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Describe and Explain the Key Contextual Features of 'The Emigree' by Carol Rumens

In this worksheet, students will describe the context of the poem 'The Emigree' and explain its significance.

'Describe and Explain the Key Contextual Features of 'The Emigree' by Carol Rumens' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA

Curriculum topic:   Poetry

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'The Emigree'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'The Emigree' by Carol Rumens, which can be found in the Power and Conflict section of your Anthology.

 

 

suitcase

 

 

In this poem, the speaker is recalling a place she left many years ago (The place she was born in). She does not remember details, but the place has left a very strong impression with fond memories. She also suggests that she feels threatened in her new city.

 

Emigrants are people who have left the country of their birth to settle elsewhere in the world. The spelling of the word Rumens chooses - émigrée - is a feminine form and suggests the speaker of the poem is a woman.

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about the context of the poem. 

 

aeroplane

 

 

In order to explore the context of 'The Emigree', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem and match the questions to the answers below.

 

Column A

Column B

When did the narrator leave her home country?
She looks back on it with affection and feels bad ...
What is wrong with the country she left behind?
When she was a child
Why can't the narrator go back to her country?
It is at war and ruled by tyrants
How does the narrator feel about her country?
It is at war and she has no passport

Now that you have read the poem 'The Emigree', which summary below do you think best explains the context of the poem?

 

The poem is about the happiness that people feel when they get to move to a new country

The poem discusses the sadness of people who are forced to leave their home countries due to conflict

The poem describes the differences between the landscape and cultures of different countries

An emigre(e) is someone who has left their home country to relocate elsewhere, usually due to social or political reasons.

 

 

globe

 

 

The following quotations are all from the poem 'The Emigree'. Choose one that you think supports the context of a person who is unable to live in their home country.

 

"The white streets of that city..."

"The worst news I receive..."

"There’s no way back at all..."

Much of Rumen's recent poetry has a focus on how language and culture change over time.

 

The following quotations are all from 'The Emigree'. Choose one that you think explains how an emigree might still view their country.

 

"The worst news I receive..."

"The white streets of that city..."

"I left it as a child but my memory of it is sunlight-clear..."

"My city takes me dancing..."

Rumen's has been described by one critic as having a "fascination with elsewhere".

 

 

map of the world

 

 

What impact do you think this context has on the poem?

 

It explains why someone might want to take over a new country

It explains the fascination that someone could hold for a place in which they don't live

It explains the narrators love of travel

Carol Rumens was born in culturally diverse South London and grew up there. In addition to her own verse, she has published a number of translations of Russian poems.

 

 

woman listening

 

 

Choose ONE quotation below which you think explains the narrator's anger that her language and culture are not acceptable in her new country.

 

"I have no passport..."

"The white streets of that city..."

"That child’s vocabulary I carried here"

The 1990s saw an increase in the number of people migrating to other countries around the world.

 

Migration = the movement of people from one place to another with the intention of settling.

 

The following words are all from the poem 'The Emigree'. Which words are associated with the context of migration and which are not?

 Words associated with MigrationWords NOT associated with Migration
Worst news
A child
Mildest city
At war
Paperweight
Tyrants
Rolls its tanks
Banned by the state
Like waves

Carol Rumens is well travelled and has experienced many different countries and cultures. 'The Emigree' shows a sympathetic understanding of people who are forced to emigrate.

 

The following quotations are all from the poem 'The Emigree'. Choose one quotation that you think creates sympathy for the narrator.

 

"It lies down in front of me..."

"I left it as a child...."

"They accuse me of absence..."

"My city hides behind me..."

Carol Rumens is also aware that nostalgic memories of a place can be unrealistic. The narrator associates her country with light and positivity.

 

Nostalgic = feeling happy and also slightly sad when you think about things that happened in the past.

 

 

beautiful country

 

 

Read the following quotation from 'The Emigree' and underline two words which you think represent the context of light.

\"The white streets of that city, the graceful slopes glow even clearer as time rolls its tanks\"

In the poem, the actual context of the narrator's home country is described by darker and factual descriptions of what is happening there. 

 

 

Forrest at night

 

 

 

Read the following extract from 'The Emigree' and underline three words associated with the context of darkness.

\"They accuse me of being dark in their free city. My city hides behind me. They mutter death, and my shadow falls as evidence of sunlight\"
  • Question 1

aeroplane

 

 

In order to explore the context of 'The Emigree', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem and match the questions to the answers below.

 

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

When did the narrator leave her h...
When she was a child
What is wrong with the country sh...
It is at war and ruled by tyrants
Why can't the narrator go back to...
It is at war and she has no passp...
How does the narrator feel about ...
She looks back on it with affecti...
EDDIE SAYS
This poem has a deep sense of conflict in terms of emotions and memory, the poet is torn between her childhood memory, which is of a country she loved and her adult understanding of what her country is like now. She cannot believe that her county is now a terrible place full of war and destruction.
  • Question 2

Now that you have read the poem 'The Emigree', which summary below do you think best explains the context of the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The poem discusses the sadness of people who are forced to leave their home countries due to conflict
EDDIE SAYS
The poem 'The Emigree' discusses the issue of emigration and how a person might feel when they are forced to leave their home country. There is a lot of sadness in the poem when the narrator describes how she loves and misses the place where she grew up.
  • Question 3

An emigre(e) is someone who has left their home country to relocate elsewhere, usually due to social or political reasons.

 

 

globe

 

 

The following quotations are all from the poem 'The Emigree'. Choose one that you think supports the context of a person who is unable to live in their home country.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"There’s no way back at all..."
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "There's no way back at all" tells the reader that the narrator is living in exile. Although we are given the impression that she loves her country and would love to go back, she says there is "no way", which suggests that the new rulers of the country would not allow her.
  • Question 4

Much of Rumen's recent poetry has a focus on how language and culture change over time.

 

The following quotations are all from 'The Emigree'. Choose one that you think explains how an emigree might still view their country.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"I left it as a child but my memory of it is sunlight-clear..."
EDDIE SAYS
The narrator tells the reader that "I left it as a child but my memory of it is sunlight-clear" which tells us that she has been living in exile since she was a child. Despite this, her memories of her country are extremely clear. Even though language and culture may change over time, an emigree will still view their country as being the same as when they left it.
  • Question 5

Rumen's has been described by one critic as having a "fascination with elsewhere".

 

 

map of the world

 

 

What impact do you think this context has on the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
It explains the fascination that someone could hold for a place in which they don't live
EDDIE SAYS
The idea of the poet having a "fascination with elsewhere" is seen in two ways in the poem, Firstly, as shown above, it explains why the poet is so interested in writing about other countries. Secondly, it deals with a land and city which for the narrator is permanently ‘elsewhere’ as she cannot return to her country.
  • Question 6

Carol Rumens was born in culturally diverse South London and grew up there. In addition to her own verse, she has published a number of translations of Russian poems.

 

 

woman listening

 

 

Choose ONE quotation below which you think explains the narrator's anger that her language and culture are not acceptable in her new country.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"That child’s vocabulary I carried here"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "That child’s vocabulary I carried here" explains the narrator's sadness and anger that the language she had learnt as a child is of no use to her in her new country. In fact, it is described as being "banned by the state" which suggests the opposite of the culturally diverse city that Carol Rumens grew up in.
  • Question 7

The 1990s saw an increase in the number of people migrating to other countries around the world.

 

Migration = the movement of people from one place to another with the intention of settling.

 

The following words are all from the poem 'The Emigree'. Which words are associated with the context of migration and which are not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Words associated with MigrationWords NOT associated with Migration
Worst news
A child
Mildest city
At war
Paperweight
Tyrants
Rolls its tanks
Banned by the state
Like waves
EDDIE SAYS
The words above all relate to the theme of migration and remind us of the images that we see in the news, of countries that are too violent to live in. The phrases above all suggest a war-torn country under the control of a violent ruler. These phrases create sympathy for the people, such as the narrator, who are forced to leave their homes.
  • Question 8

Carol Rumens is well travelled and has experienced many different countries and cultures. 'The Emigree' shows a sympathetic understanding of people who are forced to emigrate.

 

The following quotations are all from the poem 'The Emigree'. Choose one quotation that you think creates sympathy for the narrator.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"I left it as a child...."
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "I left it as a child" creates sympathy for the narrator as it creates the impression that she went through something very traumatic as a child. The innocence of the child is contrasted throughout the poem with images of war and violence.
  • Question 9

Carol Rumens is also aware that nostalgic memories of a place can be unrealistic. The narrator associates her country with light and positivity.

 

Nostalgic = feeling happy and also slightly sad when you think about things that happened in the past.

 

 

beautiful country

 

 

Read the following quotation from 'The Emigree' and underline two words which you think represent the context of light.

CORRECT ANSWER
"The white streets of that city, the graceful slopes
glow even clearer as time rolls its tanks"
EDDIE SAYS
The poet uses the word "white" as it symbolises innocence and purity, which is how she views her country. She also uses the word "glow" to suggest that her country is light in a world of darkness. To the narrator, her country is a beautiful place that has been taken over by darkness.
  • Question 10

In the poem, the actual context of the narrator's home country is described by darker and factual descriptions of what is happening there. 

 

 

Forrest at night

 

 

 

Read the following extract from 'The Emigree' and underline three words associated with the context of darkness.

CORRECT ANSWER
"They accuse me of being dark in their free city.
My city hides behind me. They mutter death,
and my shadow falls as evidence of sunlight"
EDDIE SAYS
The narrator wants to create the impression that what is being done to her home country is very bad. She uses words associated with darkness, such as "dark", "death" and "shadow" to describe the actions of the new rulers. These words also suggest that the positive way in which she remembers her country may not be the whole truth, as images in the media have shown her that there are many dark and dangerous things happening now.
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