Working with the extract

24th September 2004 at 01:00
This is a very moving and emotional piece of autobiographical writing in which we learn a lot about the central character, Sean, and about the writer and his wife.

It is a very well structured and crafted narrative which, despite the death of Sean, manages to be life-enhancing and positive and contain humour. The story opens very simply and effectively and the death is a fact before the reader has quite worked out who Sean is.

Descriptive touches like the blackbird's requiem and the toy soldier image powerfully create an atmosphere of reverence and solemnity.

The writer then takes time to tell the reader about Sean, starting with a potted biography summarising his unusual life. Sean's relationship with the writer and his wife is charted from second father to co-worker on the Farms for City Children (for which his way of life was the inspiration), to grandfather and closest friend.

Sean was a man who inspired respect, admiration and love. The anecdote about his foretelling of his death shows a sense of humour too. Including two of Sean's poems further enhances the reader's understanding of Sean.

The piece ends almost as it starts with a bird standing watch over the death.

This is an excellent example of autobiographical writing. Read and discuss how the writer achieves this.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today