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“The Gold-Legged Frog” by Khamsing Srinawk and “The Pieces of Silver” by Karl Sealy

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Poverty might be thought of as the state where people have little or no food and few material possessions. Khamsing Srinawk and Karl Sealy successfully and vividly convey the effects of poverty in their short stories, The Gold-Legged Frog and The Pieces of Silver by using a wide range of devices.

Within the first paragraph of The Gold-Legged Frog there is the suggestion that something bad is about to follow. Words such as “brown” and “dark” are used, suggesting something sinister and deathly. Srinawk describes the harsh environment and the effects of living in such appalling conditions. This induces a feeling of claustrophobia and an almost overwhelming sense of helplessness for Nak and his family, as they have no choice but to endure the environmental conditions they are find themselves in. Srinawk describes the sun in just this way, as almost being aggressive:

“The sun blazed as if determined to burn every living thing in the broad fields to a crisp”

From this description it is clear how dangerous the environment is and how because their poverty that Nak and his family are forced to live such horrible environmental conditions. This is enhanced when Nak physically suffers from the harshness of the environment, His feet are described as being “blistered from burning sandy ground” and later it “was so hot he felt his head would break into pieces”.

It is evident that poverty and learning how to cope with its effects has become an important part Nak’s and his family’s life. He and his children go looking for frogs for dinner, showing how very poor they are as frogs are generally not considered to be food source. Verbs used to describe their movements, such as “hopped” and “pounce”, suggest that they are like the frogs they seek, hunting and scavenging like feral creatures, taking each day as it comes. This is a consequence of being poor. They have no choice and are forced to live their lives ‘hand to mouth’ constantly adjusting to the ever changing environment.

When Nak’s son is bitten by a cobra, the ignorance on the part of the villagers is cruelly evident. Some suggest that Nak should,

“Chop up a frog and put it on the wound”, another suggested that they should, “Give him the toasted liver of the snake to eat”

These suggestions show how uneducated the villagers are, enhancing the feeling of poverty in the story as often people who are uneducated cannot afford to go to school.

In the same ways that the family mistreats the frogs by pouncing on them, they are themselves mistreated by authority. The deputy district officer addresses Nak as “idiot”. It is clear that this lack of respect is due to the fact that Nak is poorer than him and occupies a lower social position in their society.

In The Pieces of Silver by Karl Sealy we are shown the extreme poverty of some of the people living in Barbados. The poverty of the school boys is shown in their descriptions, for example when they are described as having “dusty, naked feet”. Their poverty is contrasted with the headmaster who, by his characterization, seems to be wealthy enough to eat well. He is described as being “stout, and pompous” and a “squat jug of a man”.

The strict, disciplined order created by the acting headmaster seems to be incongruous with the laid back environment that Barbados is best known for. The moral tone veers towards a crude materialism induced by the warped values of the acting head master. The boys with money are rewarded and the boys without are punished, Clement is one of those that are punished. This draws the reader’s attention to Clement’s poverty.

The description of Clement’s family significantly enhances the feeling of poverty in the story. The condition of the family’s house is described as being particularly shabby,

“The walls of the shack were papered with old newspapers and magazines, discolored with age and stained”

This description shows how extreme their poverty was. The family name is “Dovecot” and this reminds the reader of birds, yet their house is described as being a “wretched coop”. This contrast between their name and the metaphor of a coop evokes the feeling of them being imprisoned by their poverty. They are not free like doves in a dovecot but trapped like chickens in a coop. In contrast to the acting head master who is described as a squat Jug, Mrs Dovecot is described as a “long thread of a woman”, and this is a evident of the physical effects brought by poverty

Both stories describe and draw attention to the effects of poverty on people living in Third Word counties.

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