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The most overlooked aspect of English is probably the actual reading of your English novel. Shockingly, there are some students who believe that they can still do well in English without reading their texts – but that’s a topic for another blog post. Since VCE is about strategy, you should think about how you can maximise your learning while minimising the time spent reading. Some students only read their text once, while others read up to 5 or 6 times! For some one reading may be sufficient but in most circumstances it is definitely not enough. Conversely, reading more than 5 times might be a bit excessive. After asking ex-VCE students who have excelled in English, the overall consensus is that you should read your text 3 times before the English exam. Here’s why:
Reading 1 : The first reading should be done in the holidays prior to your school year. Yes, it is during the holidays but you will be thankful you started early when you’re in the middle of numerous SACs, assignments and homework during the year. You should take your time with the first reading in order to let the information soak in. Focus on exposing yourself to the characters and themes. Since many essay topics are based on characters or themes, this will help you foresee the types of prompts you’ll be asked. If it is a more difficult text to understand (such as Shakespeare), rather than pushing through your reading and trying to understand the plot, have a look at study guides first in order to gain a better understanding from the outset.
Reading 2 : This should be done while you are studying your text at school. Using the new information taught in class (such as character, theme, context and metalanguage analysis), a second reading will help you build on the knowledge from your first reading. During the reading, you should start to take note of key passages and draw out important quotes. This will set you up for the SAC and mean that you have read your text twice before your SAC.
Reading 3 : Your third and final reading is to be completed before your English exam. An ideal time is the term 3 holidays. Since it may have been a while since you studied the text, the third reading is crucial for knowledge consolidation. You should watch out for things that you missed during first two readings – usually small pieces of information that are unique and when used in essays, will separate you from other students. These include: not-so-popular quotes, passages that haven’t been discussed in class, fleeting descriptions of characters etc. Remember that the best essays involve interesting and original discussion of the text.
Reading 1 : Initial exposure to the text and an idea of what prompts may be asked in SACs and the English exam.
Reading 2 : Essential for identifying key details for SAC preparation.
Reading 3 : Vital for consolidation prior to the English exam and finding information that will distinguish yourself from other students.
So with this in mind, figure out how you will approach your readings throughout the year, and most importantly – get started early!
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- Written in 1945 by George Orwell, Animal Farm is an allegorical novella about the 1917 Russian Revolution and the repressive Stalinist period which followed.
- As a democratic socialist, Orwell was an adamant critic of Joseph Stalin and his totalitarian dictatorship over Russia.
- Thus, Orwell wrote Animal Farm as a satirical fable against Stalin’s tyrannical control, stating that he wrote it with the intention of ‘fusing political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole’.
- The novella is set in Manor Farm, located in Willingdon, England at an undisclosed time.
- As the events of Animal Farm symbolise the power struggle of early 20th century Russia, this ambiguity of time is intended to prevent Orwell’s warning against repressive tyranny from becoming dated.
- Orwell’s use of a farm as the main setting is also notable, as farms represent nations in Animal Farm; both require a vast amount of work in order to function properly. Thus, the act of the animals cooperating to cast the humans out of the farm symbolises a workers’ revolution against their oppressive leadership.
Main Character Analysis:
- Based on Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, he emerges as the leader of the Farm after the Rebellion.
- He consolidates his control over the farm with the violent force of his nine attack dogs, having raised them as puppies; these directly symbolise Stalin’s military force.
- He never contributes to other animals’ efforts at revolution, as he is only a corrupt individual who seeks to take advantage of opportunities created for him by others.
- Based on Soviet rebel Leon Trotsky, he challenges Napoleon for control of the Farm after he takes control of the leadership.
- Similar to the leader he is modelled after, Snowball is eloquent, charismatic, intelligent and persuasive - thus, he wins the loyalty and support of other animals easily.
- Extremely devoted to the farm and the Rebellion, Boxer symbolises what Orwell believed to be the best qualities of the proletariat, or the exploited working class, such as loyalty, strength, camaraderie and hard work, perceivable by his personal motto of ‘I will work harder’.
- However, he simultaneously suffers from typical weakness of the working class, such as a naive trust in the intelligentsia and a slow-witted oblivion to political corruption, represented by his other motto of ‘Napoleon is always right’.
- Manipulative and highly persuasive, he spreads Napoleon’s propaganda throughout the farm to intimidate uneducated animals into supporting Napoleon’s ideas and policies.
- Orwell uses the character of Squealer to warn against politicians’ deliberate manipulation of mass media in order to gain social and political control.
Old Major (boar):
- Based on the socialist revolutionary Karl Marx, as well as Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin, Old Major’s dream of a socialist utopia acts as a major motive for the Rebellion.
- Major’s death creates a political vacuum in the farm, leaving Napoleon and Snowball in a power struggle for control of his followers.
Themes and Motifs:
- By allegorising in Napoleon dictator Joseph Stalin, Animal Farm is first and foremost a satirical critique of politicians’ tyrannical misuse of power.
- This is epitomised by the deceitful methods Napoleon uses to gain support, such as lying to the other animals that Snowball is a political traitor in order to banish him from the Farm.
- Animal Farm explores the need for the working class to be educated, as the inability of the farm animals to question Napoleon’s authority directly leads to the perpetuation of his oppression.
- Thus, Orwell presents to his readership that the working class may suffer not only due to dictators’ abuse of power, but also from their own naive unwillingness to question the intentions of the authority.
- Orwell accurately exhibits treacherous aspects of the human condition in his portrayal of dramatised relationships between humans and animals.
- Just as the pig rulers of the rebellion eventually betray their own idealistic visions, the theme of alliance is shattered between Frederick and Napoleon when the latter learns that the former has been forging banknotes while buying firewood from him.
- Thus, Animal Farm depicts the idea that alliances formed in a tyrannical dictatorship are merely veneers of camaraderie, which hide each person’s capability to destroy others in their path towards control.
Analysis of Quotes:
‘Four legs good, two legs bad.’
- From Chapter 3, this slogan is based off of Old Major’s speech before his death about the need for animals to unite in the face of human oppression and tyranny.
- The quote is a noteworthy example of propaganda in Animal Farm, as the leaders utilise language in order to essentially brainwash the working class animals.
- Although it initially helps the animals to remember their goals, the phrase later loses its meaning of solidarity as it becomes a nonsensical noise made by sheep when used to drown out the voices of challengers to the regime.
‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’
- This quote exemplifies the pigs’ abuse of logic and language to keep their power over their followers.
- The evidently senseless and illogical meaning behind this phrase is an example of the methods that the leader of the Farm takes in order to brainwash his followers.
- The quote also suggests that the pigs’ real intention to create an animal utopia is not, in fact, to rise up against the oppression of the humans, but to become part of the elite; the ‘some’ that possess greater rights and power than the rest of the underprivileged society.
5 Types of Essay Prompts
Your approach to each essay will depend on what type of prompt is being asked. Be aware that not all essay prompts are the same, which means that sometimes your preferred essay structure simply won’t suit the type of prompt asked. That's why it's important to be aware of the 5 types of essay topics – what you should watch out for and how you could approach your essay writing. The topics used in this blog post have been curated by Lisa's Study Guides.
1. Theme-based prompts :
Animal Farm is first and foremost a satirical critique of politicians’ tyrannical misuse of power.
Usually your paragraphs will be based around particular themes. For example in this case, paragraphs may be based on ‘love’, ‘escape’, ‘horrors of war’ etc. These paragraphs can have character discussions embedded within them in order to demonstrate how the characters represent each theme. Discussion of the author’s choice of language such as symbols or imagery can be essential to the analysis of a theme.
2. Character-based prompts :
Boxer is the only animal with redeeming qualities. Do you agree?
These prompts focus on one or more characters. In this case, you can structure your essay paragraphs based on particular characters or something in common with a set of characters. Essays can become quite repetitive if each paragraph is based around one character so try to add in discussion about themes or the character’s relationships with other characters. Remember that minor characters can be just as important as major characters.
3. How-based prompts :
How does Napoleon exert control over the farm?
These prompts are usually structured, ‘how does the character do this,’ or 'how does the author do this'. In this case, since the prompt is focused on one main character, try to weave in the main character’s interactions with other characters and how other characters influenced them.
4. Metalanguage-based prompts :
The language in Animal Farm is crucial to Orwell's storytelling.
These types of prompts are the rarest of the 5 prompts but don’t be surprised if you’re asked one. They focus more on the language part of the text; rather than the plot, themes or characters. Your discussion will revolve around the author’s use of language (metaphors, prose, syntax etc.). These discussions are typically viewed as ‘harder’ prompts because you need to think about how the author achieves a particular message about character or theme through their choice of words. Check out our blog post on metalanguage and what you need to look out for.
'All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ How is this true in Animal Farm?
These prompts can be character- or theme-based. However, it differs from other essay topics because it includes a direct quote from the text. Remember that the quote is part of the prompt, so ensure that you address it. One of the best ways of doing so is to incorporate the quote into the essay itself.
When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into?
To learn more, I discuss this and offer you practical strategies (so you never mind-blank again!) in my ebook, How To Write A Killer Text Response. Feel free to check it out, and good luck!
Planning is an essential part of any successful text response essay. It helps you ensure that you’re answering the prompt, utilising enough quotes and writing the most unique and perceptive analysis possible! The hard part of this is that you only have about FIVE MINUTES to plan each essay in the Year 12 English exam… (more info on the best way to tackle that challenge in this video!)
So, I developed the FIVE TYPES of essay prompts to help students streamline their planning process and maximise every minute of their SACs and exams.
By identifying the type of prompt you’re being challenged with immediately, a number of parameters or guidelines are already set in place. For a specific type of prompt, you have specific criteria to meet – for example, in a metalanguage-based prompt, you immediately know that any evidence you brainstorm in your planning stage should be based around the literary techniques used in your given text.
‘Ambition in the play Macbeth leads to success.’ Discuss. (Macbeth)
When you’re presented with a theme-based prompt, you can automatically shift your brainstorming and planning towards the themes mentioned in the prompt along with any others that you can link to the core theme in some way.
In regard to this Macbeth prompt, for example, you could explore the different ways the theme of ambition is presented in the text. Additionally, the themes of guilt and power are intimately related to ambition in the text, so you can use those other ideas to aid your brainstorming and get you a step ahead of the rest of the state come exam day.
2. Character-based prompt
‘Frankenstein’s hubris is what punishes him.’ Discuss. (Frankenstein)
These prompts are pretty easy to spot – if you see a character’s name in the prompt, there you have it; you have a character-based prompt on your hands.
Once you know this, you can assume that each example you brainstorm has to be relevant to the specific character named in the prompt in some way. Also, you can explore how the actions of characters don’t occur in isolation – they’re almost always interrelated. Remember, however, that the actions of characters are always connected to the themes and ideas the author is trying to convey.
This type of prompt also grants you some freedoms that other types don’t give. For example, unlike a Theme-based prompt, a character-based prompt means that it’s perfectly fine to write about characters in the topic sentences of your body paragraphs.
3. How-based prompt
‘How does Grenville showcase Rooke’s inner conflict in The Lieutenant?’ (The Lieutenant)
Unlike other prompts, the ‘How’ positions you to focus more on the author’s writing intentions. This can be achieved by discussing metalanguage – language that describes language (read my blog post about it here). These prompts tell you immediately that you need to be thinking about the literary techniques explored in the text and explain how they affect the narrative.
Rather than using specific techniques to frame your specific arguments, it’s best to use them as evidence to support arguments that attack the main themes/ideas mentioned in the prompt.
4. Metalanguage or film-technique-based prompt
‘Hitchcock’s use of film techniques offers an unnerving viewing experience’. Discuss. (Rear Window)
This type of prompt is very similar to How-based prompts, specifically in the fact that the discussion of literary techniques is essential.
For this type of prompt specifically, however, the actual techniques used can form more of a basis for your arguments, unlike in How-based prompts.
5. Quote-based prompt
“Out, damned spot!” How does Shakespeare explore the burden of a guilty conscience in Macbeth? (Macbeth)
Countless students ask me every year, “What do I do when there’s a quote in the prompt?!” My reply to these questions is actually fairly straightforward!
There are two main things that you should do when presented with this type of prompt. Firstly, contextualise the quote in your essay and try to use it in your analysis in some way. Secondly, interpret the themes and issues addressed in the quote and implement these into your discussion. The best place to do both of these is in a body paragraph – it weaves in seamlessly and allows for a good amount of analysis, among other reasons!
When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into? To learn more about brainstorming, planning, essay structures for Text Response, read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Go Went Gone revolves around an unlikely connection between a retired university professor, Richard, and a group of asylum seekers who come from all over the African continent. While he’s enjoyed a life of stability and privilege as a white male citizen, the lives of these asylum seekers could not be more different: no matter where they are in the world, uncertainty seems to follow. Richard initially sets out to learn their stories, but he is very quickly drawn into their histories of tragedy, as well as their dreams for the future.
However, the more he tries to help them, the more he realises what he’s up against: a potent mix of stringent legal bureaucracy and the ignorance of his peers. These obstacles are richly interwoven with the novel’s context in post-reunification Germany (more on this under Symbols: Borders), but bureaucracy and ignorance are everywhere - Australia included. This novel, therefore, bears reflection on our own relationship with the refugees who seek protection and opportunity on our shores - refugees who are virtually imprisoned and cut off from the world.
Richard ultimately realises that these men are simply people, people who have the same complexities and inconsistencies as anyone else. They sometimes betray his trust; at other times, they help him in return despite their socio-economic standing. The end of the novel is thus neither perfect nor whole - while the asylum seekers develop a relationship with Richard and vice versa, neither is able to entirely solve the other’s problems, though both learn how to be there for each other in their own ways. We don’t get many solutions to everything the refugees are facing, but what we end up with is a lesson or two in human empathy.
The title of Jenny Erpenbeck’s novel Go Went Gone is a line she weaves into a couple of scenes. In one example, a group of asylum seekers in a repurposed nursing home learn to conjugate the verb in German. In another, a retired university professor reflects on this group, about to be relocated to another facility.
The various privileges Richard holds shape his identity in this text. It shapes how he approaches his retirement for example: now that “he has time”, he plans to spend it on highbrow pursuits like reading Proust and Dostoyevsky or listening to classical music. On the other hand, the asylum seekers sleep most of the time: “if you don’t sleep through half the morning, [a day] can be very long indeed.” Richard has the freedom to choose to spend his time on hobbies, but the asylum seekers face a daunting and seemingly-impossible array of tasks. After getting to know them more, he realises that while his to-do list includes menial things like “schedule repairman for dishwasher”, the refugees face daunting socio-political problems like needing to “eradicate corruption”.
Freedom in general is a useful way to think about privilege in this text, and besides freedom to choose how you spend your time, this can also look like the freedom to tell your story. While Richard helps the men with this to some degree, even he has a limited amount of power here (and power can be another useful way of thinking about privilege). Richard realises that “people with the freedom to choose…get to decide which stories to hold on to” - and those are the people who get to decide the future of the refugees, at least from a legal perspective.
Though Richard can’t necessarily help with these legal issues, he finds himself doing what he can for the refugees over time. He demonstrates a willingness to help them in quite substantial ways sometimes, for example buying a piece of land in Ghana for Karon and his family. In the end, we see him empathising with the refugees enough to offer them housing: though he is not a lawyer, he still finds ways to use his privilege for good and share what he can. He taps into his networks and finds housing for 147 refugees.
The tricky thing with empathy though is that it’s never one-sided, not in this book and not in real life either. It’s not simply a case of Richard taking pity on the refugees - we might think of this as sympathy rather than empathy - but he develops complex, reciprocal and ‘real’ friendships with all of them. This can challenge him, and us, and our assumptions about what is right. When Richard loses his wallet at the store, Rufu offers to pay for him. He initially insists he “can’t accept”, but when he does Rufu doesn’t let him pay him back in full. Erpenbeck challenges us to empathise without dehumanising, condescending or assuming anything in the process.
It’s an interesting way to think about social justice in general, particularly if you consider yourself an ‘ally’ of a marginalised group - how can we walk with people rather than speak for them and what they want?
Freedom of movement is sort of a form of privilege, but movement as a theme of its own is substantial enough to need a separate section. There are lots of different forms of movement in the novel, in particular movement between countries. In particular, it’s what brought the refugees to Germany at all, even though they didn’t necessarily have any control over that movement.
Contrast that with Richard’s friends, Jörg and Monika, who holiday in Italy and benefit from “freedom of movement [as] the right to travel”. Through this lens, we can see that this is really more of a luxury that the refugees simply do not have. Refugees experience something closer to forced displacement, rather than free travel, moving from one “temporary place” to the next often outside of their control. In this process, their lack of control often means they lose themselves in the rough-and-tumble of it all: “Becoming foreign. To yourself and others. So that’s what a transition looks like.”
3. Symbols & Analysis
Language and the Law
Many of the barriers faced by the refugees are reflected in their relationships with language; that is, their experiences learning German mirrors and sheds light on their relationship with other elements of German society. For example, there are times when they struggle to concentrate on learning: “It’s difficult to learn a language if you don’t know what it’s for”. This struggle reflects and symbolises the broader problems of uncertainty, unemployment and powerlessness in the men’s lives.
The symbol of language often intersects with the symbol of the “iron law”, so these are discussed together here. It’s hard on the one hand for these men to tell their stories in German, but it’s also hard for the German law to truly grapple with their stories. Indeed, Richard finds that the law doesn’t care if there are wars going on abroad or not: it only cares about “jurisdiction”, and about which country is technically responsible for the refugees. In this sense, the law mirrors and enables the callousness which runs through the halls of power - not to deter you from learning law if you want though! This might just be something to be aware of, and maybe something you’d want to change someday.
There’s one law mentioned in the novel stating that asylum seekers can simply be accepted “if a country, a government or a mayor so wishes”, but that one word in particular - “if” - puts all the power in lawyers and politicians who know the language and the law and how to navigate it all. These symbols thus reflect power and privilege.
Borders (+ Historical Context)
Throughout the novel, there’s a sense that borders between countries are somewhat arbitrary things. They can “suddenly become visible” and just as easily disappear; sometimes they’re easy to cross, sometimes they’re impossible to cross. Sometimes it’s easy physically, but harder in other ways - once you cross a border, you need housing, food, employment and so forth.
This complex understanding of borders draws on the history of Germany, and in particular of its capital Berlin, after World War II. After the war, Western powers (USA, UK, France) made a deal with the Soviet Union to each run half of Germany and half of Berlin. The Eastern half of Germany, and the Eastern half of Berlin, fell under Soviet control, and as East Germans started flocking to the West in search of better opportunities (sound familiar?), the Soviets built a wall around East Berlin. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961, became a border of its own, dividing a nation and a city and changing the citizenship of half of Germany overnight. Attempts to escape from the East continued for many years until the wall came down in 1989, changing all those citizenships right back, once again virtually overnight.
This history adds dimension to Erpenbeck’s novel. Refugees pass through many countries, but Erpenbeck draws on Germany’s history specifically as a once-divided nation itself. This helps to illustrate that national borders are just another arbitrary technicality that divides people, at the expense of these refugees.
Bodies of Water
One motif that comes back a few times in the novel is the drowned man in the lake by Richard’s house. This has a few layers of meaning.
Firstly, the man drowns despite the lake being a perfectly “placid” body of water, and for whatever reason, this bothers Richard immensely: “he can’t avoid seeing the lake”. There’s an interesting contrast here to be drawn between this one death in a still body of water and the hundreds of deaths at sea that are recounted in the novel. Rashid’s stories are particularly confronting: “Under the water I saw all the corpses”. Erpenbeck questions the limits of human empathy - whose deaths are we more affected by, and why - through contrasting these different bodies of water, and those who die within them. Richard is more affected than most, who visit the lake all summer leaving “just as happy as they came” - but even he has his limits with how much he can see and understand.
The next layer of meaning with this symbol then is more around the surface of the water itself: it is significant that in Rashid’s story, the casualties are below the surface. This reflects the common saying, “the tip of the iceberg” - the survivors who make it to Europe are really just the tip of the iceberg, only representing a fraction of the refugee experience. Often, that experience ends in death. Erpenbeck asks us to keep looking beneath the surface in order to empathise in full.
Music and the Piano
This symbol is specific to Richard’s relationship with Osarobo, to whom he teaches the piano. There’s one scene where this symbolism is particularly powerful, where they watch videos of pianists “us[ing] the black and white keys to tell stories that have nothing at all to do with the keys’ colours.”
It speaks to the power of music to bring people together, and also to the importance of storytelling in any form: Rosa Canales argues the keys’ colours, and the colour of the fingers playing them, “become irrelevant to the stories emanating from beneath them”.
“What languages can you speak?”
“The German language is my bridge into this country”
“Empty phrases signify politeness in a language which neither of them is at home”
“The things you’ve experienced become baggage you can’t get rid of, while others - people with the freedom to choose - get to decide which stories to hold on to”
“He hears Apollo’s voice saying: They give us money, but what I really want is work. He hears Tristan’s voice saying: Poco lavoro. He hears the voice of Osaboro, the piano player, saying: Yes, I want to work but it is not allowed. The refugees’ protest has created half-time jobs for at least twelve Germans thus far”
“Not so long ago, Richard thinks, this story of going abroad to find one's fortune was a German one”
“Is it a rift between Black and White? Or Poor and Rich?”
“Where can a person go when he doesn't know where to go?”
5. Discussion Questions
Here are some questions to think about before diving into essay-writing. There’s no right or wrong answer to any of these, and most will draw on your own experiences or reflections anyway. You may want to write some answers down, and brainstorm links between your responses and the novel. These reflections could be particularly useful if you’re writing a creative response to the text, but they’re also a really good way to get some personal perspective and apply the themes and lessons of this novel into your own life.
Where do you ‘sit’ in the world? What privileges do you have or lack? What can you do that others cannot, and what can others do that you cannot?
Think about the times you’ve travelled around the world - how many of those times were by choice? What might be the impact of moving across the world against your will?
How do you show empathy to others? How do you receive empathy from others? What is that relationship ‘supposed’ to look like?
What are some different names for where you live? How can you describe the same place in different languages or words? If you’re in Australia, what was your area called before 1788?
Have you ever learned or spoken a language other than English? What language do you find easier to write, speak and think with? How might this impact someone’s ability to participate in different parts of life (school, work, friendships etc.)?
6. Sample Essay Topics
Go Went Gone teaches us that anyone can be empathetic. Discuss.
In Go Went Gone, Erpenbeck argues that storytelling can be powerful but only to an extent. Do you agree?
How does Erpenbeck explore the different ways people see time?
It’s possible to sympathise with Richard despite his relative privilege. Do you agree?
Discuss the symbolic use of borders in Go Went Gone.
Go Went Gone argues that the law is impartial. To what extent do you agree?
“The German language is my bridge into this country.” How is language a privilege in Go Went Gone?
Who are the protagonists and antagonists of Go Went Gone?
Go Went Gone shows that it is impossible to truly understand another person’s experiences. To what extent do you agree?
In what ways do the people Richard meets challenge his assumptions about the world?
Go Went Gone is less about borders between countries than it is about borders between people. Do you agree?
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
In what ways do the people Richard meets challenge his assumptions about the world?
Step 1: Analyse
This prompt alludes to certain assumptions that Richard might make about the world. If it’s hard to think of these off the top of your head, consider where our assumptions about the world come from: maybe from our jobs, our families and friends or our past experiences. Maybe there are some assumptions you’ve had in the past that you’ve since noticed or challenged.
Then it asks us how the people Richard meets challenges those assumptions. There’s no way to get out of this question without discussing the refugees, so this will inform our brainstorm.
Step 2: Brainstorm
I think some of Richard’s assumptions at the beginning come from his status: being a professor emeritus makes you pretty elite, and he can’t really empathise with the refugees because his experiences of life are so different. Part of the challenge with this prompt might be to break down what life experiences entail, and where those differences lie: particularly because it’s asking us ‘in what ways’. These experiences could be with language, employment, or personal relationships just to name a few ideas.
Step 3: Create a Plan
Because Richard’s life experiences are so vastly different, I’d contend that his assumptions are challenged in basically every way. However, I also think that his interest in the refugees exists because he knows they can challenge his assumptions. I want to use the motif of water surfaces to tie this argument together, particularly in the topic sentences, and this could look as follows:
Paragraph 1: Richard realises that he only has a ‘surface-level’ appreciation of the refugees’ life experiences.
He realises that he knows little about the African continent (“Nigeria has a coast?”)
He suffers from a “poverty of experience” which means he hasn’t had to interact with this knowledge before
His renaming of the refugees (Apollo, Tristan etc.) suggests that he still needs his own frame of reference to understand their experiences
He learns about the hardships of migration through the tragic stories of those like Rashid
Paragraph 2: He also realises that he has a ‘surface-level’ understanding of migration in general.
This comes from the fact that he has never actually moved countries; he’s only been reclassified as an East German, and then again as a German. Neither happened because he wanted them to.
On the other hand, the refugees want to settle in Europe: they want the right to work and make a living - it’s just that the “iron law” acts as a major barrier. Their powerlessness is different from Richard’s.
Part of migration is also learning the language, and Richard is initially quite ignorant about this: he observes that the Ethiopian German teacher “for whatever reason speaks excellent German”, not realising this is necessary for any migrant to survive in the new country.
We can think of this as the difference between migration and diaspora, the specific term for the dispersion of a people.
Paragraph 3: Richard is more open than most people to looking beneath the surface though, meaning that his assumptions are challenged partly because he is willing for them to be.
The symbol of the lake works well here to explain this: he is bothered by its still surface, and what lies underneath, while others aren’t
We can also contrast this to characters like Monika and Jörg who remain quite ignorant the whole time: Richard’s views have departed from this throughout the course of the novel
Ultimately, the novel is about visibility: Richard’s incorrect assumptions mean that he isn’t seeing reality, and his “research project” is all about making that reality visible.
Go Went Gone is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Most people only think about EXECUTING their essay - the writing. Whether that be essay structure, memorising quotes or how to avoid repeating yourself in the dreaded conclusion. However, my strategy places emphasis on the THINK.
THINK is the brainstorm, exploration, and development of ideas. Get this right, and you'll come up with ideas and a response that pushes you ahead of your peers. The EXECUTION comes next, only strengthening your lead to the finish line.
So what does THINK actually involve? 🤔
You need to consider aspects of an essay topic that most students gloss over, including:
💭What's the essay topic type?
Knowing the essay topic type will change your essay structure. While you might wish for a one-size-fits-all essay structure, this is a limited viewpoint that stops you from reaching your potential. Different essay types include:
Author's message-based prompts
By understand what's required in each one of these essay topic types, you'll have a template you can follow to ensure that you answer the prompt (no more complaints from your teacher complaining that you're going off topic!).
💭 What are the question tags?
Never heard of this term previously? That's because majority of teachers don't teach you to change your Text Response according to the question tag. A 'do you agree?' essay topic expects a different response from a 'discuss' essay topic.
💭 How do I ensure I respond to each keyword?
This is important so you don't go off topic (we've all at least experienced this once in our high school writing careers 😥). Sometimes, one missed keyword is all it takes to derail your entire essay. No matter how well you've written your essay, an essay that doesn't answer the prompt won't fare well.
For example, have a think about which keywords can be found in this essay topic "Jeff's attempt to pursue justice are entirely without honour. To what extent is this true?".
For me, the keywords include:
- 'Pursue justice'
- 'To what extent is this true?'
Even though I've labelled almost every word in the essay topic, individually, each of these keywords will shape my response. Majority of students will pick up the necessity to discuss the keyword 'entirely' in their essays. They will potentially argue that Jeff's attempt isn't entirely without honour, and mention instances where honour was shown. However, a less obvious keyword that needs further exploration is 'justice'. Most students will take this word for granted, and won't really explore what the word 'justice' means in this sentence. A more advanced student will understand that 'justice' in this essay topic is viewed from Jeff's perspective, meaning that what Jeff deems to be 'justice', might not be the same 'justice' for a viewer. These are the nuances in an essay topic that I'd like you to be very confident in.
Knowing how to THINK will ensure that you EXECUTE your essay writing most effectively, optimising your potential to nail that A+. If I went from average to consistent A+s in Year 11 and Year 12, I have no doubt you can do it too. That's why I created the How To Write a Killer Text Response ebook.
I know that you are probably like I was, searching for a clear, simple way to get better at English without just relying on my teacher (despite the fact that I had a great teacher!). I've compiled my 10 years of tutoring English, refining this strategy year after year. With this knowledge, many of my students achieved a study score they thought was impossible (one student Ruby, wanted a study score of 30 to get into her university course, and ultimately achieved a 40 study score! WOW! 😮).
If you're interested, How To Write a Killer Text Response ebook shows you the inner workings of my brain 💭- what I think when I see an essay topic, how I tackle it, and how I turn these thoughts into a high-scoring essay. The ebook includes:
- 50-pages teaching you how to respond to ANY essay topic
- Examples from 15+ popular VCE English texts
- Know exactly what to THINK about so you can formulate the best possible essay response
- Plus a bonus 20-pages of high vs low scoring essays, fully annotated (what works and what doesn't) so you know exactly what you need to do and what not to do
This month’s blog post will be short but it contains one extremely valuable point you should take away – especially if you’ll be writing imaginary pieces in the next few months. Creative essays are great because they offer interesting and unique stories; however, there is one common downfall that occurs in writing. Some students create pieces that are too straightforward. Rather than using vocabulary, imagery and symbolism to express a point, they simply write down a statement that sums up what they wish to say. Your aim is to invite the reader to experience the story through your words. This can be done through the character’s thoughts, feelings, actions etc. Thus the well-known phrase among writers, ‘Show, don’t tell’. Keeping this idea in mind turn you into a much more successful writer – and you’ll see the difference!
Tell: Katie was very happy.
Show: Katie’s face lifted. Little wrinkles appeared around her bright eyes, her dimples made an appearance that dug into her cheeks as a big grin emerged to show her perfect teeth.
Tell: She felt horrible for the weeping children.
Show: Guilt throbbed inside her as she stared at the weeping children. Her heart pounded against her chest, her hands trembling beside her still body, her brain screaming at her to do something.
Tell: I was scared.
Show: I hear my breathing; heavy, and rapid. I shut my eyes tightly. I can feel goosebumps running up my arms and down my back.
To test whether or not you are ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’, think about whether or not your sentence leaves room for questions. In Example 1, ‘Katie was very happy’ would leave the reader thinking – what thought or action showed that she was happy? Whereas ‘show’ demonstrated that she was happy without directly stating it.
The key is to go into the finer details of your story!
Since September 2015, the current affairs has been raging with numerous controversial topics - perfect for your oral presentation! Here are some of the more interesting issues that would be a good starting point for your oral. Remember to offer an interesting and unique argument, even if it may mean adopting the unconventional or unpopular point of view on the issue!
Oral presentation topics 2016
1. Should we have 24 hour public transport on weekends?
2. Gender selective abortion in Australia
3. Should the driving age in Australia be lowered?
4. Cricket star Chris Gayle’s treatment of journalist Mel McLaughlin
5. Should children be vaccinated?
6. Should the voting age in Australia be lowered to 16 years?
7. Should singer Chris Brown be denied entry to Australia?
8. Cultural appropriation in Australia
9. Should an Australian Prime Ministers be removed from office without a general election?
10. Should Australia be a republic?
11. Should the Australian flag be changed?
12. Is Australia Day racist against Indigenous Australians?
13. Adam Goodes booing: Are AFL football crowds racist?
14. Australian of the Year - Rosie Batty: Victim blaming
15. Should UBER be made legal in Australia?
16. Should baby formula be limited in sales?
17. Should greyhound racing be banned in Australia?
18. Is Australia’s border security policy justified?
19. Should Australian Open arenas have sports betting advertising?
20. See more Oral Presentation Topics 2017, click here.
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