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The Red Ball by Ismith Khan

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  • Pages: 4
  • Word count: 845
  • Category: Fiction

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The Red Ball is a story of exclusion, acceptance and poverty. In The Red Ball, Bolan and his family suffer deeply from poverty. The author emphasises this by describing how skinny Bolan is. The other boys call him names such as “Thinny Boney” and “Match-stick foot”. This gives the reader a rough idea of the physical build of Bolan, as they can picture a small, skinny boy, alone by the hibiscus bushes. The way in which Bolan plays with the hibiscus flower also shows the reader of how deprived he is of things to play with.

He doesn’t even own something as simple as a ball. He pierces the flower with “the straight pin which kept his shirt front closed”. It’s sad to see such poverty, a boy playing with anything he can find and using any simple tool for more than one use. He chases flowers which are blown by the wind and reminisces of when they lived in Tunapuna and owned cattle and a home. Back there, those possessions weren’t great but were theirs, and here, they own nothing. They have a single kerosene lamp in their home, and Bolan collects fireflies in a glass phial to hold under his pillow for light at night, once the lamp is out. These basic possessions are so important to them.

The cricket set is made from typical household items, it emphasises the poverty of all the boys. “Three wickets made from sawn-off broomsticks, which they had nailed into the ground, two bats, one made from a coconut branch, the other a real store bat that smelled of linseed oil, and a cork ball that still had red paint on the surface.” The fact that Bolan is exited by this attempt of a cricket set makes the reader really sense the poverty. “a real store bat” sounds as though it’s the most incredible thing that Bolan’s ever seen.

To him, these possessions are possessions of the rich. Everyone with possessions was rich to Bolan. When he holds the ball, he feels accepted and becomes a good bowler, not a nobody. It’s a moment of beauty when this is discovered as it’s written in slow motion. “his long thin body arched like a bow, the ball swung high in the air, his wrist turned in, and he delivered the shooting red ball” This is very effective description and makes the reader realise how included he feels when he’s bowling. When the boys all eat black pudding, he cannot afford it but wants to maintain his dignity so moves away before the vendor can offer him some for free. The description in this story strongly emphasises the poverty in it.

The Pieces of Silver by Karl Sealy

This story is about the cruel poverty in which young people have to deal with in Barbados these days. “making haste to clear their mouths of the green, acid fruit they had been enjoying” This shows how the boys at the school have fun, by eating the fruit off of the trees. The boys assemble in ranks, waiting to be inspected. This paints a portrait for the reader of hundreds of young, innocent boys being lined up as if they had done wrong. The acting Headmaster is stout and pompous, a brute. The descriptions of his character are really quite intimidating. He’s described as “stern”, “cold” and “cruel”. The way in which he embarrasses the boys who could not afford to pay for the goodbye fund is shameless. It’s disgusting how he treats he boys, and makes fun of their poverty. He thinks that he is teaching morality but really, he has none himself.

Clement’s sister, Evelina, is Clement’s saviour in this story. She’s described as “warm” and helps Clement out by coming up with an idea to make the money. The way in which they go around to people begging for money by playing home-made instruments (a comb with paper wrapped around it) and singing is very sad as it shows just how poor they really are. Evelina’s voice contrasts with that of the acting headmaster’s. Her voice is “clear and true” and his was “untrue, faltering note”, she’s seen as a mother figure. It turns out that the retiring headmaster is actually very nice and generous, and didn’t need all the money which was being donated.

The next day, some of the boys who really couldn’t afford the money had not come into school as they were so scared. Some of them had somehow managed to get the money. The acting headmaster, the sadist, watched them cruelly, enjoying their embarrassment. The way in which Clement presents the money, saying how it was for all of them, is a fairytale ending. His voice “struck through the silent school, clear and thrilling as a star’s light”. He’s the other boys’ saviour. It’s a nice ending to the story as he’s helped out all of the boys who couldn’t afford the small amount of money, himself included. It’s a sort of fairytale ending.

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