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Literature: Bones

April 3, 2011 Eunice

In the class test, you will be tested on drama. You will be given a 15 mark fill-in-the-blanks on one of the plays, either ‘Five Green Bottles’ by Ray Jenkins or ‘Bones’ translated by Sadru Kassam and of course, one essay question (10 marks). ¬†PEEL structure still applies, and so does PIE. Do not pick one to study because for all you know, BOTH might end up being tested. Frankly though, the 15 marks section is a give-away, so you should get full marks for that section.




SA1, you will be tested on either ‘Five Green Bottles’ by Ray Jenkins or ‘Bones’ translated by Sadru Kassam. 2 open-ended questions. It will be similar to your essay question, but shorter.

And there will be an unseen prose section during SA1. Prose means stories, like Sing to the Dawn etc. You will be given a passage you have never seen before, and you will need to read it during the exam and answer an essay question. I will work on this more in class. For now, you ought to use ‘Sing to the Dawn’, ‘Kevin’ and ‘Lenny’ to practice your analysing of text and answering techniques. You can write essays or do mind maps and arrange to meet me for help.

This post is more for the clearing up of misconceptions and giving you character summaries, to avoid cases of misreading when you guys do essays. I will start off with the plays.


1. Butcher

- He is a dirty man, from the way he tends to his stall. He wipes his blood on the meat, which is highly unhygienic and he spits too. He is dressed in a dirty apron and scratches himself, which further shows his lack of personal hygiene. Considering the fact that he is selling food products and is handling the meat people are going to consume, such irresponsibility is unacceptable.

-He is also a sly and cunning character, because he repeatedly tries to trick his customers. He always attempts to include bones in their meat. Bones are heavier than meat and for those who have never been to the market, meat is bought based on the weight. So if let’s say the woman who comes to buy from the butcher wants 6 ounces of meat, by putting in more bones, the butcher easily cheats her of her money. Bones are pretty useless except for dogs to gnaw on. This is why the woman says she is not a dog, and demands he removes the stones/bones. He also attempts to give her meat from another piece of meat that the woman did not pick, which is why the woman says ‘I want off that one…’ He also tries to cheat the girl by saying he is giving her no bones except ‘a little one for her father’. We can thus see how devious (cunning) he is, for cheating his customers through such underhanded means, especially when one is only a girl.

- At first, he knows nothing about what Dongo wants and is clueless. But once he finds out what are Dongo’s true intentions from Kanubhai, he uses money to corrupt Dongo the health inspector. This adds on to his corrupt nature. At the end of the day, his lack of hygiene causes him to lose the woman as his customer, which is ironic, as even though he has gotten his licence, he could not get customers to patronise his stall.


- A corrupt health inspector who only awards licence to those who give him ‘bones’ (money). He even pockets the butcher’s pen, which shows the total lack of morality and how rotten his character is. He has no principles and awards the licence to the butcher right after the butcher gives him money, ignoring the fact that the butcher is unhygienic and clearly will not have met the health standards.

-The way he treats the butcher after the butcher fails to understand the meaning behind his outstretched hand shows how violent and bully-like the health inspector is. He breaks the butcher’s file and wipes his hands on the butcher’s apron. His disrespectful gestures show how tyrannical he is towards those who rely on him for a licence. The fact that he is a ‘health’ inspector is ironic as he is a negative character with unhealthy characteristics.

-Dongo represents the people of power and position. He is corrupt, money-minded and greedy. He makes use of his position to extort money from the middle-class (Butcher) and has no genuine care for the health or wellbeing of the consumers.


-She buys meat from the Butcher but leaves without paying.

What is the purpose of this play?

-The playwright demonstrates the problems of corruption and deceit faced in the African society. If you realise, in the play, the Butcher attempts to cheat both the woman and the girl, Dongo cheats the Butcher, the girl cheats the Butcher. It is like a vicious cycle of deception. Even a young girl could leave with the meat without paying the Butcher. The dog-eat-dog (Dog-eat-dog describes a world in which people fight for themselves only and will hurt other people.) society portrayed in ‘Bones’ is a depiction and reflection of the African society where some are only concerned about their own interests, and are morally depraved (crooked). Although they may gain material rewards, they lose their morality and humanity, which is ironically a far larger price to pay for the superficial (on the surface) monetary gain.

If you do not understand anything here, and need further explanation or have any questions, please come to me with your questions. Do take note that these are just character and play analysis, they are not answer sheets. Try to churn out an essay in the proper PEEL and PIE structures, with relevant quotes.

2 Responses

  1. Ng Wen Ni says:

    Bones=Mass Audience laughs – humorous -Expresses grave situation and true societal problems Story – funny and satire
    Butcher – WEAK – gives in/succumbs to the corruption Cheat – Greed and SURVIVAL -Unbefitting – does not deserve his license
    Butcher cheats customer, Girl cheats Butcher and Dongo cheats Butcher. Mean and cold-blooded, ‘man-eat-man’- ‘Dog-eat-dog’ society, “Cannibalistic’. Butcher is dishonest, sly, deceitful and does not care for customers opinions.

    Creating a mindmap of sorts! :)

  2. Ning Zai Lin says:

    Er Ms Lim, can you explain more on the PIE?

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