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Edexcel English IGCSE: Veronica

Q4. Does the writer portray Veronica’s life as a waste?

In your answer, you should consider:

  • Veronica’s attitudes towards life;
  • the narrator’s opinions of Veronica and her life;
  • 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

In ‘Veronica’, the narrator is convinced that Veronica’s life has been wasted. However, this is in conflict with Veronica’s view of herself. The writer allows the reader to decide whether they consider her life to be a waste.

Okeke has strong opinions about what Veronica should do with her life. As he fulfils his ambitions by leaving the village and becoming prosperous, Okeke tries to persuade Veronica to pursue a similar route. With strong, emotive vocabulary reflecting the extent of his frustration, he says that he is “appalled and frightened” by her acceptance of village life. There is disapproval and frustration in his repeated assertions that “nothing ever changed” in the village. He pities her life, as expressed in his description of her when he returns to the village after ten years: “squatting over a smoking fire, fanning the flames with a piece of cardboard”. The word “squatting” is almost derogatory, and the alliteration of ‘s’ and ‘f’ create a tone of disgust at what he sees. His view of her life is clearly expressed after her death, when he weeps “for the terrible waste”. The reader senses that he views her death as wasteful, but also her life, since her potential for success and happiness were wasted.

However, Veronica herself seems to disagree with Okeke’s evaluation of her life. She often reacts to Okeke’s questions with questions of her own, highlighting the essential conflict in their attitudes to life. When he asks her about herself, she replies, “What should of happened to me?” and “What am I to tell you?”. Importantly, these questions are given “without bitterness” or envy for Okeke’s life. Her questions challenge the very notion that life should be changeable and exciting; she does not exhibit the same disapproval of the village’s immutability that Okeke does. Furthermore, Okeke fails to recognise and celebrate things in Veronica’s life about which she is happy, such as her child and husband. Again, she questions Okeke: “Is that not enough?”. Clearly, it is not enough for him. Veronica’s insistent questions throughout their conversations encourage the reader to query Okeke’s view of how life should be. After the death of her entire family, Veronica loses her attachment to life and feels “there is nothing left for [her] in this world”. Again, Okeke challenges this view and tries to keep her alive, against her wishes.

Veronica’s death is unquestionably pitiful, and a wasteful tragedy, which results from war and famine. Her lack of education restricts her opportunities, and this is an cruel waste of potential talent and happiness. However, the question of whether her entire life consisted of wasted potential is for the reader to decide. Certainly, she did not fulfil Okeke’s wishes for her, but perhaps her satisfaction with her own life choices and her commitment to her family suggests that her life was not completely wasted after all.

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