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Introduction to Animal Farm:
- 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!
Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
How To Find Good Quotes
1. What Are Quotes?
Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our Ultimate Guides to VCE Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis.
A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or double inverted commas (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, just be consistent in your essays.
2. Why Use Quotes?
The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:
Your knowledge of the text
Credibility of your argument
An interesting and thoughtful essay
The strength of your writing skills.
However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):
Overcrowding or overloading of quotations
How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:
What you want to quote
How much you want to quote
How that quote will fit into your essay.
3. What You Want To Quote
As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore, it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:
Description of theme or character
Description of event or setting
Description of a symbol or other literary technique
Never quote just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be irrelevant if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.
4. How Much You Want To Quote
A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not overload your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is your piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.
Single Word Quotations
The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)
Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word and develop an entire idea around it.
Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling', showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
A phrase quotation is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).
Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
In this case, we have deleted: ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([ ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under Blending Quotes.
5. How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay
You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay without inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.
The following is plagiarism:
Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime. (1984, George Orwell)
Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:
Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’ (1984, George Orwell)
There are serious consequences for plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.
Plagiarism should not be confused with:
Paraphrasing: to reword or rephrase the author’s words
Summarising: to give a brief statement about the author’s main points
Quoting: to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work
You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:
John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany, for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ (The Crucible, Arthur Miller)
There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:
1. Adding Words
Broken sentences are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:
‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Never write a sentence consisting of only a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.
Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:
Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.
2. Square Brackets ([ ])
These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:
Authors sometimes write in past (looked), present (look) or future tense (will look). Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.
Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Change Narrative Perspective
The author may write in a first (I, we), second (you) or third person (he, she, they) narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first and second person pronouns with the character’s name.
The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’ (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’. (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
Insert Missing Words
Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.
The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
Achilles, like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?
The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.
Original sentence: 'Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
6. There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
Title of Text
When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.
Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. (On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
Alternatively, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.
Quotation Within a Quotation
When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.
Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.
Using Quotations to Express Irony
When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.
As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. (Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood)
In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.
7. Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
1. Does the quote blend into my sentence?
2. Does my sentence still make sense?
3. Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?
4. Did I use the correct grammar?
8. How To Find Good Quotes
Tip One: Do not go onto Google and type in 'Good quotes for X text', because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more popular or famous ones.
Tip Two: Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that already exist online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes.
Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying, but just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students.
Tip Four: Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote that's going to offer a refreshing point of view.
For example, if we look at The Great Gatsby, one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, 'He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.' What most people will do is they will analyse the part about the 'grotesque thing a rose', because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead, is focus on a section of that quote, for example the 'raw'. Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote? This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light.
Tip Five: Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also, that way, when you spend so much time analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point.
Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!
The fairy tale of Cinderella is a well-known, well-loved and well-ingrained story that was always told to me as a bedtime story. Who could forget the mean-spirited stepsisters who punished and ruined Cinderella’s life to no end? According to the dark Brothers Grimm version, the stepsisters mutilated their feet by cutting off their heels and toes to fit into the infamous shoe, and their eyes were pecked away by birds until they were blinded! It’s definitely one way to send a message to children… don’t be bullies or you’ll be punished. Which is exactly what the Brothers Grimm’s views and values were. Their construction of their fairy tale to send a message of what they viewed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is simplistically shown through the writers’ choice in determining the characters’ fate. The evil stepsisters are punished, while Cinderella receives happiness and riches because she remained kind and pure. A clear and very simple example of how texts reflect the beliefs, world views and ethics of the author, which is essentially the author’s views and values!
What are the views and values of a text?
Writers use literature to criticise or endorse social conditions, expressing their own opinions and viewpoints of the world they live in. It is important to remember that each piece of literature is a deliberate construction. Every decision a writer makes reflects their views and values about their culture, morality, politics, gender, class, history or religion. This is implicit within the style and content of the text, rather than in overt statements. This means that the writer’s views and values are always open to interpretation, and possibly even controversial. This is what you (as an astute literature student) must do – interpret the relationship between your text and the ideas it explores and examines, endorses or challenges in the writer’s society.
How do I start?
Consider the following tips:
What does the writer question and critique with their own society? What does this say about the writer’s own views and the values that uphold?
For example, “Jane Austen in Persuasion recognises the binding social conventions of the 19th century as superficial, where they value wealth and status of the utmost priority. She satirises such frivolous values through the microcosmic analysis of the Elliot family.”
The writer’s affirming or critical treatment of individual characters can be a significant clue to what values they approve or disapprove of. What fate do the characters have? Who does the writer punish or reward by the end of the text?
Which characters challenge and critique the social conventions of the day?
Look at the writer’s use of language:
In other words …what are the possible meanings generated by the writer’s choices?
Recognition and use of metalanguage for literary techniques is crucial because you are responding to a work of literature. Within literature ideas, views and values and issues do not exist in a vacuum. They arise out of the writer’s style and create meaning.
How do the writer’s choices make meaning?
How are the writer’s choices intended to affect the reader’s perception of social values?
Weave views and values throughout your close analysis essays, rather than superficially adding a few lines at the conclusion of the essay to indicate the writer’s concerns.
Using the writer’s name frequently will also assist in creating a mindset of analysing the writer’s commentary on society.
Below are some examples from an examiner report of successful and insightful responses reflecting the views and values of the writer:
(Another tip is to go through examiner’s reports and take note of high quality responses, even if they are not the text you’re studying)
When contrasted with the stark, blunt tone of Caesar throughout the play ‘You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know...’ the richness of Shakespeare’s poetry with regard to his ‘couple so famous’ denotes how the playwright himself ultimately values the heroic age to which his protagonists belong over the machinations of the rising imperial Rome.
It is the word ‘natural’ here through which Mansfield crafts a sharp irony that invites us to rate Edna’s obsession with her own performance.... It is this satiric impulse that also leaps to the fore through the image of Edna, ‘clasping the black book in her fingers as though it were a missal’...the poignant economy of Mansfield’s characteristic style explores her views on the fragility of the human condition.
‘In Cold Blood’ provides a challenging exploration of the value placed on human life. The seemingly pointless murders undermine every concept of morality that reigns in Middle America, the ‘Bible Belt’, as well as the wider community. Capote insinuates his personal abhorrence of the death penalty and the disregard of mental illness in the justice system.
Why are views and values important in literature, and especially for close analysis?
Every year, the examiner reports emphasise how the best close analysis responses were ones that “showed how the text endorsed and reflected the views and values of the writer and were able to weave an understanding of these through the essay” (2013 VCAA Lit examiner report). By analysing HOW the text critiques, challenges or endorses the accepted values of the society in the text, you are demonstrating an understanding of the social and cultural context of the text, thus acknowledging the multifaceted layers that exist within literature. You are identifying the writer’s commentary of humanity through your own interpretation. Bring some insight into your essays!
The Erratics is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Setting is a literary element that refers to the context of where a story takes place, usually alluding to the time and location. Your expectations of a story that takes place in Victorian England would differ greatly from a story set in late 2000s Australia, showing us that the historical, social and geographical aspects of the setting shape the meaning of the text.
In the memoir The Erratics, the setting plays a vital role in Vicki Laveau-Harvie's storytelling. From the beginning of the novel, Laveau-Harvie uses both the title and prologue to foreground the importance of the Okotoks Erratic (a geographical phenomenon in Alberta, Canada) to establish the role that place and belonging have played in her life. Further reinforcing the importance of the setting, the memoir’s narrative follows Laveau-Harvie’s experience flying back to Alberta, Canada (her hometown), after having moved to and started a new life in Australia.
Why Focus on Setting When Writing a Text Response?
The setting can be useful evidence to have in your repertoire as it helps you show that you not only have an understanding of the ideas of the text but also how those ideas are constructed. When looking at the criteria you will be marked against in the end-of-year exam you will see that to score a 7 and above in Section A you need to consider the ‘construction’ of the text (read more here). Construction refers to your ability to discuss the parts that make up a text through the use of metalanguage as evidence to support your views. The setting is just one of the ways you can address construction in The Erratics, but, as a text so focused on physical environments, it’s a good type of metalanguage to start with.
Famous for producing Justin Bieber and maple syrup, Canada has a similar history to Australia. Canada has an Indigenous population who inhabited the land for thousands of years before British and French expeditions came and colonised the land. In the 1700s, due to various conflicts, France ceded most of its North American colonies while the United Kingdom stayed. Over time the country gained greater autonomy and, like Australia, it is now a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister but recognises the British royal family as its sovereign. Further mirroring Australia, Canada also has a colonial past that it is still reckoning with as recent headlines about the human remains of hundreds of Indigenous people at a residential school reminds us.
Vicki is specifically from Alberta, and the majority of the novel is about her experiences returning there after having moved to Australia (at the start of the memoir she had been estranged from her parents for 18 years). Known for its natural beauty and its nature reserves, Alberta is a part of Western Canada. Alberta is one of only two landlocked provinces in Canada which is interesting considering that Vicki leaves it for a country famous for its beaches and coastal cities.
When annotating the text, highlight the descriptions of the setting. You’ll notice that when Laveau-Harvie describes Alberta or Canada as a whole she presents the country as being dangerous and hostile. An example of this is the blunt statement that the ‘cold will kill you. Nothing personal’. However, Laveau-Harvie does find some solace in the landscape, observing the beauty of the ‘opalescent’ peaks and the comfort in predictable seasons.
Vicki’s Parent’s Home
The first description Laveau-Harvie gives us of her family home is to call it ‘Paradise, [with] twenty acres with a ranch house on a rise, nothing between you and the sky and the distant mountains.’ The idyllic image foregrounds the natural landscape but is then immediately juxtaposed with the description of the home as a ‘time-capsule house sealed against the outside world for a decade’. This description heightens Vicki’s mother and father’s isolation from the outside world and alludes to the hostility of the home that is reaffirmed with the doors that ‘open to no one’. The family home becomes an extended metaphor for Vicki’s parents themselves, with the description of it as a ‘no-go zone’, hinting at the sisters’ estrangement from their parents who have shut them out.
Moreover, the land the house sits on does not produce any crops despite it being such a large expanse of land, heightening the home’s disconnect from the natural world. This detachment from the natural world is furthered by her labelling her parents as ‘transplants from the city’ and contrasting them to locals who ‘still make preserves in the summer’. Vicki’s mother in particular is at odds with nature due to materialism, such as her wardrobes being full of fur coats.
The Erratics + Napi
In the prologue we are introduced to the Okotoks Erratic as being situated in ‘a landscape of uncommon beauty’ with the Erratic itself being something that ‘dominates the landscape, roped off and isolated, the danger it presents to anyone trespassing palpable’. The memoir then immediately shifts to Vicki’s experience in the hospital trying to convince the staff that she is her mother’s daughter, drawing a parallel between the dominating and dangerous landscape to the dominating and dangerous mother. In the memoir, the Erratic is an extended metaphor for the mother with both the land and the mother being described as ‘unsafe’, ‘dominat[ing]’ and a ‘danger’. Moreover, the structural choice of opening the novel with the Erratic makes its presence felt throughout the novel even though it is not mentioned again until the end of the text.
In contrast to the prologue, the epilogue has a feeling of peace and reconciliation as the mother and what she has represented to her family is reconciled with the landscape. This is particularly pertinent as the geographical and spiritual origins of the rock revealed in the epilogue is a story of stability after a rupture. This alludes to the ability of Vicki’s family to heal after the trauma inflicted on them by the mother. The epilogue could also be understood as a reminder of humanity's insignificance in the face of nature and larger forces, as represented by Napi.
While Laveau-Harvie does not directly address Canada's colonial past in her memoir outside of the inclusion of Napi, the colonial presence is felt throughout the memoir through the setting of both Australia and Canada. These settings allude to how living on stolen land means that while individuals - particularly middle-class, white individuals - may not always recognise and address the colonial history of the land they live on, the fact that land was never ceded is still felt.
As discussed before, Canada and Australia are similar as they are both former British colonies that are now constitutional monarchies, so why would Vicki want to move to a place that is similar to where she already lived and experienced trauma?
There are a few potential answers, the first being the geographical distance. There are over 1300kms between Sydney and Alberta and, considering the trauma Vicki and her sister have experienced, it stands to reason that she would want to put distance between her childhood home and her adult life. This leads to the second reason, travelling to ‘Far flung places’ as a method to deal with trauma. While in Canada, Vicki reminisces about the ‘boozed-up Brits on Bondi’ that embodies her life in Australia. The evocative, alliterative image creates a stark contrast between warm and carefree Australia and cold and emotionally taxing Canada, reinforcing how travelling provides individuals with a means to survive their traumatic childhoods and create new lives for themselves.
When writing about setting you do not need to be an expert in geography. As this blog post has shown, to understand Laveau-Harvie’s use of setting in The Erratics you only need to know about two countries, so next time you write a text response, consider using your understanding of setting to show your teacher or examiners that you’ve thought about the text’s construction.
False Claims of Colonial Thieves is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Why Is Context Important?
When studying a text, it is very important to comprehend its context. Context will help you to understand what the text is about and what the author’s point of view is - key components of doing well in VCE English! Context is especially important for False Claims of Colonial Thieves because the authors frequently reference Australia’s history. Even the title is a nod to its context - it is all about the ‘false claims’ made by Australia’s ‘colonial thieves’, or in other words, Australia’s colonial settlers. Understanding what these false claims are will help you better understand the context and therefore, do significantly better in your English essays and assessments.
Treat this blog as a starting point only. There is so much to learn about these topics, and I recommend you do your own research in addition to reading this blog. To help you do so, I have provided a reliable external source for each topic, so you can start exploring these claims in more depth.
One of the biggest ‘false claims’ that Papertalk Green and Kinsella refer to throughout their collaboration is the colonisers’ claim of Australia being terra nullius. When the British came to Australia, they claimed that the country was ‘no man’s land’, denying that the Indigenous Australians had actually lived here for thousands of years. By pretending that no one lived in Australia, this supposedly gave the British ‘legitimacy’ to assume control over the land and those already living on it - i.e. Australia’s First Nations Peoples.
Terra Nullius was used against the Indigenous peoples for many years to justify their horrific treatment. The principle was only overturned in 1992 when an Indigenous man, Eddie Mabo, challenged this claim in the High Court of Australia. Nowadays, we recognise that the Indigenous people were here significantly earlier than the colonisers and that their sovereignty (i.e. their power over the land) was never ceded.
Another false claim was that the Indigenous people were inferior to white people. This claim led to the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families, so they could be raised by ‘superior’ white people and taught white cultures/languages - these children are referred to as the ‘Stolen Generation’ because they were taken away from their families without their consent.
It was thought that placing Aboriginal children (especially mixed-race Aboriginal children) with white families would make it easier to teach Aboriginal children the ‘proper’ (British) way of living. They were either placed in institutions or adopted by white families, and often faced terrible treatment, including violence, neglect and assault. Neither the children who were removed nor their families have fully recovered from this appalling policy that continued until the 1970s.
Indeed, the effects of the Stolen Generation can still be felt today. One of the major consequences discussed by Papertalk Green and Kinsella is that a lot of Indigenous culture was lost. Many of the children who were taken away were forbidden from practising their cultural traditions or from speaking their Indigenous languages. This ban led to many traditions going extinct and is a tragic effect of this heinous false claim.
Another claim explored in the text is the idea that Indigenous peoples could not look after themselves and would be better off with white people ‘protecting’ them. This led to the government forcing Aboriginal people to leave their ancestral lands and relocate to newer, smaller areas - a process known as land alienation. There were two types of this land - missions and reserves - and Aboriginal people faced poor treatment on both.
Missions were usually run by Christian groups so they could convert the Indigenous people to their religion. There was a strong degree of control exercised over these Indigenous people, who were expected to learn the skills required for menial jobs (such as cooking and cleaning). Contrastingly, those living on reserves were not typically subject to as much control. These people were sometimes provided with rations from the government, but there were not usually officials to oversee them.
Both missions and reserves are referred to in False Claims of Colonial Thieves, so it is important to understand the difference between the two.
Now that we’ve examined some of the more historical context, let’s take a closer look at the contemporary and modern background that Kinsella and Papertalk Green write about.
Close the Gap Campaign and Black Deaths in Custody
A key section of the text (particularly the latter third) explores current issues which Indigenous peoples face today. Two of these major concerns lie within the health and justice systems, so it is important to understand why Kinsella and Papertalk Green focus so heavily on these matters.
The Close the Gap Campaign (launched in 2007) aims to reduce the inequality in health and education that many Indigenous peoples face. It was created because the life expectancy is much lower for Indigenous than non-Indigenous peoples, and there is a significant difference between their expected levels of education. Unfortunately, many of these concerns have not been addressed today, and Papertalk Green discusses how her family is constantly dealing with death - a key theme in False Claims of Colonial Thieves that can be explained by this contextual understanding.
Similarly, there are a lot of concerns with the number of Aboriginal people in prison, and how many of them die while in police custody. There was even a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (i.e. a governmental inquiry) handed down in 1987, however, many of its recommendations have not been implemented to this day. This idea of unfair policing and laws that target Indigenous peoples is a key idea in the text, and Kinsella dedicates a poem to Ms Dhu, an Indigenous woman killed while in custody.
A key theme of False Claims of Colonial Thieves is mining, which refers to the practice of removing valuable materials from the Earth. Many of these resources are found on traditional Aboriginal lands, which are destroyed by the mining process. This is especially offensive to many Indigenous groups because many Indigenous cultures have a strong spiritual connection to their land (often known as Country). There is consequently a lot of tension between the Indigenous populations and governments, especially in Western Australia, where both of the authors live.
Understanding a text’s context is very important in being able to analyse the text in appropriate depth.
For example, knowing that mining is often considered harmful to the lands to which Indigenous peoples have a strong connection, will allow you to discuss this concept in your essays. Indeed, Papertalk Green argues that mining is just as harmful to Indigenous peoples as earlier ‘false claims’ were, which is a sophisticated idea for you to use in your assessments.
As you begin to better understand and incorporate context into your essays, you can then take things one step further by examining how the author has used context as a means of demonstrating their authorial intent. For example, the effects of the Stolen Generation have been explored in several poems, and a possible viewpoint is that the Stolen Generation was used to demonstrate the devastating loss of Indigenous cultures and traditions.
We’ve explored themes, literary devices and characters and development amongst other things over on our After Darkness by Christine Piper blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!
Here, we’ll be breaking down an After Darkness essay topic using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy, a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, you can learn about it in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.
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
Let’s get into it!
‘While Ibaraki clearly suffers the consequences of his actions, it is those closest to him who pay the highest price. Discuss.’
Step 1: Analyse
This is a theme-based prompt, and the keywords are: suffer, consequence, actions and highest price. You want to explore both the evidence that supports the statement and also any evidence that may offer a contradiction to the statement. From here you can find the definition of the keywords to help develop some questions to explore.
Step 2: Brainstorm
To suffer is to be affected by or subject to something unpleasant.
Is Ibaraki the only one who suffers? Who else suffers? Kayoko, Johnny, Stan, Sister Bernice.
How do characters deal with their suffering differently? Kayoko and Sister Bernice abandon their relationships with Ibaraki, Johnny becomes agitated and spiteful, Stan becomes depressed.
A consequence is a result of an action.
Are the consequences negative or positive? Johnny being outspoken in the internment camp angers the traditionalist Japanese, but creates a sense of kinship amongst the half-blood Japanese.
Can characters overcome these consequences or learn from them? Ibaraki eventually learns from his mistakes and grows as a result.
An action is the process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.
Is it Ibaraki’s actions, or lack thereof that lead to consequences? It is often his silence and obedience that cause trouble. For example, not telling Kayoko about his work leads to the failure of their marriage.
Is it only Ibaraki who makes mistakes? Sister Bernice ignores her religion to confess her love for Ibaraki.
What are the factors that cause the characters to act in the way that they do? Ibaraki’s guilt and fear of authority and judgement prevent him from speaking up on multiple occasions.
Highest price refers to Ibaraki’s suffering being above all else.
Is this true? Ibaraki loses his dignity, his friends, his wife, his unborn child, his family, his job and his freedom. However, he does partially regain these.
Who suffers the most? Kayoko has a miscarriage and her marriage to Ibaraki fails. Stan is assaulted by other internees and is eventually killed by a guard. Johnny becomes an outcast in his community and is bullied by other internees.
At this point, you can begin to group your ideas and evidence from the text to support your claims.
Throughout the novel, Piper uses a variety of literary devices including dialogue, simile and foreshadowing to convey her message of every action having a consequence. The most prominent of these is her use of imagery and metaphor which she uses to illustrate Ibaraki’s guilt and the way it impacts his actions. However, the story is not only centred around Ibaraki. Piper also highlights that people will often face consequences no matter what decision they make. She does this through her use of foil characters (characters who are used to highlight a particular trait in another character). For example, Ibaraki’s fear and obedience are emphasised by the courage of Kayoko and Johnny Chang. These characters, alongside Ibaraki, face suffering as a result of their actions.
From these ideas, the main themes I am going to explore are what factors affect the character’s actions, and how the consequences of these actions can lead to negative, but also positive change.
Step 3: Create a Plan
Whilst the novel centres around Ibaraki’s actions and their consequences, he is not the only character that makes mistakes and is forced to face the repercussions.
It is not necessarily Ibaraki’s actions, but lack of action that often results in the suffering of those around him. Consider the reasons for his lack of action: his blind devotion to authority, his fear of judgement, his ongoing guilt and regret from previous situations.
Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, but it is not the only factor.
Ibaraki may pay the highest price for his actions. The structure of the storyline to include a chapter from Ibaraki’s perspective years later indicates that these consequences have ultimately led to positive change.
Now it is time to write the essay!
Set during the Pacific War, Christine Piper’s After Darkness explores the difficulties and misfortunes many face during wartime. Depicting the rise and fall of Japan’s war efforts (1), After Darkness highlights that all actions have consequences of varying severity, particularly those of protagonist Dr Ibaraki Tomokazu. Throughout the novel, Ibaraki’s lack of action perpetuates the suffering of those closest to him, however, this is shown to be one of many factors and often initiates positive change within him, allowing his character to develop. Fundamentally, After Darkness highlights that change can only occur if people face the repercussions of their actions. (2)
Annotations (1) In the introduction, it is important to introduce the text withcontext. As After Darkness is predominantly set in 1942 during wartime in both Japan and Australia, it is important to include this in the introduction in order to explore the essay topic with a complete understanding.
(2) Another key part of the introduction is to briefly introduce the topics you will discuss throughout the essay.
Throughout the novel, Piper emphasises the idea that all actions have consequences, however, this idea is not limited to Ibaraki. Across the three novel strands, protagonist Dr Tomokazu Ibaraki’s suffering as a result of his mistakes is depicted through both his internal and external dialogue. Ibaraki makes many significant mistakes throughout his lifetime, one of these being his failure to perform a dissection of a child when working at Unit 731. Despite ‘not [being] [him]self’ (3) when asked to perform the operation, Ibaraki is promptly fired. His termination of employment is not the only consequence of his failure, as shame continues to take over his confidence. This is illustrated when he was ‘unable to go on’ during an operation in Broome, despite being in a completely different scenario. Through Ibaraki’s flashback of ‘Black dots on a child’s belly’, Piper indicates the torment and lasting effects of consequences on an individual (4). Whilst the novel centres around his mistakes, it is revealed that Ibaraki is not the only character who is forced to face the repercussions of their actions. Despite acting as foils for Ibaraki and presenting many different qualities, Australian internees Johnny Chang and Stan Suzuki also struggle immensely to overcome the results of their behaviours. Johnny Chang’s outspoken nature is often shown to cause disruption among the camp, for example, labelling the imperialist Japanese as ‘emperor worshipping pig’s.’ In standing for his beliefs, Johnny creates a tense division within groups, leading to the half Australian internees being treated like ‘outcasts’. Conversely, Stan’s introverted behaviour results in his eventual death (5). Piper’s contention that all actions have consequences is arguably enforced strongly through Stan’s death, as it results from the failure of many characters to act. Ibaraki’s inability to open up, Johnny’s selfishness and Stan’s loss of self are inevitably all factors leading to his eventual demise. This is ultimately reinforced when Johnny states ‘It should’ve been me Doc’, indicating he has finally realised his role in the tragedy.
Annotations (3) In order toembed quotes, words, prefixes and suffixes can be added to ensure the sentence flows correctly. However, you must indicate that you have edited the quote by placing your changes in squarebrackets. Here, the original quote was ‘not myself’ but it has been changed to fit the sentence.
(4) Whilst it is important to include quotes, it is even more important that you analyse how the author uses the quote to convey a message. In this case, the example of one of Ibaraki’s many flashbacks is used to bear Piper’s belief that one cannot escape the repercussions of their actions.
(5)Comparison is a powerful way of exploring the author’s ideas throughout the text. Here, Johnny’s outspoken nature is contrasted with Stan’s ‘introverted behaviour’, yet both concede repercussions. This supports the idea that all actions have consequences, no matter their nature.
Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, however, it is not the only factor. After Darkness shows the faults in many of Ibaraki’s actions, suggesting his mistakes lead to the misfortunes of many of those around him but this is only partially true. Stan Suzuki’s death is a pivotal moment in the novel where Ibaraki begins to truly express his emotions and open up about the pain he feels (6). Ibaraki realises that he ‘could have done something’ when opening up to the investigators of Stan’s death, leading to the conclusion that Ibaraki is to blame. Piper illustrates that suffering results as a combination of factors through the later revelations of Johnny’s escape attempt and the instability of the ‘trigger-happy’ guard who shot Stan. This idea is reinforced through the breakdowns of Ibaraki’s close relationships with Kayoko and Sister Bernice. Whilst Ibaraki’s emotionally distant nature catalysed the loss of these significant relationships, it was not the only factor. Both Kayoko and Sister Bernice are structured with similar characteristics in the novel, one being their confidence and strength in their beliefs. Nevertheless, both women lack this characteristic when it comes to their relationship with Ibaraki (7). Ibaraki admits his separation from Kayoko is his ‘greatest regret’, and whilst the first-person perspective does not give an insight into Kayoko’s side, she is shown to lack her usual self-assuredness. Similarly, Ibaraki’s allowance of ‘silence [to] stretch between…’ him and Sister Bernice is hurtful and a failure on his behalf, yet she still willingly confesses her feelings, aware of the risks involved. This is evident when ‘her eyes dart away from [his]’, implying she is ashamed of her statement as it contradicts her religion and the terms of their work relationship and friendship. This results in an abrupt end to their friendship as the embarrassment of the repercussions of her actions overwhelm Sister Bernice. Whilst the series of mistakes that Ibaraki makes throughout the novel show that his actions cause grief for both him and the people around him, they also highlight that the misfortune of others is not always the fault of one individual.
Annotations (6) Referring to specific events in the text is extremely useful to support your ideas and claims. However, it is important that you avoid over-explaining the event, as this will lead to you retelling, rather than analysing the text. See How To Avoid Retelling the Story for more tips.
(7) An often-overlooked literary device is the use of foils. A foil is a character that is used to highlight a particular trait in another character, often a flaw. In this case, Piper uses the similarities between Kayoko and Sister Bernice, and the ultimate failure of their relationships. This highlights Ibaraki’s repetition of his mistakes, which we can attribute to his ongoing guilt.
Ibaraki ultimately pays the highest price for his actions; although this is shown to result in positive change. Through her descriptions of Australia and Japan, Piper uses the juxtaposition of light and dark imagery to illustrate how suffering can lead to learning and growth. Facing racism in Broome when labelled as a ‘Bloody Jap…’, trauma from his experiences in Unit 731 and hardship during his internment at Loveday, Ibaraki is constantly a victim of circumstance. Even so, the pressures and torment of these events force him to seek the support of others. The colourful descriptions of the ‘pink spur of land crested with green’ foreshadow the positive change to come for Ibaraki (8). This becomes evident when Ibaraki finally opens up to Stan in the infirmary about his separation from Kayoko. Ibaraki’s development as a character continues as he learns to trust despite the unfair circumstances of being interned. Although memories of trees haunting the river’s edge ‘like lost people’ and the bark of red trees appearing ‘like blistered skin’ continue to plague Ibaraki’s conscience, they force him to confront his past and in turn begin to heal. Through the retrospective novel, Piper describes Japan as where ‘darkness crowded the corners’ and Ibaraki worked ‘in the basement’, indicating his misguided obedience and attachment to silence. This not only illustrates (9) Ibaraki’s trauma, but emphasises his drastic development through his experiences. The importance of the consequences Ibaraki has faced throughout his lifetime are reinforced in the final pages of the novel after he reads Sister Bernice’s letter and has an epiphany. The discovery that he had ‘clung to the ideal of discretion’ creates a sense of hope for Ibaraki’s future and emphasises his newfound understanding of life through the consequences he has faced. (10)
Annotations (8) Ensure you don’t just randomly place quotes throughout the essay, but instead, analyse them to give them meaning. An easy way to do this is by including the quote, its connotations and what emotions or ideas they provoke, followed by why the author has used it. In this case, the quote was the ‘pink spur of land crested with green.’ Its connotations were positive such as colour, happiness, and hope. These connotations were used to foreshadow positive change.
(9) Using a variety of vocabulary such as ‘illustrates’, ‘explores’ and ‘demonstrates’ shows that you are not only identifying what the author is doing but that you understand how and why they have done it in this way. This is ultimately the goal of a text response essay.
(10) It is important to ensure the flow of your essay to show sophistication in your writing. It is not only the ideas you have, but the way in which you convey and explain them that ultimately indicates your understanding of the text. A simple way to do this is to use a summary sentence at the end of each topic that subscribes to the idea and links to the previous or following paragraph.
Essentially After Darkness highlights the necessity of facing consequences for our actions to promote learning and growth. Whilst Ibaraki and many other characters suffered as a result of their behaviour, Piper asserts that Ibaraki is not the overall perpetrator but ultimately pays the highest price of all. (11)
Annotations (11) Just like the introduction, the conclusion is a brief summary of the discussion topics throughout your text response. Most importantly, after exploring all of the evidence you must form a stance in relation to the essay topic. Many students believe that this needs to be a simple and definite yes or no, which is not the case. Instead, I have suggested that Ibaraki is not the only one to blame for other character’s suffering, but that ultimately, he paid the highest price. Check out 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion if you need more help finishing your essay off with a bang!
If you found this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide which includes 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals!
After Darkness is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Hey guys. Can you believe it is November already? Holy cow. Time flies so quickly. All my Year 12s have finished now, so if you're still here with me ... you must be in Year 11 or below, or you could be a Year 12 that's already finished, but you still enjoy my videos. I'm on to you.
If you didn't know already, I do have a personal YouTube channel. So head on over there if you guys have finished the year for English because I'd still really love to stay in contact with you.
I've previously done this segment before and when I started it, everyone fell in love with it. So I created the segment a while ago now, and I have done one article... Actually it was two articles so far. If you haven't looked at those ones, I'd recommend you go ahead and check it out.
But this one, I'm going to do a 2001 analyzing argument article. The reason why I choose really old articles is because I feel like the more recent ones you probably end up doing at school, or you will probably do it in your own time. If not, you've probably already done it. That's why I want to leave those ones to you guys, maybe eventually I'll get up to it. But I want to be able to show you guys a little bit more, so that's why I choose really old ones, but it's still relevant to the course. Don't think that just because it's done in 2001, which is forever ago, what, were you born there? Oh, my gosh. I just realized that some of you could have, yeah.
Anyways, the aim of today is just to go through the article, try to identify what the language techniques are and understand how they are persuasive or at least how the author intends them to persuade the audience. Actually, down the track we will talk more about structure, more at looking at arguments, that type of thing. But the goal here is more just about identification and understanding language techniques. So let's just get started.
With this particular one, you'll see that it is on a website, so you could analyze that in itself. But since I don't have it in front of me, I'm not going to, and I'm just going to look at the actual article itself.
"Keep healthy the informed way. Get in early. Get your Medi-Info card today." Automatically this might appeal to readers because it's saying "Keep healthy the informed way," as though if they don't take onboard whatever this person is recommending them, then they won't be informed and so they're missing out on something. There's also this sense of urgency, "Get in early."
"All of the world health professionals and their patients are waking up to the possibilities of the Medi-Info, MI Card." So "All over the world" is indicative of a global profile so this indicates that if it's good enough for the rest of the world, then surely it must be good enough for Australians like you and me. So that may invite readers to jump on-board with whatever this Medi-Info Card is about.
"Health professionals and their patients." "Health professionals and their patients" goes to show that if these people are recommending it and they are embracing the card, such as doctors or dentists or physiotherapists, then it's a really fantastic endorsement about that card and the product and what it's worth. Therefore, we should also support the product, too, either that could fall under the fact that they have credentials and so we trust them.
"Waking up to the possibility." So "possibilities" definitely has positive connotations. It's this idea of endless potential and so there is a lot to be gained from the card.
"Driven by breakthrough technology, the microchip-powered and credit-sized Medi-Info Card contains the info that carers and patients need to have now, on the spot, on time, on the screen." So "breakthrough technology" itself, "microchip-powered," they both indicate that this idea is cutting-edge. For us, this may persuade readers because there's this idea that the latest tech often means the most effective or it's most likely to enhance your living.
The fact that it's credit-sized means that it is also portable. It's lightweight. What do you think this could mean for readers? It's user-friendly. How does this persuade them? It could persuade a person to adopt this card and take it on-board because it seems like it's convenient, it's easy to use. And it's not going to be a burden on them because all they need to do is really just throw it into their wallet.
Now "on the spot, on time, on screen" really seems to push the idea of what do you think? Sorry, if it's out of focus. It's because I'm not looking at the camera. It could appeal to our desire to have things instantaneously. We're in the generation where things pop up in our face all the time, like notifications, shipping happens overnight. We just want things straightaway. So it could be that, but also this idea that this card is available any time and the information is accessible for you 24/7 so it's convenient. So I'll put that in below as well.
"This is the ultimate cool techno accessory." Okay. "Cool techno" itself is a bit of slang, or you could say that it's colloquial language to try to appeal to readers who may be interested in the latest tech, or people who want to keep up with the trend or the latest fashion accessories, for example. But there's this added benefit, it will actually save your life.
Then this person moves on to say, "Imagine you have an accident and are taken to hospital. Without the MI card in your wallet, can you be sure that vital information won't be missed? Think what the card might reveal." "Imagine itself" is a hypothetical situation. It's trying to get readers to see that the MI is a valuable tool. It has benefits that readers just cannot ignore and just between you and me, it could also appeal to our sense of FOMO. FOMO is not something that you would write into your essay itself, but there's this fear that if you don't have it, well, then what could potentially happen? It could be really bad.
So then there's all these dot points about what the card reveals, so it's those features, that for you, it comes back to the idea that all of these are the benefits that you can have. You can have also reassurance as a result because you know that all your information is there. People can access it when they need to, or when you're in times of need so then that in itself could relate to this idea of safety or comfort.
"All this and more can be downloaded fast from your MI Card. No forms to fill in. No stressful interviews about your medical history. No gaps because you're too stressed to remember your health details or insurance information." Okay. This idea that it can be downloaded fast is, again, convenient. It's not going to take up too much of your time. It's going to be really quick as well.
"No forms, no stressful interviews," so these two together will eliminate any of your negative experiences that you've previously had working with health professionals or the health sector. There's this idea of this simple, straightforward approach and this idea that there are no gaps, either. You might be fearful that because you're not providing all the information that you have because you just don't know it, then maybe you won't get the right type of treatment or people won't be able to look after you properly. But in this case, there's this sense of security that you'll be looked after.
"And there's more. It can even show you that in the event of your death, you want to live on as an organ donor." Organ donor itself has positive connotations. Everybody knows that if you're an organ donor, wow, you're very selfless and you're very giving, so this is like an added bonus that can make you feel better as a person. "You could give someone else the chance of a new life." If you're able to do this, it puts you in power, so you could say that you feel empowered as a result.
"What about security?" All of this section here maybe you could say specifically appeal to an audience who might be more concerned about security and about the information being put online or into this tool.
Then the rest of it, it's pretty straightforward as well. It'll work pretty much anywhere, so this idea that you're always going to be covered. "You can trust our technology. Get the Medi-Card Info today. Keep healthy the informed way," and then the rest of it, "Send in your stories of medical emergencies."
Because I just want to keep this short, I think I'll leave it there. You could say that with this part, there's this very enthusiastic tone that's carried through the entire thing. Okay, cool. So I am just going to leave it there. I hope that was helpful to some extent, just to get you started and to get you thinking about some of the language techniques that might be there.
How did you guys go? I would actually really love to hear what kind of language techniques you found in the comment section below. But if you've got any questions for me, then please leave them as well because I know I haven't gone into this in immense detail, but yeah, hopefully you're able to walk away and learn something from it.
So if you like this type of thing, don't forget, I have an online course that's called How To Achieve A Plus In A Language Analysis? There's lots and lots of information there and videos that are around five hours long for you. Around 300 students have taken the course and it's rated something like 4.5 and above, so hopefully that's a good indication that it is actually really helpful.
So next week when I see you guys, we're going to go into part two, the article where it's about the family doctor. So I'd encourage you guys to go and analyze that yourself, and then let's reconvene next Friday and work through it. Hopefully this will prepare you guys in Year 11 for your end-of-year exam. Bye guys!
[Video Transcription 2]
Hey guys, so welcome back to part two. If you were here last week, then you know that I have already analyzed part one article for you and now we're moving into part two. You can just download the PDF for this language analysis article just down below in the description box, but let's just get started. Okay, so, "I am a doctor with over 35 years experience." So automatically this doctor is establishing his credentials. So with credentials, it usually means that as an audience, we are impressed and we are respectful of this person and trust their opinion, especially if it's 35 years. "I know what it is to be called to a local school in an emergency and find a child suffering from asthma, unable to tell me what medication has previously been prescribed. I know what it is to see older patients, day after day who experienced wariness and confusion in trying to remember all the medication they are taking."
So when he says, "I know what it is," these are first hand experiences. It shows, again, and compounds on the idea that this guy is indeed experienced in the field and we should trust anyone, I guess, we should kind of trust the doctor, right, because he's exposed to this type of stuff every single day. It also shows that he is empathetic, which is a great quality to see in a doctor, because he seems to suffer as well when his patients are suffering. So with that in mind, as an audience, we are more inclined to like him and to value his opinion because he has directly been impacted as a result. When he talks about a child with asthma, it's a very interesting scenario to choose, he could have talked about anyone, he decides to talk about a child.
So potentially what this could do is appeal to a particular audience, for example, it could be parents, it could be other people suffering asthma, for example. But let's say if we're parents, generally we're... I say, we like I'm a parent, I'm not a parent. But we're protective towards young people, and you want to remove them from needless suffering as a result. Again, "Those who experienced weariness and confusion," potentially that could appeal to the elderly. So, if you're somebody who's older and you're starting to experience the fact that you're getting a little bit confused or you're forgetting things, then this might really appeal to you and speak to you because it could be the answer that you're looking for.
"I recently heard about the pain and distress of a patient who suffered an epileptic fit while far from home. Unfortunately, everyone around him, unaware that he had mild fits, assumed he was drunk and ignored him." So this part here, like recalling a story, it shows the unfairness of the situation. That this person who was having epileptic fit, would have a much more positive outcome should he have had an MI card. And we feel sorry for him because nobody should have to experience their illness and be alienated or judged on by the community or by the public. So as a result, we may be encouraged to go out there and get our own and MI card or recommend our friends or family who we know are, who may be suffering from illnesses to get an MI card. "We can all sympathize with this lad", so that itself is quite easy. What is it, guys? Inclusive language.
So if you don't know already, inclusive language engages the audience because it encourages them to feel included and responsible in whatever the author is talking about, so we feel like there's something that we can do in this case. "This lad," that's quite colloquial, why do you think he does that? So maybe it shows that this doctor isn't just a doctor who's distant and unfeeling, but he sees us, patients, as people and as friends, people that he cares about. And so, again, we're more inclined to listen to this doctor because we see him in a positive light. "He can no longer feel confident when he goes out." So this is, again, like so unfair, nobody should go out and feel like they can't be confident. If this is something that's taken away from the person, but a Medi-Info Card could help relieve them of that, then maybe they should do it, maybe we should stop advocating for MI cards.
"We can all sympathize," do you guys know what that is? Generalization. Generalization is when it's indicated that everyone agrees, like we can all sympathize because if you don't seem like you sympathize, well then you're kind of that a-hole in the corner that's like being rude and not caring while everyone else is. So of course you're kind of more inclined to want to agree and sympathize and therefore support MI card. "As a doctor," so yet again, that kind of goes back to like the credentials.
"I know that in emergency, he would have been given vital help he required immediately." So this sense of instantaneous, there's no waiting involved, everything happens straight away. So we can trust Medi-Info, it's going to do its job at making sure that people are well looked after. "All Australians," same thing, generalization. "Young or old, sick or well, bush or city, close," so this starts to appeal that to lots of different people. "Lives that are free from anxiety," so appeals to their sense of freedom or this idea that this person couldn't feel confident anymore. We don't want them to go out there and feel anxious either, right?
You can see from all the different lines and where they're going, that I try to make connections to other parts of the article as I go through the piece, because I think it's really important to be able to look at things on more holistic scale than rather just one thing on a micro level. This means that you're able to better understand the contention, as well as the arguments that the author uses to build up that contention.
So let's finish this one off, "The Medi Card doesn't waste people's time," for people who are very conscious of their time and want to be productive, it could appeal to them. "Safe and secure," excellent, so we know that. We spoke about this last time with the MI, giving you security and comfort. And also you can also say that there's alliteration here, it's just as a side note though, I would much rather you guys talk about security and safety and how that appeals to people.
And "My work as a doctor would improve," I mean, if you really wanted to, you could even like put that together with as a doctor, and then it goes back to credentials. "If I had more time to talk to my patients, they would be improved." Duh, duh, duh. Cool. "To me, your Medi-Info Card means peace of mind for everyone." Okay, so what do you guys think of that? I'm not going to analyze it, I'm going to ask you guys to analyze it and put it down in the comment section below for me. So with this one, I analyzed a lot, but I'm sure there's still heaps more that I haven't quite looked at. And so I want you guys to put down in the comments below, what are the different types of analyses that you've pulled from this article, let's share around and help each other out.
The more we can collaborate and work together, the more we can lift each other up. So if you needed more help with analyzing arguments, you guys can definitely check out my study guide where I have an entire section, which covers everything from how to analyze, language technique list, structure, high response essays, low response essays, so you can see the difference and everything is annotated for you in those essays so that you understand why they actually did well or not so well. So that's it from me, I will see you guys next Friday, and chat to you then. Bye!
How can we write about a film in a way that shows our knowledge of its complexity in the way it conveys ideas through visuals and sound?
While this blog post focuses on the construction of Invictus, the concepts around analysing film and writing about it apply to all other Year 11 and 12 multimodal texts. If you are studying Ransom with Invictus for the Comparative component of VCE English, you may also find out Ransom and Invictus study guide helpful.
What contrasts Invictus from Ransom, is, of course, that we can see Clint Eastwood’s depictions of post-Apartheid South Africa through his visualisations of, for instance, characters emotions and behaviours, by the formation of cinematic techniques. We can see the divided community in which the narrative is set; involving the rift between Afrikaners and black South Africans. The added challenge of writing about a multimodal text such as Invictus, is that its composition through these film techniques should be integrated as textual evidence in a cohesive and effective way.
Some key study design points:
“The features of written, spoken and multimodal texts used by authors to convey ideas, issues and themes.”
“The ways in which different texts provide different perspectives on ideas, issues and themes and how comparing them can offer an enriched understanding of the ideas, issues and themes.”
“Use textual evidence appropriately to support comparative analysis.”
A good way to approach analysis of textual evidence is through looking at quotes. However, to further show our understanding of the text is perhaps to discuss the context of these quotes; examining what the director is showing us along with this dialogue. What are the expressions portrayed by the characters? What does the framing reveal to us about the characters, symbols or the setting? What is Eastwood wanting us to understand about the narrative through the combination of these techniques? By asking these questions we can try to grasp what the intentions of the director are.
Some key film techniques to think about may be camera framings/angles, acting, lighting, editing, mise en scène, symbols, etc. (see terminology at the end of this blog).
Analysing a frame
A useful idea might be to go through the film multiple times, pause at certain moments and note what you can both see and hear. Turn on the subtitles to help decipher the dialogue – note these quotes down. It may also be worthwhile to read through the actual script to Invictus; from this we can learn of the intentions of Eastwood from a different perspective – in what he wanted to show his audience in each scene.
INT. SPRINGBOK DRESSING ROOM - DAY
The sound of cleats approaching on concrete. Exhausted
footsteps. The DRESSING ROOM ATTENDANT PUTS CASES OF BEER
(cans) on a side table, rips them open, backs away --
-- as the Springboks enter silently, faces miserable,
shoulders slumped. They've lost another game.
What is the setting? What can we see happening in this setting? Who is there? What are the behaviours and expressions of the characters? What does the type of camerawork tell us? What does the lighting and colour tell us? These might be some questions to consider.
MANDELA ENTERS LOFTUS VERSFELD STADIUM AS NEW PRESIDENT
In this scene, Eastwood utilises wide, high angle framing to represent the enormity of the stadium; filled with Afrikaners who, predominantly, detest the new President. Still, even as the framing is constantly filled with these Springboks sports fans, the director shows us the smiling, confident Mandela, who warmly waves to his new ‘partners in democracy’ without fear or distaste. We can see this as the camera draws in on Mandela’s facial expressions. Moreover, the courage of Mandela is exhibited as he exits the stadium and a sports fan hurls a drink at him. Even despite that he ‘sees everything’, Mandela continues to wave and smile at the crowd.
MANDELA ENTERS ELLIS PARK STADIUM FOR WORLD CUP FINAL
On the other hand, this scene, whilst it continues to demonstrate the steadfast, affable nature of Mandela, shows the unification of South Africa. Through Mandela’s support of the Springboks by wearing the green and gold, we can understand that the Springboks have subsided from once being a ‘prominent symbol of the apartheid era’. By contrast to his first appearance, Mandela is now upheld as a leader to all; there is no jeering or booing, but lively backing of both the Boks and The President. Mandela has fundamentally transformed the team who once brought ‘shame upon our nation’ into something to be proud of and excited for.
The camera pans around the stadium depicting cheering and applauding fans, who are even carrying the new South African flag. Even more interestingly, the black South Africans who widely scorned the Springboks, are now watching the rugby final in support of their team; their country.
JASON AND HIS TEAM MEET THE NEW BODYGUARDS
Eastwood utilises tight, close-up framing in this scene as to allude to the confrontation between black and white South Africans. By this, the director draws us in to the agitated, bemused expressions on Jason and Linga, who immediately clash with the new SAS bodyguards they must partner with. Jason stresses the personal bond between his team and the President – ‘[Madiba] that’s what we call him’. This immediately shows the distaste that the black South Africans have towards their ‘enemies’, the Afrikaners.
Madiba implores that ‘reconciliation starts here’ and ‘forgiveness starts here’; Mandela assembles this new team of bodyguards because they are his representatives and ambassadors. He wants the ‘rainbow nation’ to start here.
Writing an analysis
Once we understand what’s happening in some important scenes, we can think about how this understanding can be implemented into pieces of writing.
Consider the quotes: ‘Pienaar’s team’, ‘shame upon our nation’, ‘somebody gets the axe’ and ‘tails between their legs’. This is what TV host, Boland Botha, and the rugby president, say after the Boks perform poorly in their rugby match. Accompanying this scene are close-ups of Francois Pienaar, who is made to be the blame for the momentous loss.
We could approach an analysis of this by embedding quotes amongst a discussion of the cinematic techniques; explaining what we learn about the character of Pienaar through these. By including both quotes and some context in the cinematic construction, it displays a clear knowledge and understanding.
For instance, we could write:
“Eastwood demonstrates Pienaar as a prominent leader in the Springbok team. He is made out to be responsible for ‘[his] team’s’ dismal performance. Tight, close-up framing shows the audience a defeated Pienaar, a captain and leader who has brought ‘shame upon’ the South African nation, and as the rugby president suggests, deserves to ‘get the axe’. The harsh, low-key lighting of the frame draws in on the raked and bruised Pienaar, who is isolated as the key to the Boks having ‘their tails between their legs’ throughout the game.”
Have a go at analysing the film and finding a way to balance embedded quotes with examples of the director’s techniques.
All in all, while it is not crucial to talk about specific production techniques as such, it can help give you an edge in demonstrating that you know the ins and outs of the text. It helps show your comprehension of the context, themes and ideas presented, which is key to exemplifying a capacity to perceive authorial intent.
Some useful terminology
Shots: extreme long shot/long shot, medium shot, close-up shot/extreme close-up
Establishing shots: first shot of a new scene, shows the audience where the scene is taking place.
Depth of field: distance between closest and furthest objects giving a focused image.
Bird’s-eye view, low angle, eye-level, high angle
Skewed angle: camera set on an angle (horizon line is not parallel with the bottom of the frame)
Zooming, panning/tilting, tracking, hand-held
Mise en Scene: the arrangement of a frame; the artistic look of a shot in its elements of lighting, colour, camera techniques, sets, costumes, etc.
Lighting: high-key (bright, low shadow and contrast) or low-key (underlit, strong contrast between light and dark)
Point-of-view: the perspective from which the text is portrayed; the audience are driven to identify with characters portrayed.
Opening/resolution: how a narrative is introduced in setting up characters, settings, etc., how these develop and resolve at the end of a text.
Motif: a distinguishable feature which portrays a theme and idea about a character, setting, etc.
For more information on film techniques, watch this video:
For a detailed list of film techniques, learn morehere.
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
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
The Prompt: ‘“We are loot my son and I, soldiers’ plunder.” Discuss how Euripides highlights the plight of women taken as slaves in war.’
Step 1: Analyse
The first thing to note about this prompt is that it is a 'how’ question, it is essentially asking us to identify the literary techniques Euripides has employed in order to ‘highlight’ the women’s ‘plight’. The noun ‘plight’ is defined as a troublesome or unfortunate situation, yet we must consider this word in the context of war. How do the women suffer? In other words, how does Euripides demonstrate to his reader just how dejected the women are as slaves?
Step 2: Brainstorm
It is relatively simple to identify the literary techniques which consistently appear throughout Euripides’ play, such as imagery, metaphor and simile (not entirely sure what literary techniques are? We have a list of them for you here). However, keeping in mind we have to form three paragraphs, we should consider Euripides’ authorial voice more broadly. For example, the women consistently lament their disillusionment with the gods. This is not a literary technique in itself, but it is still a literary choice which Euripides has made and which has been deepened with more specific literary devices like metaphor. The same could be said for the women’s struggle for hope, and the contrast between their joyous pasts and dismal futures.
Step 3: Create a Plan
Unlike a ‘to what extent’ question, we do not have to form an argument. Instead, we must forge a discussion of Euripides’ literary decisions as a playwright.
P1: Euripides juxtaposes the triumphant pasts of the Trojan women with their tragic futures. The 'shining citadels of Troy' are now a 'black smokened ruin’.
P2: Euripides illuminatesthe women’sattempts to retain futile hope. Note that hope also comes in the form of revenge.
P3: The dramatic irony of the play renders the women’s desperate calls upon the gods all the more tragic. Here, we can also make reference to the prologue, and Athene’s ploy to create a storm on the Greeks’ journey home which also ultimately affects the women.
At the heart of the conflict in The Women of Troy, lies the anguished 'suffering' (1) of the Trojan women as they confront their fates as 'slaves', and remember their pasts as wives and mothers. In his tragedy, first performed in Athens circa 415 BCE, Euripides amplifies the conflicted voices of the Trojan women, voices which are by contrast suppressed and disregarded in the Homeric worksthe Iliad and the Odyssey. Euripides’ stark dichotomy between the glories and 'rituals' of the past, and the sombre 'grief' of the present, elucidate the magnitude of their losses, both material and moral. For as Andromache laments, these women have been objectified as 'loot', mere spoils of war to be abused and exploited. (2) The women’s tendency to clutch onto chimerical (3) hopes and values only serves to further illuminate the profundity of their suffering once these ambitions have been brutally quashed in the 'dust' of their 'smoke blackened ruin' of Troy. Perhaps most significantly, Euripides juxtaposes the lingering though pitiful hope of the women with the gods’ complete 'desert[ion]' of Troy, positioning the women in an ironic chasm of cruel abandonment. Thus, the plight of women as wartime captives is dramatised by Euripides, corralling the audience into an ultimate stance of pity and empathy.
Annotations: (1) It is often useful to embed short/one word quotes in your essay (we teach you how in How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss). It shows you have a great understanding of the text, and reads fluidly as opposed to overly long quotes.
(2) Here, I have addressed the quote in the prompt in a single sentence, unpacking Euripides’ analogy of Andromache and Astyanax as ‘loot’. By comparing the two characters to war spoils, he is suggesting that they have been stripped of their free will and autonomy.
(3) It is really important to vary your vocabulary in order to increase the sophistication of your essay. The adjective ‘chimerical’ refers to an ideal which is impossible to achieve.
Euripides’ juxtaposition between the dismal future of the Trojan women and the zenith of their pasts, further illuminates the chasm of their sufferings and losses as the ultimate victims of wartime atrocities. Chiefly, Euripides contrasts Hecuba’s former royal status with the demoralizing fate of her captivity, encapsulating this tragic fall from nobility with the ironic imagery, 'throned in the dust’. Yet perhaps what truly emphasises her plight as a slave is her enduring role as a maternal figure of leadership, encapsulated in her regard of the chorus as '[her] children' and her reciprocated address as 'dear queen' and 'your mother'. Despite the 'death agony' she feels, she chooses to maintain her nobility through the depth of her morality, dramatizing the pitiful nature of her plight (4). Moreover, Euripides’ juxtaposition between the 'shining citadels of Troy' and the 'misery' of the chorus elucidates the significance of 'home', a source of solace which has been barbarically stripped away from them. Likewise, Andromache laments her past as a dutiful and faithful wife, contrasting her fidelity against her fate as a 'concubine' to the formidable Neoptolemus (5). Euripides implies that Andromache must abandon her reputation as the 'perfect wife' – the very attribute for which she was chosen especially – doomed to confront a life of sexual slavery, an unwilling mother of Neoptolemus’ children.
Annotations: (4) Here, I have used the word ‘plight’, making sure I am engaging directly with the prompt. It is often easy to fall into the trap of creating a generalised essay which only loosely adheres to the question.
(5) It is more sophisticated to specify the name of Andromache’s husband (Neoptolemus), rather than to just simply state ‘Andromache’s husband’ (even though he is not featured as a character in Euripides’ play).
Euripides (6) characterises the women by their tendency to clutch on to 'hope[s]' and ideals that are impossible to fulfil. Almost a coping mechanism of sorts, the chorus paradoxically romanticise the Greek landscape in the first episode, lauding the 'sacred halls', 'green fields', 'beautiful river[s]' and 'wealth' of Hellas. Yet, their ardent critiques of their future 'home[s]' rejects any notion that the women truly believe these glorifications of the Greek realm. Similarly, Hecuba is motivated by her futile hope that Astyanax may one day seek vengeance and be 'the savior of Troy' by 'rebuild[ing]' the city. Yet tragically, this doomed hope is violently quashed by Odysseus 'blind panic' and acute lack of rationality: the 'liar' and 'deceiver' who 'lead the Greek council' in their debate. Though this hope initially provides her with some form of solace, all comfort is dashed with the announcement of his 'butchery'. Likewise, Cassandra is motivated by her own pursuit for revenge, lauding her 'sacred marriage' to Agamemnon as an event worthy of 'praise' and 'celebration'. Yet her hope is also jaded, for she must in the process 'flout all religious feeling' as a slave of Agamemnon’s 'lust', until she meets her painful hour of death at Clytemnestra’s hands.
Annotations: (6) Notice that several of the sentences have begun with ‘Euripides characterises’ or ‘Euripides illuminates’, engaging with the ‘how’ part of the prompt. We are showing what the author has done and why.
Ironically, Euripides illuminates the plight of the Trojan women through his dramatic elucidation of the gods’ callous abandonment of the ruined Troy. Euripides juxtaposes the past 'rituals', 'dances', 'songs', 'sacrifices', 'offerings' and 'ceremonies' of the chorus with their bitter laments that 'the gods hate Troy' and that they are ultimately characterised by avarice. They are neither answered not consoled in their ultimate time of mourning, for the audience is aware that Poseidon has fled the scene in the prologue, disillusioned by the 'ceas[ing]' of 'worship', leaving 'nothing (…) worth a god’s consideration' in the fallen city. What is also rendered ironic by Euripides, is Athene’s formidable ploy to 'make the Greeks’ return home a complete disaster.' Regardless of Athene’s true motives for instigating this ultimate pursuit of comeuppance, the fact remains that the women too must endure this perilous journey to Greece. Not only are the despairing wives, mothers and daughters condemned to 'abject slavery' on foreign soil, they are 'innocent: victims who may – alongside the Greeks – find themselves on the shores of Euboea, among the 'float[ing] (…) corpses' of the Greek soldiers. They are not simply abandoned by the gods, they are, directly or indirectly, punished. (7)
Annotations: (7) This is a more original point which other students may not automatically think of. We often view Athene’s ‘ploy’ as a deserved punishment of the ‘murderous’ Greeks, yet there is no true justice, for the women too are ultimately affected.
In a play which serves to fill the silence of the Trojan women in the legendary works of the Iliad and the Odyssey(8), Euripides augments the pitiful plight of the Trojan women with agonizing references to past 'happiness', and equally unbearable forecasts of their roles as 'slaves' of Greek lust. They are indeed 'loot' and they are indeed 'plunder' – as Andromache so bitterly laments – yet their plight is recorded in the works of 'poets' to come, remembered as a legacy of stoicism 'a hundred generations hence.' Taken as our 'great theme', these women are 'sufferer[s]', yet they are also heroes.
Annotations: (8) Just as I have done in the introduction, I have referred to the context of the play in the conclusion. The Iliad and the Odyssey provided the framework for Euripides’ play, so by referencing Homer’s works we are showing the examiner that we have an understanding of the historical context.
If you'd like to dive deeper into Women of Troy, check out ourA Killer Text Guide: Women of Troystudy guide. In it, we teach you how to how to think like a 50 study scorer through advanced discussions on topics such as views and values and metalanguage, we provide you with 5 A+ sample essays that are fully annotated and everything is broken down into easy-to-understand concepts so that students of all levels can understand and apply what we teach!!
If you are anything like me, the thought of standing up in front of a classroom, or even a small panel of teachers, having to hold the floor for five minutes, and being assessed on your performance is just about as terrifying as it gets. Where other students thrived on the oral presentation SAC, embracing its change of pace in comparison to the other written tasks, I dreaded it. I knew the feeling all too well: legs jelly-like and quivering, breath short and rapid, palms sweating, tongue uncomfortably heavy as the words tumble out too fast to keep up with…essentially (as I, a true master of the English language, would put it) the absolute worst.
Fast forward to the present day and, I hate to break it to you, I am still not a fan of public speaking. But guess what? I did my oral presentation and I’m still alive to tell the tale. Plus, as a bonus, it did not involve me passing out, and as a double bonus, I still ended up with a great result. So I am here, my fellow members of the ‘Might Go Ahead and Drop Out of VCE so I Don’t Have To Do My Oral’ club, as proof that it can be done and to help you get through it.
What Do We Mean by ‘Overcoming’?
As I have already mentioned, emerging triumphant from your oral does not require you to magically become a public speaking fanatic. Let me manage your expectations right now: that probably isn’t going to happen overnight, and likely never will. But you can still be good at public speaking, perhaps great at it, even if it scares you. Trying to figure out a magical formula of preparation that will have you breezing through the oral in total zen-mode is not only going to waste your time, but will likely also make you more frightened when you realise that you can’t completely shake the nerves. So, by accepting the reality that the fear probably isn’t going to go away any time soon we can start to learn how to manage it, at least succeed in spite of it, and hopefully even use it to our advantage.
“an inherently interesting topic means that you’ll showcase your opinions in an authentic way, which is incredibly important when it comes to presentation time.”
This becomes particularly significant for someone dealing with a fear of public speaking because of this basic principle: when you care about something it is easier to talk about, even in front of other people. This means that you don’t just need to choose a topic that will engage your audience, but also one that you yourself find engaging.
Fear is an intense emotional response to a situation, and as we know it can easily consume us in the moment. If your oral topic is boring and does not interest you on a personal level then what is going to be the strongest emotion you feel when delivering it? Fear. However, passion is another intense emotional response, and so if you are passionate about the arguments you are making then, although your fear will still be there, you will feel another strong emotion that can balance it out.
So how do you find a contention that you care about? Often the best place to start is to think about the things that affect your life. We know that your topic has to have been in the media since September of last year, but lots of things are on the news and they don’t only matter to the older generations. Think about issues that relate to schools, jobs, climate change, animals, drug-taking, fashion – these are all aspects of our lives that you might be able to form a personal connection to, and that personal connection will help you find the passion you need to get through the speech, and also get through to your audience. Check out our 2021 Oral Presentation Topics for some topic inspiration, and then learn how to create a killer contention here.
More About the Voice, Less About the Words
It is quite likely that if you know you struggle with the delivery of oral presentations, you might try to compensate by overreaching with your script. For someone who feels more comfortable with written assessments, it can be easy to try to make the oral as close to one as possible by writing it almost as you would an essay – using lots of impressive vocabulary, complex sentences and a formal structure. This approach is all well and good until you try to say it all out loud. This isn’t to say that your command of language isn’t important to the oral, but by trying to craft a safety net of eloquent, written words you are simply distracting yourself from what makes this SAC unique; you can’t avoid the fear by avoiding the task altogether. So, you need to write a speech that you can say, not just one that sounds good on paper. Writing with the wrong sense of tone is one of the points we touch on in 5 Common Oral Presentation Mistakes.
During the writing process, you need to make your speech work for you rather than make yourself work for it. This means constantly thinking about what the words will sound like in front of an audience, and not making the performance unnecessarily hard for yourself before you even start practicing. When you’re already nervous about speaking in front of other people, the last thing you want to have to worry about is tripping over difficult language to make convoluted arguments. So, simplicity and punch is always better than verbosity and pretence. Here are some ideas of how to use this strategy:
Make your arguments short, sharp, and to the point. Avoid going off on any tangents, and just stick to the main points you need to get across. You are trying to persuade your audience, not confuse them.
Use a mixture of long and short sentences, because a script that uses varied sentence structures is easier to say out loud without stumbling due to nerves. Short, bold statements are both less prone to being mangled by nerves and more memorable for your listeners – just make sure you don’t only use short sentences and prevent your oral from flowing.
Think about where you can schedule in pauses for emphasis, because these will give you space to stop and catch your breath without revealing your nervousness.
Write like you speak! Of course you want your tone to be assertive and intelligent, but it is possible to maintain this whilst also incorporating some relaxed language. You are allowed to use the first person in this task, so take the opportunity to personalise what you say, which will help you appear more comfortable and also form a personal connection with your audience. Remember that an oral is essentially a conversation with your audience, even if they don’t get to speak back, and this means that as long as you don’t use slang you can have some fun with your delivery.
Don’t rely on an essay-like structure. Your audience won’t know when a paragraph ends, so the way the script looks on the page is largely irrelevant. Make it easy for yourself to follow.
Remember, when you struggle with a fear of public speaking it is difficult to make what you say in the spotlight sound natural. To overcome this, you want to prepare yourself to almost sound unscripted (as ironic as that sounds). Without slipping into an overly casual or informal voice, it is best if you sound comfortable and relaxed when addressing your audience. This is of course the exact opposite of how you might feel going into the assessment, so you write a speech that will make you seem like you aren’t worried about passing out. The ancient adage ‘fake it ‘til you make it baby’ definitely rings true here. However, that said, really believing what you are saying and caring that the audience believes it too, as we advised earlier, will also help you avoid sounding forced and uncomfortable.
Preparation and Memorisation
Another mistake often made when attempting to compensate for a fear of public speaking is to rely too heavily on cue cards in the oral. Having your entire speech on hand when you complete the assessment just in case you get lost might seem like a good idea, but it is most likely actually going to hold you back from giving your best performance. Ideally, you want to have done enough preparation so that you do not need to look at your notes at all. As we discussed earlier, having a script that is as simple as possible, and that mimics your speech patterns, will help you sound less fearful – and will also be easier to memorise.
Memorise your speech by practicing it as much as possible. Make sure to get your script written as far in advance as you can, so you have plenty of time to practice without stressing yourself out further. When you do practice, do so standing up, envision an audience in front of you (or practice in front of friends or family), and rehearse how you might move around the space as you talk. You can start by having your whole script with you, but eventually you should work up to only needing a few dot points for each section that can jog your memory if you forget. This strategy might seem to make the speech even scarier, but in reality not reading off a script will help you relax into the performance, and allow you to focus on your movements and voice. Practicing enough to have the speech memorised will also help build your confidence.
Making the Most of Your Nerves
As much as I would love to tell you that you can be ‘cured’ of your fear of public speaking, it is best to accept that the nerves are going to be there and learn how to succeed in tandem with them, rather than just hoping that they go away. Instead of being convinced that fear is going to be your downfall, try to think about how, as impossible as it sounds, you can use the nerves to your advantage. Apart from making you jittery and uncomfortable, nerves also boost your energy and adrenaline, and with the right attitude you can turn this energy into confidence. Instead of letting your nerves cause you to close up, you can use them to help you open up. Often those of us who fear feeling exposed in front of a crowd have quiet, reserved personalities that we might think of as preventing us from being able to perform. However, when our bodies are flooded with nerves this ‘wired’ feeling can be used to help us project our voices and to take up space, therefore driving us to appear more outgoing. Instead of just making you feel ‘on edge’, a manageable amount of nervous energy can give you an edge that will amp up your performance.
Even if all of this sounds completely different to your experience of fear, what I am trying to communicate is that the way you frame the oral, and the nerves that come with it, in your mind makes all the difference. If you convince yourself that you are too scared of public speaking to ever succeed with this task, you are severely limiting your chances of achieving a positive outcome. So, focussing on retraining your mindset in the lead up to delivering your speech is very important. Try not to think of this one assessment task as being a make or break five minutes, and instead view it as a learning experience that you can use to your advantage. After all, public speaking is something most of us will have to deal with multiple times over the course of our lives, so you may as well work on getting better at it. That said, my number one piece of advice about the oral presentation is to…*drumroll please*...not take it too seriously! This might sound unrealistic, and I am definitely not telling you to put in less effort, but the more pressure you put on yourself the more nervous you are going to be. Choose a topic that interests you, believe in your contention, make use of humour and personal anecdotes, and just have fun with what you say! Your fear is probably going to be your biggest obstacle, so make it as easy as you can on yourself and the rest should fall into place…as long as you put in the work.