release. This exclamation is repeated halfway through the stanza, maintaining the sense of exhilaration.

However, in the final stanza the tone changes again, as the speaker of the poem reflects on how short-lived the excitement is. The tense changes to the past perfect, which highlights that the event is already forgotten. Time phrases such as “too late” and moment had passed” create a sense of finality and tone of regret. According to the speaker, people have not given enough attention to the moment, particularly following the suspenseful build-up throughout the poem. The speaker feels that the momentous event has become an unappreciated fact of life. It is in fact unclear whether the humans reacted to the event at all, since most of the excitement described in the second stanza seems to be from nature rather than the human audience.

The reaction towards the electric lights shifts throughout the poem. Initially, there is a tense build-up of suspense, and then an exciting climax when the lights come on. However, the climax seems to be mainly experienced by nature; the human reaction is disappointing to the speaker, as captured in the anti-climactic final stanza.

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