HL SAMPLE EXAM PAPER 1 ESSAY
-in response to “Points of View” by Lucinda Roy; taken from the 2007 IB Exam Paper 1
*The original student essay was six pages handwritten; all grammatical choices have been maintained–only the handwriting has been improved.
In “Points of View,” Lucinda Roy writes fluidly, often breaking from the general ten syllable structure of her poem and using unique imagery to allow the reader to step into the life of a water-bearing woman in Africa. Just as water is to the women in the poem, Roy’s writing is to the reader; it “sucks them in,/ Catching the wild geometry of the soul” and functions as a type of watery mirror, asking the reader to see his or her own perceptions for what they are. The reader is forced to ask, as the narrator of the second stanza, “What can I know of water?” In other words, the reader is taken on a journey with the narrators through “This intense immersion” into a foreign situation. The author’s intent is that, hopefully, the reader can make the transformation, as the narrator has, to becoming ” a newly-evolved fish.” It is hoped that the reader will see what life is like in a third world country.
In her first stanza, Lucinda Roy presents an image of women gathered at the rivers and wells to carry water. Through her use of imagery, she puts the reader directly into the situation. One sees women bending down putting water into buckets, and the importance of the seemingly menial activity is emphasized in the phrase stating that the women “scoop up life.” We see these women offering up this life to others; literally, they are the saviors of their people, bringing fluid that, paradoxically is “heavy with light.” This role is emphasized, too, by the fact that the water bearers are women, and literally give birth to their society. They bring this water back to pour into “blistered cooking-pots,” and image that perhaps has metaphoric significance concerning the nature of the society they live in. It is like a blistered pot, cracked and dry; it is lifeless and thirsty.
The complex idea of the significance of water is furthered by the presentation of its reflective properties. It is not only heavy with light, but it also holds “the brief mosaics of the world.” When bending over water, the women see themselves in a mirror and the wells a “brimming with women’s fluid faces.” This imagery helps to show an almost spiritual significance in the act of taking water. The idea is furthered also in the image created by saying that “the rivers are alive with women’s hands.” The personification of the river adds to its metaphysical significance.
Interestingly, Roy ends this vibrant first stanza with the concept of all disappearing. It all amounts to nothing more than “reflections savoured for a while, then gone.” This line adds a great deal of what might be considered humanism to Roy’s poem. She presents a powerful, spiritual image of women bringing life to society and taking it from water, and then it disappears. It is only a fleeting moment. This humanism, though, adds much to the idea of point of view, and it explains the longing of the second stanza’s narrator for understanding.
In the second stanza, Roy changes from the third person to a first person point of view, helping to emphasize the theme of point of view in general, as well as emphasizing how distant this stanza’s narrator is from the spiritual experience of the women in the first stanza (the narrator can only describe it in third person). This distance is made obvious in the first line, which tells all. “What can I know of water,” the narrator asks; he or she has no understanding of the kind of reverence that the women of the first stanza have for water. “I catch it tamed down from metal spouts.” The word “tamed” here stands in stark contrast to the idea presented previously of a source of life. Rather than being “heavy and light,” water is a “beast.” “I compartmentalize,” says the narrator “the beast in ice.” Water is now cold and dead, and dark.
On the other hand, this narrator does recognize the importance of understanding other points of view. “I must go find it again,” the narrator says of water. And so begins a journey toward “a new baptism free of metaphor.” The idea of a baptism returns to water its previous spiritual quality, showing the significance of seeing many points of view. (It is comparable to the concept of omnipotence associated with a diety.) The idea of seeing something “free of metaphor” implies that the understanding is actual; there is no need for comparative understanding because true experience, “this intense immersion,” takes its place. Once true experiences comes, “Water will be water,” it will no longer be only a beast that needs to be compartmentalized.
As the poem ends, the words “aquabatic” and “rippling” serve to pull the reader back into a feeling of immersion. The q, b, and p sounds create an aquatic ring as they role off the tongue. This immersion is symbolic, representing the hope the one can indeed be immersed in another point of view and recognize intrinsic value in the life of a poor, African water-bearer.