Are You Still Playing Your Flute?


The persona is thinking of someone she was close to and who plays the flute. She longs to hear the wonderful soothing music that had touched her heart a long time ago. She wonders if he is still playing his flute in their village that is now empty and quiet. She feels troubled that she should be thinking of him and her past while people around her are suffering and her world is changing.


Stanza 1:

In life, we sometimes have to change our way of life due to work or family circumstances. From a lifestyle filled with values and traditions like in the village, we may find ourselves embracing a totally different lifestyle in towns. However, we may sometimes long for our previous life with its unforgettable moments.

Stanza 2:

We may wonder if the values and traditions we believed in and practised are still observed in our former villagers. Many people have migrated to towns or adopted an urban way of life where such traditions may not be so well-ingrained. In these places, life is fast paced and they do not have the time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life they used to.

Stanza 3:

These people may think back to their days in the rural areas with guilt. Traditions and the old values may seem trivial compared to their present circumstances. There are economic, political and social problems to be faced. Some of these problems have become personal as they affect people who are close to them.


  • Values and traditions – Values and traditions have an important role in our life. They teach us to live correctly and to hold on to our principles in life. We learn to value life, family and friends. A society without values and traditions is colourless and loses its direction.
  • Changes in life – Nothing stays the same forever and that includes life. Life changes over time. These changes affect every aspect of our lives and may have positive andnegative consequences.
  • Family commitments – Everyone has family commitments, whether it is to our immediate family members or extended family members. Be aware of these commitments as they bind a family together.
  • Priorities in life – There are important and unimportant things in life. Learn to differentiate them and make plans accordingly.
  • Enjoying the simple pleasure of life – Nature surrounds us and the beauty of nature offers us the simple pleasures of life. The rising sun, the moon and stars, the rainfall and dew are some of the pleasures that nature offers. Enjoy them and enjoy life.
  • Passionate about one’s interest – When we are really interested in a hobby, we will become passionate about it. It helps us to mature as this passion helps us to stay focused. We learn to be creative too. But, we should not let this passion become an obsession.


  • We should learn to appreciate the values and traditions of society and family. They give us balance in life and help us to differentiate between the good and the bad.
  • We face changes in life every day. Learn to accept changes but only if they are for the good of society. If they are beneficial, work around them for the general good.
  • Our family is the most important thing in our life. We should put their interest and safety first before anything else. Show consideration for one’s duties within the home and carry out family commitments responsibly.
  • We should know our priorities in life and be aware of them at all times. Don’t get so taken in by our interests that we forget our priorities.
  • Passion for interests should should not be at expense of family happiness. There is a time for work and a time for play.


  • The poem is the first point of view – the persona uses the pronoun ‘I’ and ‘my’
  • The persona is reflecting on her past and feeling uneasy about the present.


  • Language – simple and easy to understand
  • Play of words to add interest
  • Style – clear, descriptive and inquiring


  • Sombre – talks about her longing for something she cannot have anymore
  • Appreciative and regretful for loss of simple pleasures of life
  • Mood of hopelesness and loss – does not like her present situation


  • Imagery – e.g. ‘blown by the wind’, ‘depth of my heart’
  • Alliteration – e.g. ‘fragrance of flowers’’ dew drops’
  • Symbol – e.g. ‘flute’, ‘song’
  • Repetition – e.g. ‘Are you still playing your flute?’
  • Assonance – ‘sick rice filed’
  • Figurative Language – Metaphor e.g. ‘The melody concealed in the slime hollow of bamboo – Personification e.g. ‘sick rice field’



– sick rice filed – the rice field is personified as a human who is not feeling well                                       

– this world is …bleeding – earth is personified as being wounded

– flute – symbolises a thing of the past, something tradition                                                                    

– song – symbolises the simple pleasure of life


– ‘Are you still playing your flute?’ – repeated at the beginning of all three stanzas to reinforce the emotion behind the question and to create a dramatic effect.

Rhetorical question:                                                                                                                         

– Are you still playing your flute? – the persona asks a question to which she does not expect a reply.


– ‘the melody concealed in the slim hollow of the bamboo’ : The song seems to be hidden in the bamboo when it is actually coming out from the playing of the flute.                                                      

– ‘the world is too old and bleeding’: The world seems to have aged due to war and the sufferings caused by it.


a) imagery of sight:                                                                                                                                        

 – ‘so quiet and deserted’: This gives a clear picture of a lonely village with hardly anyone around.           

– ‘slaughtered mercilessly’: Many lives were lost in the war.                                                                 

b) imagery of feelings:                                                                                                                         

– ‘depth of my heart’: The persona feels deeply and wants to hear the song played by the flautist.          

– ‘longing for your song’: The persona has a deep desire to hear songs.                                                      

c) imagery of touch:                                                                                                                            

– ‘collecting dew drops’ – someone is putting their hands together to collect dew drops to feel the water 

d) imagery of smell:                                                                                                                             

– ‘enjoying the fragrance of flowers’: The flowers are emitting fragrant scent.                                        

e) imagery of sound:                                                                                                                             

– ‘playing your flute’ – The music comes from the flute.                                                                                

– ‘blown by the wind’ – The sound of wind and music



Stanza 1

Are you still playing your flute?

When there is hardly time for our love

I am feeling guilty

To be longing for your song

The melody concealed in the slim hollow of the bamboo

Uncovered by the breath of an artist

Composed by his fingers

Blown by the wind

To the depth of my heart


1. What is the meaning of this line, there is hardly time for our love? (1mark)

2. What does the word  ‘artist’ in line 6 refers to ? (1mark)

3. Which line suggests the man playing the flute is talented? (1mark)

4.Do you think the poet still remember the past? Why? (2marks

Stanza 2

Are you still playing your flute?

In the village so quiet and deserted

Amidst the sick rice field

While here it has become a luxury

To spend time watching the rain

Gazing at the evening rays

Collecting dew drops

Or enjoying the fragrance of flowers


1. What are the activities the persona enjoys doing? (2marks)

2. What does the word ‘here’ refer to? (1mark)

3. Do you think life in the village has not changed? Why? (2marks)

Stanza 3

Are you still playing your flute?

The more it disturbs my conscience

to be thinking of you

in the hazard of you

my ‘younger brothers’ unemployed and desperate

my people disunited by politics

my friend slaughtered mercilessly

this world is too old and bleeding


1. The phrase ‘younger brothers’ refers to (1mark)

2. What is one of the problems faced by the people? (1mark)

3. Which line in this stanza explains the existence of violence? (1mark)

4. Do you think that the situation would get better? Why? (2marks)


In the Midst of Hardship – Latiff Mohidin

albino buffalo


In the Midst of Hardship by Latiff Mohidin

At dawn they returned home

their soaky clothes torn

and approached the stove

their limbs marked by scratches

their legs full of wounds

but on their brows

there was not a sign of despair

The whole day and night just passed

they had to brave the horrendous flood

in the water all the time

between bloated carcasses

and tiny chips of tree barks

desperately looking for their son’s

albino buffalo that was never found

They were born amidst hardship

and grew up without a sigh or a complaint

now they are in the kitchen, making

jokes while rolling their ciggarete leaves


This poem is about a family who faces  hardship whereby their son’s albino buffalo is nowhere to be found. A flood occurs and they go out to find the buffalo. They reach home early in the morning without the buffalo and yet there is no  sign of despair in them. Meanwhile, they can still crack jokes and roll the cigarettes.

Figurative meaning by stanza


They returned home at day break and headed for the stove. This is probably because they were hungry. However, I have also received some feedbacks saying that they went straight to the stove to dry themselves as they were drenched with the flood water. Their clothes were soaking wet and tattered. Their bodies were covered with scratches and wounds. Yet, they did not display any signs of being worried.


They were out in the flood the whole day and night. They were surrounded by dead animals and parts of trees that had been destroyed by the flood. We know that the animals were already dead because of the phrase ‘bloated carcasses’. They searched desperately for their son’s albino buffalo but were unable to find it.


They were born into poverty and difficulty, but they do not complain about their suffer. Instead, they sit in the kitchen, cracking jokes while smoking cigarettes. This shows that they face difficulties all the time and this time there is no different. They have inner strength that makes them strong to face any hardship poses to them.


The setting of the poem is in the house.


Being resilience when facing hardship

Family love

Acceptance of way of life


  1. We should learn to accept problems in life with a positive outlook.
  2. We must attempt to face and solve problem.
  3. Facing hardship is part and parcel of life.
  4. If we face a problem, do not feel despair.


  • Understanding and sympathetic
  • Acceptance of situation


Third person pint of view.


Language is simple and easy to understand.

The style is simple with no rhyming scheme.


Imagery – Gives picture of poet’s thoughts e.g ‘soaky clothes torn’ and ‘legs full of wounds’

Alliteration – e.g. ‘but on their brows’

Symbols – e.g. ‘horrendous flood’ and ‘bloating carcasses’

Diction – e.g. ‘stove’ and ‘brows


32. a. Which phrase in stanza 1 shows that the people are injured? (1 mark)

b. Give the meaning of the following words:

(i) ‘soaky’ (1 mark)

(ii) ‘limbs’ (1 mark)

(c) Do you admire the actions of the people? Give a reason for your answer. (2 marks)

32 a.When did the family go back home?

b.Why do you think some family members approached the stove?

c. The word ‘horrendous’ means …………………………………………………………………….

d. In your opinion, how should people react to difficult times?  (2 marks)

32 a. Which lines indicate the suffering that the people endure while out in the rain?

b. How long did the heavy downpour occur??

c. The word ‘horrendous’ means ……………………………………………………………………

d. In your opinion, why did the boy love the albino buffalo so much? (2 marks)

Exercise  1 (phrases)

Quotation from the poem – Which line means

1. not feeling gloomy?                                             …………………………………………………………………

2. their clothes were drenched and torn?                …………………………………………………………………

3. their hands and legs had cuts all over?               …………………………………………………………………

4. had to put up with the dreadful flood?                 …………………………………………………………………

5. born in suffering?                                                …………………………………………………………………

6. accepted their life without complaining?              …………………………………………………………………

Poetic devices – SPM

Literary works use poetic devices not only aesthetically but also to enhance meaning to the poems. Here are some that are used by many writers.

Term Meaning Example
alliteration repetition of the initial consonant sounds terrible truths and lullaby lies
assonance repetition of vowel sound mystery disguised within
consonance repetition of consonant sounds, but not vowel sounds gloomy woman
imagery language that evokes sensory images drip of ruby teardrops (aural/sound)

to wake up where the green grass grows (visual/sight)

lips like cool sweet tea (oral/taste)

streaming through a velvet sky (tactile/touch)

the stench of the underworld (olfactory/smell)

internal rhyme rhyming that occurs within the line

(rather than at the end)

piece of me emerges
metaphor comparison of unlike things

(made without using like or as)

am the “Lone Star”
onomatopoeia a word that imitates the sound it represents Boo! Who?
personification giving human qualities or characteristics

to animals or objects

tears of amber fall from my soul
rhyme a pattern of words that contains similar sounds

at the end of the line

life for me

is wild and free

rhyme scheme a repeated pattern of rhymed words

at the end of the line

lusty eyes (A)

passionate cries (A)

rich blood, (B)

bitter sweat (C)

she/he loves (D)

and dies (A)

simile a comparison using like or as notes dance across the page like stars twinkle in the night sky
stanza a group of poetic lines (also called a verse) Like glistening sun
and moon like day and gloomy night
like pure earth and gentle clouds
transformation – life and death
symbol an object or action that means more

than its literal meaning

always open like a rosebud about to bloom

(a young girl)

Tips to answer SPM 1119

1.Paper 1 

Section A – 35 marks.

Tips for Directed Writing SPM

 *Count how many points are already given.

Set how many more points you must come up with to get the total maximum marks of content

  • Details ; elaboration, examples, suggestions (depends on the requirement of the question)
  • If you are not proficient in English, write short but varied sentence structures  (passive,active,simple, compound etc.)
  • Use sequence and sentence connectors appropriately

You must spend 45 minutes or less because you need to spend time planning and writing your 2nd composition.

–  Write around 1 ½ pages only unless you have anough time to spare.

 Writing – the most important is your sentences must be correct. Subject verb agreement MUST be correct!! Check your plural & singular nouns, your tenses. Passive & active voice sentences, spelling & punctuation.

Section B – 50 marks


    • Correct sentences and variety of sentences determine your grade. You must write correct sentences before anything else.
    • Use correct punctuation, spelling and accurate choice of words.
    • Sophisticated sentences warrant merit before vocabulary.

If you are well read, choose factual essays. Good command of the language. If you are not sure, choose to write a story. Make sure it is 350 words or more (does not apply to section A). Be as original as you can because this is creative writing. Make the setting local and believeable.

B) Your writing must relate to the topic. A mere mention doesn’t count. Irrelevancy can cause you a lot to lose.


2. Paper 2 – questions 16-25 must be answered with specific answers, correct puntuation,spelling & grammatically correct – not a guessing game.

– questions 26 -30 (comprehension) answer according to paragraphs – which word means the question only want 1 word (no need to write in a sentence.)

– question 31 (summary) no marks for total lifting of continuous sentences – pick n choose wisely. Your summary must be in 130 words or less ( 125-130) *count each word. Use sequence/sentence connectors – however, therefore,next, later, furthermore……

– poem – answer based on the excerpt given – which line/phrase – rewrite the line/phrase (quote it).

– novel – you must state the title of the novel – include character, events, lesson learn/the importance – express your opinion

– must be written in paragraphs = the best 4 or more. ( no word limit) must be backed by evidence from the novel.

Catch Us If You Can – Answers

Using details from the novel you have studied,

• describe a close relationship between two characters

• explain why you would consider them to be very close Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• Choose and write the names of two characters from the story • Describe their close relationship

• Explain why you would consider them to be very close


In the novel “Catch Us If You Can” by Catherine MacPhail, Rory McIntosh and his grandfather share an inseparable bond.

According to Rory, they are “like a double act”. His father abandoned his mother and him, so when his mother died, he was taken care of by his grandparents. The death of his grandmother had left him with his grandfather. He called him „Granda‟ and Granda had looked after him all his life and now it was his turn to look after Granda. However both of

them were incapable of looking after themselves because Granda was too old and sick while his grandson was too young to shoulder the responsibility of looking after himself and his forgetful and sometimes disorientated grandfather. Whatever the difficulties, Rory and Granda refused to be separated. Rory argued that sending Granda to a home would kill his grandfather and forcing him to stay in a children‟s home would be unbearable. That showed how close they were and how emotionally dependent they were on each other.

Rory loved Granda so much that he was prepared to make a lot of sacrifices for the old man. He let go the chance to be in the school football team because he needed to look after Granda. He had to run home from school during lunch break to bring Granda lunch. On several occasions, Granda had unwittingly „lost‟ or „misplaced‟ Rory‟s homework and that had earned him the wrath of his teacher, Mrs Foley. Besides all these, he had to think of the little precautions to take to keep Granda out of harm. Still, he did not want to part with his Granda who would have been better off in an old folks‟ home. Granda felt the same also. The bond between the two was a special one. However, events took a decisive turn when Granda accidentally caused a fire in the kitchen of their flat. Granda was taken to hospital and then to Rachnadar, a home for the elderly. Rory ended up in Castle Street where he met the troubled Tess and fought with her.

He was miserable there. Granda fared no better at the home. Rory felt that they had been cheated by his social worker, Val Jessup. He plotted on the run while the police launched a hunt for them. The news of the runway pair was everywhere on television but they managed to evade the police with the help from sympathizers along the way. They suffered a lot of discomfort while on the run and the old man‟s condition worsened but they seemed happy. Being together has become a source of strength to them. They were finally persuaded to go and see Rory‟s long-lost father, Jeff McIntosh, who had been traced to Liverpool as a result of the publicity. But before they could do this, Jeff came for them. They ended up together again, and this time in a flat near where Jeff and his new family lived. Jeff was finally ready to assume responsibility for his father and his son.

Rory and Granda were inseparable. It looked as if only death could separate them. Nothing mattered as long as they were together.

4.3.2 PRACTICE 2

Using details from the novel you have studied, write on the theme of happiness. Use evidence from the text to support your answer.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• Choose evidence from the novel which relate to the theme of happiness • State the characters

• Explain what the characters do to be happy


In the novel „Catch Us If You Can‟, Rory McIntosh has been living with his grandfather since he was a young boy. On the surface, this arrangement such as theirs cannot be a happy one because Granda is old and sick while he is too young to be able to look after himself, let alone his forgetful and sometimes disorientated grandfather. Granda would have been better off at Rachnadar, a home for the aged where his needs will be taken care of by professionals and Rory would have been able to lead a more normal life at Castle Street Children‟s Home. But they refuse to be separated. Despite the difficulties, they are happy together. In their own obstinate way, they are guarding their right to be together and be happy.

However, when Granda causes a fire in their flat, the social worker assigned to them takes Granda to Rachnadar while Rory goes to the Castle Street home. Rory is upset and so is Granda. Rory believes the home is killing his Granda. Then, Rory decides to run away from the home, „rescue‟ his Granda from Rachnadar and they would run away from all these meddling people. They are on the run for several weeks and the television is full of news about them. A

massive search is launched for them. Ironically, while on the run, they experience some of the happiest moments of their lives, with the help of sympathizers like Darren, his best friend who steals his mother‟s caravan key to let them hide temporarily, Sammy and Ruby who shelter them when the police close in on them. Then, there are the sympathetic petrol station operator, Rab and his girlfriend, Annie. Their run comes to an end when Granda becomes ill

and causes concern to Norma, Annie‟s cousin who is helping them to get to Liverpool to find Rory‟s father. She calls the police. All‟s well that ends well when McIntosh‟s long-lost son, Jeff, who is also Rory‟s father comes for them. He is ready to assume his responsibility as a son and father.

Rory and Granda are basically searching for happiness whether as a stubborn pair fiercely defending their rights to stay together in the flat in the face of insurmountable problems or whether as runaways, oblivious to the frenzy they are causing through their actions. They sincerely believe that they are looking for happiness. After all, nothing matters as long as they are happy because life is a quest for happiness.

4.3.3 PRACTICE 3

“The title suits the story perfectly”

Using details from the novel you have studied, discuss whether you agree with the statement above. Give reasons for your answer. Use evidence from the text to support your answer.


• Read and understand the statement given

• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• Explain how the title suits the story

• Use evidence from the novel to support your answer


The title of the novel “Catch Us If You Can” by Catherine MacPhail is simple and catchy that suits the novel perfectly because it captures the actions of a grandfather and a grandson who cause a frenzy when the police launch a massive search for them. The grandfather has run away from an old folks‟ home he hates and the grandson has escaped from a horrible children‟s home.

The title has the semblance of a challenge to the people tracking down the pair. It sounds cheeky, insolent and child-like and it reflects the character of the runaway pair. The grandfather, suffering from age-related ailments can be childish and does not realize the implications of what he has done. In his pursuit, he has caused bodily harm to a youngster who recognizes his grandson, Rory, from the news on television and wants to turn them in. Then, he steals a car to get away. All these can be considered criminal but he is happily nonchalant or ignorant of all the legal implications. His grandson and accomplice, Rory, is a child who knows no better. The expression „If You Can‟ is not only tongue-in-cheek, but also suggests that tracking them down can be difficult. One would think it would be easy to catch them but it is not. Although what they are doing is unbelievably crazy, they have earned the sympathy of

many people along the way and this has helped them to evade the police for so long. First, Darren, Rory‟s best friend, plans the first lap for them when he steals his mother‟s caravan key for them to hide out while they think of a better plan after they leave the homes.

Then, they meet Sammy and Ruby who offer them help as the police are closing in on them. Next, there is Rab at the petrol station who gives them a respite and convinces them that they should go and find Jeff McIntosh, Rory‟s father, in Liverpool because it is time for him to do something „in his whole useless life‟. After that, there is Annie, Rab‟s girlfriend, who hands them over to her cousin, Norma. Norma finally brings the whole saga to an end when she decides to call the police because she can see that the old man really needs medical help.

The title suits the story perfectly because it is a story about a grandfather and a grandson on the run. It is also a reflection of what the story is – the police are not looking for regular criminals but just two ordinary people whom the police do not want to apprehend but to protect and keep out of harm.

4.3.4 PRACTICE 4

Using the details of the novel you have studied.

• describe a decision made by any one character in the novel

• do you think the decision was a wise one?

Support your answer with evidence from the novel.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• Choose a character from the story

• State the decision made by the character you have chosen

• Give your opinion whether the decision made by the character you have chosen was

a wise one

• Use evidence from the novel to support your answer


In the novel „Catch Us If You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, I would choose the decision made by Rory, when he decided to get Granda out of Rachnadar and run away.

After the death of his mother, Rory lived with his grandparents. When his grandmother died, his grandfather, whom he called Granda, looked after him. Rory and Granda were very close to each other that they had become inseparable. When Granda became sick and his memory began to fail, it was Rory‟s turn to look after Granda. One day, Granda accidentally set fire to their flat. This brought the authorities to step in. Finding Granda and Rory incapable of taking care of each other, they sent Granda to an old folks‟ home, while Rory was sent to a children‟s home in Castle Street. The authorities had no choice but to do this for the safety of both Granda and Rory. Granda might pose a danger not only to himself and Rory but to those around him.

Rory felt he was wrongly torn away from his Granda. Furthermore, Rory knew that Granda hated being in Rachnadar, the old folks‟ home, and Rory himself hated it in Castle Street. So he made the decision to run away with Granda so they could be together.

I can understand Rory‟s position but I do not see it as a wise decision. In the first place, he was too young to make a huge decision like this. At his age, he should have thought about school. He should realize that he was incapable of taking care of his old and sick grandfather. Granda was too old and frail to go on such a challenging and demanding journey. Moreover, Granda needed his pills to sustain him. Besides, Rory did not know where he was going to. Where could they go when they had no place and no one to care for them? Rory, too, asked himself the question whether it was a wise decision. People may say that those who love each other must stay together but this is based only on emotion. I think Rory made the decision because he had no one else in his life. It was not only because he loved Granda so much, but also because he did not know how to live without his Granda because all this while, Granda was always there for him.

To make decisions, we must be objective. We must think rationally. Seeing the unpredictability of things and the health condition of Granda, and Rory‟s immaturity, I strongly feel that Rory made an unwise decision in running away.

4.3.5 PRACTICE 5

Using details from the novel you have studied, write on the theme of forgiveness OR reconciliation.

Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• State the characters

• Choose the events from the novel which highlight the theme of forgiveness or


• Explain what the characters do to show forgiveness

• Support your answer with evidence from the novel


In Catherine MacPhail‟s „Catch Us If You Can‟, Rory has been cared for by his grandfather whom he calls Granda for as long as he remembers. According to Granda, his own father was a spoilt brat of a boy; just mentioning him would make Granda angry. He grew up to be someone who did not appreciate what he got and left Rory‟s mother who later died of heartbreak. And that was when the senior McIntosh decided to cut all ties with his son. He is adamant that the only son he had is Rory and he can very well take care of the boy.

The irony of the situation is, Rory has been looking after his Granda who is not well and needs medications for all sorts of ailments. As a result, Rory has to look after him, take him to the doctor, prepare his lunch and make sure he takes his medicines – all too big a responsibility for a young boy like him. Despite the difficulties, both Rory and Granda refuse to be separated, as any solution would entail sending the old man to a nursing home and the boy, a children‟s home.

However, after Granda accidentally sets fire in their flat, he is sent to Rachnadar, an old folks‟ home and Rory to the children‟s home in Castle Street. They cannot bear being separated. Rory takes Granda out from the home and both go on a run. Soon, the police is looking for them. News about them appears on the media. Rory and Granda manage to

evade the police because they get help from people who sympathize with them along their journey.

Investigations reveal that Rory‟s father, Jeff Mcintosh is in Liverpool and they are advised to go and see him. While on their way to Liverpool, Granda becomes too sick. The police is informed by one of the people who helps them, Norma, who feels that the old man needs immediate help. Jeff, with the help of the authorities, arrives to take his father and his son with him. Both father and son are reconciled and Rory finds his long-lost father. Jeff is ready to take on his responsibilities as a son to his father, Granda, and as a father to his son, Rory.

The story ends with a reconciliation between the ageing and ailing father and the son he has vowed to disown, Jeff. As for Rory, it is a happy reunion with the father he has never known.

4.3.6 PRACTICE 6

From the novel you have studied, what is the most important lesson you have learnt? Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• Think of a lesson you have learnt after reading the novel

• State the characters and the hardships they go through that have an impact on you

• Explain how the story affects you

• Use evidence from the novel to support your answer


From the novel „Catch Us If You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, an important lesson I learnt is to be persistent and determined when facing challenges. Often, persistence leads to better results than losing hope easily. Two characters in the novel, Rory and Granda, handled challenges with determination. Rory knew that he must be strong and determined in order to withstand the rigours of the escape. There was never a time he felt like giving up and turning in to the police. It was the strong sense of perseverance that helped him bear all the hardships. It was the same with Granda. When things got difficult, he was even more persevering even though it was hard for a man his age to be on the run. He knew he needed to be strong so that he could be together with Rory.

The escape got very arduous and tough at times. The police were always after Rory and Granda. There was a wide TV coverage on them. But Rory and Granda were determined to pull through. They knew they would be together and not be separated as long as they continued to run. From the way they went through their escape, I learn that challenges should be dealt with determination. One must not easily give up hope and accept defeat. As long as one has the chance, one must keep on going till success is met.

4.3.7 PRACTICE 7

The characters in novels often face problems. Some solve their problems but some do not. Using information from the novel you have studied, show how

• one character solves his/ her problems

• one who does not solve his/ her problems

Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• Choose a character, state his/her problems

• Explain how the character solves his/ her problems

• Choose another character and state his/ her problems

• Explain why the character fails to solve his/her problems

• Suggest what the character should do to solve his/ her problems

• Use evidence from the novel to support your answer


It is true that characters in novels often face problems. Some manage to solve their problems but some do not.

In Catherine MacPhail‟s „Catch Us If You Can‟, a character who manages to solve his problem is Rory. His apartment is burnt down due to Granda‟s carelessness. He is then forced to part with his Granda. He is sent to stay at the children‟s home in Castle Street, and Granda is sent to the old folks‟ home in Rachnadar. Being very close to Granda, Rory can see that Granda is miserable at the home. Rory can sense that Granda has lost interest in everything and it breaks Rory‟s heart to see Granda like that.

So, Rory comes up with a plan to run away with Granda. He knows, by doing so, he can always be together with Granda. As long as they are on the run, they will be together. It can only be for a few days or a couple of weeks, but to Rory and Granda, their time together is precious.

On the other hand, Tess, a girl whom Rory meets at the children‟s home, fails to solve her problems. She has a sad life. Her mother is in prison and all her relatives reject her. Being homeless and unwanted, she is sent to Castle Street. Instead of making the best of her life there, she worsens it by becoming a bitter, angry and violent person.

Her violent outbursts become so bad that she loses control of herself and her actions. She injures others, making them keep away from her. She fails to make friends and so, remains lonely and friendless. She cannot overcome her loneliness and sense of rejection. If she had chosen to be more positive, she would probably have made some friends who can help her instead of feeling rejected and unloved.

4.3.8 PRACTICE 8

From the novel you have studied, write about an important moral value you have learnt. Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• State an important moral value you have learnt after reading the novel

• State the characters and the events where the moral value you have learnt is


• Use evidence from the novel to support your answer


From the novel „Catch Us If You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, an important moral value I have learnt is that family relationships should be nurtured and not taken for granted. Granda looked after Rory after Rory‟s father walked out on them. Since Granda was old and forgetful, Rory took it upon himself to look after Granda. Nobody forced or told him to do it but Rory felt it was the right thing to do. He was willing to forego things that teenage boys should be doing. He did all the household chores, made sure Granda took his medication and had his meals. He even kept Granda‟s pipe to make sure there wasn‟t any untoward incidents. Granda and Rory did not take their relationship for granted. Granda, on several occasions, had expressed appreciation to Rory for always being there for him while Rory felt proud to have Granda as his grandfather. Rory was protective and defensive of Granda.

They nurtured their relationship right up to the end even when they had a family, Jeff and Karen.

Sammy, Ruby and Tyrone also showed a strong family relationship. Sammy and Ruby were free and easy but respectful with each other. Ruby would tease Sammy and vice versa. But, when it came to making decisions, Ruby left it to Sammy, showing him respect as the head of the family. Tyrone was respectful and obedient to his parents, Sammy and Ruby.

All in all, I have learnt from the novel that family relationship should be nurtured and not taken for granted as family happiness and stability depend on this positive attitude.

4.3.9 PRACTICE 9

From the novel you have studied, write about the plot of the story and state what you think of the plot.

Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen

• State the main characters and the important events in the story • Give a brief summary of the story

• Give your opinion of the plot of the story


Catherine MacPhail‟s novel „Catch Us If You Can‟ revolves around a teenager, Rory, and his grandfather whom he calls Granda. Rory and Granda are on an escape adventure from their hometown to Liverpool because they do not want to be separated from each other. They have cared for and looked after each other for a long time and with Granda getting on

in years and becoming forgetful, Rory takes over the responsibility of looking after Granda on his own initiatives.

One day, when their flat caught fire due to Granda‟s carelessness, both Rory and Granda are placed in a children‟s home and an old folks‟ home respectively. Granda is badly affected as he becomes withdrawn and lost. Rory knows that Granda is slowly dying in Rachnadar, so he decides to run away with Granda. Rory and Granda make the great escape but with no destination in mind. They only want to be free and to be together. They spend a few happy carefree days at the caravan site. When the police catch up with them, Rory and Granda are helped by Sammy who gives them shelter.

Their journey is a struggle to stay free. Strangers help them all the way, giving them shelter and making safe plans for them. Rory has doubts about whether he is doing the right thing. All doubts are dispelled as Granda looks happy even when he is exhausted.

Eventually, Rory decides they would travel south to Liverpool and look for his father, Jeff McIntosh. Granda objects and rages about this when he realizes what Rory‟s plans are. The climax of the story is when Granda almost loses his life in the cold bus shelter. After that, they end up in Liverpool. It is a happy ending as they meet up with Jeff and become a family again. The plot runs in chronological order. The reader can follow Rory and Granda‟s interesting and sometimes heartbreaking journey from their hometown to their final destination. Rory as the narrator projects a solid account of their thoughts, feelings and gives good descriptions of the setting. The approach makes it easy for the reader to understand and appreciate the story. I think the plot is simple and relevant to our society where young people tend to forget their obligations to the old.

4.3.10 PRACTICE 10

Who is the most interesting character in the novel that you have studied? Give reasons to support your answer.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen. • Name the character that you consider interesting.

• Explain the role of the character in the novel.

• Give evidence from the novel to support your comments. • State your opinion again.


In the novel „Catch Us if You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, I think Granda is the most interesting character in the book.

Reading through the novel, I found out that he was a caring and kind grandfather to Rory. The fact that Rory was to return the favours implies that Granda must have been a good man and good grandfather. His love for Rory is absolute. Also, Granda finds it hard to bear that Rory has to be in a home and wants to get out of hospital to take Rory home. This shows how much he cares for Rory.

Granda is also a charmer. It is because he easily compliments others especially women not only for the looks but also for their talents as he praises Ruby for her cooking. All the times he remains the perfect gentleman, like opening the door for the young mother at the clinic.

Other than that, he is quite a fascinating character. He knows a lot about films and film stars. His love for movie stars makes him even name his son and grandson after some film heroes of his time. Also, he loves singing and has no inhibitions about singing some old songs, however badly, in front of others.

With all the above, I believe that Granda must be an interesting and remarkable man.

4.3.11 PRACTICE 11

Based on the novel that you have read, write about an incident that changes the life of a character in the story. Give evidence from the novel that you have studied.


• Name of the novel and the author you have chosen. • State the incident you have chosen.

• Give reasons why you think this incident changes the life of the character.

• State your opinion again on the importance of the incident to the life of the character.


In the novel „Catch Us if You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, an incident that changes the life of the character is the great escape that Rory and Granda undertake. Rory decided to run away from the town he lived in after taking his Granda out of the local old folks‟ home. The escape took them to many places and they met many different people who

helped them on their journey. Rory learnt valuable life lessons from meeting all the different people. From the travelers, he learnt about compassion and kindness. From Rab, Annie and Norma, he learnt about people who offered help sincerely and treated them kindly. Also, Rory‟s life would never be the same again. It was because, his father turned up to help him and Granda. Finally he had a father, a stepmother and two adorable stepsisters. He had a family and that was a life-changing moment from him.

Rory was worried about his Granda earlier but then he didn‟t have to. It was because things started to fall into places for him. Certain services provided for the elderly made life better for him and Granda. The escape exposed some of the problems that the elderly and their caretakers faced in the course of their daily life.

With all the above, I believe that all those changes would not have taken place if not for the great escape.

4.3.12 PRACTICE 12

Using the details of the novel you have studied,

• Write about the moral value that has impressed you the most. • Give evidence from the text to support your answer.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen. • Name the moral value that you have learnt.

• Give examples from the novel to support your answer. • State your opinion again


In the novel „Catch Us if You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, I learn about compassion for fellow human beings. Many characters exhibit compassion for each other and act in a kind manner because of their compassionate nature.

Rory and Granda care for each other and there is compassion in their actions. For example, Rory cares for his grandfather‟s well-being. For instance, he makes sure his Granda takes his medicine. Moreover, he always rushes home from school to ensure Granda takes his lunch. Moreover, Rory protects his Granda from anything he considers bad,

offensive or dangerous. Rory even keeps Granda‟s pipe to make sure there isn‟t any untoward incidents. Granda tries his best to help Rory and unfortunately makes mistakes, but there is still compassion. He strongly says that no grandson of his is going to a home for as long as he is around.

In addition, Dr Nicol insists that Granda and Rory get a home help. This is because he believes that Granda and Rory are not capable of taking care of each other. Val Jessup, the social worker, also shows compassion. She shows enthusiasm to help Rory and Granda. When they are on the run, Val Jessup pleads on television for Rory and Granda to come home. The police and the nurse also act compassionately towards Granda and Rory. They are affected by the dilemma of an ageing man who is so dependent on a young boy and therefore do what they think is the best.

Besides, Darren, Rory‟s close friend offers his mum‟s caravan to them because he cares for Rory and Granda. He warns them about the arrival of the police.

With all the above, I believe that we must be compassionate to people. This quality keeps us humane and make the world appear kinder and the troubles bearable.

4.3.13 PRACTICE 13

In the novel you have studied

• Pick any one decision in the novel made by someone or some party that you disagree • Explain why you disagree.

Support your answer with evidence from the novel.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen. • State the decision.

• Give reasons why you disagree with the decision. • State your opinion again.


In the novel „Catch Us if You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, there is one decision in the novel that I disagree with. It is the one taken by the government to separate both Rory and his grandfather.

Rory and Granda are very close and each depends on the other for love and comfort. They are family, a “double act” and one cannot survive without the other. When Granda accidently starts a fire in the flat, the State makes a decision to put him in a home because he may endanger himself and others. I was so mad with the State.

I can understand that the State has the interest of Rory and Granda at heart when it makes this decision. But, what makes me disagree is that it regards them as only a “case” on which it needs to act, not as people with feelings. It is because each citizen has a right to run his or her life the way he or she wants to without outside interference. Unfortunately, it did not happen that way.

In addition, no discussion has been held with Rory and Granda how best to solve the problem. When the two run away, however, the police go after them as if they are criminals. As a person interviewed on a television rightly said, the police are wasting their time hunting down an old man and a young boy instead of chasing criminals and fighting the gun culture. The way the State tackled the situation pissed me off.

As a conclusion, people should be treated with greater respect and compassion and not like “cases” to be solved.

4.3.14 PRACTICE 14

“Faith in the God is essential”.

Using the evidence from the novel, explain how this is shown in the novel you have studied. Support your answer with close reference to the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen.

• State the character who conveys this message.

• Give examples from the story to support your answer.


In the novel „Catch Us if You Can‟ by Catherine MacPhail, “Faith in God is Essential” is one of the messages in the story.

Rory‟s prayers are in the form of warm and friendly conversations with God, which he addresses as „The Big Man‟. Rory is a character who has faith in God. Rory promises to be good and do good things if „The Big Man‟ would make Granda wake up when he sees his grandfather‟s face pale, his mouth open and he is hardly breathing. In addition, Rory believes that „The Big Man‟ wanted him to escape as things go smoothly. Rory promises to collect money for the Salvation Army if „The Big Man‟ keeps Granda safe. Rory tells „The Big Man‟ that they both are having great time and Granda is no trouble at all.

The other evidence that resembles Rory as a person who has faith in God is when he and his grandfather did not crash since Granda cannot drive well. Due to that, he believes that „The Big Man‟ is looking after him.

As a conclusion, prayers play a vital role in keeping Rory‟s spirit up and prove that faith is essential in life.

4.3.15 PRACTICE 15

“Love, compassion and family relationship are important in one‟s life.”

Using the evidence from the text, explain how this is true. Support your answer with close reference from the text.


• Name the novel and the author that you have chosen. • Discuss the different aspects of love.

• Give your views with examples from the text.


Catherine MacPhail put the elements of love, compassion and family relationship in her novel, „Catch Us if You Can‟. From the beginning to the end of the story, those three elements hold the story together.

The love between generations shows that love is continuous and never ending. For example, Rory‟s love for his Granda is unconditional and vice versa. He is ready to sacrifice anything so that he remains united with his grandfather. The grandfather, in turn, has devoted his life to bring up the child from birth and his whole life revolves around him.

Love in a family and the power of love among family members are also portrayed in this story. For example, Sammy, his wife, Ruby and son Tyrone portray a warm and loving family. Besides that, Bernie, his wife and daughter are equally warm-hearted and helpful. Rab and Annie are loving and caring too.

Love and respect among Rory‟s friends also keep him from troubles. They look upon Granda with great affection. Darren, the one who is the weakest in the class, shows much compassion for Rory and helps him as much as he can. Mrs. Foley also shows sincere, love and care for Rory. She shows her concern towards Rory when Granda is admitted into the hospital. She realizes that Rory should not be in the children‟s home.

As a conclusion, the concept of the elements of love, compassion and family relationship bring beauty to the story.

The Curse – Sample Answer SPM 1119

Answering Tips – The Curse

* I believe most students have read and some might have memorized notes to answer the novel section. Remember to always give your own opinions why certain events or incidents really matter. React to the story. Show that you really understand the importance of the elements you have chosen as evidence.

*Do not restrict your answer to 3 evidence only. Be as convincing as you can. However, remember not to add something as evidence that is not in the story – remember – with close reference to the text, Always.

* The evidence must be reflected on the events you write about.

*Give reasons and evidence systematically. To show flow, use correct sequence connectors.

** Rememeber to write your answer in paragraphs ( at least 3)

**If you are not sure how to answer, make sure include all these elements

1. how many characters

2. how many events/evidence

3. how many values/lessons/themes

* manipulate your understanding of the story to fit the question – not to fit the question to what you know about the story

**always have concluding paragraph to reinforce or sum up what you have written

 a)     Characters and characteristics

1.      Write on a character that show responsibility in her or his actions

Based on the Novel “The Curse” by Lee Sue Ann, the character that shows responsibility in her actions is Azreen Saleh. Azreen is not only a responsible sister and daughter but also a responsible student and friend .

Firstly, Azreen as a responsible sister comes back immediately when she hears of her sister’s death although at that time she is about to sit for an examination that is important for her. She postpones her examination in order of giving her sister her last respect.

Secondly, as a daughter she shows her responsibility firstly, when she spends the whole night repairing her mother’s favourite rattan basket that was broken by the heavy durians that she and Madhuri has brought in. Subsequently, with Madhuri’s help she makes a new rattan basket that looks like the one that she and Madhuri have broken. In addition to that, Azreen accepts the offer to further her studies in London for the sake of upbringing her family social status and thus could then save a lot of money to get a better treatment for her mother that is paralyzed by the bull escape incidents that she .

Thirdly, as a friend and a student, Azreen shows her responsibility when she accepts to join the school hockey team as a substitution to Hock Seng that is injured. She does that even though she knows that she will be the only girl in the team and this will tarnish her image as a girl. In fact she plays very well and almost scores a goal. In addition to that, Azreen shows that she is a responsible friend, when she brings a full basket of fresh vegetables and tomatoes to The Old Lady of the forest to replace the one that she tramples earlier when she comes to The Old Lady’s house for the first time.

In conclusion, throughout the story, Azreen shows that she is a very responsible towards her actions. In fact, I would like to have her as a friend as a friend as such is hard to come by.

2.     Which character do you like the most?

The novel I have studied is ‘The Curse’ by Lee Su Ann.  The novel is about the main character, Azreen, who returns from England after she finds out about her sister’s death. Upon her return, she is surrounded by many secrets. She discovers the circumstances of Madhuri’s death later in the story.  At the end of the story she finds out the truth and leaves for London an orphan but more resilient and wise.

The character I like most is Azreen Salleh. She is a 20-year-old student who is studying in a university college in London on an exchange programme. She is short, bespectacled, rather bookish and outspoken.

I like Azreen because she is outspoken and she is not afraid to spoke her mind. She is  vocal and says her opinions although sometimes she says the wrong things at the wrong time. She also hates her father’s treatment of her foster parents and Madhuri’s burial ceremony  that is conducted without her presence.  In handling the village gossip, Pn Normala, Azreen tells her off that the rain has started even before the Old Lady comes into town.

The second quality she has is she is courageous.  As a child, she plays hockey and football with the boys. In the bull’s incident, she is brave enough to accept the blame for the bull’s escape instead of blaming someone else. Azreen also shows her courage by taking up the dare to knock on the Old Lady’s door when none wants to do it. In another instance, Azreen confronts her father about Madhuri’s murder despite her young age.

Azreen also has strength of character. When she returns to her village, she hears a lot of gossip surrounding her sister’s death such as as Madhuri having white blood and her death signals a curse to the villagers. Azreen feels upset but she never retaliates.  Sheshows patience and strengh because she knows that whatever she does, she cannot stop the villagers from gossiping about her family.  In another instance, Azreen is told that her sister is murdered.  She should have been very upset about this news but she takes it calmly and does not become hysterical. Later, when she finds out that her father is the culprit who kills Madhuri, she feels no anger but regrets that it has to happen. She understands her father’s anger and shame because Madhuri  has been having an illicit affair with Ashraf although she is already married to Hj Ghani.  Azreen also shows a lot of strength because after all that has happened to her family, she stays composed and strong and returns to England for her examinations.

In conclusion,  there are many qualities in Azreen that I admire and she is the character that I like most in the story.

3.     Write on a character whom I think is exemplary

a) In the Curse by Lee Sue Ann, the character whom I think is exemplary is The Old Lady of the forest. Throughout the novel, she shows strength of character and wisdom.

When she first moves to the village as a newlywed, she is popular among the villagers and she enjoys a blissful marital life with her husband. Everything changes as her husband who becomes an alcoholic starts to abuse her and finally she retaliates and kills him. From then on, the villagers treat her like an outcast. She is forced to move out of the village and makes an abandoned house her home. She lives alone for years until she befriends Azreen and becomes her mentor and will console her whenever she has a fight with her parents.

When Asraf approaches The Old Lady for help, she is hesitant about going back to the village. Yet she agrees and doing so, she puts her life at risk. When she is trapped in the burning house, she tells Azreen to save herself and she perishes in the fire. Even at death’s door, she reminds Azreen about the importance of forgiveness and tells her to heed all the advice she has given her.

The Old Lady is therefore an exemplary character as she is strong, wise and honourable.

 b)            Based on  the novel The Curse by Lee Sue Ann, the character that I consider  exemplary is Azreen because she is courageous and brave. She shows resilience and she always fight for what she believes in.

Firstly, Azreen who does not believe the villagers tales about The Old Lady is being brave by accepting her friend’s challenge to firstly knocking on the door of The Old lady and then meet her in person.  . Subsequently, she befriends The Old Lady and makes her, her precious confidante and counselor.

In addition, Azreen is courageous by confronting Puan Normala’s mob outside Mohd Asraf’s house when Nek once again has fallen ill and died in order to stop her from entering Nek’s house. Although she is outnumbered, she dares to face Puan Normala’s horde to protect Nek’s house from them.  Moreover, she confronts a group of men led by Asraf who goes to the Old lady’s house to seek revenge after Nek dies as they believe the Old lady has poisoned Nek.

It is a dog-eat-dog world out there and we must be brave and courageous to overcome our daily obstacles and stand for our own rights. We should not be intimidated by our fear and we must be like Azreen in order to survive the world.

The second exemplary qualities of Azreen is that she portrays resilience throughout the story and she constantly fights for what she believes in. This can be seen when Azreen does not give up and is determine and resilience to seek the truth of Madhuri’s death even though others do not want to tell her the truth. She asks Asraf and The Old Lady about Madhuri’s death and slowly gather evidences and finally she knows the truth about Madhuri’s killing.

In her village, a woman should be conservative and well mannered but Azreen is a contrast to that and thus she is hated but she ignores the villagers’ perception of her, as she believes that women have their own rights. This can be seen as she befriends Asraf and joins the boys’ hockey team and similarly makes The Old Lady her best friend.

In this cruel world, we must stand for our own right and fight for what we believe in. We must follow Azreen’s resilience to make this world a better place.

4.     Write on a character that I admire / like

In The Curse by Lee Su Ann, the main character, Azreen, returns to Malaysia to mourn the loss of her sister, Madhuri. Azreen is studying in the United Kingdom. Azreen senses a cover up about her sister’s death and she decides to investigate further.

In her quest to find the truth, Azreen faces challenges. She really wants to discover the truth behind Madhuri’s death because she knows that the rumour is not true. She believes that it is more than meets the eyes. Azreen also needs to settle the secret feuds within her family and with the villagers. Azreen’s relationship especially with her father is strained. There is no actual communication between them. Azreen also needs to forgive , bury the past and move on with her life and her future. If she is unable to do that, Azreen will not find peace with herself.

The intelligent Azreen listens, observes, questions and sifts things in her mind. She needs to find the conclusive truth. She hears vicious rumours about Madhuri’s death. Her death is a curse to the village. This is confirmed by the Old Lady. In the maze of events which unfold, the past mergers into the present. Azreen finally confronts her father, Encik Saleh, who defiantly admits his crime. Madhuri was having an affair with Mohd Asraf. When the affair became known, Encik Saleh could not contain his anger. In a fit of rage, he accidentally killed faithless Madhuri.

All along, Azreen secretly resents her parents who favoured Madhuri. She hates her father for his unjust punishments. She detests Madhuri for stealing Asraf’s affections. Thus she seeks out the Old Lady, who counsels her and helps her come to terms with herself. The Old Lady helps Azreen to see herself and how people treat her from a different perspective. Resentment would only make Azreen more miserable and she would not be able to live a fulfilling life.

When the Old Lady dies, Azreen is devastated. She finds refuge in nature. When she stands up at the cliff top that her annger finally subsides. She forgive everyone who had hurt her in the past. Azreen leaves the island and forges ahead with her new life. Yes, she has become an orphan but all her life challenges make her a wiser and more loving person.

  C) Lesson

1)               The Curse by Lee Su Ann has many lessons for its readers. One of the lessons, truth will be known and secrets will not last forever. There are a few characters who keep secrets and eventually the secrets are exposed.

First, Mohd. Asraf and Madhuri. They were secret lovers. They planned secretly to run away to Kuala Lumpur. After Madhuri died followed by his grandmother’s death, he almost lost his mind. Keeping his secret love was very difficult. He was easily influenced by Puan Normala that his grandmother was poisoned by Old Lady. That was the reason he burned the Old Lady’s house causing her death. Finally, he realises his mistakes and comes to his senses.

Second, En Saleh Abdullah, Azreen’s father. He was always proud of Madhuri. Madhuri made him proud when she agreed to marry the village headman, Haji Ghani. When her affair was discovered, Encik Saleh gets very angry and accidentally killed Madhuri. He never tells anyone and until Azreen confronts him. Actually, he is ashamed because the daughter he was really proud of, had an affair and tried to run away. He keeps seeing a ghost. He suffers a heart attack and dies.

In conclusion, dark secrets only make life difficult. The evidence in the story has shown us that. Any dark secrets we have, may destroy our lives. We may lose the people we love. Always be true to ourselves and do not take advantage of others. Always think before we act.

 2)            The Curse’ is the novel written by Lee Su Ann which has many lessons that can be used in our lives. Today, I am going to write on one lesson which really captured my attention in the novel that is ‘courage’.

The value of ‘courage’ can be seen clearly in Azreen’s character. Azreen was a good friend with the Old Lady who became a precious confidante and counsellor despite ignoring the warnings and prejudices of the villagers. Azreen was determined to friends with   the Old Lady till the last minute of the Old Lady’s life.As a child, she was not allowed to visit the Old Lady by her parents. Even the villagers warned Azreen  that the Old Lady is a witch. This shows that Azreen is very courageous for accepting the Old Lady for what she is. From this, I learnt to be courageous in order to speak and act according to what I think is right. I also learnt not to judge others by listening to rumors and to think practically.

Azreen also showed courage when she took the blame for the bull’s escape in order to save Mohd Asraf. At first, she wanted to help Asraf out from the wicked farm owner, Mr. Mohan and his sons who were accusing Asraf for letting the bull out. But to her dismay, she had to accept the faith of her mother loosing a leg when her father hit into the bull and met with an accident.  Even though Azreen was only helping Asraf at first, but she took the blame and had to carry  it for the rest of her life. I saw Azreen as a very courageous person in this situation and agree to what she had done. She taught me to stand up for my believes  in my life and this will really help me a lot in the future.

Last but not least, I also find Azreen as a courageous person when she challenged her father to reveal  the truth behind Madhuri’s death. Azreen was very sure that Madhuri was killed by her father because she found the stain of the rubber  tree sap on the ‘parang’. When she put all the details  together, she came to a conclusion and told her father straight that he was the one who killed Madhuri. Here, we can see that Azreen was too bold and had the courage to speak the truth even to her father when she was sure that her sister was killed. This scene opened my mind that I should be honest and bold to say what I think is right in my life.

3.      One important lesson that I have learnt from the novel The Curse  is that we should not listen to gossip or spread rumours. It is a great injustice for those who have to defend themselves for something that might not be true.

       When Azreen returns home to grieve the death of  Madhuri, she has to listen to vicious rumours spread by Puan Normala. Puan Normala is the village most prolific gossip monger. She believes the village is cursed because innocent MAdhuri was murdered. Her body was covered with ‘white blood’ when found at the rubber estate. Moreover, Puan Normala claims that there were strange noises coming from the woods. At the same time, she also says that the wild animal were restless. According to her, these are all signs of more evil to come. It is very hurtful to listen to especially to Azreen who has just lost her only sister.

       Azreen fights to seek the truth. She confronts Mohd Asraf and learns that he and Madhuri had an affair. They were secret lovers. Both of them planned to elope. It is not something Azreen wants to hear because her sister, Madhuri, was a married woman. Azreen confronts her sullen father. Awang the bomoh had told Azreen earlier that Madhuri was not her blood sister. Awang also had told Azreen about Madhuri’s biological mother. Confronted by Azreen and his own guilt, Encik Saleh admits that he had killed Madhuri. He was in rage he saw her with another man. When he attacked Madhuri, she fell and her head hit a cup of latex. The latex stained her dress, giving rise to the ‘white blood’ rumour. This also indicates to the villagers that Madhuri was a scarlet woman.

     The prejudiced villagers also outcast the wise Old Lady. She is Azreen’s true friend and someone that Azreen confides in. They spread rumours that she was a witch who had murdered her husband. However, Azreen still befriends Old Lady because she knows the truth. The Old Lady had killed her husband in self-defence. When her husband was alive, he was very abusive to the Old Lady. Her husband was cruel to her. If she did not defend herself, she would have died. Something got to give. The vicious rumours make the Old Lady live in isolation. Her wisdom and knowledge are seen as threat. Even when she showed an act of kindness by treating Mohd Asraf’s grandmother, she was not accepted by the villagers. She was accused of having ulterior motives. That is why when the grandmother died, Mohd Asraf burned her house with her in it. Mohd Asraf was consumed with grief and the need to seek revenge. He really believed the rumour that the Old Lady was a witch. The fire resulted in the death of the Old Lady.

     Both these incidents demonstrate that rumours can be damaging. We must seek the truth rationally and intelligently. We must investigate like what Azreen has done. At the end, truth will ultimately prevail.

D)Moral value

There are many moral values found in The Curse by Lee Su Ann. The story is set in an island off Langkawi Island. The Curse revolves around the events surrounding the death of a village girl, Madhuri, who is also the adopted sister of themain character, Azreen.

The first moral value is bravery. This value is shown by Azreen. First, even as a young girl she takes challenges and tries to prove to her friends that the Old Lady is not an evil witch. When she is yelled at for entering the Old Lady’s house and destroying her vegetable garden, Azreen bravely defends herself. In fact, she returns the next day and repairs the trampled garden. Her action wins the Old Lady’s heart.

The second evidence is when Azreen bravely takes the blame for Mohd Asraf in the bull incident. She demonstrates courage.The same bull later injures her mother’s leg causing he to lose the use of her leg. She was blamed and scolded by her father as well as the villagers. She bravely endures that and never tells anyone of what really happened.

Her bravery is once again tested. The third event that displays her bravery is when she tries to tackle the angry mob who are about to attack the the Old Lady. When the Old Lady’s house is in fire, Azreen tries to rescue the Old Lady but at the end she has to be rescued by her father. When the Old Lady dies in the tragic fire, she confronts Mohd Asraf like a wildcat.

Finally, towards the end of the story, she finds out the secret that her father has been keeping. She confronts her father about Madhuri’s murder until he is forced to confess about the truth. She is very brave to confront people whom she knows have done wrong to others. At the same time she is very brave when defending herself and the people she loves.

e.) Events

1)     Write on an important event.

In the novel ‘The Curse’ by Lee Su Ann, an important event is the outbreak of the fire which results in the Old Lady’s death.

Firstly, it is an important event because after this event, it creates a domino effect on a number of other events which in turn helps Azreen to finally solve the mystery behind her sister’s murder. The fire enrages Azreen and ‘like a wildcat’, she confronts Mohd Asraf. He apologises and admits that he had been too grief-stricken to be rational when he has lost two important people in his life – his secret lover, Madhuri and his grandmother, Nek. After the fire which kills the Old Lady who is trapped in the fire, Awang, the bomoh informs Azreen that Madhuri is not her biological sister. The secret about Madhuri’s identity is finally disclosed by Azreen’s father who reveals that Madhuri is adopted.    Moreover, the village Pontianak is actually Madhuri’s biological mother who returns to the village to seek revenge over her daughter’s death. According to Awang, the ‘ghostly figure’ is also the “vengeful spirit” that has killed Azreen’s chicken.

Secondly, it is an important event because we are finally shown the reason for Madhuri’s murder and the culprit. When Azreen confronts her father, Encik Saleh defiantly confesses that he had accidentally murdered Madhuri after learning that Madhuri, a married woman, commits an adultery when she secretly sees another man.He confronts Madhuri and during the struggle, Madhuri falls to the ground and her head knocks over the latex cup which stains her clothes. A distraught Azreen flees after hearing the shocking news while Encik Saleh comes face-to-face with the shadowy woman – Madhuri’s mother who nears him with a parang in her hand. Saleh collapses and dies of a heart attack.

Thirdly, the fire at the Old Lady’s house is the climax of the novel. From that point onwards, events dramatically unfold and Azreen gets to the bottom of the mystery. Azreen puts the pieces of facts here and there together and begins to understand the reasons behind the cover-up of Madhuri’s murder by her husband, Haji Ghani. Most importantly, we are also exposed to the crime of the villagers who are willing to do anything including planning an attack on the innocent and harmless Old Lady just because of superstition. Under the instigation of Puan Normala, the villagers are convinced to believe that the Old Lady possesses a special power to turn people into rats and squirrels, so the latter is accused to be an evil witch who brings all the misfortunes and bad omen to the village. In fact, when the rain continues to pour for more than four days, causing the town to be flooded, the Old Lady is blamed to have put the curse on the village. From this event, we can see how gullible the villagers are to believe the vicious rumours spread by the village gossiper, Puan Normala. She does not seem to care about the destruction she causes. Her irrational behaviour thus destroys the reputations of victims such as the Old Lady even in the eyes of children. At the same time, through this event too that we see the purity of the Old Lady’s heart. Despite being ostracised by the villagers, the Old Lady bears no grudges and is still willing to help people like Asraf’s Nek. More importantly, the Old Lady at the point of her death before the burning house collapses on her, she reminds Azreen to forgive all the villagers who have wronged her.

In conclusion, the fire is the most important event as it is the catalyst for many more events in which makes the stories more interesting.

f) Theme

Write on the theme of love

‘The Curse’ written by Lee Su Ann touches on many aspects of life. Basically, all the aspects revolve around our own community and can be used as guidance in our life.

The theme of ‘love’ which  is actually the main conflict in this whole novel. Firstly, we can see this aspect between mother and child when we read how loving was Azreen towards her mother when she came back from London. She realized her mother still does not know about the death of her sister, Madhuri. Azreen took over the duty to take care of her mother who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease which was getting worse. Azreen cooked porridge for her mother like Madhuri used to do and fed her. This  shows that Azreen loves her mother very much and feels responsible to take care of her after her sister’s death.

The concept of ‘love’ can also be seen through Encik Saleh who loves his daughters very much but does not know how to show it. He kept his love within him and was always looking fierce and angry towards his daughters and wife. He loved his family very much and that is why he worked hard on the farm.He also  repairs chicken coop, repairs  fencse and  roofs and  chops  wood in order to earn a living for his family. As a hard-working man, he wanted to give his family the best out of him due to his love towards them which he does not show openly. Here, I admit that I admire Encik Saleh as a loving father towards his family but he should have shown his love in a more appropriate way.

Lastly, the concept of love can be seen in the characters of the Old Lady and Azreen. Azreen was very lucky to find a meaningful and comfortable relationship with the Old Lady of the forest. She was very close to the Old Lady until she told her all her secrets. She always goes and visits the Old Lady whenever she felt bored, angry or happy. This shows that Azreen really loves the Old Lady and does not give a single thought to what the villagers say about the Old Lady. Azreen’s love towards the Old Lady was very strong until she was willing to go into the burning house in order to save the Old Lady. But, faith wins. The Old Lady died in the fire while Azreen was saved by her father due to his love towards his daughter.

As we can see, the concept of ‘love’ is very strong throughout the novel. Each and every character in this novel has the desire to love and to be loved.

2) Write on the theme of forgiveness

Lee Su Ann, the writer of the novel ‘The Curse’ had brought up many themes in her writing. One of the themes that I liked very much in this novel is ‘forgiveness’ which was clearly portrayed in Azreen’s character.

 As we know from the beginning, Azreen is a very outspoken, aggressive and stubborn character but towards the ending of the story she had learnt to forgive others. Azreen was very much influenced by the Old Lady who begged Azreen to learn to forgive others at the time of her death. We can see very much that Azreen kept her promise when she forgave Mohd Asraf who had deliberately played with her emotions. All the while Azreen thought Asraf liked her but, Asraf was actually falling for Madhuri and when he admitted that to Azreen, she was speechless at first. Azreen hid  herself from Asraf by running away until she reached the cliff of the hills when Asraf confessed his love towards Madhuri. But as time passed, her anger  melted away slowly and she forgave Asraf as the Old Lady had told  to her just before she died.

 Azreen too learnt to forgive her father who murdered Madhuri. Even though she felt sad at first but she did not feel angry or resentment at him but she realized that she had lost her only father that she used to know as a very hot-tempered man. Slowly Azreen forgave her father but she could not see him eye to eye so she left him alone and that was the time when Encik Saleh had a heart attack and collapsed. But if at all Azreen had not promised the Old Lady to forgive others, I do not think that she would forgive her father for murdering Madhuri.

 Azreen too forgave Madhuri for all the hurt and resentment she caused in Azreen’s  life. Azreen  was  jealous of  Madhuri’s beauty and genteel behavior. She was the favorite daughter. She also resented Madhuri as Madhuri was able to captivate Asraf who eventually fell in love with her. But, when Azreen discovers that Madhuri was adopted  and the truth about Madhuri’s murder at the hands of  her own father, she feels nothing but pity for poor Madhuri . Finally she forgives her sister, Madhuri.

Last but not least, Azreen also forgave Asraf and wished him luck from the bottom of her heart when he left Langkawi to take a teaching course in KL. When she read a note from him, she did not feel angry but she smiled after reading the note and also questioned herself whether she had learnt to forgive others. From Azreen’s character, I too learnt to forgive others in my life if they hurt my feelings. Being revengeful will not give us anything in life except the negative value.

From the evidence above, the theme of ‘forgiveness’ had been portrayed very well in this novel through the protagonist, Azreen. I hope each and every human will learn to forgive others in their life.

3) Write on the theme of ‘Mother’s Love’

The novel ‘The Curse’ by Lee Su Ann touches on many values that are useful  in our daily lives. As for me, I am  touched with the value of mother’s love in this novel.

Azreen’s mother is forever seen talking nonsense since her Alzheimer’s disease was becoming worse. She was not given a name in this novel but always referred to as ‘Mak’. Azreen felt guilty because she was the one who was responsible for her mother to loose one of her leg. Even though, we know that Azreen admitted leaving  the gate of the farm open but actually she was only helping Mohd Asraf from being blamed. Due to her act, her parents met with an accident when her father’s motorcycle hit the bull. Azreen’s mother never hated Azreen for what had  happened and she always loved Azreen. She even told Azreen that it was not her fault that she lost her leg in the accident. This proves that ‘Mak’ was never angry towards Azreen and she accepts what happened to her as faith. This shows the true love that a mother has for her child even though she is in pain.

Another incident that showed how true a mother’s love is when Madhuri’s mother, the mad lady who strolled in the village  and always watched over  her daughter. Even though Madhuri was raised by Encik Saleh and his wife from  a baby, the mad lady always kept herself close to Madhuri. She used to watch Madhuri and Azreen when they come back from school. This shows that she still loved her daughter even though she gave in when her baby was lost. She knew she could not raise Madhuri in a proper way so she just kept quite when Encik Saleh took the baby and decided to raise the child. But as a mother, she still loved Madhuri and always sees how her daughter is living with her foster parents from far. This is what we call mother’s love. Even if the child is not with the real mother but she always pray for her child to lead a happy life and that is why she took revenge against Encik Saleh who killed Madhuri.

From these two mothers, the readers are shown the value of love that a mother has for a child. Both mothers in this novel are not normal in certain ways but their love for their children did not fade but they loved their daughters very much in their own  different ways.


hello everyone.

I am going to permanently stay here. You will be meeting me more often. I’ve come back for good.

The Reds

RHB-Star Mighty Minds National Challenge 2013
It was an eye opener. Try again next year!!

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