`Local Colour` – Student Guide

You are with waiting with your friends at the bus stop. Along comes a brand new vehicle
sporting the bus company’s logo. It’s a Gold Line Service, and as the door opens you spot
the announcement under the driver’s computerised ticket machine. It says Your driver
for today is George.
None of your friends seem to notice anything about this but you realise why the company
has spent money on the new livery and the announcement because you have studied
Textual Analysis and can use your analytical skills to work out meaning.
You know that the word Gold suggests not just wealth and money but also value and quality.
You know that the word line suggests something new and amazing.
You know that the word service suggests the company are providing something good for their
You know that the word your suggests a personal relationship between you and the driver.
Your friends are amazed and stare at you in silent admiration!
Textual Analysis is a set of skills that will
help you:
• to understand a text
• come to terms with it
• answer questions about how it is
• be able to write about it meaningfully.
So let’s throw you in at the deep end!
Local Colour
Something I’m not familiar with, the tune
of their talking, comes tumbling before them
down the stairs which (oh I forgot) it was my turn
to do again last week.
My neighbour and my neighbour's child. I nod, we're not on
speaking terms exactly.
I don’t know much about her. Her dinners smell
different. Her husband’s a busdriver,
so I believe.
She carries home her groceries in Grandfare bags.
though I’ve seen her once or twice around the corner
at Shastri’s for spices and such.
(I always shop there – he’s open till all hours
making good.) How does she feel?
Her children growing up with foreign accents,
swearing in fluent Glaswegian. Her face
is sullen. Her coat is drab plaid, hides
but for a hint at the hem, her sari’s
gold embroidered gorgeousness. She has
a jewel in her nostril.
The golden hands with the almond nails
that push the pram turn blue
In this city’s cold climate.
Liz Lochhead
First Thoughts
As you read through the poem for the first time, see if you
can work out the answers to the following questions:
1. Who is speaking?
2. Who is she speaking about?
3. Where is the poem set?
Thinking Through
Now think a little deeper about what is happening in the poem.
Apart from the speaker and her neighbour, which other characters feature
in the poem?
How can we tell from the poem that the speaker’s neighbour is not
originally from Glasgow?
Where do you think she has come from?
Get to Work!
As we study the poem we are going to look at how the words used
create images for us.
One image is of the neighbour spoken of.
Another is of the speaker herself.
They both live in…………………………………………………………………….
The speaker is from ………………………………………………………………….
The neighbour is from……………………………………………………………….
Whose point of view do we follow in the poem?
Dramatic Monologue
This type of poem is called a
The word MONOLOGUE tells us someone is
speaking uninterrupted rather than taking part in a
The word DRAMATIC tells us that the speaker is not
alone – someone else is supposed to be listening.
Who do you think the Scottish woman is speaking
Features of a Dramatic Monologues.
One feature of dramatic monologues is that their
speakers often reveals some of their nastier or
more unpleasant thoughts, habits or actions.
In ‘Local Colour’ the speaker thinks she is telling
us about her Indian neighbour but also reveals a
great deal about herself too.
Not all of it is particularly nice.
Analysing the poem.
We’re going to look at the monologue in three parts.
In each part we’ll see that the writer uses the same
Double meanings (ambiguity)
Word choice
Visual Imagery (Metaphor, Simile, Personification)
Sentence structure/punctuation
Alliteration is………………………………………………….
Give an example.
Why is alliteration used?
Alliteration is often used to focus the reader’s attention on a certain
area of the text.
Perhaps to make us notice something that is happening or to get us
to concentrate on a point the writer is making.
Alliteration can also affect the speed of a piece of writing.
Repeating hard sounds such as b, k, t, etc. can have the effect of
speeding up the writing.
The runners burst forward at the b of the bang.
Repeating soft sounds such as f, m or s can make the writing seem to
slow down and can provide a gentler feeling.
The stream slowly slipped and softly slithered between the trees.
Copy out the first four lines of the poem.
These lines make up the first sentence.
Now highlight the letters that create alliteration here.
Remember alliteration is a sound effect technique.
Think about the sounds the letters make.
What is the effect?
Something I’m not familiar with, the tune
of their talking, comes tumbling before them
down the stairs which (oh I forgot) it was my turn
to do again last week.
Liz Lochhead does a very clever thing here.
The speaker is telling us that a sound has grabbed her attention
To do this she uses alliteration, a sound technique, to grab our
attention and make us notice what is happening in these two
lines of the poem.
Answer these questions.
1. What alliteration do we find in line 5? Quote the words.
2. What is the writer trying to focus our attention on?
3. Why does the writer want us to focus on this?
Lochead uses a particular sort of double meaning in the poem called AMBIGUITY.
If something is ambiguous it has two possible meanings.
It may be impossible for us to know which of the meanings is the right one even if
we can see what both those possible meanings are.
‘As I was leaving this morning, I said to myself, 'The last thing you must do is
forget your homework and, sure enough, as I left the house this morning, the
last thing I did was to forget my homework.’
‘I can't tell you how much I enjoyed teaching this class.’
‘Thanks for dinner. I’ve never seen potatoes cooked like that before.’
‘US Government wants FBI to help corrupt Iraqi Police Force"
Lines 5 and 6
…I nod, we’re not on
Speaking terms exactly.
This comment has two possible meanings.
It could have a neutral meaning or a more negative one.
Explain what the two meanings are.
All successful writing makes careful use of positive and negative words choice.
The word choice in ‘Local Colour’ are important to our understanding.
In line one we see an example of positive word choice.
The speaker calls the sound of her neighbours’ speech
‘the tune of their talking’
The word ‘tune’ is a positive one.
It tells us something about how their speech, in a foreign language she doesn’t
understand, sounds to her.
The speaker could have used a neutral words such as ‘sound’ but this wouldn’t
tell us anything about the way she feels about it.
What does ‘tune’ suggest about the way she feels about their speech?
Put the word ‘sound’ in the middle of a page.
On one side, write all the words you can think of that mean nearly the same but tell us
that it is a pleasant sound to hear (POSITIVE)
On the other side, write all the words you can think of that suggest a nasty or unpleasant
sound (NEGATIVE)
We’ve already discovered that, in a dramatic monologue. The
speaker often ends up revealing things about him or herself
without realising it.
In this poem, the speaker reveals a couple of things that show her
in a rather bad light.
Find quotations from the poem to prove:
• That the speaker is an unreliable or lazy neighbour
• That the speaker has not bothered getting to know her Indian
Also explain how each quotation proves the point.
The comment in brackets (parenthesis) in line 3 is called an ASIDE.
This is when someone breaks off from the main subject they are talking about
to mention something else which has just occurred to them.
ASIDES often give away what is on someone's mind.
There is another later in the poem.
What does this parenthesis suggest about the speaker?
(Metaphor, Simile, Personification)
The alliteration in the poem creates sounds.
The metaphor and personification in the poem create visual images for the
Identify the metaphor in the first verse.
How to answer imagery questions
Just as a knife in the back physically
hurts, damages and leaves scars
So too being betrayed by someone is a mentally
painful experience
This suggests that the damage done by a
betrayal will leave lasting mental scars and be
difficult to forget or even forgive.
Part two: Verse two lines 7 to 14
Answer these questions.
Look back at the definition of ALLITERATION if you need to.
1. Which alliteration do we find in lines 7and 8? Quote the words
What is the writer trying to focus our attention on?
2. Which alliteration do we find in line 10? Quote the words
What is the writer trying to focus our attention on?
3. Which alliteration do we find in line 12? Quote the word.
What is the writer trying to focus our attention on?
Something is ambiguous if……………………………………
Lines 7&8
The speakers says:
Her dinners smell different.
Explain the two possible meanings (neutral and negative)
The word choice in this section of the poem isn't the same negative/ positive as in
parts one and three.
Instead word choice is used to reveal more about the speaker.
It’s in this section of the poem that we see the speaker at her worst.
She seems like someone who jumps to conclusion and is a hypocrite.
She comes close to being a racist.
Visual Imagery
There is only one example of visual imagery in
this section.
Identify it and analyse it using the formula:
Just as…………………..
So too…………………….
This suggests………………………….
Sentence Structure/ Punctuation
There is another aside in section two.
Comment on what it reveals about the speaker.
On the left are quotations from the poem. On the right are their
The explanations are in the wrong order.
Copy the quotations into you jotter then follow it with the correct
This suggests
‘Her husband’s a bus
driver, so I believe’
The shop belongs to someone from an ethnic minority
‘at Shastri’s for spices and
She assumes he is making good money, almost taking
advantage of his customers.
‘(I always shop there – he’s The speaker has no actual proof of his job, she just assumes
open till all hours’…)
that Asian men tend to do certain jobs.
‘…making good)’
The speaker is happy to shop there because it’s convenient
for her.
Answer the following questions about the second section.
1. How does the language in section two suggest the speaker
jumps to conclusions or makes assumptions without
2. How does the language in section two suggest the speaker is
a hypocrite?
3. How does the language in section two suggest the speaker is
close to being a racist?
4. Show how the sentence structure/punctuation in section
two reveals more about the speaker.
Answer these questions:
1. The alliteration ‘hides but for a hint at the hem’ shows
how the bright colours of the neighbour’s sari have been
covered with a dull checked jacket. This helps us to
understand that the woman’s happiness has been taken
away by her move to Scotland
2. Which alliteration do we find in lines 19?
Quote the words. What is the writer trying to focus our
attention on? Why?
3. Which alliteration do we find in the last line?
Quote the words. What is the writer trying to focus our
The ambiguity comes at the end of the poem when the speaker tells us:
‘this city’s cold climate.’
This has two meanings that are both true but in different ways.
One meaning is literal
One meaning is metaphorical.
(factually true)
(true in a wider, deeper, more thoughtful sort of way)
Explain the literal meaning.
Explain the metaphorical meaning using the formula:
Just as……..
So too……………
In this section of the poem the speaker uses some words with
positive connotations and some with negative connotations.
The words, both positive and negative are about what the Indian
woman looks like.
Negative word choice.
Identify two negative word choices from line 17.
These words tell us how the new environment of
Glasgow affects her and affects the way she looks.
Use a dictionary to look up the two words.
What is suggested about how living in Glasgow is
affecting this Indian neighbour?
Use this formula:
The positive words in this section describe the way the neighbour
choses to look, the way she decides to present herself.
Many of the details are connected to the fact that she still dresses in
the way she would in her home country, rather than blending in with
the Glaswegians around her.
Answer the following questions:
1. Which of the four words in the last five lines of the poem have
particularly positive connotations?
2. There is a connection among three of the words. What is it?
3. What, in particular, do these three words tell us about the way
the speaker feels about her neighbour’s looks?
As best you can, draw a picture of the Indian woman that the
poem describes.
Label the drawing with quotations from the poem.
Use a blue or black pen to write the quotations which give
negative connotations.
Use a red or bright pen to write the quotations which give
positive connotations.
There are three examples of imagery in section three.
One of personification, and two of metaphor.
Identify them and use the formula to analyse them
Just as…………………
So too………………………….
This suggests………………………….
Sentence Structure/ Punctuation
Identify the parenthesis in section three.
What information does it give us.
What effect does it have?
Turning Point
Even though the poem has only two verses, we study it in three sections
because in the second verse there is a TURNING POINT in the poem.
A turning point is the point after which everything is different.
In ‘Local Colour’, the turning point comes in line 14 when the speaker asks:
‘How does she feel?’
Two things change from this turning point.
Firstly, the mood or tone of the poem changes.
Secondly, we start to get a very different, more positive image of the speaker.
Copy the following table and complete it to show how these
things are different before and after the turning point.
What the speaker
seems to be like
Before the turning
After the turning
Mood or tone of
the poem
This is a group task and you will present your answers to
the class as a poster.
Start with a basic spider plan.
For each leg, add details, explanations and quotations to
show how the woman is isolated or why she is isolated.
You can add as many legs as you wish.
Her husband
Her children
The woman is
isolated from
Her neighbours
the city
Her homeland

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