Sample commentary on Kwame Nkrumah Speech AS level-paper-1

Kwame Nkrumah skillfully manifests his rhetorical skills to persuade his country men manipulating varied possibilities and conventions of language. He opens his talk vividly pointing out the ‘means’ to achieve his objective, ‘African unity’ that is compared uni vocally  to ‘political kingdom’. this metaphor and frequent usage of ‘our people’, ‘our own’ and ‘we’ creates a sense of belonging and subsequent unity.

He makes an obvious assault on the ‘western colonial manipulation  of Africa’ when he makes an anaphoric statement, ‘ills of the past’ and the apt metaphor, “the milch cow’ of the western world’. He admonishes his listeners to channelize ‘their resentment’ for the betterment of the nation. By exposing some facts about western economy such as ‘basic economic might of the foreign powers-comes from our continent’ urges Africans to realize their own self worth.

Rhetorical questions with metaphors of the ‘opresser’ ( western colonials) such as ‘what need is there for us to remain hewers of wood and drawers of water for the industrialized world’ aimed at igniting the dormant spirit of Africans. Consecutive direct statements in the second paragraph also serve the purpose.

The speaker shows a clear-cut awareness of the need of the hour and relevant when he says ‘ at the tempo demanded by today’s events and mood of our people’. He also brings out the glaring contradictions in the views and perspectives of the other parts of the world about Africa. He unfolds the per-conceived notions  of non African races and the Western world in particular.Thus the facts and figures in the 3rd and 4th paragraphs would be an eye-opener for Africans to realize their own mammoth potentials.

The repetition ‘we have resources’ boosts listener’s morale. Another idiomatic usage ‘ tackle the by the horn’ persuades his people to rise and act in unison for a common purpose.

He comes up with a realistic and authentic action plan when he says, ‘with capital controlled by our own banks, harnessed to our own true industrial development’ and it advocates the need for self-reliance and self-governess. By using the metaphors of ‘parasite’ and a ‘disease’ which Africans need to ‘get rid of and ‘to cure’. He attacks colonial invasion and subsequent exploitation of western countries.

Moreover, by craft fully using same syntactical patterning at the concluding paragraph to convince, mobilize and unite Africans to a ‘pan African unity’ the speaker succeeded to evoke a sense of clarity in his mission and vision of his country and people at large.









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5 Powerful Writing Techniques That Bring Stories to Life

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commentary writing link to a video

Hi, AS level students, the following websites and blogs would definitely help you to come up with an effective commentary.



Commentary on the passage, “Traveller’s Check

Traveller’s check

The passage below describes the writer’s journey on the North Borneo Railway.

Task: Comment on the style and language of the passage.

Travel, as we know today, had its roots with the appearance of trains. The train opened up the countryside and people could head off for a day’s outing away from the city.

Thomas Cook was the first travel agent who organised groups of travelers to head off into England’s Lake District for some rest and creation. Since, then, we haven’t looked back and now there are few areas on the planet where people haven’t left their mark.

Some of us still seek out a ‘puffin billy’ experience as part of our travels. The North Borneo Railway in Sabah, East Malaysia, is the only rail trunk on the island of Borneo… these few hundred kilometers of track are a paradise for those who dream of trains. There are two choices – the daily train to the small settlement of Temon or the twice-weekly tourist train to Papar. ‘Trainheads’ won’t need any convincing to do both trips at least once.

The renovated North Borneo Railway operates a journey south from Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu along a narrow rickety train line to Papar some 66 kilometres away. Looking around the train, it’s easy to see that some of the passengers fall into the ‘lunatic fringe, fanatical steam train devotees’  category while others appear to have only a passing interest in the nostalgia of a mode of transport that has slipped into near oblivion….the train accommodates 180 passengers in fully renovated colonial-style train carriages… The railway recreates the experience of a bygone era in the land once known as British North Borneo. It’s like a time capsule transporting passengers along what was once the lifeline for people living here.

Sample commentary plan

Writer’s purpose and audience

This is to persuade readers of the attraction of travel on this railway. The audience is the general public and those interested in travel.


Tone is persuasive


Think about ‘head off’, ‘puffin billy’, ‘trainheads’, ‘rickety’. ‘lunatic fringe’, ‘fanatical’, ‘nostalgia’ and ‘oblivion’.

Figures of speech

Think about ‘traveller’s check’, ‘opened up’, ‘paradise’, ‘devotees’, ‘time capsule’. Think also about pun, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, idiom and contrast.


Think about paragraphing.

Sample commentary

The writer’s purpose is to give information about the renovated North Borneo Railway and to persuade readers to try it. The tone is persuasive and relatively light-hearted. The pun in the title establishes light-heartedness: ‘traveller’s check’ is both the possible means of paying one’s way in travel and the link with the information to follow about the railway.

The attraction of train travel is outlined in the opening paragraph; the metaphor of ‘opened up the countryside’ makes train travel attractive by suggesting new discoveries or the revelation of something concealed until now. ‘Head off is light-hearted and gives the idea that travel is relaxing and freedom-giving. The mention of Thomas Cook in the second paragraph gives historical accuracy and therefore credibility to train travel as something tried  and tested.

The idiom ‘puffin billy’ in the third paragraph is informal; the informality gives the passage an easy feel to it, a user-friendly approach. Train travel is for everyone. The metaphor ‘paradise’ to describe the railway in North Borneo makes the countryside through which it passes seem idyllic., the most beautiful place on earth, or even a beauty which transcends earth. The structure of the rest of the paragraph makes it easy to follow the rest of the passage, because the writer outlines the two options for travel on the railway, which then makes it possible to devote a paragraph to one of them. The idiom ‘trainheads’ must mean those who love train travel; again, the informal tone makes train travel seem accessible to ordinary people, and the newness of the idiom makes train travel seem modern and possibly an attraction for the young, who are the kind of people to invent new language or slang.

In the fourth paragraph the vocabulary ‘narrow rickety’ is used to describe the train. Normally, these adjectives would not enhance an overall description, but in this case the train is made to seem attractively old-fashioned, as if the privilege of having such a historical experience makes the discomfort of ‘narrow’ and ‘rickety’ more of a pleasure than a pain. The ’lunatic fringe’, fanatical steam train devotees’ adds a note of humour to the passage; ‘devotees’ raises train travel to an almost religious level which is clearly exaggeration or hyperbole. ‘Lunatic fringe’ is humorous because it suggests that those who like train travel are in some way mentally deranged. Contrast is established when the writer goes on to describe the other, completely different type of travelers (those with only a passing interest):  therefore it can be seen that train travel is for all, and so every reader is included as a possible traveller, adding to the persuasive tone of the passage. The vocabulary captures the history and therefore the credibility of train travel in words such as ‘nostalgia’ and ‘oblivion’ with their connotations of long time scales. A simile describing the train as being ‘like a capsule’ makes the train seem old-fashioned, by suggesting that a trip on it is not only through this part of Malaysia but back through history to a time pre-dating our own modern trains. The metaphor ‘lifeline’ comes from the literal idea of throwing a drowning person a rope with which to be pulled ashore; thus, the vital importance of the railway to people’s way of life is underpinned.



Commentaray on the passage “Birches

The writer of ‘Birches’ uses a simple theme of swinging trees to encapsulate a variety of weighty ideas skimming through his mind; the careless and happy life of children compared to the challenges of adult life; life and death and truth and imagination. The vast use of figures of speech and the personal voice of the poet make this piece of writing effective in bringing across the thoughts and feelings of the poet as well as the contrast between these varies ideas.

Thefirst section of the poem can be described as a ‘battle’ between truth and imagination, the writer knows that it is ice storms that are responsible for the bending of the trees, yet he likes to imagine it is caused by a boy who swings on them. This swinging movement can be seen in the structure of the poem, where the topic seems to shift from the ice storms to the boy, consequently back to the ice storms and so on.

The writer remembers his careless childhood where he used to climb birchesjust for fun. Now as an adult, he sees ‘climbing branches’ as asuperior escape from life’s problems. This idea is conserved in the simile ‘it’s when I’m weary of considerations and life is too much like a pathless wood’. Thanks to this figure of speech, it can be seen the writer is experiencing problems in life, he finds it ‘pathless’ and he is lost not knowing what to do next, yet nostalgia is present; as the writer says he ‘dreams of going back to be’ a child. This is a very personal account, which effectively reveals the feelings of the writer; he misses the past and is quite overwhelmed by the troubles of adulthood.

The metaphor of swinging, as a movement between two contradicting ideas present throughout the whole piece has its climax in the last part of the poem. It is said ‘I’d like…coming back’. He wants to leave Earth by ‘climbing a birch tree’, and be able to rest from his problems, yet he isnot ready to die and wants to be able to return back to Earth after. This is why the birch tree is the perfect ‘vehicle’, it will take him all the way up above Earth, yet then swing him back down when he is ready.  The black branches which he climbs up the snow white trunk may symbolise all the troubles he has to pass in his journey of life on Earth.

The upward movement is away from Earth, the problems, the ‘Truth’ and into the world of tree tops, heaven, imagination, where all Earth’s problems seem small, and the downward movement symbolises reality, coming back to the grey world. This movement between both is present in the whole poem; in the description of the trees bending under ice, the upwards movement – imagination, that the boy is swinging the trees, and the downwards -reality, the ice storms;it is also present in the memory of childhood, the good, carefree times, and the downwards movement when reality brings him back to Earth and reminds him of all his ‘weary considerations’ he faces now as an adult.

The last line of the poem, ‘one could do worse than be a swinger of branches’ justifies his feelings, capturing the message the whole poem is trying to bring across – that it is nothing bad to imagine, to wear off into the world of dreams and good memories, and that sometimes that is the only escape we have from our current problems and worries.

595 words