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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R.

Jones

The Weight of
Water by Sarah
Crossan

REVISION BOOKLET
Areas of revision:
◦ The plot
◦ Key themes and issues
◦ Key words
◦ Characters
◦ Key moments
◦ The writer’s style
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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

◦ Comparative (Comparing with


‘Of Mice and Men’)

The Weight of Water - Blurb

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

Write a few brief sentences on the following


themes/issues that emerge in the novel:
• Alienation
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• Abandonment
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• Friendship
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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

• Coming of age
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• Loneliness
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• Relationships
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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

KEY WORDS – HIGHLIGHT THE ONES THAT


YOU STILL NEED TO LEARN

• Alienated – to make someone feel isolated/ left


out
• Abandonment – the act of being abandoned
• Xenophobia - dislike of or prejudice against
people from other countries
• Racial prejudice – a dislike of people of a
different race (this affects Kanoro)
• Segregation – being separated
• Poetic form – the poetic style that the novel is
written in
• Crisis point/ climax – the point in a novel in
which a change takes place, this change can
either be positive, negative or a combination
of both
• Resolution – when the plot reaches its
conclusion and lose ends are tied up
(although this is not always the case and

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

some resolutions offer more closure than


others)
• Social norms - the rules of behaviour that are
considered acceptable in a group or society
• Conformity – following these rules/ acting out
these behaviours to ‘fit in’
• Inferior – to be less than someone else in rank
or status/ not good enough
• Superior – to be above someone else in rank or
status/ better than
• Emigrate – to leave your home country and
take up residence in another country
• Metamorphosis – to transform into something
different

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

Studying the protagonist: The protagonist is the


main character in the novel, also known as the
hero (if male) or heroine (female)

Checklist: You will need to be able to discuss, in some


detail, the following:
 Who is the protagonist and what does he/she
want?
 How would you describe them and their
personality? Find key quotes and adjectives to help
you talk about them. Be able to refer to things they
have done and what these moments tell us about
them.
 What id their attitude to things going on around
them?
 Do they experience a change of some kind from
the opening to the resolution?
 How do they react to other characters in the novel?
What does this say about them? Are their
relationships complicated or simple?

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

Adjectives to describe Kasienka.


• Strong
• Quiet
• Shy
• Determined
• Patient

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

• Courageous
• Passionate
• Talented
• Kind/ considerate
Write any other adjectives you may think of in
the cloud:

Who is Kasienka and what does


she want?
 Kasienka is a 13 year old polish girl who has been
forced to move from her home in Poland, leaving
behind her friends, beloved grandmother and the
life that she knew. She has been dragged to
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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

Coventry by her mother in search of her father who


abandoned them.
 At first, Kasienka simply doesn’t want to be there
but as the novel progresses we learn that she
longs for acceptance by her English peers. She
wishes to break free from the crippling loneliness
and alienation she experiences because she is “ a
Pole in Coventry”.

Why Kasienka is a
likeable/admirable character:

 One of the first things that struck me about


Kasienka is her considerate nature. At the
beginning of the novel she clearly hates the idea of
being in England and thinks that Mama’s search for
Tata is futile. Yet, she doesn’t challenge her
mother because she can see that the only thing
Mama is clinging to is hope. Despite, Kasienka’s
disgust at the bed-sit Mama rented, she keeps her
thoughts to herself: “What I mean is/ We can’t live
here”.

 Another thing I admire about Kasienka is her


strength. Despite being put in a class “with 11 year
olds” and segregated, along with the other foreign
students, because of her “broken English” she still
stays strong and doesn’t give up. Most people in
this situation would really struggle, and Kasienka
does, we see this when she reads ‘The Bell Jar’ by
Sylvia Plath and contemplates ‘surrendering’. In
the end, however, her determination pays off when

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

she discovers her talent for swimming, gets a


boyfriend and settles in to her new home.

 Kasienka is clever and mature and I really admire


her for this. She is insightful and is not naïve to the
world around her. She understands that Clair is just
a bully with no real friends and that, in the end,
popularity is lonely and miserable because it is all
false. She says: “It is a dance for popularity/
swapping places everyday” revealing that she
doesn’t want to get involved because she remains
true to herself.

How would you describe


Kasienka’s attitude?
 Despite her struggles, Kasienka has a very mature
attitude. She doesn’t react irrationally to things.
We see this from the outset when Mama first
brings her to the flat. She is longing to scream at
Mama and tell her that they can’t live in such
miserable conditions but she is aware that Mama is
trying her best and that they haven’t the money to
make better choices. This made me admire her
because it is unusual for a 13 year old girl to be so
mature and level headed and not complain.
 Another instance with conveys Kasienka’s maturity
is her response to Clair’s bullying. She doesn’t
retaliate and, although she feels she is not in a
position to do so, she doesn’t react to Clair’s nasty
comments (for example when she asks her is she a
lesbian). While some people may think that this
conveys fear or weakness, perhaps it suggests that

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

Kasienka is too clever to react. We see this later in


the novel when she asks Kanaro for advice and
thinks long and hard about how she will get her
revenge. Her decision to get her revenge on Clair
by simply proving that she is a better swimmer
than her at the event in London proves to be a
mature one. It enrages Clair because for once
Kasienka is in a superior position and, when
Kasienka says to her “For once, why don’t you just
piss off” she proves to Clair that she doesn’t need
her approval, thus ending her power over her.
 However, sometimes Kasienka’s attitude can come
across as somewhat defeatist. When she is places
in the class below her age group, with 11 year olds,
she seems to accept this. Although she complains:
“I don’t read well/ in English/ that is all I can’t do”
she doesn’t try to argue her case, even when her
English improves. Perhaps her insecurities over the
language barrier prevent her from doing so but I
can’t help but think she should have tried harder
from the outset to show her teacher that she does
not have “special needs” because she is foreign.
Instead she waits for the teacher to figure out her
mistake which frustrated me slightly.

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

The relationship
between Kasienka
and Mama

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

Some further
points to
consider…
◦ Mama is selfish for dragging Kasienka with her to
England in false hope but perhaps she really
believes that she can create a better life for them.
◦ Despite Mama being the adult in the relationship,
Kasienka ends up adopting this role because Mama
fails to cope with the abandonment and loss she is
feeling. Mama relies on Kasienka to be her ‘good
girl’ and to not question her actions and Kasienka
is obedient for the most part, distributing fliers
when they go in search for Tata, acting like a
‘human dictionary’ for Mama and internalising her
own feelings of hopelessness and pity to protect
Mama.
◦ Despite their differences, Mama and Kasienka need
each other and Kasienka is fiercely loyal to her
mother. She refuses Melanie’s offer for her to go
and live with her, Tata and Briony, her stepsister,
because she couldn’t do that to her mother. We
can see that Kasienka needs her mother too
because when Mama is not well and ‘broken’,
Kasienka tries desperately to save her and wants
to se her happy, she worries about her as
“sometimes she is so quiet” that Kasienka checks
“to see if she has died of heartache”.

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

◦ In the end we realise how strong Kasienka is and


that Mama needs Kasienka to be strong so that she
is able to overcome her heartache and move on
herself. Perhaps it is Kasienka that teaches Mama
how to be strong.

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

My Key Quotes

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

DON’T FORGET TO NOTE WHO SAYS WHAT AND


WHEN ITS SAID!

NOTES ON THE NARRATIVE


STRUCTURE AND WRITER’S STYLE

Narrative structure:
• The novel is told in the first person, from the
point of view of the protagonist, Kasienka.
This allows the reader to see events unfold
from Kasienka’s perspective and experience
things with her, giving us a direct insight in to
her emotional experiences. We grow to
sympathise with Kasienka and, in some
cases, empathise with her experiences.

The writer’s style:


• The novel is written in poetic form rather
than traditional prose. It is told in a series of
short episodes that are almost like diary
extracts in the form of poems.
• This allows the prose to be rich in imagery,
metaphors and symbolism.

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Junior Cycle English Fiction Ms. R. Jones

• The writer’s style is unique because the novel


reads more like a series of sights, sounds and
feelings rather than a traditional story told in
dense prose.

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