English Literature Free Notes – How We Live Now



One of the first stories that students will encounter in ‘How We Live Now’ is Painting the Tiger by Phillip Jeyaretnam. This is a literature text available for students taking G3 Humanities (Social Studies / Literature) or Pure Literature.For free notes on other stories in How We Live Now, do check out or ‘How We Live Now’ Free Literature Resource Page.


Writer’s Technique: Use of Symbolism: Why do writers like Jeyaretnam use symbolism? 

Reason Writer’s Intention
1. Enhancing Depth and Complexity Writers use symbolism to add layers of meaning to their stories, allowing readers to interpret the text on multiple levels and uncover deeper insights into characters, themes, and plot developments.
2. Conveying Themes and Ideas Symbolism helps writers convey abstract concepts, themes, or ideas in a more concrete and tangible way, making complex or intangible concepts more accessible and relatable to readers.
3. Evoking Emotions and Atmosphere By using symbols that evoke specific emotions, writers can create a rich and immersive reading experience, drawing readers into the world of the story and eliciting emotional responses that enhance engagement and resonance.

Introduction to Symbolism in the story 

  1. The Tiger
    In the story, the author invests the symbol of the tiger with multiple layers of meaning. The tiger is a national and historical symbol in itself. At the same time, it also serves as an ecological symbol, representing some of the most admirable qualities of environment/ nature (theme within the text)

Painting the Tiger – What is the significance of the title? 

In the story, we witness protagonist Ah Leong first appreciated “the impression of power and freedom that he got from its size, its arrogant gait and muscled torso” (p. 16) of the tiger, but it was not only such physical attributes that earned his fascination but its behaviour and character: “it was in the end the tiger’s patience in the hunt, its slow stalk and final pounce, that he most admired” (p. 16). Given such admirable qualities, a key concern that Ah Leong struggles with is how to do justice to the animal through his art. (Source: How We Live Now)

To get a better understanding of the motivations behind the text, it is important for students to understand stylistic devices such as symbolism. Keen to improve your English or English Literature? Seek professional help today. We have a strong team of English teachers (current or ex-MOE teachers) who can help you. Get a English or English Literature tutor now. 

Looking for more free notes? Check out our free english oral notes and learn how to score distinctions for English Oral. 




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Learning Space