“The Winter Oak” and “The Pieces of Silver” are both set within a school and both of the boys come from poor backgrounds. Some of the ideas in the stories are similar. Both refer to the teacher learning a lesson, or a system which the teachers uphold is challenged or defeated by the boys. However these ideas end in slightly different ways. In “The Winter Oak” Anna realises her mistake and sees fault in the system she upholds and teaches. Whereas in “The Pieces of Silver”, Clement gets his own back on the teacher (Mr. Chase), but the system still exists.
To understand what the ‘system' is one must understand the background and the setting to both of the stories. “The Winter Oak” is set in Communist Russia, with Stalin as dictator. Life is run in such a way that individuality isn't accepted. Therefore in the school system individuality is frowned upon. At the beginning of the story Anna Vasilevna upholds this way of life. This is why when the children call out nouns in the classroom she doesn't really care what these words mean to the children. Anna is only bothered whether these words are nouns or not. This is why when Savushkin calls out something a little different, “Winter Oak”, she does not understand the significance of the word for Savushkin. This is because she has not yet seen the “magnanimous, guardian of the forest”. However, in the end she begins to see thinks differently.
“The Pieces of Silver” is set in Barbados during the Colonial Period. This is of much significance as it means that the teachers are probably white. Thus, they are upholding the British education system in an area where people who do not need to be able to “recite Shakespeare” off by heart. Mr. Chase is, in my opinion an extreme caricature of this system. If Chase does represent the ‘system', then when Clement gets his revenge on Chase for his humiliation, this can be seen as a challenge to the system.
[...] How do Sealy and Nagibin suggest to you that the schools in these stories are out of touch with the needs of their pupils? “The Winter Oak” and “The Pieces of Silver” are both set within a school and both of the boys come from poor backgrounds. Some of the ideas in the stories are similar. Both refer to the teacher learning a lesson, or a system which the teachers uphold is challenged or defeated by the boys. However these ideas end in slightly different ways. [...]
[...] All that happens in the end of “The Pieces of Silver” is that he gets a bit of a shock when Savushkin comes up with the money for all of his fellow pupils as well as for himself. The act of selflessness of Clement to help his fellow pupils out of being humiliated is a contrast to Chase. Chase and the teachers are forcing charity out of the pupils to give money to the retiring head Mr. Megahey who doesn't even need the money. [...]
[...] In “The Pieces of Silver” this is done by showing military methods, lack of knowledge and the wrong attitudes and methods of the teachers. In “The Winter Oak” the teacher Anna Vasilevna learns that she has been teaching wrong all these years, never to judge a book by its cover, that she still has much to learn and that individualism isn't a bad thing. The writers Sealy and Nagibin both suggest in their stories that the teachers are out of touch with the needs of their pupils. [...]
[...] Through the prayers and the military style school Sealy is showing us that the boys are forced into it. In later life these traditions will be useless to them and thus they are a waste of time for them now. The school isn't catering for the needs of their pupils; and so is out of touch with the pupils. The school is also raising money for their retiring headmaster. However the children are bullied into giving money to the fund. [...]
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