The Move

It is the essence of Madam Teo's character and sufferings from her past that strengthened her will and ability to move on with life and cope with urbanisation/changes. Correspondingly, the support of her children and family togetherness also helped her to adapt to new surroundings as demonstrated in moving her belongings to another flat and having her grandchild call her from overseas.

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Tanjong Rhu

The literary techniques of symbolism and images/ideas are discussed in this worksheet -

  • Sight/binoculars - it is interesting that the binoculars meant to encourage his mother to peer into the present was eventually used by Mr Lee himself to have a clearer glimpse of his past. Although the old lady's eyes were likened to the blank windows of the skyscrappers, her vision of the past was vivid; in contrast to Mr Lee who could not see the essence (ie his childhood) of the view in front of him even though he frequently peered through those skyscrapper windows and even looked into his mother's blank eyes.

  • Keys to the cabinet - Towards the end of the story, Mr Lee could not locate the keys. However, the lighting up of the altar photographs seems to suggest that his parents were 'happy' that he attempted to connect with his lost self and rekindle the fading relationship with them.

  • Language - the oscillitating use of the English language and Cantonese is effective as it acts as a barrier as well as a bridge between the three generations.
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Sundowner - a drink consisting of whisky and soda, an epitome of the British empire 'on which the sun never set'. The worksheet explores the title of the story in relation to the British empire, Mr Das' plans and the culture/tradition of the residents in the rubber plantation.

A graphic organiser is included to show the similarities between the plans of the British rulers and Mr Das. It is apparent that although there is a change of management, the old ways of the people will not change overnight (or when the sun sets), a hint that the attempts to transform the people's way of living were and are futile.

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The worksheet on Release covers the possibility of Elaine's pre and post-natal blues which might explain her sensitivity towards her neighbours and husband's remarks and behaviour. The numerous references and link between the protagonist and baby Diana, and the neighbour's dogs are significant and lastly, students are to list the varied reactions of the characters towards Eileen. Click here.

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'Pastime' is broken up into two words - 'past' and 'time'. It is interesting that the story narrated by Tai Poh might be an experience from his past and Mr Lee suggests a possible scenario which might take place in the future. Both stories are related to time as they contrast with each other with regards to the time zone their stories are located in. Correspondingly, both characters are seated on the moving MRT travelling towards the same and yet different directions, physically and mentally.

Worksheet 1 consists of discussion questions after students attempt an activity where they play a game of conjuring 2 facts and 1 lie about themselves, and peers would have to guess which of their 3 statements was a lie. Click here.

Worksheet 2 leads a discussion on the credibility of Tai Poh and Mr Lee's stories and clues which hint that the narrators could be the characters within their own stories. Click here.

Worksheet 3 consists of a discussion on the literary technique of inserting a story-within-a-story, the contrasts between the two stories and the significance of the recurrent flashes of passing images. Click here.


Students are introduced to the story with a word splash activity by coming up with words/ideas/images related to paper and complete a graphic organiser based on the times paper was mentioned and suggest literal and metaphorical meanings associated with the word. Also, students can discuss the themes in the story, ripple effects of Tay Soon and Yee Lian's actions and how materialism is related to Singaporeans. Click here.

An Obituary for Fifth Aunt Come Late

It is encouraged that students read this - 'The Female Eunuch', an article from Green Left. Click here.

The worksheet focuses on the conventional image of the female gender as portrayed by Fifth Aunt in the story. Discussion questions encourage students to comprehend the article based on Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch and link the stereotypical notion of the female to the Singapore context. Literary devices such as the writer's use of narration through a persona who has a blurred image of her Fifth Aunt, the symbolism of hands and how Fifth Aunt is objectified - as a female, and as an object - could be examined.

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