half caste n.
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  2. About the poet • 'The diversity of cultures here is very exciting'. • John Agard came to England from Guyana in 1977. • Like many people from the Caribbean, he is mixed race - his mother is Portuguese, but born in Guyana and his father is black. • One of the things he enjoys about living in England is the wide range of people he meets: • He doesn't like the view of racial origins, which is implied in the word 'half-caste', still used by many people to describe people of mixed race. • The term now is considered rude and insulting. I think humour can be very powerful. Humour breaks down boundaries, it topples our self-importance, it connects people

  3. John Agard - Half Caste Poem opens apologetically or belligerently? Excuse me standing on one leg I’m half-caste. Opening stanza is a joke Speaker stands on one leg because he is only half made/half a person Using the word caste as if it is cast i.e. made

  4. Starter Excuse me standing on one leg I’m half-caste Explain yuself wha yu mean when you say half-caste yu mean when picasso mix red an green is a half-caste canvas/ In pairs, answer these questions:  What does this poem seem to be about?  What tone/ mood is suggested by these lines?  What dialect of English do you think this is?

  5. ...NOW LOOK AT THE REST OF THE POEM • The speaker asks if Picasso mixing red and green is a half-caste canvas. There are two other comparisons offered as explanations as to what being ‘half-caste’ means.  What are they?  What do you notice about these comparisons?   What does the speaker appear to think about the label and title - ‘Half-caste’?

  6. What does the term HALF-CASTE suggest? HALF CASTE • Used as in colour; the ‘cast’ of something • Indian term for social class, the lowest of which is considered ‘untouchable’ • Cast, made or formed • Less than whole • Less important • Not properly formed

  7. Repeated ideas Here are some of the repeated words in the poem: dream dream explain explain explain explain eye eye half half half half-a half-a half-a half-a half-caste half-caste half-caste half-caste half-caste half-caste half-caste half-caste half-caste halh-caste i i i i i i i i’m i’m i’m keen keen key key mean mean mean mean mean mean mean mix mix mix say say say weather weather wha wha wha wha when when when when when when when when when whole whole you you you you’ll yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yu yuself yuself yuself yuself  What do you notice? ‘Explain yuself’ appears four times. Why? Is it aggressive or not?

  8. Tone Give the following key lines a score from 0-10 indicating the tone or mood. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Very negative - - - - Neutral -----Very positive Angry? Detached? Excited? Confrontational? Energetic? Defeated? Sarcastic? LINE SCORE A Excuse me standing on one leg B Explain yuself wha yu mean C England weather nearly always half-caste D Ah listening to yu wid de keen half of mih eye E But yu must come back tomorrow F An I will tell yu de other half of my story

  9. WORDS- EXTENDED METAPHOR • Throughout the poem, a picture is built up of half a person, which the writer clearly thinks is being implied by calling people ‘half-caste’. 1. on one leg 2. listening with the keen* half of your ear 3. looking with the keen* half of your eye 4. I offer you half a hand 5. when I sleep at night I close half an eye 6. when I dream, I dream half a dream 7. When moon begin to glow... I cast...half a shadow

  10. Repetition Non-standard English Patois/Creole language Key ideas/images Repeat to reinforce an idea or image English that doesn’t follow the normal ‘rules’ Non-standard, dialect form of a language Important pictures and thoughts The poem uses the following techniques Do you understand them?

  11. Explain yuselfwha yu meanwhen yu say half-casteyu mean when Picassomix red an greenis a half-caste canvas/explain yuselfwha yu meanwhen yu say half-casteyu mean when light an shadowmix in de skyis a half-caste weather/well in dat caseengland weathernearly always half-castein fact some o dem cloudhalf-caste till dem overcastso spiteful dem don’t want de sun passah rass/ Tone is more demanding and blunt than the first stanza 5 Written in his dialect (patois) with non-standard punctuation emphasising the fact that the speaker stands outside of society 10 Agard ridicules the notion of Half-caste by applying it to art and, notably, the British Weather 15 explain yuselfwha yu meanwhen yu say half-casteyu mean tchaikovskysit down at dah pianoan mix a black keywid a white keyis a half-caste symphony/ Agard puns the words half-caste and overcast for humour 25 20 30

  12. Explain yuselfwha yu meanAh listening to yu wid de keenhalf of mih earAh looking at yu wid de keenhalf of mih eyean when I’m introduced to yuI’m sure you’ll understandwhy I offer yu half-a-handan when I sleep at nightI close half-a-eyeconsequently when I dreamI dream half-a-dreaman when moon begin to glowI half-caste human beingcast half-a-shadowbut yu must come back tomorrowwid de whole of yu eyean de whole of yu earan de whole of yu mind. an I will tell yude other halfof my story. The poet reprises his earlier joke/pun on a mixed race person being half formed: the “half-caste” uses only half of ear and eye, and offers half a hand to shake, leading to the absurdities of dreaming half a dream and casting half a shadow. Once again the poet uses humour and absurdity to emphasise his view of the term The poet is asking/telling you to be more open minded and thoughtful both in terms of your attitudes and the way you speak 35 40 45 50 Final pun on the word half, like a joke, the poem ends with a punchline

  13. The type of English the writer uses: • The first three lines are standard English; perhaps this is to make sure that he is listened to, as he feels that his own accent and dialect may make people judge him. The rest of the poem is in Afro-Caribbean dialect which helps him to reinforce his pride in his own identity and cultural background. It is also perfect for a performance poem.

  14. Structure • The layout for Half Caste- John Agard is a performance piece as it was written to be read out loud with tone. The poem is made up of three stanzas of different lengths. He also writes in short sentences and no punctuation. This makes it easier to see the non-standard English.   • In the first half of the poem, he shows how ridiculous the term “half caste” is by asking the listener to explain what he/she means. In the second half of the poem, he extends the irony by describing himself as only having half a body and then tells the listener to go away and think about what he has said.

  15. Question Explain how Agard uses language and form to put forward his views about injustice in “Half-Caste”

  16. Model answer Explain how Agard uses language to put forward his views about injustice in “Half-Caste” • In the poem Agard uses a range of vocabulary to explain how he feels about the term Half-Caste. Repetition of “Explain yuself” ensures that the reader is aware that Agard is demanding a response. It can be suggested that the speaker feels that the term “Half-Caste” is offensive because it has associations of rejection. He uses humour/PUN with the description of “standing on one leg” to ridicule the notion of a person being half a person. Furthermore, it can be argued that Agard uses Creole language to present the idea that he is proud of his heritage. The tone of the poem clearly presents Agard’s feelings of injustice relating to the racist term of Half-Caste and it can be argued that he finds this term insulting.

  17. PlenaryWhy did Agard write the poem? "This imposition of half, half, half on a person's total human complexity implies that some sort of 'purity' has been subverted. A child of mixed race is a tangible, loving expression of human beings from different cultural backgrounds getting together - that should be seen not as something threatening, but as something enriching..."