Seconda prova

esame di stato 2005

Liceo linguistico – inglese


1. When the poet dreams of her grandmother and great grandmother she imagines them walking down rocky paths towards her. They are strong Italian women returning from fields where they have worked all day, graceful in their movements and carrying terra cotta jugs of water on their heads.
She pictures the women against the backdrop of the steep mountains where their farms are built like steps on the slopes.
She also knows something from a few pictures her mother has shown her of her grandmother standing in the doorway of the fieldstone house in San Mauro, and from stories her mother has told her of them.
However she feels that she knows the women most of all through watching her mother in her everyday work, washing clothes, admiring her canned peaches in the cellar and working happily in her bountiful garden. She can see the women in her mother.
She has also started to see her mother and the memory of the women who went before her in her daughter’s energy, quick mind and open hands. The image of her daughter evokes the image of her mother walking towards her and all the other women behind her.

2. She knows the women most of all from watching her own mother. Her mother’s movements, expressions and gestures bring to mind the work of the women who had gone before her for generations. She sees them in her mother’s strong arms as she lifts the washing from the traditional wringer washer with cold water. She sees them in her mother’s characteristic way of stepping back as she wipes her hands on the apron she has made herself from a flour sack in the act of admiring the jars of tinned fruit she has put away after the summer like generations of women before her.
Her mother’s behaviour also tells her about how the other women probably behaved. She is happy as she works in the house or in the garden growing vegetables, and gives away a part of everything she makes and grows. Her mother’s words also tell her something of the other women. Her mother remarks on the miracle of life where hardship in a community is overcome by sharing and generosity, by giving freely and finding that miraculously there is still enough for you. She believes in this miracle thet more she gives away from her garden the more abundantly the food grows.
Her mother also reveals to her that the greatest treasure a woman can have is her own daughter, and this tells her about the strength that women pass down to each other through the generations.
Thus we have a picture of the women sharing and helping each other and passing this knowledge on to their daughters.

3. “… that spilled its bounty into her arms.”
The writer associates her mother with the idea of abundance, of good things and food. It seems to the writer in her mind’s eye that the garden was so fertile and abundant with vegetables and fruit that it literally spilled its products into her mother’s strong arms which stretched out to gather them.

4. “the more I gave away, the more I had to give”
Her mother has discovered the secret, the miracle whereby when we give to others we are not poorer but richer. We do not take away from ourselves but find that our actions have the effect of enriching us. Her mother believes that through giving, through generosity, she has opened some channel which makes it possible for her to give more and more.

5. Now the poet has begun to see her mother in her daughter. She sees her in her daughter’s unending energy, in her quick mind and in her open hands, stretched out towards the world. She sees her daughter laughing and happy as she works in the house the way her mother used to do. It is her daughter’s body language which reminds her of her mother, in the same way that her mother’s body language reminded her of her grandmother and great grandmother. When her daughter turns towards her smiling, she sees her mother and all the women of the village behind her.

6. The poet and her daughter now live in the United States and her own mother moved away from her traditional village in 1936. There has been an interruption of continuity, a breaking of old patterns and traditions, an end to a certain network and community and yet the poem tells us how it has been possible for the poet to find continuity. Through everyday gestures, words and movements, through the repeating of age old universal tasks the poet finds herself drawn in to a uninterrupted line of women who have given each other strength, smiled with each other and worked together through adversity. She stands between her mother and her daughter, she is a part, part of a history and a culture which she has been capable of transmitting to her daughter and who now reveals it back to her.
The words which finish with the image of women dressed in black, the traditional dress of women whose husbands and men folk have died and who have no other resources than themselves emphasises the images of the poem. There is a world of women, women without men, who help themselves and sustain each other, and even if this women’s story has not been written, it is everywhere around us in words, expressions and gestures.

7. Throughout the poem the poet has used positive, vibrant language to communicate her feelings about her Italian mother and her daughter and these are the two people who connect her to all the Italian women who were her ancestors. These women are graceful in their movements, carrying water, walking back from the fields, they smile and laugh as they gather the fruits of their labour in bountiful gardens and give generously with open outstretched hands. The poet feels privileged to be part of this line, this tradition of strong, graceful, generous women with quick smiles and open hearts.
One important feeling we perceive is the sense of continuity inherent in the repeated image of the long line of women stretching out. This continuity somehow repairs the pain and loss which are implicit in being uprooted from familiar surroundings, familiar faces, traditions and community.

8. Images and language which depict rural life in the South of Italy last century:
– “returning at dusk from fields where they worked all day”, following the rhythms of natural light, working long hours
– “farms built like steps up the sides of steep mountains”, the typical architecture of rural communities which follows the contours of the land
– “graceful women carrying water in terra cotta jugs on their heads”, the water has to be carried home from afar, the jugs are terra cotta, hand-made in the village, the women carry them on their heads to leave their hands free for other work.
– “lifting sheets out of cold water in the wringer washer”, washing in cold water, wringing the sheets mechanically
– “wiping her hands on her homemade flour sack apron”, the habit persists of recycling everything possible for new uses
– “down crooked muntain paths”, there were no roads, no asphalt. The women used paths winding up and down the hill-sides to reach the fields and go from village to village.
– “all those women dressed in black”, the women who have lost their menfolk wear black as a sign of mourning and respect.

SUMMARIZE the content of the poem.
The poem begins with an image which takes us back to the past and the poet’s ancestors returning home from a day’s work in a Southern Italian landscape. The poet immediately gives us a clue to the sentiment of the poem with the word “strong” which stands out detached from the rest of the sentence. We will understand how these women and being a part of their tradition, has given the poet strength.
The poet goes on to tell us that in a formal sense she knows little of these women and in these lines there is a trace of the sadness and grief that could be caused by living in a place which is not the place of our ancestors. Here she mentions the tangible records, a few pictures and her mother’s stories.
The rest of the poem goes on to celebrate the fact that even though the poet lives in a different place and has few records of her ancestors, she finds herself surrounded with their gestures, expressions and fanmiliar tasks through her everyday life with her mother.
From here the poet develops the idea that it is not only her mother who reflects images of her ancestors but her own daughter. This places the poet inside a tradition, an uninterrupted line, and heals the break, the discontinuity which she felt with the past.
The poet connects her mother and her daughter through her mother’s words as she lay dying when she tells her that her daughter is the only treasure she will ever need. The “treasure” is also a metaphor for memory, tradition, a kind of “dowry”, and the complex richness of traditions continuing. Her daughter is a living memory
The poem finishes with the poet’s daughter turning towards her. The poet turns and her movement is echoed in her daughter’s turning (continuity) and at the same time the poet sees her mother walk towards her and all those women who she never knew, behind her. The poet and her daughter are temporarily transported to the place of their ancestors and the line has become complete.


1. The passage discusses the insight into the real life of spies and their world offered by the release of secret documents and photographs by the UK intelligence service MI5.

2. Ian Fleming spent World War II in naval intelligence, at a desk.

3. World War II experiences were important for Fleming as a writer because they inspired him to create many of 007’s finest adventures. Ideas contained in documents which have now been declassified and which Fleming had on his desk during the war inspired him to use the idea of human torpedo missions in the film Thund’erball in 1965. At the time Fleming saw the Italian secret plan for the mission in Gibralter he was still only a fledgling writer.

4. The declassified secret documents contain details of the secret war to defend Gibralter. These descriptions of “brilliant impersonators, femme-fatale agents and exploding fountain pens” show how an Italian plan inspired Ian Fleming to write Thund’erball which was one of the earliest James Bond films.

5. “the Rock” refers to the Rock of Gibralter, Gibralter itself.

6. The Security Intelligence Department fought to defend the British colony during the war. They managed to deter the Germans and Spanish but the Italians were harder to crack because they had a flotilla of frogmen, underwater divers, who succesfully hit 14 merchant vessels in three years.
These frogmen used special torpedoes to travel close up to their target from submarines or from the beach. When they reached their target they could leave their explosive devices and use the torpedo to travel back to the Spanish shore. Here they would strip off their wetsuits and wait to be picked up.
This team of frogmen had become so confident that they had adapted an abandoned tanker, the Olterra, and created flood chambers inside it from which they could launch their human torpedo missions.

7. “The idea” in line 31 refers to the audacious Italian strategy of using human torpedo missions launched from an adapted tanker. This idea inspired Ian Fleming with ideas for his films. In Thund’erball Sean Connery makes his entrance with a jetpack and in the film Spectre the villain of the film uses underwater doors and human torpedoes to smuggle nuclear weapons away from his luxury yacht which is named Disco Volante.

8. The “Queen of Hearts” was a key double agent used by the British in their fight to defend Gibralter. She was in her 30’s and although her clothes, body language and overall appearance were quite disreputable she still manages to be quite attractive and seductive. When interrogated she is calm and slowly smokes a cigarette while crossing her legs and looking down her long nose at the person facing her. Then she smiles and introduces herself with a forthright question; “Who are you?”

9. The journalist uses the word “unfortunately” because the British were initially baffled by the Italian attacks and it almost seemed that they would win out. The journalist means “unfortunately” from the Italian point of view. The MI5 ran a “stable” of double agents during World War II which is still considered to be an outstanding example of how such operations should be run. One of these agents was a woman known as the Queen of Hearts. It was she who gave the British a tip off linking the frogmen to Spanish authorities and a villa on the mainland. The whole story soon became clear. The grand Italian plan was to hit the British Royal Navy very hard in the winter of 1942.
There would be six men involved in the attack using three torpedoes. Each torpedo would carry two men. Three vessels had been targeted; HMS Nelson which was a battleship, and two aircraft carriers, HMS Furious and Formidable.
However the grand plan failed. Two of the torpedoes did not function properly and had to be repaired. These were picked up by naval gunners as they set out for their destination a second time. Of the six frogmen five died in the ensuing fire and depth charges.
The one surviving frogman escaped by diving his torpedo early which meant that he could not successfully complete his mission.
The British fleet was safe from attack even though they did not discover the real role of the Olterra until much later.

SUMMARIZE the content of the passage.

The passage recounts how MI5 documents and photographs have been declassified and are no longer secret. As the passage narrates the intriguing war of nerves and intelligence between British and Italian forces it also takes a more lighthearted look at the way details of the story happened to come to the notice of Ian Fleming, the famous creator of James Bond. We discover how real life elements from the world of spies and intelligence found their way into the popular 007 films, notably Thund’erball.
During the war Gibralter was not directly attacked. However the Germans, Spanish and Italians all wanted to win the colony of Gibralter from the British.
The Security Intelligence Department which had the task of defending British interests was led by David Scherr and it is his personal history which has been declassified after 60 years and provides us with such a fascinating account. Gibralter was at the centre of a classic world of spies, double agents and informers.But while the British managed to ward of 70 attacks in four years by German and Spanish, the Italians were more difficult to control.
The Italians had ingenious human torpedoes, missiles piloted by frogmen belonging to the Tenth Flotilla MAS, and managed to hit 14 merchant vessels in three years.
The frogmen travelled to within 80 or 100 yards of their target on the water’s surface and then submerged. They could leave their explosive devices on the target and quickly get away using the torpedoes to return to the Spanish shore and await pick up. The flotilla was so audacious that it had adapted a 5,000 tonne tanker and created flood chambers from which they could launch their missions.
Ian Fleming was based in Naval Intelligence throughout World War II and this information found its way to his desk. He was so impressed with the audacity of the plan that he used it in Thund’erball – the well known film in which Sean Connery makes a jetpack entrance. He also used the idea of underwater doors and human torpedoes in Spectre when the villain smuggles nuclear weapons away from his luxury yacht Disco Volante.
In thee real war the British were having difficulty understanding the attacks but thanks to their excellent stable of double agents they were able to outwit the Italians. One of their key agents was a woman known as the Queen of Hearts who managed to be seedy and seductive at the same time and her description by David Scherr brings to mind a typical Bond girl. It was the Queen who tipped the British off about the frogmen and linked them to Spanish authorities and a villa on the mainland.
The Italian grand plan to bomb three vessels on one night using six men and three torpedoes failed. Two of the torpedoes malfunctioned and had to be hastily repaired. As they set out a second time for their targets they were picked up by naval gunners. Five of the six frogmen died in the ensuing battle. A sixth frogman abandoned hopes of reaching his target by diving his torpedo early in order to escape.
The British fleet was safe drom attack even though the true role of the Olterra tanker would only come to light later.