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UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS
IGCSE LITERATURE IN ENGLISH: SYLLABUS 0486
NOTES FOR TEACHERS ON STORIES SET FOR STUDY FROM
STORIES OF OURSELVES: THE UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL EXAMINATIONS ANTHOLOGY OF SHORT STORIES IN ENGLISH FOR EXAMINATION IN JUNE AND NOVEMBER 2010, 2011 AND 2012
CONTENTS
Introduction: How to use these notes
1. The Signalman Charles Dickens
2. The Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins Gilman
3. How It Happened Arthur Conan Doyle
4. There Will Come Soft Rains Ray Bradbury
5. Meteor John Wyndham
6. The Lemon Orchard Alex la Guma
7. Secrets Bernard MacLaverty
8. The Taste of Watermelon Borden Deal
9. The Third and Final Continent Jhumpa Lahiri
10. On Her Knees Tim Winton
1
These notes are intended to give some background information on each author and/or story as an aid to further research and to stimulate discussion in the classroom. They are intended only as a starting point and are no substitute for the teacher’s and student’s own study and exploration of the texts. 2

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
The Signalman
Charles Dickens is perhaps the foremost English 19th century novelist, famous for such works as Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and Nicholas Nickleby. A feature of many of his novels is a combination of great narrative skills with an interest in the social problems of his time. As well as his major novels, though, he also wrote a number of short stories, of which The Signalman is one. In common with a number of stories about the supernatural, the narrator of this story is a sceptic, puzzled by the signalman’s conviction that he has witnessed inexplicable events. It is the earnestness and seriousness of the signalman, though, which gradually convinces the teller of the story. The signalman himself is a storyteller, and the difficulty he has in relating his story demonstrates his psychological unease. Dickens balances the oddness of his tale and his strange actions with the affirmation that he is a sane and rational man carrying out great responsibilities on the railway; he is termed ‘the safest of men’ by the narrator, and another railway worker at the end of the story says of him ‘No man in England knew his work better.’ Dickens shapes the story and creates a final twist by linking the narrator with the signalman and the strange events in the story’s final moments. The 19th century saw a huge growth in British railways, with a number of companies building lines and running services across the country. The government began to regulate the railways in the 1840s, so Dickens centred this story on a real topical interest in 1866. There are other signs of the world of 19th century England in the story. Notice how the different class or social station between the narrator and the railway workers is apparent in the way they speak to each other throughout the story. Wider reading

Try some of the longer Dickens novels, perhaps starting with one of the three listed above. Compare with
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
How It Happened by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Hollow of the Three Hills by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe
Online
The Victorian Web (http://www.victorianweb.org/) is an excellent site for information about writers and the history of the period. 3
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935)
The Yellow Wallpaper
This story is an important example of the Gothic tradition, where terror and horror reveal the psychological states of the characters and narrators. Here the narrator’s telling of the tale shows her own gradual loss of rationality and descent into madness. The husband John is the voice of reason and rationality, opposed to ‘horror and superstition’, but he is unable to understand his wife. Gilman’s story creates an uncertainty about his concern for his wife and her illness – does it in fact amount to oppression? The reader notes that what the narrator...
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