O’Levels English Literature Tuition 2065 – How We Live Now

Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in English) 2262 Elective Literature/SS 

 ‘How We Live Now’  is a chosen text for students taking O’Levels Literature in English (Syllabus 2065). It is a MOE Cambridge O-Level text for students taking exams from year beginning 2024. 

This book is a compilation of Short Stories by Writers in Singapore, revolving around issues, themes concerning Singaporean settings and daily living on our sunny shores. 

Close to Home By Jinny Koh

An excerpt

Plot Summary:

Told from the first person perspective of Nicky, readers are given a first hand recount of the narrator’s experience of being sent to live with a neighbourhood Aunty as his mother who is suffering from cancer could no longer take care of him for the moment. 


During the short stay, Nicky discovers Aunty Loh’s past and current struggles, from an estranged husband to her own daughter suffering a miscarriage. On a fateful day, Aunty Loh’s flat caught fire. After the fire, Aunty Loh sold her flat and disappeared from Nicky’s life. 



Nicky the Narrator Aunty Loh Nicky’s mother
Nicky’s Father  Aunty Loh’s Daughter Peifen  Aunty Loh’s husband Uncle Loh

Points to note for this short story:

Relationships: Nicky and Mother

What is the relationship between Nicky and his mother like? Does Nicky openly express his views and feelings to his mother? Does he have love and affection for his mother? Why does he fear that ‘each time her eyes closed, they might never open again.’ (Pg 27) How was he like when he was preparing Mother’s Day card and why was he “embarrassed” by his own card? Do you think he yearns for her mother while being separated from her? How was that revealed? Was it through his actions such as how he often ‘peer(s) outside Aunty Loh’s window at the common corridor’ with the hope of ‘(catching) a glimpse of (his) mother’. 

Relationships: Nicky and Aunty Loh

How would you describe Nicky’s connection with Aunty Loh? Did his opinions of her changed over time or was it always the same from beginning to end. Do you recall how Aunty Loh greeted Nicky when he arrived (see page 24 of the text) what did she say? What does that tell about her attitude? Similarly, was Nicky acting the same way to Aunty Loh from the beginning of his stay at Aunty Loh’s house to the end? Many interactions between them shows how their relationships evolved, for instance, Nicky helping to thread the needle for Aunty Loh when sewing the pillow for Peifen’s baby. We witness how she taught Nicky how to thread the needle and Nicky helping to clear up the sewing materials when Aunty Loh dozed off. (see page 32 of the text).  


Preparing for Exams:

Possible Question:

How does the writer make Aunty Loh an likeable / affable character?

Characters bring the readers on the journey. Writers often capture the interests of readers by creating relatable, likeable characters.

In the short story, ‘Close to Home, Aunty Loh is presented to be someone relatable that quickly captures readers’ hearts.

Here’s a quick questions-checklist that you can use to see if writer manages to make you like her.

1) Is Aunty Loh relatable? Most of us reader prefer characters that are interesting and relatable.

2) Is Aunty Loh’s behaviour, antics funny? 

3) What makes Aunty Loh stand out?

4) Does Aunty Loh have sympathy? 

5) Did Aunty Loh encounter some personal setbacks?

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An Inspector Calls Literature Notes 

The Inspector Calls by JB Priestly is an arguably most fascinating play that is most commonly taught and in Singapore secondary schools. In this series of “Like Lit or Not?” we have consolidated some character traits with quotations. These are quality and useful notes for students who are currently reading this book as part of IB Language Literature syllabus or their lower secondary literature. These notes are completely free and if you are still struggling with English or English Literature, reach out to our team of current and ex MOE tutors for tuition. 

What is the play about?

“An Inspector Calls” is a play written by J.B. Priestley, first performed in 1945. The play is set in 1912 and follows the Birling family, a wealthy and privileged family living in England. The family is celebrating the engagement of their daughter, Sheila, to a wealthy businessman named Gerald Croft, when an unexpected visitor arrives – an Inspector who is investigating the suicide of a young woman named Eva Smith/Daisy Renton. Through the series of interrogations by Inspector Goole, the audience witness how the family members slowly reveals their various roles in the woman’s death, as each character is forced to confront their own culpability in the tragedy.

What are the themes? 

The play explores the following themes 

  1. Social responsibility
  2. Class
  3. Morality

An Inspector Calls is scathing in its criticism of middle-class hypocrisy. The play gives voice to Priestley’s strong socialist principles, and carries a clear moral message, stressing the importance of social responsibility: ‘We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other’. The play raises questions about the interconnectedness of all human beings and the impact of our actions on others.


Who are the characters?

The central characters in the play are members of the Birling family and Inspector Goole. 

  1. Arthur Birling – the patriarch of the Birling family in “An Inspector Calls,”  He is a wealthy and successful businessman who values profit and social status above all else. As such, he represents the values of capitalism, individualism, and self-interest. Character Traits:  He is a proud and arrogant man who is focused on maintaining his social status and power. We can see this in his opening speech, where he suggests that “a man has to make his own way – has to look after himself – and his family too, of course.” From this, we can see the self-serving attitudes of the wealthy and powerful people in the society.
  2. Sybil Birling – Arthur’s wife and a member of the local Women’s Charity Organization. She bears testimony to the hypocrisy and class prejudice of the wealthy upper class in England. Character Traits: She is hypocritical and lacks empathy. We can see this when she says ‘I’m sorry she should have come to such a horrible end. But I accept no blame for it at all.’  Mrs Sybil Birling considers herself a champion of social justice and charity yet her attitudes towards those she deems beneath her, as well as her refusal to accept responsibility for her role in Eva/Daisy’s death, highlight her lack of genuine concern for others. 


  3. Sheila Birling – The daughter of Arthur and Sybil, and engaged to Gerald Croft. Sheila has a complex and dynamic character arc. Unlike her parents, she is a character that experiences growth and change throughout the play. She is initially portrayed as somewhat frivolous and shallow, but comes to show a greater sense of empathy and social responsibility as the play progresses.  Character traits:  Materialistic and Superficial  We witness how Sheila Birling is materialistic in Act 1 when the Birlings are celebrating Sheila’s engagement. 

    Sheila: (who has put the ring on, admiringly) I think it’s perfect. Now I really feel engaged.

    Sheila’s desire for material possession and her need to have the ring in order to feel engaged shows that she is rather materialistic. 

    However, we witness how Sheila changes throughout the play. Initially, she doesn’t take the investigation seriously and assumes that her family’s social status will protect them from any consequences. But as the play progresses, when the Inspector reveals that Eva/Daisy was a factory worker, Sheila is shocked and says, “But these girls aren’t cheap labor – they’re people.” This shows her growth in the course of the play as Sheila begins to recognise her own complicity in Eva/Daisy’s death and starts to take responsibility for her actions. 

  4. Eric Birling – The alcoholic son of Arthur and Sybil, who is portrayed as a troubled and insecure young man who steals from his family and hits the bottle to numb himself from life realities Character Traits: Eric is initially portrayed as irresponsible and immature, often turning to alcohol to cope with his family’s issues. He is also shown to be apathetic towards the struggles of the working class, as evidenced by his flippant attitude towards Eva Smith’s death. However, as the play progresses, Eric begins to take responsibility for his actions and express remorse for his mistakes. He acknowledges his role in Eva’s death and admits that he needs to change his ways, stating “We’ll have to start all over again, getting to know each other” (Act 3). 
  5. Gerald Croft – Sheila’s fiancé and the son of a wealthy businessman. At the start of the play, he is described to be “an attractive chap about thirty … very much the easy well-bred young-man-about-town.” Character Traits: As the play progresses, we see how he is actually an unfaithful man who cheats on Sybil Birling and toys with the feelings of Daisy Renton/Eva Smith. He manipulated the feelings of Eva and not only did he not love her as he confessed to not ‘feeling about her as she felt about’ him. He even tries to defend himself by saying that he made a mistake just like ‘nearly any man would have done.’
  6. Inspector Goole –  A highly enigmatic figure whose name rhymes with Ghoul. He arrives at the Birling house unannounced and starts to investigate the death of Eva/Daisy. He represents a force of morality and justice, and his questioning of the characters ultimately exposes their various roles in the tragedy. Throughout the play, the Inspector’s identity and purpose remain ambiguous. Was he a supernatural figure that represents the spirit of divine justice? Others have argued that he is a metaphor for Priestley’s own socialist beliefs, which emphasize the interconnectedness of all people and the need for collective responsibility.


Hope these notes are useful to students are are preparing for their literature exams or IGCSE, IB individual oral commentary (IOC).

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For 2065 LITERATURE IN ENGLISH GCE ORDINARY LEVEL SYLLABUS, two papers of equal weightage both 50%, will be set (Papers 2065/01 and 2065/02). Candidates are expected to answer a total of four questions. 

Paper 1: Prose and Unseen Poetry Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes

Details of Paper and Sections: 

Section A:

Prose [25%] • For each of the six set texts in this section, one passage based question and two essay questions will be set. • Candidates will answer one question [25%] based on one of the six set texts. • For every year of examination, one or two Singapore texts will be set.



Section B: Unseen Poetry [25%] • There are no set texts in this section. • There will be a choice of two unseen poems with one question set on each poem.

Candidates will answer one of the two questions [25%]. 

For every year of examination, one question will be set on a Singapore text.

Paper 2: Drama    Duration: 1 hour 30 mins

Candidates will read one text from any of the five set texts.

• For each of the five set texts, one passage-based question and two essay questions will be set. •

Candidates will answer one compulsory passage-based question and one essay question on the selected text. • Each question is 25% of the total weighting. • For every year of examination, one or two Singapore texts will be set.


‘O’ Level Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in English) (Syllabus 2274/02) & ‘N’ Level Humanities (Social Studies, Literature in English) (Syllabus 2177/02)


The prescribed text for Elective Literature as follows:

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