English & EAL

Extinction by Hannie Rayson A+ Essay Topic

September 30, 2020

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Before you read this A+ essay by one of LSG's tutors, Risini, make sure you've read our Extinction blog post covering themes, characters, and more!

In a play that tackles issues ranging from conservation to human indulgence and morality it can be difficult to write a well-structured and detailed response to what usually seems like an existential topic (just like the one below). And not to mention the challenge of including all four characters in your essay without the stale character-based approach. So, below is an example of a high scoring essay with tips on how you can elevate the quality of your response to get those extra points!

In this essay, you'll see Risini has offered annotations throughout her essay to show you her thinking. If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Extinction: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.

Rayson’s play is about our propensity as humans to make questionable decisions despite our moral convictions. 


Mankind’s ambition to improve and develop as human beings distinguishes themselves from their bestial, primal instincts (1). However, Hannie Rayson’s play Extinction, explores the complexities threaded throughout the human condition that propel individuals towards the ethically ambiguous (2). Rayson examines the the insecurities peppering the contemporary lifestyle, that threaten the integrity of our outward ideologies (3). Similarly, Rayson explores our indelible connection with nature that leads individuals to pursue baser impulses. Ultimately however, Rayson captures the strength of the human capacity to align our moral convictions with our judgements (4)


(1) This play tackles humanity and its flaws, so beginning with a broad, conceptual sentence is a good way to ease into discussion.

(2) Addressing topic.

(3) Agreeing with the topic.

(4) Challenging the topic. Indicating Rayson’s play isn’t only about questionable decision making, it is also about people’s ability to make the morally right decisions.

Paragraph 1

In spite of people’s outward conformity to their moral values, Rayson captures the power of human insecurities to compromise their values (5). It is the birth of moral dilemmas from such insecurities, that prompts questionable decision-making (6). Dixon-Brown, who exercises a pragmatic ideology as fortified by her Dixon-Brown Index and classifies the tiger quolls as “functionally extinct”, leaves her insecure and longing for meaningful connection and companionship (7). Indisputably, Harry Jewell’s charming exterior and sensitivity offers to fill Dixon-Brown’s emotional chasm, but also offers a moral dilemma for Dixon-Brown: to fill this chasm, or uphold her professional integrity. Dixon-Brown’s pursuit of “illicit professional compromise” with Harry, as a result of her moral dilemma, distorts her moral stance, now considering tiger quolls as simply “hard to find” and “shy”. Rayson (8) challenges the integrity of people’s moral values, demonstrating how one’s emotional hunger can outweigh even their own moral expectations. Like Dixon-Brown, Piper (9) values her relationships, yet is neither immune to hypocrisy. Championing the untiring philosophy that “all species are worth saving”, Piper recognises humanity’s moral responsibility to offer compassion to life beyond our own species. However, she is devastated by Beast’s (10) prognosis, lamenting “I am not ready”, despite having previously baulked at “Twinkie’s pacer” (11). Rayson undermines Piper’s outward altruism, challenging whether it merely cloaks a selfish desire to appease her own insecurities of losing her loved ones. Regardless of our moral convictions, Rayson explores the insecurities formed from our fears of loneliness that compel individuals to compromise their moral ideals. 


(5) Notice how I discuss many themes in Extinction, beyond morality and decision-making. From understanding and reasoning with characters, I also explore companionship, belonging, isolation and hypocrisy. I avoid introducing character names in the topic sentence, as this can scream ‘character-based paragraph’ to the examiner.

(6) Immediately addressing views and values of writer. This is more interesting than the conventional approach of presenting evidence, exploring it then diving into values of the writer.

(7) Here, I try to bring Dixon-Brown to life by empathising with her. Compare this with: Dixon-Brown’s pragmatic exterior is undermined when she pursues a romantic affair with Harry Jewell. This sounds more like summary and comes off robotic and unemotional, neither does it add any dimension to her character.

(8) Using the author’s name when exploring views and values.

(9) It’s always nice to have a transition sentence between a new piece of evidence, especially in Extinction when a lot of the evidence is character-based.

(10) Use of minor characters.

(11) Minor characters again.

Paragraph 2

Rayson explores people’s inextricable connection with nature that undermines the purity of our ideology (12). In spite of Harry’s sentimental connection with nature that motivates him to pursue the Quoll Project, reminiscing of his childhood pet “Errol Flynn” and being a part of a family that made a “living off the land”, Rayson explores our darker ties to nature that leads individuals to make questionable decisions (13). Through the symbol of the birds of prey (14) in Harry and Piper’s camp, including the beautiful “barking owl”, Rayson alludes to how humans can too manipulate and prey to indulge their baser impulses, leaving aside morals (15). Beyond this, Rayson investigates the universal concept of mortality (16) that is shared by all life forms in nature. Confronting the shadow of mortality, Andy’s stoic façade and impenetrable ideology is undermined. He shares his stamp of impermanence with the injured tiger quoll with a “snapped spinal column”, and is likely able to empathise with it (17). Thus, his decision to euthanise the quoll may have been the inadvertent projection of his desire to end his own suffering. Through Piper, who challenges Andy for choosing the “most convenient option”, Rayson illuminates how our ties to nature can compromise our ethics and decisions, reaffirming our propensity towards moral contradictions. 


(12) In a play concerned with the environment, I try to include people’s connection to nature and the environment when I can.

(13) Good to mention topic.

(14) Include the symbols of nature that Rayson weaves into the play and its meaning.

(15) Good to mention topic.

(16) Again, I try to discuss more themes apart from morality and decision-making by including mortality. In a play concerning endangered species and measuring the worth of life, try to discuss mortality whenever possible.

(17) Again, I think finding similarities between the lives of animals and humans is crucial in this play, rather than considering them as two separate entities.

Paragraph 3

Ultimately, Rayson captures how humanity’s moral convictions can in fact align with their decisions when decisions are founded through virtuous ideals. Despite oscillating moral values that threaten the balance of Andy and Piper’s relationship (18), their shared morality of compassion and sacrifice reunite them at the play’s denouement. Andy’s willingness to sacrifice their relationship in order to not “waste her life” and Piper’s refusal to leave Andy side despite a future that “just leads to sadness” illustrates the human capacity to reconcile their differences when their moral values align with their future ambition. Rayson echoes this capacity for reconciliation through the setting (19) of the animal shelter in the play; a setting representing preservation and hope. Although the play begins with a “wet and windy night” in the animal shelter, intensifying the arguing and frustration (20), Rayson closes with the “gleam” and “twitch” of the tiger quoll in the same setting. This realises humanity’s capability making moral decisions through their virtuous ideals; striving to preserve and protect one’s relationships and natural habitat. As well as the possibility of a live tiger quoll who offers hope for their natural environment, Andy and Piper, who believe in loyalty and resilience, offer hope in a world permeated by moral contradiction. 


(18) I challenge the topic but still acknowledge my previous agreement with the topic.

(19) Use of metalanguage. Here I’ve explored a more natural setting, however Rayson often transitions between the city scape at Dixon-Brown’s apartment where the “noise of the city and peak-hour traffic rumbles below” and the natural landscape, “a wildlife rescue centre tucked away in the Cape Otway rainforest”. It can be effective to notice the contrast between the two and the events that occur in each setting.

(20) If analysing setting: Explore the effect of the setting on the mood of scene or characters. Then explore its significance to the views and values of the author.


Rayson’s (21) Extinction explores humankind’s moral frailty and gravitation towards the ethical when we focus too closely on ourselves. Rayson examines the insecurities woven throughout the human condition and our inextricable ties to nature that threaten our moral foundations, both prompting individuals to consider themselves over their relationships and duties to the environment. However, Rayson ultimately captures the resilience of mankind to unite despite their flaws, offering hope for the future of our environment and species. 


(21) Finish with a reflection of the bigger picture and overarching values the author promotes or condemns.

At first glance, Extinction may just seem like a short story of a chaotic quartet, but there are so many hearty themes to unpack and discuss. After a few re-reads, you will discover some unique finds, and after a few essays, you will find overlaps and patterns in seemingly philosophical topics.

For more sample essay topics, head over here so you can start practising some of the tips you've learnt in this blog! You'll also find another essay topic breakdown where we show you a 50 study scorer's essay plan. Happy writing!

Extra Resources

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

Extinction by Hannie Rayson

Extinction Text Guide Study Guide

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