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IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 05

IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 05

Edexcel English IGCSE: The Last Night by Charlotte Gray

 

Q5. Examine the role of children in ‘The Last Night’.

In your answer, you should think about:

  • the feelings of the children;
  • the treatment of the children deportees;
  • the writer’s use of language.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

Involvement of children in the Holocaust is one of the genocide’s greatest tragedies. In ‘The Last Night’, Faulks describes the feelings and the treatment of child victims of the Holocaust, who are waiting to be transported to concentration camps.

The treatment of the children is shocking and dehumanising. They are sleeping on “filthy straw”, like animals. Faulks refers to the “soft bloom” of Andre’s cheek, evoking an image of innocence and youth. It contrasts with the “dung” which he is lying in. He lies there “uncaring”, showing that he is perhaps too exhausted to care where he sleeps. The children’s basic needs are also not being met. When someone brings them food and water, one boy hugs the woman “in his gratitude”, which shows that this fulfilment of their human rights is interpreted as kindness and generosity. The children also “clustered” around the water pail: this description is another example of dehumanisation, and shows that they are too desperate to wait patiently for the water. The fact that even children are being treated so terribly shows the cruelty of the system.

Although the children may not be fully aware of how dangerous their situation is, they are still fearful. They are able to fall asleep, but “dream of other places” when they do, showing that they are unhappy where they are. In the morning, the children are “at the deepest moments of their sleep”. Sleeping children is a peaceful image, which contrasts with the horrors they will soon have to endure. The idea of a deep sleep is also associated with death, foreshadowing the children’s impending murder. When instructed to go to the buses, they are evidently terrified: “In the filthy straw they dug in their heels and screamed”. In this powerful image, the writer foregrounds the description of the disgusting environment by placing it at the start of the sentence. This reminds the reader that the children would rather stay in a dirty hut than go somewhere more dangerous.

Andre provides an individual child’s perspective on the events of the passage. In particular, he demonstrates the destruction of childish innocence that occurred as a result of these atrocities. When he sees a mother staring with “terrible ferocity” at her child, Andre is confused at first. However, he then realises that she is staring to remember her child, “for ever”. The gravity of this realisation is captured in this phrase; “forever” is usually written as one word, and by separating it, Faulks causes the reader to linger on this concept. The child and mother will never be united. Andre should be too young to recognise such finality, and yet he is being exposed to these tragedies himself.

By describing the role of children in these tragic and horrifying events, Faulks captures the innocence of all the people who were killed in the Holocaust.

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IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 04

IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 04

Edexcel English IGCSE: The Last Night by Charlotte Gray

 

Q4. How does the writer portray the thoughts and feelings of the deportees in ‘The Last Night’?

In your answer, consider:

  • the adult deportees;
  • the children deportees;
  • the experience of Andre;
  • the writer’s use of language techniques.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

The deportees experience a range of emotions in reaction to their terrible situation, such as fear and resignation to their fates. In this passage, Faulks portrays the unthinkable experience of waiting for death.

Because of their knowledge of their predicament, the adults have to deal with their impending deaths. At the beginning of the passage, they differ in their responses, as highlighted by the repeated structure, “Some…”. Some adults react emotionally, writing with “sobbing passion”. This emotive language is shocking to the reader, as the tone of the passage so far is relatively factual. It is a sudden reminder of the human emotional cost of the Holocaust. The adults are “slumped” against the walls, which suggests depression and a lack of hope. This hopelessness is reflected in the adults’ compliance with the guards’ instructions. They even help to pull children onto the buses, essentially bringing them to their deaths. The deportees are aware of their fate, as shown by their unified reaction of fear to the sound of the buses: “a quickening of muscle and nerve”. Their compliance, then, displays their utter hopelessness that they might be saved.

Perhaps even more tragic than the adult victims is the fact that young children are also being deported to concentration camps. Their desperation for basic things is evident in their reaction to the woman who brings them food and water: they “clustered” around the water pail, showing that they are too desperate to wait patiently for their turn. One boy hugs the woman “in his gratitude”, showing the rarity of such generosity. Unlike the adults who recognise the futility of resistance, the children display their fear with open defiance: “In the filthy straw they dug in their heels and screamed”. By positioning the description of the disgusting environment at the beginning of the sentence, Faulks shows the children’s recognition that even their current circumstances are better than those to which they are heading.

Andre is one of the children being deported to a concentration camp. The fact that he lies his cheek “uncaring, in the dung” shows that he has become accustomed to his horrific environment. He is also poignantly obedient to the guards’ instructions; this is a moving reminder that adults should be keeping children safe, not bringing them to harm. However, “he held on hard to Jacob”, the alliteration here evidencing his fear. Andre also gradually realises the severity of their situation. He recognises that the “terrible ferocity” of a mother’s glare is not hatred, but an attempt to remember her child “for ever”. This realisation that the children will not be returning to their parents is tragically mature for such a young person.

Understandably, the experience of the deportees is largely characterised by fear. That children have to fear for their lives is particularly tragic, since they are so clearly innocent and undeserving of their terrible treatment.

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IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 03

IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 03

Edexcel English IGCSE: The Last Night by Charlotte Gray

 

Q3. In ‘The Last Night’, how does the writer portray the injustice of the treatment of the deportees?

In your answer, write about:

  • the conditions that the deportees are kept in;
  • the actions of other people;
  • Andre’s actions and thoughts;
  • the use of language.

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

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

‘The Last Night’ describes one scene in the context of the Holocaust; this was a period of terrible injustice against many groups of people. The experiences of the deportees in this passage portray the human story of this terrible event.

The humanity of the deportees is undermined by their conditions. They sit on “filthy straw”, like animals in captivity. Andre’s face is lying “uncaring, in the dung”. The fact that he does not even notice that he is lying in faeces is also animalistic; he has become accustomed to disgusting conditions. Later in the passage, they are described as being in an “enclosure”, a word which is typically used to describe animal cages. This again shows the dehumanising treatment of the deportees. The injustice of the situation is highlighted by the comparison with the camp officials. The camp commandant, for example, is sitting “at a long table”. This extravagant furniture contrasts with the rudimentary conditions of the deportees, and clearly shows the commandant’s status and power over them.

The descriptions of the child deportees show the ultimate injustice of this situation, since they are clearly undeserving of their treatment. Faulks’s tender reference to the “soft bloom” of Andre’s cheek evokes a classical image of childhood innocence and youth. This image is framed by animalistic descriptions of their conditions, showing the cruelty of the deportees’ treatment. The innocence of the children is also undermined by their increasing awareness of their predicament. At first, Andre is confused by the “terrible ferocity” with which a mother regards her child; then he realises that she wanted to remember him “for ever”. This terrible realisation that the mother will never see her child again seems too mature for a child who should be enjoying youthful ignorance of the world’s horrors.

The unjust treatment of the deportees is also portrayed through the actions of others. Some people offer acts of kindness to them, for example bringing a pail of water. However, the fact that this fulfilment of a basic human right is portrayed as kindness – a boy embraces the woman in gratitude – shows that their most basic needs are not being met. The children also “clustered” around the bucket, reflecting their desperation for water. The operation is portrayed as organised and clinical, as though the people are merely cargo. For example, a policeman calls out names in “alphabetical order” to board numbered buses. This constitutes complete neglect of the emotional impact and human injustice of the situation.

The injustice of the deportation is finally captured in the image of a tiny baby being lifted onto the bus to be taken to the concentration camp. As an embodiment of innocence, the baby symbolises the cruelty and senselessness of the mass extermination of entire groups of people.

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IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 02

IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 02

Edexcel English IGCSE: The Last Night by Charlotte Gray

 

Q2. How does the writer of ‘The Last Night’ evoke sympathy for the people who are being deported?

In your answer, consider:

  • the treatment of the deportees;
  • the actions of the other people;
  • the writer’s 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

The deportees in ‘The Last Night’ are in a pitiable situation. They are kept in terrible, dehumanising conditions, and are experiencing the fear of knowing that they will soon die. The actions of others simply confirm their terrifying circumstances.

The conditions in which the deportees are kept dehumanise them. The children are sleeping on “filthy straw”, like animals. Faulks evokes sympathy in the reader with the touching contrast in the description of sleeping Andre: the “soft bloom of his cheek”, which evokes beauty and innocence, contrasts with the ugliness and inhumanity of the “dung” on which it lies. Like animals in the cold, the brothers are intertwined “for warmth”. The area in which the deportees are kept is described as an “enclosure”, a term which is usually used in reference to animals in captivity. By suggesting that the deportees are being treated as animals, Faulks appeals to the reader’s sympathy.

The deportees experience the fear of knowing, at least partially, the terrible fate which awaits them. The adults are aware of their terrifying situation, which prompts them to react in fear to the buses which will take them to the concentration camps: there is a “quickening of muscle and nerve” when they hear them. The ironic use of the word “quickening”, which means to come alive, reminds the reader of these people’s impending death. The children are perhaps less aware of their fate. Nevertheless, they know that they are being taken somewhere even worse than their current environment: “In the filthy straw they dug in their heels and screamed”. The phrase “dug in their heels” is idiomatic as well as literal, showing that they are attempting to be stubborn. This is moving because the reader is aware that the children’s stubbornness is futile, as they have no control over this situation.

Other people’s actions confirm the deportees’ terrible fate. Some are kind to the deportees, for example by bringing water and food. However, these acts are somewhat ominous; they are reminiscent of prisoners being given a final meal before their execution. The behaviour of the officials also evoke sympathy for the deportees. The camp commandant sits at a “long table”, showing his importance and status. This extravagant furniture is in stark contrast to the conditions of the deportees, highlighting the tragic injustice of this situation. A policeman calls out names “in alphabetical order”, which makes the operation seem organised and clinical, as though the deportees are goods, not people. It is also an infantilising practice, which is often used in schools.

Faulks succeeds in evoking pathos for the deportees, who are being treated as animals and have no control over their lives. The reader is likely to be aware of the events of the Holocaust; this passage offers a detailed account of one such terrible event.

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IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 01

IGCSE The Last Night by Charlotte Gray Model Essays Question 01

Edexcel English IGCSE: The Last Night by Charlotte Gray

 

Q1. In ‘The Last Night’, how does the writer build up strong feelings of fear and uncertainty?

You should write about:

  • how the adult deportees respond;
  • what the children do and think;
  • what the other people do;
  • the use of language.

Refer closely to the text in your answer, and use brief quotations.

Edexcel English IGCSE Model Essay by an Expert

‘The Last Night’ describes the experiences of deportees waiting to be taken to a concentration camp: that is, waiting to be taken to their deaths. Through the thoughts and actions of the people described, Faulks captures the fear and uncertainty of this agonising wait.

The adult deportees have the most awareness of the fate that awaits them, and therefore they experience fear and desperation. They “sat slumped” against the walls, suggesting depression and hopelessness. The adults are “wakeful”, in contrast to the sleeping children; this poignantly displays the adults’ knowledge of the terrible things ahead, contrasting the children’s innocence. When they hear the buses arrive, there is a “quickening of muscle and nerve”; this is an unanimous physical reaction of fear, as they know that these buses will transport them to the concentration camp. The familiarity of the sound – a “homely thudding” – contributes to the sense of fear and uncertainty, through the sinister contrast between the homeliness of the sound and the terror that it now induces.

The children are less aware of the severity of the situation, but nevertheless fearful of their strange circumstances. Unlike the adults, who remain relatively composed due to their knowledge of the futility of resistance, the children react fearfully to the request to board the buses. A particular powerful image is: “In the filthy straw they dug in their heels and screamed”. By starting this sentence with the image of the straw, Faulks shows that despite the disgusting environment, they are determined to stay there as they have a sense that they are being taken somewhere worse. Andre, however, is touchingly obedient, bringing his brother to their bus when their names are called. His fear is evident in his determination to remain close to his brother, emphasised by the alliteration in the phrase, “He held on hard to Jacob”.

The actions of other people also reveal the terrifying nature of the deportees’ fate. They are treated with kindness and sympathy by others, such as the people who come with postcards, sandwiches and water. These acts of kindness are ominous, as they suggest that the deportees are being treated well on their “last night” on Earth. A more honest emotional reaction comes from the “women wailing” as they watch their children board the buses. The metaphorical language in the “shower of food” shows the women’s desperation to give their children a final lifeline, although they only have “scraps” to give. A mother stares with “terrible ferocity” at her child; her desperation to remember her child is so strong that it could be interpreted as almost violent.

The fear experienced by the adult and children deportees is portrayed to the reader through descriptions of their emotional reactions. The actions of others show that the deportees are right to be fearful.

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