Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...
Often, with Language Analysis (also known as Argument Analysis or Analysing Argument), it can be hard to find unique things to analyse and set yourself apart from your competitors. Techniques like rhetorical questions, inclusive language and the appeal to family values are regurgitated by thousands of students every year come exam season. As you’d imagine, examiners get tired of hearing the same ol’ thing essay after essay.
So, I challenge you to surprise them! And today’s video will help you do just that.
The TEE rule is a very popular technique that we describe in our top-rated eBook, How To Write A Killer Language Analysis. And for a good reason, too! It guides your analysis to ensure that you’re talking about techniques, how they affect readers and using evidence to back yourself up. If you’ve never heard of the TEE rule, no worries at all! Check out our HTWAKLA eBook for an in-depth look into how the technique can help you get to that A+ level.
Today’s video is all about analysing the structure of Language Analysis articles so you can WOW examiners and score in that upper level.
Now, what does this exactly mean and, more importantly, look like?
When it comes to pieces of writing, when we talk about structure, we’re talking about how the information is organised.
What does the writer talk about first? What do they talk about last? How long are the paragraphs? How many paragraphs are there? While these questions might seem a little pointless to some, they can actually inspire some pretty unique and spot-on analysis in VCE Language Analysis.
OK Lisa, I get it, but how can I do this in my essays? Great question.
Let’s have a look at some examples of this, courtesy of one of LSG’s amazing tutors, Andrea. She’s written up an incredible blog all about these advanced techniques, and it includes much more than what we have time to talk about today. So, as always, I’ll leave the link to her blog in the description and in the card up above – I highly recommend that after watching this video, you head on over and check it out.
Analysing recurring themes and ideas in VCE Language Analysis
Analysing recurring ideas and themes throughout a piece is a fantastic way to show the examiner that you’ve understood the piece as a whole and that you can step back and notice similarities between smaller sections.
Let’s take a closer look at Section C of the 2014 VCAA English exam. The author emphasises the theme of Kolumbus-21 and its significance on space travel, which is an example of a recurring idea of theme.
Paragraph 1: ‘Space exploration has been on my mind this week after visiting an exhibition presented by an international group known as Kolombus-21.’
Paragraph 9: ‘Kolombus-21 talks a lot about international cooperation. This hasn’t always been a feature of space exploration, but now that we have an international space station supported by 15 nations, the era of collaboration seems to be well established.’
Paragraph 11: ‘Perhaps with big dreamers like Kolumbus-21 behind it, it might even turn out that way.’
We can use an array of vocabulary to describe exactly how ideas and themes recur throughout a piece. For example, if something is mentioned repeatedly throughout a piece, we could call it a cyclical, recurring or circular idea. If an idea is built chronologically, piece by piece, we could call it hierarchical, chronological, sequential or even linear.
In this example, notice how from the beginning to the end of the piece, the author mentions the connection between Kolombus-21, space exploration and international cooperation several times. Let’s see what we get...
By returning to the original theme of Kolumbus-21 as a key driver of support for space travel, which indicates the cyclical structure of her opinion piece, Yergon links space travel with international cooperation.
It’s also a good idea to reiterate the overall structure of the piece in the conclusion, as it allows you to link the structure with the author’s contention.
Analysing the ordering of the contention, arguments and rebuttals in VCE Language Analysis
Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them. When we’re talking about desired effects on readers, we want to assume that the writer has done everything a certain way for a reason, so when the rebuttal is placed first, for example, we can look into this further for possible explanations.
When the rebuttal is placed first, it can set up the audience to more readily accept the writer’s following opinions, as opposing viewpoints have already been criticised early on.
You can see this in the 2013 VCAA exam, where the author argues against opposing views early on in their article. In it, the author references the opposition directly as they say ‘some people who objected to the proposed garden seem to think that the idea comes from a radical group of environmentalists’, and rebut this point by proposing that ‘there’s nothing extreme about us’.
Or, if the rebuttal is placed towards the end of the article, it could serve to cement that the writer’s viewpoint is correct by explaining why opposing viewpoints are wrong. Also, it can give a sense of finality to the piece – assuring the audience that all bases have been covered by the writer.
What if there’s no rebuttal? Well, this could imply that the author’s opinion, and theirs alone, is correct and to be supported.
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Let’s briefly discuss the background of the article before we dive into the analysis…
So, the background information tells us that “Biodiversity is the term used to describe life on Earth — the variety of living things, the places they inhibit and the interactions between them.”
The article at hand is a transcript of a speech given by Professor Chris Lee at the International Biodiversity Conference 2010.
The purpose of this conference is to review the progress made towards achieving the target and to look beyond 2010.
Now, let’s analyse the opening of the speech. Take a second to read through Lee’s speech opener...
Firstly, we can analyse the way in which Lee addresses his audience. Rather than using a phrase like "Hi everyone" or a similar greeting, he actually refers to his audience as his "fellow delegates" which allows him to speak in a particularly candid and honest manner. He wants to be transparent about the reality of the situation with his peers, rather than trying to impress an audience or something similar.
Overall, this anecdote appeals to the emotions of the audience and plays on an apparent devotion/commitment presumably made to the environment by the delegates of a Biodiversity conference. Lee uniquely seeks to persuade his audience by using the information he knows about them – their past commitments.
More specifically, we can dive into the pejorative mood of the adjectives he uses to describe the second scene, which is one of destruction, especially compare to the images he presents first. The "lush jungle" with a variety of "interesting flora and fauna" on the banks of a "clear river" appears particularly idyllic in juxtaposition with the images of the "scorched earth", "gooey mudslide", "sepia tinge" and "barren sticks hopelessly groping for life."
In the last sentence, the repetition of the word "gone" reminds Lee's "fellow delegates" of what will be lost if action on biodiversity is not taken.
Now, we know that in any given Language Analysis article, there are so many things to analyse, which I’ve demonstrated with all of the things we managed to focus on in that single paragraph.
Often, students will be able to identify lots of techniques and as such, lots of elements to analyse, but they struggle to choose between these techniques when it comes to writing their responses.
I’d highly recommend that you download a free sample of my eBook, How To Write A Killer Language Analysis which talks about techniques you can use to pick what to write about in your essays. We won’t have enough time to talk about those techniques today, so we’ve written them down for you in the eBook.
Now that we’ve looked at how Lee has started his speech, let’s skip forward to a later section of the article. Take a second to read through the section.
One of the first things that may jump out at you is this repetition of inclusive language; "we are", "we have". However, this is way too obvious! For an upper level response, we want to steer clear of the cliche techniques and analyse ones that have more value and show off our own perspective of the article.
Utilising the statements, "everyone in the lecture theatre knows this" and "clearly, it is our lack of unity", Lee includes the audience and holds all of the delegates accountable through declaring the reasons for failure as simple matters of fact.
Here, Lee trivializes the actions of the organisation in creating "glossy brochures" with "wonderful words" as marketing tools to create the impression that meaningful action is being taken. Lee exposes such actions as deceitful and calls for "real action", seeking to persuade his audience into putting their effort into actual gains in the biodiversity fight.
For many VCE Students, Language Analysis is most commonly their ‘weakest’ section out of all three parts of VCE English. Throughout my years of tutoring, when I’ve asked these students why they struggle, they usually blame the difficulty in grasping the most important component of Language Analysis:
Understanding how the author intends to persuade their readers.
You’ll see that I have italicised the words, ‘how’ and ‘intends’ in the above statement to highlight where your focus needs to be. If you’re currently trying to get your head around Language Analysis, or if you don’t understand where you’re going wrong, don’t worry. We’re going to look at the incorrect assumptions students make about Language Analysis, how to avoid it and also what you should do instead! So first, let’s have a look at a couple of common student errors. Students (including yourself perhaps) may believe that:
1. Language Analysis is about finding language techniques that persuade readers.
Stop right there! This certainly isn’t a treasure hunt (but that would be pretty awesome right?). If an essay was just about identifying language techniques, everyone would get an A+ (we wish!). Once you’ve had some practice under your belt, you’ll notice that anyone can find rhetorical questions, inclusive language and statistics, so there is a lot more to it than simply pointing out language techniques. Also, steer clear from throwing in all the possible language techniques you’ve found in an article too, because it’s not a competition about who can find the most techniques and even if you did, it doesn’t guarantee you an amazing score on your essay.
2. Language analysis is about if authors successfully persuade their readers.
Sorry to tell you, but this definitely isn’t it either. Our job as the student isn’t to figure out whether or not the author successfully persuades their reader. You can’t really speak for all the people reading an article if they do or do not agree with the author’s contention. Just like if you see an advertisement on television for MacDonalds, you can’t tell if the next person who watches the ad will be persuaded to go out and buy a Big Mac meal. That’s why at the end of the day, it’s not up to you to figure out the extent to which the author persuades their readers. So in that case, what should you be doing instead?
The ultimate goal is to demonstrate your understanding of how the author attempts to persuade the reader to agree with his or her contention.
Let’s break up the essential parts of analysing language so we can pinpoint exactly the part that is most problematic and also how we can finally get a strong grasp of how to be successful in this area:
The TEE rule
Technique – what persuasive technique is used?
Example – which text that shows it?
Effect – what is the intended impact on readers’ attitudes?
There are so many persuasive techniques around, once you’ve got your hands on a bunch of language technique lists then you’re pretty much set in this area. Be wary however, as I have mentioned in the past(and above) how simply ‘labelling’ language techniques is not enough for you to do well in language analysis.
Ok, this is the core of most students’ issues. We already know that the author is trying to persuade readers but here, we’re going to look how their choice of words or phrases creates a certain effect on readers so that they will be encouraged to agree with the author. When thinking about the effect, the best way is to put yourself in the reader’s shoes – you are after all, a reader! So in order to understand the effect think about the following three points:
What readers may feel – emotions
What readers may think – thoughts
And what readers may want – wishes
Example 1: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”
Think about it realistically. If someone said this to you, how would you feel? There must’ve been a time where you were complimented (whether it be about your clothes, how you did something well, or how friendly you are with others), and you used this experience to your advantage. Each time you analyse a language technique, contemplate on what emotions, thoughts or wishes emerge as a result. When someone gives you a compliment, you probably feel flattered, or maybe even proud. And this is exactly what you need to include in your analysis! You should garner these everyday experiences as a trigger to help you understand how readers may respond to a certain technique. So if we broke it down via the TEE formula:
Example: “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!”
Effect: You feel feel proud and as a result want to assist your friend.
And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:
Analysis: The compliment, “You are my smartest friend, I’m really stuck on this question and I need help!” encourages the listener to feel a sense of pride and this in turn, may encourage them to assist their friend.
Example 2: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”
Again, think about the three points – how do you feel? What do you think of this scenario? What do you want as a result? You probably feel sorry for the puppy and want to save it from this situation.
Technique: Appeal to sympathy
Example: “The pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air.”
Effect: You may feel that it is unfair for the puppy to be in such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation.
And let’s put it all together coherently and concisely:
Analysis: Through the appeal to sympathy, “the pet puppy was stuck inside a car on a 32 degree summer day, with no windows left open, and no room for fresh air”, readers may believe that it is unfair for the puppy to be subjected to such a horrendous and potentially life-threatening situation and thus, may be persuaded to take action to prevent further harm to pets.
Ultimately, focus on the potential effect language can have on the reader and as a result, how this may encourage the reader to agree with the author. If you do that, then you’re definitely on the right track. If this study guide has helped you gain further insight into Language Analysis, then you may be interested in my upcoming workshop where I spend a few hours offering advanced advice on Language Analysis! No matter what scores you have been attaining in Language Analysis, whether high or low, my workshop is loaded with tips which will undoubtedly help you achieve the best you possibly can. You are welcome to register here: VCE English Intensive Spring Break Workshop. Join the Facebook event here today to keep updated on all the latest information in the lead up to the workshop and invite your friends!
Today we're going to go through the 2019 past VCAA English Exam (grab a copy of the exam here so you can analyse with me). As you probably know, if you've watched my videos before, you always want to make sure you read the background information when it comes to Analysing Argument.
I'm going to use Analysing Argument and Language Analysis interchangeably by the way, but I'm talking about the same thing okay?
The background information is pretty important because it gives you context for what is happening in this article. Without reading the background information, you might just head in there and possibly even come up with an entirely different context altogether, which might screw over your actual analysis and the author's intention. So, never skip the background information. Make sure that you read it and also pick out the gems that you find in it.
What I've always found is background information is great for picking keywords - words I might want to use throughout my own Language Analysis. It also has really good details about the article. In this case, you can see that there's a member of the public who has responded, which tells us a little bit about the author; it's a 'response' as well, so there's going to be two articles; it's an advertorial - an advertorial is a paid advertisement that looks like an article (I'll use the word advertorial as I'm describing the article in my introduction), and, I also know where it's been published. This is already really good information for you to start using in your introduction.
Finding Your Own Interpretation
Let's move into the analysis itself. By the way, this is my first time doing this analysis, so we're doing it together. What you'll find is that I come up with particular interpretations that you might not have come up with. I might miss something, you might miss something, and what you'll find is my interpretation is not the only interpretation out there. If you come up with something else, it's totally fine for you to go ahead and analyse it, as long as you can back it up. This is what English is all about, so don't stress if I haven't matched up with you in exactly what I'm saying. You can also use my interpretation as a double interpretation. So, what you could do is go into your essay, write your interpretation and if mine compounds on top of yours pretty well, if it's a great addition to what you're saying, add it in and bam! You're showing your examiner that, you're somebody who can look at one particular technique from several different perspectives and that's kind of cool.
Moving on to the Analysis
So, 'A Better, Faster Shopping Experience'. From what I can already see here is there's this sense of convenience already being brought up. Now, at this point in time, I don't know what the point of that convenience is, but I know for me as a shopper, if I can get something for a better experience and I can get it done faster, then hells yeah, I am all for that. Think about yourself in the reader's shoes, after all, you really are the reader reading this article. Think about how it's starting to impact you.
I've done a video about the TEE rule previously that goes through Technique, Example and the intended Effect on the audience. Make sure you're familiar with that because I will use a lot of that in today's analysis.
'An open letter to our valued customers. As you know, Hailey's Local Store is not your average grocery store.'
Interesting. The 'As you know' is pretty familiar. It's this familiarity that this person is sharing with us (the author's name is Hailey, so I'll just say Hailey). She says 'As you know, Hailey's Local Store is not your average grocery store' and repeating that familiar 'As you know' reminds the audience - us - of our long-term relationship with the store. So, in a sense, she's drawing upon our good will and our trust in the local shop, which creates this differentiation between herself (as somebody who's more proactive and customer-centric) and your bigger grocery stores.
'We're a little bit different - we always put our customers first.'
At this point, we start to feel valued. We know that we are her priority. Her priority isn't about profits, which a lot of stores are about, it's about the people, and as a result, we're more inclined to look at her in a favourable way.
'We offer lots of healthy meals, many specials, locally source food and, as you know, we abolished plastic carry bags four years ago - long before the big stores.'
This whole sentence is pretty good because it shows us that she is somebody who is forward-thinking and she has actually carried through with her claim that she puts her customer first. We know that because she follows it up with:
'Why did we do those things? Because you told us that was what you wanted and needed.'
She's got historical proof of putting customers first, which again, serves to build this rapport and relationship between Hailey and us as her customers.
If I look at the first paragraph as a whole, I see that she's building this up, she's setting this up in a particular way and whatever direction she's going to head in next, we're more inclined to follow her, to believe in her and to support her because she's shown us that she has supported us first. She's helped us out, so why can't we help her out? Again, I haven't read the rest of this article yet so these are just the thoughts that are going through my mind as I'm reading this first paragraph - just to give you a little bit of insight into my brain.
In this first paragraph, I can see that she's using a pretty welcoming and warm tone. If you have a look at the photograph that's been placed at the top of this article - and remember that with particular images they're strategically placed, so if it's placed at the start of the article versus at the end, think about how that impacts your perception of the photograph - for me, the first thing I see when I look at this article is the photo and I see a smiling happy owner. As you can see, the first paragraph serves to back up this photograph as well, with what she's talking about in terms of prioritising customers and valuing customers. You can also see products behind her, which look fresh and full and her shelves are full, so in that sense, it furthers this impression of the local and grounded nature of the store. It feels homey and this invites that comfort and trust from us.
Then, as we move into our second paragraph, I'm seeing a lot of exclamation marks, which gives me the sense of this upbeat, exciting environment, or even tone you could say. I think she's doing this because she wants us to jump on board with cashless payments as well, and to not see them as something that's a burden for us. She ties the advantages of cashless payments directly to the customer’s experience of the store by frequently repeating personal terms, such as 'you' and 'your' throughout these first couple of paragraphs. By the way, I'm not going to write down all the language analysis, because I think there's just not enough space, but me chatting about it with you is good enough. Let's move onto the next paragraph.
'you won't need to go rummaging through your bags for coins. You won't ever have to worry that you don't have the cash to cover your essential food supplies - your card will ensure that you do'.
Not only is she highlighting the advantage. Here, she's arguing for the advantages of cashless payments by showing you the inconveniences of having cash in phrases like 'you won't need to' and 'you won't ever have to'. I also like the phrase 'rummaging through your bags for coins'. It gives this sense of how cumbersome the nature of physical money is in comparison to cashless payments.
In the next paragraph, she highlights cashless payments with the words 'Simple!' which reiterates her point (from the previous paragraph) about how cumbersome coins can be. She finishes off this paragraph with a 'Welcome to the twenty-first century.', so there's this sense of being forward in her decisions and that we should be as well - because nobody wants to be left behind in history. A lot of us like to think of ourselves as people who are open-minded, open to change and will take up things that are better for us, things that are more convenient for us.
So, she's saying that this is it for twenty-first century, join us over here rather than way back when, when we had to use coins. She also highlights 'mobile phone[s]', 'smart watch', 'smart ring' - many things that a lot of people have and this just compounds that idea of, 'yeah, this is a no brainer' essentially. Why shouldn't you move to cashless payments if you're already immersed in this tech world of having mobile phones, smart watches, smart rings, etc.?
She moves into talking about the wider economic context of Australia in this next paragraph. That sense of time I was talking about, comparing the now - the twenty-first century - with a decade ago, you can see that link right here. It's very obvious now. She creates a strong impression of societal inevitability of this technological change, especially because she cites statistics - '70 per cent of household spending was in cash; now it's half of that.' I can see in the next paragraph that she uses expert opinion as well - the 'Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia'. This all connects to this main phrase that we are in a ‘turning point’ now, that cash will be rapidly phased out until we become a cashless society and we should join her; we should make moves on this otherwise we're going to get left behind.
I like that she's bringing in Australia because it also brings in this additional sense of pride on our behalf. We're Australians, we're proud that we've been one of the biggest users of electronic payments in the world, we're the ones who are making waves, we're the ones who are putting our feet forward first. So, you could talk about appeal to patriotism here as well. It's interesting because here she says that she's a leader, or
'We've always tried to be a leader in our community and respond to our customer's needs.'
What do you think when you think of a leader? Typically for me, I admire leaders. They're somebody I look up to and I want to follow in their footsteps essentially. So by positioning herself as a leader, I think that's pretty interesting because she's telling us, ‘Hey, I've done all this thinking, I have initiative, I am forward-thinking, so come with me, join with me on this cashless payments movement.’
'you'll breeze through a check-out'
I like the word 'breeze through', or just 'breeze' because it connects again, back to this idea of convenience with a faster shopping experience, and it is juxtaposed against that cumbersomeness of 'rummaging through...bags for coins'. Something to think about is: as you analyse an article, you don't just have to analyse it chronologically or talk about it chronologically in your essay either. If you see things that connect later on, connect them in your essay and put them together, because what you're showing your examiner is that you can see not just the minor details - i.e. language techniques in each sentence - but you can actually zoom out and see the overall picture, how the arguments are coming together and how she's structuring her piece so that we walk away with a certain perspective. Think about that in a two-step method. There's the zoom in where we're looking at sentence by sentence and what techniques are there, which is basically what we've been doing, but at the same time, you can zoom out and have a look at how the different techniques all come together and work as a whole. If this is something that you're not too comfortable with just yet, just stick with the chronological order and working through the sort of minor details. And then on your next read, you can read through with the focus of, 'okay, what if I was to look at this from a more holistic perspective?'
Ahh! I didn't even look ahead enough, there are more words and more phrases that connect to the idea of convenience and ease. It’s 'faster', ‘will save you time', 'safer' as well?! There's a new appeal. It's not necessarily new, it's just a different angle you could come from. If you wanted to talk about the sense of security, that appeal to safety, then you could do that as well.
'it means not having to spend hours sorting, storing and securing cash'
So, more cumbersome notions. And then in comparison,
'more time', 'We understand the concerns a minority of our customers may have.'
I love when they do this, acknowledging the opposition essentially is what she's doing. She's saying, ‘yup, like, I can hear you, not all customers want this. Some of you don't.’ And my assumption is that she's going to back it up with her own rebuttal. This not only pulls along the people who are already supportive of her, but she's also trying to pull along those who are a little bit more sceptical of this idea of cashless payments. So let's see, she says,
'What if you prefer cash, don't feel comfortable using credit or debit cards, or don't have a mobile phone or smart watch? We don't want to leave anyone out. For the next three months we will offer cashless payments, but still accept cash to people to give people time to adjust.'
It's interesting because she is again, building up this position of hers, where she is friendly, she is helpful, she is thoughtful and she cares about her community. Something you could also say, and this is if you're looking at things more pessimistically, is that she's doing this more so for herself. By saying that these people have three months, there's this unspoken pressure that's happening as well. She's putting pressure on the minority and emphasising the supposed inevitability of a cash-free shopping experience. Even by just saying 'minority' that's in a way applying pressure as well, because it's saying that you are part of this smaller group, the smaller group of people who won't come with us or have not yet come with us, so join us. There's a very clear expectation that these customers need to adapt and catch up.
Want to see these ideas and annotations turned into a full A+ essay?
If you want more, I have also got a fully written up 2019 essay based on the articles that we're analysing today in my How To Write A Killer Language Analysis study guide. In that study guide, not only do I have the essay for 2019, I also have afully written up essay for the 2017 & 2020 VCAA English Exams, and we're always working on adding ones from future years as well. Plus, there's heaps of sample A-plus essays in there already and heaps of information that I think will be super helpful for you before you move into your SAC. So please, go ahead and check that out! It's loaded with value and I know it'll be worth your money.
This is a 7 part series of videos teaching you how to analyse articles for your SAC. Your school will give you three texts which can consist of articles (opinion, editorial, letter to the editor) or images (cartoons, illustrations, graphs). We've used VCAA's 2016 English end of year exam for this series of videos.
Steps before you get started:
1. Make sure you download and analyse VCAA 2016 exam yourself first, then join me in analysing the texts together.
2. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog post to download my annotations plus the full essay referenced in these videos. Let's get started!
In your Language Analysis (or Analysing Argument) SAC, you will be required to analyse how language is used to persuade in three or more texts. While this may seem a bit daunting at first, it really isn’t much harder than a single text analysis once you know how to approach it. Of course, there are multiple ways to tackle this task, but here is just one possible method!
Begin with a sentence that briefly describes the incident that sparked the debate or the nature/context of the debate. Remember to use the background information already provided for you on the task book!
Next, introduce the texts one at a time, including the main aspects for each (eg. title, writer, source, form, tone, contention and target audience). You want to show the examiner that you are comparing the articles, rather than analysing them separately. To do this, use appropriate linking words as you move onto your outline of each new text.
Consider significant features for comparison, for example:
Is the tone/style the same?
Is there a different target audience?
How do their key persuasive strategies differ?
You may choose to finish your introduction with a brief comment on any key difference or similarity.
Sample introduction: The recent return to vinyls and decline in CD sales has sparked discussion about the merits of the two forms of recorded sound. In his feature article, For the Record, published in the monthly magazine Audioworld in June 2015, Robert Tan contends that vinyls, as the more traditional form, are preferable to CDs. He utilises a disparaging tone within his article to criticise CDs as less functional than vinyls. In response to Tan’s article, reader Julie Parker uses a condescending and mocking tone to lampoon Tan for his point of view, in a letter published in the same magazine one month later.
Spend the first half of your essay focused on Article 1, then move into Article 2 for the second half of your essay (and, for those doing three articles, the later part of your essay based on Article 3). This structure is the most simple of all, and unfortunately does not offer you ample opportunity to delve into an insightful analysis. Hence, we would not recommend this structure for you. If possible, adopt the Bridge or Integrated structures discussed below.
Analyse the first text, including any visuals that may accompany it. Students often spend too long on the first text and leave too little time to analyse the remaining texts in sufficient depth, so try to keep your analysis specific and concise! Remember to focus on the effects on the reader, rather than having a broad discussion of persuasive techniques.
Linking is essential in body paragraphs! Begin your analysis of each new text with a linking sentence to enable a smooth transition and to provide a specific point of contrast. Continue to link the texts throughout your analysis, for example, you could compare:
The techniques of each writer and how these aim to position the reader in different ways.
Often your second and/or third texts will be a direct response to the first, so you could pick up on how the author rebuts or agrees with the arguments of the first text.
In this type of structure, you will analyse both articles in each body paragraph.
If you'd like to see an in-depth explanation of these different essay structures with sample A+ annotated essays as examples, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook! This study guide includes heaps of other valuable content too, including the SIMPLICITY and SPECIFICITY strategy, which has helped hundreds of students achieve A+ in their assessments.
In Lisa's videos above, she suggests a short and sweet summary in your conclusion by incorporating some quotes from the author's own conclusion.
Alternatively, you could opt for a different approach. In your conclusion, aim to focus on how each text differs from the others in terms of the main techniques used by the author, and more importantly, the effect of these techniques on the reader or audience. You should summarise the main similarities and differences of each text without indicating any personal bias (ie. you should not state whether one text might be more or less persuasive than another). For example, a point of comparison could be the audience appeal - will any particular audience group be particularly engaged or offended? Why?
Finally, finish with a sentence suggesting a possible outlook for the issue.
Watch our 'Language Analysis' playlist where Lisa analyses the VCAA 2016 exam over the span of 7 videos. From the first read all the way through to writing up the full essay, Lisa shows you step by step how you can improve your Language Analysis marks.
*This blog post was originally created by Christine Liu, with additions made by Lisa Tran to suit the new modifications in the English study design.
For an overview of the EAL study design plus tips and tricks for language analysis, time management and more, check out The Ultimate Guide to EAL.
EAL Language Analysis Introductions
Both EAL and mainstream English students will need to complete a Language Analysis task as part of the VCAA Exam. The introduction of Language Analysis essays for VCE English is somewhat rigid as there are multiple components that must be included, for instance: issue, form, contention, name, publishing date, tone, etc. However, many of the ‘must have’ components of mainstream English essays are not required for EAL students or the EAL end-of-year examination. Check with your school/teacher to find out their opinion and criteria on this matter though, as they mark your internal assessments/Language Analysis SAC!
‘Introductions should be limited to showing an awareness of the audience, the context and the overall contention of the piece.’
With this guideline in mind, the advice I am sharing in this blog post is based on the understanding and assumption that EAL Language Analysis introductions DO NOT need background information such as where the article is published, when is it published, style, etc. But again, make sure you check with your school/teacher to find out exactly what criteria YOU need to meet for your assessments/SACs that are marked internally.
Using Templates in Your EAL Language Analysis Introductions
Since EAL is more flexible than mainstream English, and requires fewer elements, you can adopt a template for introductions that you are comfortable using to save time during the assessments.
For example, these sentence templates below are really versatile and can be easily adapted and/or combined to suit your essay:
In response to the divisive issue of…(AUTHOR 1) implicitly/explicitly/inadvertently contends that…
(AUTHOR 1) takes on a...tone to grab the attention of...(SPECIFIC AUDIENCE)
Using the templates above, here are some examples of what the final product for your introduction may look like. I have bolded the ‘template’ parts so that you can see exactly how the templates have been used, but remember these are just templates, so you can adjust the wording slightly to suit your needs:
(1) In response to thedivisive issue of building an Apple global flagship store at Federation Square, the COMAAFS implicitly contends in an accusatory and defiant tone that the flagship store should not be built to replace one of Melbourne’s most popular landmarks. (3)Contrastingly, the web post written by theVictorian Government explicitlyrejects the accusation from COMAAFS and advocates for the immense benefits that Victorians will receive from the Flagship store in an explanatory and reassuring tone.
Example 2 (Using Templates 1 & 3)
(1) In response to the divisive issue of homeless people camping in the city of Melbourne, Christopher Bantickcontends in an accusatory and heated tone that the ‘move-on’ law must be introduced in order to remove the homeless in Melbourne. (3)Contrastingly, Dr. Meg Mundell insists that making it illegal to sleep on the street will only exacerbate the problem in a demanding tone.
Example 3 (Using Templates 1 & 3)
(1) In response to the recent furore of the increasing use of cars, Tina Fanning contends in an alarming and mobilising tone that cars are no longer a viable mode of transport in the foreseeable future. (3) Similarly, Lucy Mannepredicts the catastrophic consequence of excessive car use on Australian society in a composed and authoritative tone.
Comparison of Arguments & Contentions in EAL Language Analysis
Unlike mainstream English, comparison of arguments/contention between the two writers is not essential for EAL, but it will probably earn you bonus brownie points if you do have time to add it in your essay :) For further explanation on comparative analysis, you can refer to this step-by-step guide: Exploring an A+ Language Analysis Essay Comparing Two Articles. Although the guide is aimed at mainstream English students, you can still apply some of the tips and strategies as an EAL student. It will really help to take your Language Analysis to the next level!
Station Eleven 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.
Breaking Down a Station Eleven Essay Prompt
We've explored themes, characters, symbols and provided a summary of the text over on our Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!
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: 'The distortion of memories can be harmful.' Do you agree?
Step 1: Analyse
The first thing to note about this prompt is that it's a theme-based prompt, focussing specifically on the theme of memory, which plays a significant role throughout the novel! But more specifically, it's asking directly about the impacts distorted (i.e. misrepresentative/twisted/warped) memories have on individuals, and whether this is harmful or not. So ultimately, you have to look at which memories are distorted throughout the novel, and evaluate whether this process is ultimately helpful to the characters or not.
Many characters' memories are altered significantly from what actually occurred - this is especially relevant for the characters living after the pandemic, as memories naturally distort over a 20-year period
The two main characters we see whose memories are altered the most are Tyler and Kirsten - both of whom were children during the collapse of civilisation
For Tyler, his recollections of the past are all dominated by violence and this has a significant impact on his worldview. One could very easily argue that it is this distorted view of reality that ultimately leads to the formation of his cult and the subsequent harm he inflicts
Thus, in the case of Tyler, it is quite clear that the distortion of memories has been quite harmful
However, on the other hand, Kirsten has had to commit unspeakable acts, (as implied by her being unable to remember her past/childhood), but this is seen as a coping mechanism, allowing her to move forward in life
Thus, for Kirsten, the manipulation of her memories through her forgetting is ultimately rather positive!
Memory distortion doesn't just relate to these two characters - it also affects Clark quite severely
He is shown to be quite unhappy in the pre-apocalyptic world, which is a stark contrast to his fulfilment by the end of the novel. What causes this?
This can be attributed to his distortion of memories which allows him to view the old world in a far more positive manner, with significant nostalgia
Thus, like Kirsten, Clark's distortion of memories is also presented as largely beneficial
So ultimately, while there are downsides to manipulating one's memories (Tyler), Mandel shows that distorting memories is largely a positive coping mechanism for many characters!
Step 3: Create a Plan
From my brainstorming, I'll be approaching the essay with the following contention:
Distorting memories can be harmful but more often is beneficial.
Now it's time to work out our paragraph ideas.
P1: Tyler's distortion of memories is largely detrimental and therefore harmful because they are tainted with violence and thus exacerbate his suffering.
P2: However, Kirsten uses this as a coping mechanism, enabling her to move forward from the trauma associated with the collapse of society and therefore the distortion of memories is necessary in her case.
P3: Further, Clark's rose-tinted view of the past world allows him to come to terms with the collapse of society and again is beneficial.
While Emily St. John Mandel's post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven illustrates the harm which can be associated with the distortion of memories, it ultimately expounds on the benefits which can be garnered by those who alter their perceptions of reality given how this can serve as an invaluable coping mechanism to process trauma. The non-linear structure of her novel, achieved through the interweaving of pre- and post-lapsarian scenes (1), allows her to sculpt parallels between her characters who are able to accurately recall both the positives and the negatives of the 'modern world'. She thus advocates that whilst the distortion of memories can perpetuate and enable violence, it can alternatively result in tangible benefits when utilised in a positive manner, thus exposing Mandel's credence in how this can actually serve to benefit individuals and entire communities as a whole.
Annotations (1) It is really useful to show an understanding of how the novel has been constructed and why - so through Station Eleven not following a traditional model of time, this allows Mandel to really contrast between her characters - namely Kirsten and Tyler.
Mandel expounds (2) how the distortion of memories can ultimately exacerbate the suffering experienced by vast sectors of the community, arguing that it is this which actively perpetuates harm due to the inability of humans to adequately process trauma, particularly trauma which stems from one's childhood given the loss of innocence which accompanies this. Indeed, Tyler, who was characterised as a young boy during the 'neutron bomb' of the Georgia Flu and the subsequent destruction of civilisation 'had the misfortune of remembering everything', ultimately resulting in dire consequences for the majority of characters who interact with him. Mandel condemns Tyler's innate desire to justify the pandemic, arguing his inability to forget, process and fully comprehend ‘the blood drenched years of the collapse’ drives the creation of his cult which eventually perpetuates great suffering. This ultimately results in significant consequences, thus allowing her to denounce how the distortion of memories (with Tyler's recollections largely being defined by extreme violence and gore) can be extremely harmful. Indeed, 'ruling with a combination of charisma, violence and cherry-picked verses from the Book of Revelations', Tyler damages the overwhelming majority of people he comes into contact with, from having numerous 'child brides' to rendering the town of St. Deborah by the Water 'unsafe' to his cult containing only a few 'true believers', (3) serving as the embodiment of humanity's insatiable lust for power. Through his reciting of only phrases from the Book of Revelations, labelled the most exclusionary and brutal book of the New Testament (4), Mandel condemns the selectivity of Tyler's beliefs, advocating that his internalisation of only the most harmful and violent phrases exemplifies the lack of benefits associated with violently distorting memories given the inability of humans to process such immense trauma and suffering. Whilst Mandel explains Tyler's actions as stemming from the violence underpinning his childhood, particularly given that he was raised by a 'lunatic' whom others deemed 'unsaveable', she dispels the notion that this excuses them, arguing the degree of hardships inflicted by Tyler himself are unjustifiable, thus further exposing her credence in the necessity of being able to forget harmful memories in order to overcome them. Ultimately, through her portrayal of Tyler's inability to forget his childhood as 'a boy adrift on the road', Mandel reveals the potential for harm to be imposed due to the distortion of memories so that they are marked by violence, arguing that this can indeed be overwhelmingly dangerous.
Annotations (2) It is great to use action words such as 'expounds' instead of the basic 'shows’ as this demonstrates a more in-depth understanding of the author’s views and values (ensuring you meet VCAA Criteria 2: Views and Values).
(3) When making claims such as that Tyler harms 'the majority of people he comes into contact with', it is great to show multiple examples, so that your claims are properly backed up with appropriate evidence!
(4) This is a really great point to draw out that other students may not consider - Tyler never references any other components of the New Testament and only focuses on the most violent sections of one particular book.
However, Mandel also displays a belief in the positives which can be gleaned by those who inherently distort their memories as a mechanism to process traumatic times in their lives, arguing this can provoke significant, tangible benefits. Conveyed through the non-linear structure of her novel, Mandel sculpts parallels between Tyler and Kristen given their similar ages and respective connections to protagonist Arthur through him serving as their father and father figure respectively, with the significant difference being that only the latter was able to forget 'the year [she] spent on the road…the worst of it' (5). As such, only Kirsten is able to adequately move on from this extremely traumatic period in her life, exemplifying Mandel's credence in how the distortion of memories can truly serve as an invaluable coping mechanism allowing individuals to overcome significant harm, with Kirsten experiencing a large degree of post-lapsarian fulfilment given her 'friendships' with her fellow members of the Travelling Symphony, her 'only home'. Despite Kirsten's past being underpinned by significant violence, with her having three 'knife tattoos' to commemorate those she has had to kill in order to survive, her continued ability to adapt her memories into less traumatic ones is applauded, with her murders having been portrayed as occurring 'slowly…sound drained from the earth' as a way for her to process 'these men [which she] will carry with [her] for the rest of [her] life', thereby exposing Mandel's credence in the necessity of being able to overcome trauma through distorting memories. As such, she ironically went on to perform Romeo and Juliet following one such event which, given Mandel's depiction of the unparalleled significance of artistic forms of expressionism facilitating human wellbeing as Kirsten 'never feels more alive' than when she performs, exposes Mandel's illumination of how altering false realities (6) can ultimately provoke tangible benefits given Kirsten's ability to simply move on despite the traumatising nature of the truth. Ultimately, through the juxtaposition between Tyler and Kirstens' distortion (7) of memories, Mandel expounds how distorting memories can wield both consequences and benefits, with the latter occurring when employed subconsciously by individuals to process harmful memories.
Annotations (5) It is quite sophisticated to go back to the construction of the novel throughout the essay (as opposed to just briefly mentioning it in the introduction!). This shows you truly understand why the author structured the novel the way she did, which in this case is to highlight the similarities and differences between Kristen and Tyler.
(6) Try to avoid repeating 'distortion of memories' every single time - it is great to use synonyms such as 'false realities', but make sure you're using the right words (see annotation 2 for more information).
(7) Note how this links back to paragraph 1 (given that these two points are so similar and go off of one another) which makes the essay flow better. We are showing that our argument is well-structured and follows logical patterns.
Furthermore, Mandel similarly explores the benefits of utilising the distortion of memories as a coping mechanism and how, especially when this is done through the lens of nostalgia, it can facilitate unprecedented satisfaction. Indeed, Clark is depicted to be the literal embodiment of post-lapsarian fulfilment (8) given his ability to, albeit through rose-tinted glasses, appreciate the 'taken-for-granted miracles' of the 'former world' through his position as the 'Curator' at the 'Museum of Civilisation'. Subsequently, he serves to expose Mandel's belief in the benefits of altering one's recollections in an overwhelmingly positive manner. As such, Clark 'spend[s] more time in the past…letting his memories overtake him' as he maintains integral cultural artefacts which 'had no practical use but that people wanted to preserve'. This ultimately eventuates into a significant degree of fulfilment for not only Clark himself, but also the other residents of the Severn City Airport, the children of whom 'like all educated children everywhere….memorise abstractions' of the pre-lapsarian society, with the entire Airport community revelling in the everyday 'beauty' of objects not typically appreciated by the general populace. In doing so Mandel highlights her belief regarding the significance underpinning the benefits which can be gained from those whose memories are distorted to cope with losses in a positive manner, arguing this can enable a substantial increase in wellbeing. This is exacerbated through the juxtaposition in Clark's pre- and post-lapsarian fulfilment, for in the former he is denigrated as merely an unhappy 'minimally present...high functioning sleepwalker' (9). Overall, through her portrayal of Clark's satisfaction despite his elderly status and the loss of everyone dear to him, Mandel exposes her belief in the value of distorting one's memories in an overwhelmingly positive manner, advocating this can facilitate the forming of one's intrinsic purpose and thus fulfilment.
Annotations (8) You want to show how characters correlate to specific themes, and if one embodies a particular idea, then you should clearly state that! It shows examiners you really know your stuff. See this blog for more about the themes and characters in Station Eleven.
(9) Again, you want to clearly highlight how Clark is distorting his memories, including by providing evidence to back up your claim.
Ultimately, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven exemplifies the limitations of the human psyche when affected by trauma, arguing that the distortion of memories can have either a positive or negative impact upon the individual. Whilst she cautions her audience against the dangers of adhering to selective recollections, she simultaneously presents the benefits which can be garnered from this, alongside the ability to liberate oneself from such harmful memories.
For more Station Eleven writing samples, check out this blog post, which compares three different paragraphs and analyses how they improve upon one another.
If you found this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our Station Eleven Study Guide where we cover 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!
Written Explanation (also known as Statement of Intention, SOE, and various other names throughout different schools) is a short introductory piece to your essay. The Written Explanation is intended to explore the reasons behind why you made particular writing decisions. This is done via FLAPC:
Form, Language, Audience, Purpose, Context
2. Creative Response-Based Written Explanations
The following is taken from the VCAA study design for Creative Response-Based Written Explanations:
'a written explanation of creative decisions and how these demonstrate understanding of the text.'
Most assessors are quite lenient with how you want to approach the Written Explanation – there is no rigid structure that you need to abide by. As we will discuss below, this allows you to consider which aspects of form, language, audience, purpose and context you wish to include. Each of the points should establish why you have written your piece. They are considered as part of your SAC and thus, are marked accordingly. They are not examinable during the English exam.
There are traditionally three forms of writing accepted in assessments: expository, creative or persuasive essay.
‘I chose to write in an expository style, employing conventions of format and style of a traditional essay. This allows me to express my ideas in a logical order while adopting a sophisticated tone.’
When writing, you choose particular words and phrases to illustrate your ideas. Think about what type of language have you used and why. Perhaps your piece is formal or informal, sophisticated or simple, or from a first or third person perspective. All these factors are important in shaping your Context piece. Also consider language techniques you may have incorporated such as repetition, rhetorical questions, metaphors, symbolism and more.
‘I have chosen to write from a first person perspective to shed light on the inner workings of Gardiner from The Lieutenant.'
You must select a targeted audience for your essay. Your choice can be adults to young children, or even to your future self. Make sure your target audience is suitable for your essay – select a group that would realistically be interested in your work.
‘My piece is to be published in an anthology for those who have had difficulty assimilating into a new group or culture. As they have familiarity with the concepts I discuss, I intend for readers to depart with a greater understanding and appreciation of the ideas in my written piece.’
The purpose section is where you discuss the message you would like to send to your audience. Here you discuss your contention or arguments; whether you completely agree, disagree or a bit of both in regards to your prompt.
‘The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that there can be different outcomes from encountering conflict: firstly, that conflicts can change many people through growth in understanding or a sense of self-development and secondly, that there are times when people remain unaffected by conflict and thus, unchanged.’
Since your essay is based on your studied text, you should provide a brief discussion of the basic ideas behind the Context. You can do this prior to your Purpose section since it is a good lead-in.
‘In this essay, I explored the idea that ‘Conflict inevitably changes people’; a concept heavily explored in The Lieutenant. Every person encounters conflict. It drives individuals to challenge themselves, and deal with new experiences.'
Different schools will set different word limits for Written Explanations. These can range from 300 – 350 words based on the VCAA study design. With such a small word limit, be succinct and choose wisely what you will discuss in order to score the maximum marks allocated to Written Explanations.
3. Oral Presentation-Based Written Explanations
The VCAA study design requests students write:
'a written statement of intention to accompany the student’s own oral presentation, articulating the intention of decisions made in the planning process, and how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language.'
Using the topic, 'Why we need to stop crying "cultural appropriation" when cultural exchange is far more important', let's see how this can be done with FLAPC with some examples below (if you need help selecting a topic, check out our 2020 Oral Presentation topics to get those brain juices flowing):
‘I chose to adopt the conventions of a persuasive speech, where I use a structure of presenting my main ideas by rebutting arguments made by the opposition. Throughout my speech, I embed persuasive tactics in an effort to firstly, encourage engagement from the audience and secondly, sway them to readily accept my point of view.
‘Since I am an Asian-Australian, I have purposefully forgone the opportunity to adopt a persona and instead, have chosen to write from a first person perspective as I can uniquely shed light on my own experiences towards cultural exchange and how that has directly impacted me. My speech heavily focuses on delivering tangible examples, such as anecdotes and social media usage, as I aim to heighten the topic’s relevancy and relatability for my audience. Moreover, as my focus is to reinforce positive attitudes towards cultural exchange, I have adopted a light-hearted approach with humour through the first portion of my speech, then moving into an urgent tone towards the end to highlight the importance of this issue.'
'I have opted to target young Australian adults since we are the generation of the future, and have a major role to play in positively shaping the Australian society’s views and attitudes towards cultural exchange.
'I aim to convince my audience that it is too easy to cry 'cultural appropriation' by being overly sensitive, and instead, we need to consider the benefits of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange itself, has shaped the world as we know it today – it has an important role in globalisation, understanding foreign cultures and the development of Australian society.'
'Australia is known to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. However, recent media has drawn attention to cries of 'cultural appropriation' towards Indigenous Australians and other cultures, claiming that we fail to appreciate and respect cultural values when we take others' culture for our own (whether it be fashion, music, food or otherwise).'
Sample FLAPC compiled and rearranged for flow and fluency:
Australia is known to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. However, recent media has drawn attention to cries of 'cultural appropriation' towards Indigenous Australians and other cultures, claiming that we fail to appreciate and respect cultural values when we take others' culture for our own (whether it be fashion, music, food or otherwise). I aim to convince my audience that it is too easy to cry 'cultural appropriation' by being overly sensitive, and instead, we need to consider the benefits of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange itself, has shaped the world as we know it today – it has an important role in globalisation, understanding foreign cultures and the development of Australian society. I chose to adopt the conventions of a persuasive speech, where I use a structure of presenting my main ideas by rebutting arguments made by the opposition. Throughout my speech, I embed persuasive tactics in an effort to firstly, encourage engagement from the audience and secondly, sway them to readily accept my point of view. Since I am an Asian-Australian, I have purposefully forgone the opportunity to adopt a persona and instead, have chosen to write from a first person perspective as I can uniquely shed light on my own experiences towards cultural exchange and how that has directly impacted me. This also has an additional persuasive effect as I invite my audience to relate to my opinions through their own similar experiences as young Australian adults. I have opted to target this audience since we are the generation of the future, and have a major role to play in positively shaping the Australian society’s views and attitudes towards cultural exchange. My speech heavily focuses on delivering tangible examples, such as anecdotes and social media usage, as I aim to heighten the topic’s relevance and relatability for my audience. Moreover, as my focus is to reinforce positive attitudes towards cultural exchange, I have adopted a light-hearted approach with humour through the first portion of my speech, then moving into an urgent tone towards the end to highlight the importance of this issue.
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.
Finding out that your school has selected to study a Shakespeare play as your section A text can be a pretty daunting prospect. If I’m honest, I wasn’t all too thrilled upon discovering this either...it seemed as though I now not only had to worry about analysing my text, but also understanding what Shakespeare was saying through all of his old-fashioned words.
However, let’s not fret - in this post, I’ll share with you some Measure for Measure specific advice and tactics, alongside excerpts of an essay of mine as a reference.
Having a basic understanding of the historical context of the play is an integral part of developing your understanding of Measure for Measure (and is explored further in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare). For example, for prompts that open with “What does Shakespeare suggest about…?” or “How does Measure for Measure reflect Shakespeare’s ideas about…?” it can be really helpful to understand Shakespeare’s own position in society and how that influenced his writing.
There’s no need to memorise certain parts of Shakespeare’s history - as that would serve no purpose - just try to gauge an understanding of what life was like in his time. Through understanding Shakespeare’s position in society, we are able to infer his stances on various characters/ideologies in the play.
Measure for Measure is often regarded as an anti-Puritan satire. Although Shakespeare’s religion has been a subject of much debate and research, with many theories about his faith being brought forward, many believe that he was a secret Catholic. He is believed to be a ‘secret’ Catholic, as he lived during the rise of the Puritans - those who wished to reform the Church of England and create more of a focus on Protestant teachings, as opposed to Catholic teachings. It was often difficult for Catholics to practice their faith at this time.
Angelo and Isabella - particularly Angelo, are believed to embody puritanism, as shown through their excessive piety. By revealing Angelo to be “yet a devil,” though “angel on the outward side,” Shakespeare critiques Puritans, perhaps branding them as hypocritical or even unhuman; those “not born of man and woman.” Thus, we can assume that Shakespeare would take a similar stance to most of us - that Angelo wasn’t the greatest guy and that his excessive, unnatural and puritanical nature was more of a flaw than a virtue.
Tips for Moving Past the Generic Examples/Evidence Found in the Play
It’s important to try and stand out with your examples in your body paragraphs. If you’re writing the same, simple ideas as everyone else, it will be hard for VCAA assessors to reward you for that. Your ideas are the most important part of your essay because they show how well you’ve understood and analysed the text - which is what they are asking from you, it’s called an ‘analytical interpretation of a text,’ not ‘how many big words can you write in this essay.’ You can stand out in Measure for Measure by:
1. Taking Note of Stage Directions and Structure of Speech
Many students tend to simply focus on the dialogue in the play, but stage directions can tell you so much about what Shakespeare was really trying to illustrate in his characters.
For example, in his monologue, I would often reference how Angelo is alone on stage, appearing at his most uninhibited, with his self-interrogation revealing his internal struggle over his newfound lust for Isabella. I would also reference how Shakespeare’s choice of syntax and structure of speech reveal Angelo’s moral turmoil as he repetitively asks himself “what’s this?” indicating his confusion and disgust for his feelings which “unshapes” him.
Isabella is shown to “[kneel]” by Mariana at the conclusion of the play, in order to ask for Angelo’s forgiveness. This detail is one that is easily missed, but it is an important one, as it is an obvious reference to Christianity, and symbolises Isabella’s return to her “gentle and fair” and “saint” like nature.
2. Drawing Connections Between Characters - Analyse Their Similarities and Differences.
Drawing these connections can be a useful way to incorporate other characters not necessarily mentioned in your prompt. For example, in my own English exam last year, I chose the prompt “...Power corrupts both Angelo and the Duke. Do you agree?” and tried to pair Angelo and Isabella, in order to incorporate another character into my essay (so that my entire essay wasn’t just about two characters).
A favourite pair of mine to analyse together was Angelo and Isabella. Although at first glance they seem quite different, when you read into the text a little deeper you can find many similarities. For example, while Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, “nun,” Isabella, wishes to join the nuns of Saint Clare where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” Shakespeare’s depiction of the two, stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” plaguing Vienna. What’s important about this point is that you can alter your wording of it to fit various points that you may make. For example, you could use this example to prove to your assessor how Isabella’s alignment with Angelo signals Shakespeare’s condemnation of her excessive puritanical nature (as I did in my body paragraph below) or, you could use these same points to argue how Angelo was once indeed a virtuous man who was similar to the “saint” Isabella, and that it was the power that corrupted him (as you could argue in the 2019 prompt).
Another great pair is the Duke and Angelo. Although they certainly are different in many ways, an interesting argument that I used frequently, was that they both were selfish characters who abused their power as men and as leaders in a patriarchal society. It is obvious where Angelo did this - through his cruel bribery of Isabella to “lay down the treasures of [her] body,” however the Duke’s behaviour is more subtle. The Duke’s proposal to Isabella at the conclusion of the play, as he asks her to “give [him her] hand,” in marriage, coincides with the revelation that Claudio is indeed alive. It appears that the Duke has orchestrated the timing of his proposal to most forcefully secure Isabella and in this sense, his abuse of power can be likened to Angelo’s “devilish” bribery. This is as, through Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella, it is evident that she has little interest in marriage; she simply wishes to join a convent where she “must not speak with men,” as she lives a life of “strict restraint.” The Duke is aware of this, yet he demands Isabella to “be [his]”- wishing to take her from her true desire and Shakespeare is able to elucidate Isabella’s distaste through her response to this: silence. By contrasting Isabella’s once powerful voice - her “speechless dialect” that can “move men” - with her silence in response to the Duke’s proposal, Shakespeare is able to convey the depth of the Duke’s selfishness and thus his similarity to Angelo.
We've got a character list for you in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare (just scroll down to the Character section).
What’s important to realise about these bits of evidence is that you can use them in so many different prompts, provided that you tailor your wording to best answer the topic. For example, you could try fitting at least one of the above examples in these prompts:
‘Give me your hand and say you will be mine…’ The characters in ‘Measure for Measure’ are more interested in taking than giving. Discuss.
‘More than our brother is our chastity.' Explore how Shakespeare presents Isabella's attitude to chastity throughout Measure for Measure.
‘I have seen corruption boil …' To what extent does Shakespeare explore corruption in Measure for Measure, and by what means?
‘Measure or Measure presents a society in which women are denied power.’ Discuss.
How To Kick Start Your Essay with a Smashing Introduction
There’s no set way on how to write an introduction. Lots of people write them in many different ways and these can all do well! This is the best part about English - you don’t have to be writing like the person sitting next to you in order to get a good mark. I personally preferred writing short and sweet introductions, just because they were quick to write and easy to understand.
For example, for the prompt...
“...women are frail too.”
To what extent does ‘Measure for Measure’ examine the flaws of Isabella?
...my topic sentences were...
Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo.
Shakespeare explores the hypocrisy and corruption of Isabella as a flaw, as she deviates from her initially “gentle and fair” nature.
Despite exploring Isabella’s flaws to a large degree, Shakespeare does indeed present her redemption at the denouement of the play.
...and my introduction was:
William Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure’ depicts a seventeenth century Viennese society in which disease, misconduct and licentiousness are rife. It is upon a backdrop of such ordeals that Shakespeare presents the character of Isabella, who is initially depicted as of stark contrast to the libertine populate of Vienna. To a considerable extent, ‘Measure for Measure’ does indeed examine the flaws of the “gentle and fair” Isabella, but Shakespeare suggests that perhaps she is not “saint” nor “devil,” rather that she is a human with her own flaws and with her own redeeming qualities.
Instead of rewording my topic sentences, I touched on them more vaguely, because I knew that I wouldn’t get any ‘extra’ points for repeating them twice, essentially. However, if you feel more confident in touching on your topic sentences more specifically - go ahead!! There are so many different ways to write an introduction! Do what works for you!
This body paragraph included my pairing between Angelo and Isabella. My advice would be to continue to incorporate the language used in the prompt. In this paragraph, you can see me use the word “flaw” quite a bit, just in order to ensure that I’m actually answering the prompt, not a prompt that I have studied before.
Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo. Where Angelo is “of ample grace and honour,” Isabella is “gentle and fair.” Where Angelo believes in “stricture and firm abstinence,” Isabella too believes that “most desire should meet the full blow of justice.” This similarity is enhanced by their seclusion from the lecherous society in which they reside. Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, whilst Isabella desires the life of a nun where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” This depiction of both Angelo and Isabella stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” that the libertine populate is drunk from. However, Shakespeare’s revelation that Angelo is “yet a devil” though “angel on the outward side,” is perhaps Shakespeare’s commentary on absolute stricture being yet a facade, a flaw even. Shakespeare presents Isabella’s chastity and piety as synonymous with her identity, which ultimately leaves her unable to differentiate between the two, as she states that she would “throw down [her] life,” for Claudio, yet maintains that “more than our brother is our chastity.” Though virtuous in a sense, she is cruel in another. Although at first glance, Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella’s excessive puritanical nature appears to be her virtue, by aligning her with the “devil” that is Angelo, it appears that this is indeed her flaw.
Conclude Your Essay by Dazzling Your Assessor!
My main tip for a conclusion is to finish it off with a confident commentary of the entire piece and what you think that the author was trying to convey through their words (in relation to the topic). For example, in pretty much all of my essays, I would conclude with a sentence that referenced the entire play - for example, how it appeared to be such a polarising play, with largely exaggerated, polarising characters/settings (eg. Angelo and the Duke, or the brothels that stood tall next to the monastery):
Ultimately, Shakespeare’s play ‘Measure for Measure,’ depicts Isabella as a multifaceted character. She is not simply one thing - not simply good nor bad - her character’s depiction continues to oscillate between the polar ends of the spectrum. Although yes, she does have flaws, so too does she have redeeming qualities. Though at times deceitful and hypocritical, she too is forgiving and gentle. Thus, as Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure,’ does centre on polarising characters in a polarising setting, perhaps through his exploration of Isabella’s flaws alongside her virtues, he suggests that both the good and the bad inhabit us.
Measure for Measure is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
The following blog post (updated 02/10/2020), is a mix of the video transcription, along with some new pieces of advice and tips. Happy learning!
Hey guys. Welcome back to Lisa's Study Guides.
Right now, it's in the middle of December, and I know that most of you should have finished school by now, and you're enjoying your school holidays. Because it is summer holidays, and most people aren't really studying right now, this is for the truly keen beans, the people who are reading the text before the school starts, which, by the way, you should be doing. I'll pop that video in a card up above and so if you are studying Burial Rites, then this video is for you. If you're not, as always, it doesn't really matter because the type of advice that I will be giving would definitely be relevant to any text, because it's more about your thinking and how you actually go around approaching essay topics.
Burial Rites is about this girl called Agnes, and she is the last person in Iceland to be sentenced to the life sentence. This book covers the last few months of her life, living with these people who she's sharing her story with. She has been sentenced because she has murdered Natan. And although we first initially hear that she has murdered this guy, when we start to hear her story develop, that's when we start to see that there are shades of gray. That she did have reason behind what she did, and you can start to feel quite sympathetic towards her. At the same time, though, and this is what today's essay question will be about. There's a lot to do with the patriarchy. Agnes being not just a woman, but an intelligent woman, was something that was looked down upon, and people were scared of that. That's just to give you a little bit of context so that we can start this essay topic.
Today's chosen essay topic is:
Women have no power in Burial Rites, the patriarchy dominates their lives. To what extent do you agree?
Step 1: Analyse
The first step, as always, is we look at keywords. What are the keywords here? To me, they are women, no power, patriarchy and dominates. These words really stand out to me, and these are the words that I feel are necessary for me to focus on in order to answer this prompt properly.
The second step that I do is I define keywords. So what I do here is I try to understand what the keywords mean and also their implications.
Women, is our first keyword. it's easy just to say, "Oh, women includes this character and this character." But we can start to think about more so the implications as well. So don't just think about the major characters like Agnes and Margret, but also think about the minor characters like Sigga and Rosa.
No power. So to me, no power means to lack freedom. It's not necessarily no power like you know I'm not strong and this is why we need to actually define the words because many words have multiple connotations or they have multiple meanings. So you need to figure out, "Okay, how am I going to find this word so that I've got the right focus for the rest of my essay?" This is silly, but what if you, halfway through your essay, went, "Holy crap, power could also mean electricity, and I didn't talk about electricity." So electricity is not part of Burial Rites, but it's just something to get you thinking. You know you don't just want to dive straight into the essay, assuming you know what the keyword means and what it entails. Actually spend time to define it, so that it's a lot clearer for you, too. So I've also added that no power means a lack of power compared to men. So because it is a patriarchy, the fact that they have no power is very much sort of linked to the fact that it's male-induced.
The third keyword is a patriarchy, so a male-dominated society, which means that an analysis of male characters is also required to fully understand male and female interactions. If you have an essay where you only talk about the women, then you're maybe only answering it 50%. To really add extra value to what you're saying and to really solidify your points, talk about the men because everyone influences each other one way or another.
The last thing is I would also add, 'to what extent'? When a prompt says, "to what extent?" to me, it means that some sort of challenge is required here. It's probably not enough if I just completely agree with it because it's only suggesting that the extent does end somewhere and that you need to go beyond it.
Step 2: Brainstorm
While in this video I don't cover the brainstorm process, you can learn more by reading up on my THINK and EXECUTE strategy, which has helped thousands of students achieve better marks!
Step 3: Create a Plan
My third step is I plan out key arguments. So this is how I'm going to break down this essay prompt. I am going to do two body paragraphs where I agree and one body paragraph where I disagree. So this should mean that I'm only agreeing to a certain extent. Here's a video about this type of essay structure and response:
Body paragraph 1:
So my first body paragraph is yes, under male authority, the women are robbed of freedom and power. My example for that would be Agnes, who is the protagonist. She is a woman who's being sentenced to death for murdering Natan, more about him later, and, as a result, society condemns her and she's robbed of her identity and freedom. "Everything I said was altered until the story wasn't my own." The metaphor of a story represents her being stripped of her experiences and identity, and instead replaced with how others think of her, whore, madwoman and murderess.
Body paragraph 2:
My second body paragraph would be another agreement, but this time I'm going to focus on the men. In this second body paragraph, my argument is men hold exploitative power over women. One, Natan, the person who was murdered, toys with all his whores, demonstrating male dominance in 1820s Iceland. All his workmaids are stranded, shipwrecked with nowhere else to go, highlighting women's hopelessness in changing their situation. Additionally, there's Blondal. So Blondal is a government authority and he's torn when commanding Lauga, Lauga, not too sure how to say that. You guys let me know. "I'm sure you would not question me," which is also another example of women's subordinate status.
Body paragraph 3:
The third one is one where I disagree. Here will be that there are rare instances of female empowerment in the novel. The first one will be Rosa, the poet. So Rosa has an affair with Natan, but Kent praises Rosa and she's described to be a wonderful woman and beautiful. Rosa transcends patriarchal structures, as she is assertive, headstrong, going against social codes in an act of female empowerment.
The second one will be Agnes. Her storytelling and ability to express what she is inside allows her to gain a voice in the patriarchal world that has silenced her. Through her storytelling, she asserts her self-worth and dignity and despite the fact that she has been locked down, she is being treated like crap by the men, her ability to hold herself strong and to be able to face her death with dignity means that with some sense, at least from within, that sense of empowerment has not been completely diminished.
If you found this blog and video helpful, and would like to see Burial Rites essay writing in action, then I recommend you check out How To Write A Killer Text Response below!
Hey everyone! This is Part 2 in a series of videos I will release on VCE Study Guides. The content goes through the sample VCAA Chickens Range Free article which you can find here. Feel free to analyse it yourself, then check out how I’ve analysed the article!
I’m super excited to share with you my first ever online tutorial course for VCE English/EAL students on How to achieve A+ for Language Analysis!!!
I created this course for a few reasons:
Language Analysis is often the key weakness for VCE English/EAL students, after my workshops, students always wish we had spent evenmore time on Language Analysis, many of you have come to me seeking private tuition however since I am fully booked out, I wanted to still offer you a chance to gain access to my ‘breakthrough’ method of tutoring Language Analysis,I am absolutely confident in my unique and straightforward way of teaching Language Analysis which has lead to my students securing exceptional A graded SAC and exam scores!
Are you a student who:
struggles to identify language techniques?
finds it difficult to identify which tones are adopted in articles?
has no idea explaining HOW the author persuades?
finds it difficult to structure your language analysis essay?
becomes even more unsure when comparing 2 or 3 articles?
feels like your teacher at school never explained language analysis properly?
prefers learning when it’s enjoyable and easy to understand?
wants to stand out from other students across the cohort?
wants to know the secrets of 45+ English high achievers?
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sees room for improvement whether you’re an average student or a pro?
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This is what you will accomplish by the end of the course:
Be able to successfully identify language techniques in articles and images
Be able to successfully identify tones adopted in articles and images
Be able to analyse a single article or image
Be able to analyse 2 or more articles and/or images
Be able to apply your new skills coherently and clearly in essay writing
You will be able to accurately describe HOW an author uses language to persuade
You will be able to plan and write a language analysis essay structure (single article/image)
You will be able to plan and write a language analysis essay structure (2 or more articles/images)
You will understand common pitfalls and how to avoid these in language analysis
Be confident when approaching your SACs and exam
Know exactly what examiners are looking for and how to ‘WOW’ them
Know how to distinguish yourself from other students
Have unlimited help in course forum from myself and other VCE students
You will become a better VCE English language analysis student!
To find out more, you can check out the full details of the coursehere!
See you in the course!
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