‘AO2: If only papa hadn’t danced’- Zarah Kazmi


This is an extract taken from a story, “if only papa hadn’t danced”, written by Patricia McCormick.it is a narrative short story written in the 1st persons point of view. The point of view is of a young girl who is leaving her country with her parents because the country is no longer safe for the family to live there. The main theme of the extract is “freedom”, with other sub-themes such as family’s love, discrimination and hope. The two main purposes of the extract were, firstly to entertain and secondly to make the audience aware of the feeling of being free and content. The audience; however, can be considered as anyone who is interested in reading fiction


The tone of the passage was very suspenseful as the audience was not aware of what will happen next. By including words and phrases like, “he didn’t say a word…” “Papa’s mat was empty”, the author really makes the audience wait for the next scene, which is usually thrilling. The author deals with one major theme that is ‘freedom’ and how desperate the family was to get it. “Mama crawled…kissed the man’s boots.” “I saw papa dance”. These phrases show that they would do anything to get freedom and once they got it, they were elated. Other sub themes such as family’s love, discrimination, are also a part of the extract. When papa begs the man in orange jumpsuit by saying, “take me… spare the woman and the girl”, it shows how much he cared for the family and loved them dearly.  By saying, “I want you to be the first one in our family to taste freedom”, Papa shows his love for his daughter as he wanted her to enjoy freedom first as she was the youngest in the family. Elements of discrimination are seen when we are introduced to the unjust ruler who “robbed the poor and made himself rich”


The author has adopted a semi formal style of writing by using rich vocabulary, “invincible”, “unyielding”, “piteously”. Dialogues are also a part of the story when the family is having conversation among themselves or with the man in the orange jumpsuit. Elements of sadness also occur right in the starting when mama exclaim by saying, “this is our homeland”, “and no one wants her over there”. This shows how sad and distressed she was to leave her homeland. The author has also included several symbols for example; Papa, himself, symbolizes strength and courage, Papa’s dance symbolizes happiness, joy and a sense of freedom and eventually the setting sun symbolizes the new found freedom the family attained.


The punctuation consisted of ellipses and dashes (“surely our luck wouldn’t hold again…I watch him disappear”, “jumpsuit-had mended with links”).  They contribute by adding suspense and emphasis in the passage. This passage includes short paragraphs (“mama knelt in the shallows…cover her tears”) as well as long ones (“then we got down…tight with wire”). By doing this, the author creates diversity in the passage and makes it more informal. The sentence structure contains all three types of sentences; simple, compound and complex. (“this is our homeland”),(“papa came over and said I was needed”),(“in a fence when a thorn bush grew”)


Figurative language is also a part of the passage. Author has used similes such as “uncoiled like a snake”, hyperbole  such as “seemed like a lifetime until he returned” and metaphor such as “horizon was edged with pink”. These provide the audience with a vivid description of the passage. Imagery is used when the daughter is describing the fence, the border, the man (“it was that I saw… pistol in his back”). This also gives us vivid description. Visuals of  a crocodile and the border also a part of the extract.


The feelings of all the characters are similar. They are sad to leave their homeland, “you will miss it”, but also happy to taste freedom. The author has cleverly used all these elements to tell us what freedom feels like. After reading the passage one knows what it is like to be independent with no restrictions, worries or boundaries.

About froebelianwriters

I am an English Language teacher teaching O'Levels Edexcel and CIE A Levels at Froebel's International School, Islamabad. I am also working as a Subject Specialist Literacy consultant for the same school. Writing and reading has always been a passion and I try my utmost to instill these habits and hobbies in my students as well. I can be reached/contacted at fabbas227@hotmail.com or 03365287335 Happy reading!

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