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English & EAL
October 11, 2018
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It’s getting closer to the Literature exam and you’re probably starting to get more serious about avoiding dropping too many SAC marks! Depending on which order your school does Literature SACs in, you may be currently facing the often feared ‘Creative Response’. Whether you feel beyond excited to finally bring some creative flair to Literature, or you’re totally scared at the thought of creating something new, I wanted to use this blog post to help you achieve at least ten of the marks in this section. That is through the reflective commentary, which you can totally score full marks on if you put in the effort.
The VCAA Literature Study Design determines that students must submit ‘a reflective commentary establishing connections with the original text’. This aspect of the assessment counts for 10 of the 60 marks available for the Creative Response outcome. The study design further denotes that students must
‘reflect critically upon their own responses as they relate to the text, and discuss the purpose context of their creations’.
This allows your schools and teachers to direct in a relatively broad way on how you should form your reflective commentary, and may mean your friends at other schools write theirs in a very different way. In this blog post I will leave you with a suggestion of how I best believe a reflective commentary could be structured to include all important aspects, as well as tips on how to include all of what the study design asks. As I said, these are ten marks that can easily be snatched with just a little bit of hard work and attention to detail, so why not snatch them?
To induce the things needed to be included in the reflective commentary, we can look to the key knowledge and key skills points outlined in the study design:
- the point of view, context and form of the original text,
- the ways the central ideas of the original text are represented,
- the features of the original text including ideas, images characters and situations, and the language in which these are expressed,
- techniques used to create, recreate or adapt a text and how they represent particular concerns or attitudes.
- identify elements of construction, context, point of view and form particular to the text, and apply understanding of these in a creative response
- choose stylistically appropriate features including characterisation, setting, narrative, tone and style
- critically reflect on how language choices and literary features from the original text are used in the adaptation
What you’re really trying to do in your reflective commentary is prove to your teacher that you are hitting all these key knowledge and key skills points. As you write, ensure you are discussing how the author uses point of view, context, form, elements of construction and stylistic features in their text. It is than imperative that you describe how you have similarly used such device in your creative response. Ensure that you also discuss how you are involving the ideas and themes of the text in your creative piece, and how you are discussing them further, or exploring them in greater depth. Obviously only talk about those that are relevant to your creative response!
Having scored a 10/10 in my own reflective commentary, I will provide a structure that can be used to ensure you are including everything you need. I discussed my own reactions to the original text, and described how I wanted to rouse similar reactions in the reader of my creative response.
In your reflective commentary, it can be easier to put everything under subheadings. These are the ones that I used:
-Literary features (here I chose 7 particular literary features used in my text and discussed how I emulated them)
Under each of these paragraphs, I analysed how the author used such features to create and convey meaning, and discussed how I, in my own piece, drew on her use of them and expanded on her ideas. Here is an example of my ‘Purpose’ paragraph, which will hopefully give you an idea on how you might write your own commentary! My text was Cate Kennedy’s Dark Roots, in particular the short story ‘What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved’.
In my piece, I ultimately attempted to lead the reader to a place of discomfort, faced with a situation that they wish never to be faced with. When I first read What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved (Dark Roots, Cate Kennedy), I simply wished never to be in Rebecca’s position, as I was sobered by the sadness of her demise as she watched her lover fade away. I sought to elicit the same response from the reader, as I aimed to convey the deterioration that both lovers suffer, as well as the loss of communication between them. I also attempted to allow the reader to question the humanity in keep people alive by machines and drugs, and whether it is fair to force people to live an unnatural life. I have sought to explore this even further than What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved bringing in the question of euthanasia and whether we have a right to die as Kyle begs of Max to “kill me” at the end of the piece, and Max concedes that “[he] would if [he] could”. The themes of my piece seeks to explore are the ways of coping with grief, guilt at causing the illness of a loved one, a life with a lack of substance, and the loss of communication due to illness.
Hopefully you’re feeling better about how you might go about completing your creative response, and getting that 10/10 on your reflective commentary!
Once you have finished all your Literature SACs for the year, all that is left is a 2 hour and 15 minute exam that will play a major part in determining your end of year study score. It seems extremely daunting, and because many of the SACs differ from the exam task, you may be feeling a bit nervous or confused about what exactly the exam entails.
In describing the task, the exam paper states:
For each of your selected texts, you must use one or more of the passages as the basis for a discussion of that text.
In your pieces of writing, refer in detail to the passage or passages and the texts. You may include minor references to other texts.
Therefore, you must write two close analysis pieces on the exam, one on each of your chosen texts. You must use the three passages included on the exam to explore and analyse the text as a whole. Most of your piece should be analysis of what is in front of you in the exam, but you must also use evidence from outside the passages, to demonstrate your knowledge and connection with the text.
The exam will be marked against a criterion that differs from any of your SACs (although it is quite similar to your close analysis SAC). Therefore it is imperative to understand the criteria you will be marked on before beginning to study for the Literature exam, and especially before you try some practice exams. They are as follows, and can be found on the VCAA Literature exam page.
Understanding of the text demonstrated in a relevant and plausible interpretation
This criteria relates to your ability to show your comprehension of the text. The examiner will be noting whether the concepts, ideas and themes in the text are understood. They will assess your interpretation of the text, and whether it is relevant and fair in relation to the meaning in the text
Ability to write expressively and coherently to present an interpretation
Literature is a writing subject, therefore this criteria asks that you write with fluency, an expressive vocabulary and clarity. Your piece must also be a coherent, unified work that clearly articulates your discussion and interpretation of the passages and text as a whole. This criteria can also relate to your use of grammar, punctuation and spelling as the clarity of your piece can be threatened if these are not used correctly.
Understanding of how views and values may be suggested in the text
You must demonstrate an ability to identify, discuss and analyze the views and values within the text. You must be able to support your discussion with evidence from the text
Analysis of how key passages and/or moments in the text contribute to an interpretation
Your ability to analyse the three passages, as well as the text as a whole, and draw an interpretation from them. Examiners will be looking to see that you can use set material and the whole text as a basis for discussion.
Analysis of the features of a text and how they contribute to an interpretation
This criteria determines that you must identify factors including metalanguage, specific language and authorial techniques, and discuss how they create meaning. Remember that this is literature, so discussing the different elements used to construct a text (character, plot, setting, motifs, symbols” is imperative.
Analysis and close reading of textual details to support a coherent and detailed interpretation of the text
This criteria determines that you need to use evidence from the text (including quotes) in order to aid a logical and comprehensive interpretation of the text. Examiners will be looking at your ability to look deeply into smaller authorial choices, and how they create meaning.
Best of luck!
Are you a slow writer who struggles to write down all of the information that you hear in the listening audio clip? Have you ever been in a situation where the next sentence in the audio comes up way before you finish writing down information from the previous sentence? If yes, then this blog is for you!
You want to write down as much useful information as possible in a short period of time during your VCE EAL exam, so it is very useful to implement a system of techniques that works well for you personally. Here are some ideas and suggestions that you may want to use to increase the speed of your note-taking.
Under the stress of exams/SACs, you might lose track of which speaker is talking. This is likely to happen if the speakers are of the same sex or they sound similar to each other (from personal experience, I had a listening task with 3 female speakers!) A simple way to remind yourself of who is speaking is to take side notes with different coloured pens and/or symbols for different speakers.
If in the audio: Lisa says, ‘The weather is lovely’ and Cici replies ‘Let’s go for a run’. We can write side notes using L (for Lisa) and C for Cici, which may look like:
L ‘weather is lovely’
C 'Let's go for a run’
Or, you could use a red pen for Lisa and blue pen for Cici.
Using symbols is an efficient way to increase the speed of writing and ultimately increase the amount of information that you can record. Here are some examples of symbols I have used in the past and the meanings I gave them.
→ Leading to/Stimulate/Result in
∴ Therefore OR Consequently
> Greater than/More than
< Less than/Fewer than
~ Approximately OR Around OR Similar to OR Not Equal OR Not the same as
c/b Could be
Use abbreviations that work for you. There is no right or wrong here as the ‘blank space for scribbles’ will not be marked. Abbreviations can take the form of short notes or letters...you get to be creative here!
You can also choose to keep only the essential vowels and consonants in words. Or, leave out the double consonants and silent letters. The following list contains some abbreviations for common words or phases:
Answer = answ
About = abt
Morning = am
Afternoon = pm
As soon as possible = asap
Before = bef/b4
Between = bt
Because = bc
Common = com
Condition = cond
Diagnosis = diag
Regular = reg
You = u
Notes = nts
To = t
Take = tk
Very = v
With respect to = wrt
With = w/
Will be = w/b
Within = w/i
Without = w/o
‘You should remember to take notes in classes’
Can be abbreviated as:
‘U shld rmbr t tk nts in cls’
‘Gidon has a rare blood condition which means he visits the hospital quite regularly. Since his diagnosis, Gidon’s family paid more than ten thousand dollars just to visit the hospital. Gidon initiated a petition that advocates for lowering the fees for parking in hospitals and putting a limit on how much the hospital can charge.’
Can be abbreviated as:
I've used G as an abbreviation for Gidon, and the arrow here represents that the stuff on the left side of the arrow (i.e. his rare blood condition), led to the events on the right side of the arrow (i.e. regular hospital visits).
Here I’ve also used the arrow, indicating that the stuff on the left side of the arrow (i.e. his diagnosis), led to the events on the right side of the arrow (i.e. Gidon's family paid more than 10 thousand dollars). I’ve also used >$10K to indicate that the amount Gidon’s family paid is more than 10 thousand dollars.
Using my symbols and abbreviations above, it’s your turn to work out how I’ve abbreviated this ;)
I hope these tips and tricks will assist you with note taking during the EAL listening SACs and exam. If you would like more practice on the listening section, check out the following blogs!
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
This is quite frankly, the easiest part of Language Analysis! All you need to do is quote your evidence! Straightforward? If quoting is not your forte, you can check out: how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss
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:
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!
Updated on 15/12/2020.
Extinction 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.
At the heart of innovative technology and products lies exceptional human creativity. Our brains are practically wired to create and innovate newness. Naturally, the influx of products entering the market creates a consumer frenzy. Suddenly, everything is a commodified entity with a dollar-sign attached to it. Its inherent value lies in how much consumers covet the item.
Let’s take the iPhone for example! An idea of a communication device - both sleek in its functionality and aesthetic - is mass produced, consumed by millions and the cycle perpetuates itself. It is an item so coveted and desired, a 17-year-old boy from China sold a kidney to buy the iPad and iPhone. This phenomenon of consumerism is symptomatic of a contemporary world’s obsession with vanity and aesthetic. Our fixation on the surface-level and glossy facades is similarly echoed by Extinction’s main protagonist, Professor Heather Dixon-Brown, who criticises the ‘charismatic fauna push’ where we are ‘making celebrities out of pandas and polar bears’. While those campaigns are successful in raising better awareness and positivity in the realm of conservation, they do not change the ways in which we live and consume.
How we live today is inflicting a deep ecological impact on planet earth. Furthermore, as urban landscapes inevitably expand, we continue to encroach on the territory of the natural world.
These are the kind of thoughts that popped into my mind after reading Extinction. Hannie Rayson’s provocative play delves deep into the central question of what it means to uphold a personal conviction in the face of self-interest and necessity. Casual flings, extinguishing of life and the friction between ‘ideological purity’ and functionality threatens to unhinge even seemingly robust characters such as Heather Dixon-Brown, an ecologist who preaches that she ‘uses her head, not her heart’. Rayson’s literary work endeavours to capture how the human character is, in fact, multidimensional and never static! As the passionate environmentalists and pragmatic ecologists are entangled in ethical quandaries, the playwright also illustrates how divorcing your mindset from emotion is a universal struggle. Furthermore, she explores how moral conviction is consistently at odds with the demands of the personal and professional domains we inhabit.
Throughout the drama encapsulating mining magnates, environmentalists and ecologists, Rayson combines their fictional voices to echo a cautionary tale of how self-interest and misconception about ‘the other’ may distort rationality. When the CEO of Powerhouse mining, Harry Jewell, bursts into a wildlife rescue centre in Cape Otway, holding a critically injured and endangered tiger quoll, he inadvertently catalyses a conflict that will draw out the prejudices withheld by the trio of environmentalists.
I encourage you to think about the lessons embedded in the play. What are the take-home messages YOU have discovered?
Let's take a look at these deeply flawed human beings:
'I am an ecologist, not an environmentalist. I use my head, not my heart.'
'Species are like commodities…I just don’t approve of this ‘charismatic fauna’ push - making celebrities out of pandas and polar bears.' (p. 99)
'You want me to close the CAPE. Is that what you want? Then we can bask in ideological purity…' (p. 120)
The never-ending struggle between heart and mind is central theme in the play.
'You don’t serve your cause by being indifferent to the interest of working people.'
'I know his type: the kind of greenie who’s always saying no. No dams. No mines. No roads.' (p. 114)
'I am not some multinational corporation devouring the Amazon. I’m just a bloke who’s come back home.' (p. 114)
'They are all 'worth saving''. (p. 83)
'…the great advocate for our native flora and fauna…' (p. 118)
'You should see this dairy farm. It’s all computerised. They’ve got one bloke managing a thousand cows. No human supervision of the milking. No-one to check the udders. I’m just there, doing the rounds. Like a robot.' (p. 82)
To divorce your emotions from affecting your decision-making capacity is a universal struggle aptly captured by Rayson’s depiction of Dixon-Brown’s gradual inclination towards the tiger quoll project funded by a coal company. In this case, we can argue that her objectivity and ‘her head’ is seemingly beguiled by the charms of Harry Jewell.
Early in the play, Professor Dixon-Brown is anchored to her desk, filing applications and paperwork instead of ‘getting back to her own research’. This prospect changes when Harry - big coal - offers 'two million dollars on the table' to fund the tiger quoll campaign. Nonetheless, we see the two unexpected collaborators setting a dangerous precedent where one can simply equate a species’ livelihood to ‘commodities’ and ‘a good return’ of profit.
What is compelling about Harry’s character is that he combines both pragmatism and ideological purity. Firstly, Harry has the means and business acuity to manoeuvre a board of directors bent on exploring coal ‘right on the edge of the national park’. However, ‘Mr Evil’ is also inspired by nostalgia and sentimentality over a childhood memory where a tiger quoll steals his drumstick.
Conversely, Andy Dixon-Brown’s stance against the mining industry and automated dairy farms is admirable considering how technology has become a central cornerstone of modern-day life. His partner Piper Ross, a zoologist, echoes similar distaste for mining companies, however, her passion for ‘saving’ all animals eclipses her own presumptions towards ‘Mr Evil’. She is eventually persuaded to head the tiger quoll project.
Whereas, Professor Dixon-Brown enjoys the uncomplicatedness of numbers and statistics. However, her carefully crafted algorithm fails to differentiate between the diversity of animals within the ecosphere. Instead, it filters out populations of 5000 and above to collate only the ‘statistically saveable’.
In this respect, Harry’s actions showcase how a striking a balance between pragmatism and emotion is important.
In this play, the ‘us vs. them’ mentality pervades the minds of the protagonists. Through the heated dialogue between environmentalists, ecologists and mining moguls, Hannie Rayson delivers the message that as a society we should not be so reliant on simplifying individuals based on age-old presumptions and surface-level characteristics. Harry Jewell echoes a similar sentiment as he discusses his company’s plans to Piper: 'Who’s this ‘we’? You don’t serve your cause by being indifferent to the interests of the working people.' (p. 92)
Andy’s indignant stance against collaborating with the mining industry showcases his resilience in sticking to his moral code. One can argue that his immediate demonisation of Harry Jewell, as evidenced by the nickname ‘Mr. Evil’, is a symptom of Andy’s oversimplified thinking. It is through Andy’s inflammatory and infantile language towards the Mining CEO that Rayson articulates how the politics of conservation is in shades of grey. Conversely, Harry’s admits that he knew Andy was ‘the type of greenie who’s always saying no [from the moment he came through that door]’. In highlighting the binary oppositions of the two men working in different fields, the play acknowledges how prejudice inhibits potential collaborations.
Harry and Andy showcase how our own misconceptions about ‘the other’ detract from our own moral causes - such as in this case, saving the forest. Both men are committed to the same cause. However, Andy’s antagonistic approach towards Harry undercuts his own integrity as he willingly allows prejudice to cloud his thinking simply because it is the more convenient thing to do, as opposed to collaborating and accommodating each other’s interests.
Categorising strangers into convenient stereotypes is pure laziness.
Against the backdrop of familial arguments and budding romances, Extinction’s Professor Dixon-Brown’s blunt dialogue about conservation reveals its politicised nature. Her heated dialogue with Piper echoes her frustration at ‘writing [Stuart Decker’s] applications so he can get ‘a sun tan’ conducting research on The Great Barrier Reef and win accolades for it'. Furthermore, she satirically exclaims that ‘[the institute] needs to defend its territory’. Her mocking of the vice-chancellor who acted like they were in a ‘White House Situation Room’ implicitly demonstrates her growing disdain towards the tenuous politics of her workplace. Essentially, Heather’s realist approach exposes what lies beneath the glossy exterior of conservation efforts.
I’ve seen quite a few videos of baby pandas circulating on my Facebook feed, most of them are part of a conservation effort or campaign. The comment section of these videos is like a medley of heart-eyes and exclamations of ‘How cute!!’ This relatively harmless sentiment is dismissed by Professor Dixon-Brown when she states that she is completely disengaged with ‘charismatic fauna’ (p. 99) push - making celebrities out of pandas and polar bears’. Our overwhelmingly positive reactions towards such campaigns is based on a societal gravitation towards the aesthetically pleasing which bleeds into the next thematic idea revolving around our fixation on appearance (surface-level).
Essentially, in the context of this play, the preferential treatment of endangered animals reflects our own biased thinking.
The idea of vanity also pervades the sub-consciousness of both male and female protagonists. Against the backdrop of environmental conservation dilemmas, Hannie Rayson manages to entwine a secondary story strand which captures the insecurities peppering the female experience in this contemporary age. The audience learns that Heather Dixon-Brown spends $267 on hair removal every five weeks. Interestingly, her brother, ‘a screaming heterosexual’ (p. 95), likens the hair removal process to ‘getting a tree lopped’. The destructive and almost violent imagery of chopping down a tree echoes the crippling pressure for Heather to ‘sculpt’ herself into a particular ideal of femininity.
It is in this way that Rayson articulates a broader thematic idea that womanhood is still being defined in terms of attractiveness and perseveration of youth. Heather’s internalised insecurities resurface in her heated confrontation with Harry. She accuses him of ‘prefer[ing] a younger woman’ and having ‘never been with a woman with pubic hair’. Both of which Harry indignantly refutes. Through this heated dialogue, audiences gain an insight into Heather’s vulnerability as a divorcee-to-be and interestingly, we are exposed to her assertiveness as she questions 'can’t [you] stomach a woman who stands up to you?'
Her conflicting ideologies on womanhood are best exemplified through Harry who almost admonishes her for embodying ‘some nineteen-fifties idea of relationships’ where ‘sex with someone’ does not necessarily entail ‘a lifelong commitment’. This is also the central conflict faced by all the characters who engage in seemingly non-committal relationships and false expectation. It is through these failed trysts that Rayson disapproves of uninhibited sexual impulses and by extension, criticises the increasing promiscuity in contemporary times. Essentially, Rayson’s fixation on causal sexual relationships mirrors her own opinion that there has been a paradigm shift in how we govern our sexuality and bodies since the 1950s.
You can define conservation in terms of ‘preservation of… ’, ‘sustaining…’.
In the personal domain, Piper maintains that she and Harry ‘slept in separate tents’ to her boss Professor Dixon-Brown who also doubles as her potential sister-in-law. Conversely, Professor Dixon-Brown is forced to make an ethical compromise to prevent a career besmirching orchestrated by a mass-email insinuating a sordid romance between her and her newest collaborator, Harry Jewell. Her reputation as CAPE’s director is nearly tarnished by the vengeful force of a fling’s ex-wife.
Do I preserve my moral compass or my professional reputation?
Other thematic ideas that relate to this umbrella phrase include: misuse of authority and ethics of the digital world.
Deleting emails is tantamount to rewording/reworking history. Professor Dixon-Brown’s attempt at salvaging/restoring her pristine moral code of ‘using her head, not her heart’ is encapsulated in her desperate dash to the IT servers at 1am in the morning to delete the incriminating email detailing her illicit relationship with Harry Jewell. This, undoubtedly, compromises both of their careers as professionals. Furthermore, their intimate fling casts Dixon-brown as a seducer/a woman who is easily compromised, which is untrue. However, it is the facades that count in the play.
In this case, by virtue of being female, we can assume the tiger quoll ‘with a crushed spine’ has reproductive capabilities. The injured tiger quoll was a life-giving entity. Technically, if she recovered fully, the tiger quoll could be the solution to its endangered status.
Andy’s swift decision to euthanise the animal in great pain could be in reference to his own desire to ‘make [his life] over’. He has inadvertently projected his own fears and anxieties over his GSS diagnosis onto the critically injured creature. Essentially, in the moment of mutual pain, Andy could resonate with the tiger quoll.
My theory is that the images of casual sex serve as an ironic layer to a play titled Extinction. Both Piper and Heather unwittingly develop sexual relations with Jewell on a casual basis which symbolises how intercourse is no longer purely valued as a means for continuing the species. These ‘efforts’ for reproduction are fruitless.
1. They show how mankind is centred on pleasure and instant gratification, prioritising the self above all matters.
2. They demonstrate how modern living expectations, consumerism and the perpetuation of gluttony have led to a plateau in human evolution.
As I was reading the text, a recurring question kept nagging at me: Why are there intimate scenes sandwiched between the layers of ideological conflict and tension?
Oh my goodness, are these characters THAT sexually frustrated? Someone’s heart is going to get broken and then we will have to analyse that in our essays. Ughhhhhh.
1. The opening scene showcases how vets and environmentalists alike are surprised by the first sighting of a tiger quoll in a decade. Their surprise at this unprecedented occurrence is reinforced by the ‘wet and windy’ conditions. Typically, stormy weather is symbolic of chaos and unpredictability.
2. During a particularly heated exchange between Andy and Piper, the interjection of ‘thunder’ intensifies rising temperament in both characters. (p. 73)
3. When Andy discovers who ‘Harry bloody Jewell’ is, his growing disbelief and rising temperament are complemented by the off-stage sound of ‘the roar of the motorbike’. The audiological stage cue characterises Jewell as an unwanted presence of chaos and noise. As the motorbike’s roar is a sound incongruent with the natural environment encapsulating Harry.
In Act Two: Scene One, the secretiveness of Harry and Piper’s tryst is underlined by the ‘vast blackness’ and their figures ‘in silhouette’. Furthermore, its fragile and tenuous connection is symbolically related to how both counterparts repeatedly ‘poke the fire’ to ensure its longevity through the night. Perhaps, this imagery is referring to how all temptation and sexual energy need to be moderated, which complements Piper’s reluctance to continue their budding relationship.
We've offered a few different types of essay topics below. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Extinction Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!
The play, Extinction demonstrates that compromise is necessary in the face of conflict.
As a self-professed ecologist, Heather Dixon-Brown’s decision to collaborate with 'the other’ stems from self-interest. Discuss.
'I use my head, not my heart.' Extinction explores how human nature reacts under pressure and vice.
How does Hannie Rayson explore the idea of emotion in the play Extinction?
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy, a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response.
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
This essay prompt is an example of a theme-based prompt. It specifies both 'personal integrity' and 'environmental responsibility' as themes for you to consider. When faced with a theme prompt, I find it most helpful to brainstorm characters and author’s views that are relevant to the given themes, as well as considering more relevant themes that may not have been mentioned in the prompt itself.
P1: Environmental responsibility
P2: Personal integrity
P3: Responsibility to act honestly and transparently in relationships Andy!
If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out A Killer Text Guide: Extinction where we cover five A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!), with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so that you know how to reach your English goals! Let's get started.
The Creative Response, which forms part of the ‘Reading and creating texts’ component of the study design, is part of the 1st Area of Study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Creative Response in Term 1. Unlike the analytical text response, in the Creative Response you will be asked to write your own imaginative piece in response to a selected text.
You are expected to read and understand the selected text, analyse its key features, and write a creative piece which demonstrates your comprehension of the text.
The creative writing task assesses your ability to combine features of an existing text with your own original ideas. The key intention here is to demonstrate your understanding of the world of the text. You can achieve this by exploring and applying selected elements from the text, such as context, themes, literary devices like symbols, and/or characters. You should also consider the values embedded within the text - this includes explicit values (which can be seen on the surface of the text) and implied values (values we uncover through analysis of the text’s deeper meaning). Try to reflect these values within your writing.
Your piece will be a creative response, after all, so you should apply the conventions of this style of writing. Firstly, your creative should follow the structure of a beginning, middle, and end. We can also think of this as rising tension, climax, and resolution. Secondly, you should develop an authentic use of language, voice and style to make your writing more engaging and sophisticated. Thirdly, you can use literary devices to build meaning and depth within your piece. As always, your writing should be consistent with the rules of spelling, punctuation, and syntax (that is, written expression) in Standard Australian English.
Part of this assessment is the Written Explanation, which is a chance for you to explain and justify your creative writing choices. Within the Written Explanation, you should reflect on your writing process and analyse your own work. The primary goal here is to explain the links you’ve made to the original text, by considering features like purpose, context, and language.
Ultimately, to put it simply, you are expected to understand the selected text and demonstrate this in your creative piece. If you're looking to quickly increase your creative skills, watch our incredibly popular video below:
Literary elements are different parts of the creative writing equation that ensure your piece is consistent with the expected features of this type of writing. When selecting which literary elements to include in your piece, remember to consider the original text and ensure that your work, while creative, also demonstrates your ability to replicate some of its elements.
As we know, characters are fictionalised people within the world of a creative text. Almost an entire century ago, the English writer E. M. Forster famously introduced the concept of flat and round characters in his 1927 book, ‘Aspects of the Novel’. According to Forster, flat characters can be defined by a single characteristic; in other words, they are two-dimensional. For example, the characters of The Simpsons could arguably all be defined as flat characters; Homer is characterised as a slob, Flanders is defined by his Christian faith, Lisa is stereotyped as the ‘teacher’s pet’, and Bart is portrayed as rebellious. We can define all of these characters as flat because they are labelled to the audience in these two-dimensional ways.
In contrast to this, round characters have multiple characteristics, which brings them closer to seeming like real, human figures. The personality of these characters extends beyond a single attribute. In Harry Potter, Harry himself is a round character because of how much we learn about him over the course of the series. For example, we find out about Harry’s difficult childhood, his personal challenges, his love interests, and we see his personality grow from book to book.
Whether the characters of your creative are flat or round will depend on their involvement within, and importance to, the storyline of your piece. Generally speaking, however, you should aim for the central character(s) to be round, while any minor characters are likely to be flat. Developing round major characters will ensure that they are realistic and believable. In turn, you’ll be able to better demonstrate your imaginative skills and understanding of the text through these characters.
Themes are the key ideas and issues that are relevant to the storyline of a fictional text. We can identify themes by labelling the main areas of meaning within a text and thinking about the messages that emerge throughout the text. To build your understanding of themes within a particular text and to evaluate the themes of your own creative, consider the following questions:
To return to our example of The Simpsons, we could say that the themes within this sitcom include love and family, neighbourliness, and social class. From episode to episode, The Simpsons comments on these different issues. For example, Marge and Homer’s relationship, with its domestic setting and marital ups and downs, is a core aspect of the Simpsons household. Likewise, family is a major component of not only the Simpsons themselves, but also the broader Springfield community. The interactions between parents and children is evident on Evergreen Terrace with the Simpsons and the Flanders families, as well as in other settings such as Springfield Elementary School (where even an adult Principal Skinner is seen through his relationship with his elderly mother). These broad areas can be identified as the key thematic concerns of the series because each episode centres around these ideas.
Language refers to the way in which a piece of writing is expressed. We can define this as the ‘style’, or ‘tone’, of a text. The words and phrasing chosen by a writer determine how ideas are communicated. Effective language will be appropriate for the world of the text and contribute to the narrative in a meaningful way. There are a number of ways in which a piece of writing can be articulated and you should consider the nature of your piece and the language of the original text when deciding what type of language is most appropriate for your creative.
Dialogue, on the other hand, is an exchange of conversation between characters. Dialogue is often used to provide context to a text, develop its storyline, or offer direct insight into a character’s thoughts, feelings and personality.
A symbol can be defined as a thing that represents something else. Symbols are typically material objects that hold abstract meaning. For example, in Harry Potter, Harry’s scar is a symbol of his difficult childhood. Because Harry’s scar causes him pain in Voldemort’s presence, it can also be said that the scar is symbolic of the connection forged between Harry and Voldemort when his attempt to kill Harry failed. As this example suggests, symbols are often associated with the text’s themes - in this case, Harry’s scar relates to the themes of childhood and death.
The key with symbolism is to connect a particular theme or idea to a physical object. For example, the theme of grief could be portrayed through a photo of someone who has died. Likewise, the theme of change might be represented by a ticking clock, while a character’s clothing could be a symbol of their wealth or status.
For more literary elements, also known as metalanguage, check out our lists:
And if that's not enough, you'll also want to check out our How To Write A Killer Creative Study Guide where we unpack these elements in more detail AND analyse imagery, foreshadowing, flash-backs and flash-forwards!
If we think about the criteria of creative writing, we’ll see that much of this task involves demonstrating your understanding of the text. For this reason, being able to replicate the world of the text will enable you to showcase your understanding and, in turn, to meet the criteria your teacher will be looking for. Let’s consider how you can strengthen your creative by taking the time to understand the text on a meaningful level and reflect this within your writing.
Writing a strong creative piece begins with reading. Reading the text (or watching, in the case of a film) is essential to developing an informed creative response. The more closely you read, the more confidently you’ll be able to engage with the important ideas and textual elements necessary to take your creative from good to great.
While reading the text for the first time, focus on developing your understanding and clarifying any uncertainty. I would recommend taking the time to read a plot summary before beginning on the text - this will allow you to go in with a reasonable idea of what to expect, and also provide a security net to minimise your likelihood of misunderstanding the plot.
While reading the text once is sufficient, you will benefit from reading it twice. A second reading enables you to take the time to annotate key sections of the text and to further your initial understanding. If you choose to read the text a second time, pay extra attention to the themes and inner-workings of the text. This means reading between the lines and starting to form an analytical understanding of what the text is about, beyond surface ideas like plot and character.
Annotating the text (or note-taking, in the case of a film) is an important aspect of any academic reading. The key intention is to ensure your annotation approach is as convenient and accessible as possible. To achieve this, I suggest listing the key themes, allocating a different coloured highlighter to each, and colour-coding sections of the text which you think relate to each specific theme. This will give your annotating process more direction compared to the common approach of simply leaving notes in the margin, which may be time-consuming to read over later.
I would also recommend making the most of coloured tabs - these enable you to immediately see the key sections of the text, rather than flicking through aimlessly. If you can colour-code these tabs according to the same key as your highlighters, you’ll be able to instantly spot which sections correspond with which theme (and trust me, this will come in handy if you decide to replicate these themes in your own creative).
Aside from annotating the text itself, try to ensure that the notes you write are concise - not only will this save you time, but it’ll mean you focus on condensing the key information. In turn, you’ll have less material to sift through later on, giving you the ability to jump straight into planning and drafting your own piece. This video, How to effectively annotate your books for school! and this blog post, How to effectively annotate your texts in VCE will provide you with more helpful strategies to get the most out of annotating.
Regardless of how many times you read the text, your understanding will be strengthened by seeking out resources to help you think about the text on a deeper level. A good starting point for this is to have a look for LSG blog posts and videos that are about your specific text.
Watching or reading interviews with the author of the text is a fantastic way to hear directly about their intention in writing the text - after all, they are the single most authoritative source on the text. The goal here is to understand the author’s intent (something we’ll expand on in Chapter 8: Strengthening Your Creative) so that you can reflect this within your own writing. Focus on how the author explains certain aspects of their text, as well as any points they make about its context and background.
Additionally, peer discussions and asking questions in class will help you to further develop your understanding of the text and clarify any uncertainty. Seeing the text from another’s perspective will develop your knowledge beyond a superficial understanding of the text and introduce ideas you may not have otherwise considered.
Remember to take notes as you go - these will be useful to reflect on later.
Okay, so you’ve taken the time to read and annotate the text, and you’ve sought out external resources to further develop your comprehension. Now we want to apply this understanding within a creative context. Reflect on what you know about the text. Think closely: What have you learnt about its context, characters, and themes? What elements of the text stand out? The goal here is to draw inspiration from the text and begin to think about which aspects of the text you might like to replicate within your creative piece. Begin to put together a shortlist to keep track of your ideas. The aim here is to develop a picture of the parts of the text you might decide to replicate in your own writing.
Although understanding and replicating the text is important, if we were to only do this, your piece wouldn’t have much creative flair or originality. Here, we’ve taught you the ‘Replicate’ component of this strategy . If you’d like additional information about how to elevate this to an A+ standard AND a comprehensive explanation of the ‘Imagine’ component, check out our How to Write A Killer Creative study guide!
Here's a sample excerpt from a creative piece written by Taylah Russell, LSG tutor and 47 study scorer, in response to the short story 'Waiting' in Cate Kennedy's anthology, Like a House on Fire:
"The clinician presses forcefully into my lower abdomen, refusing to stop and accept my reality. The poor thing, deprived of such hopelessness as I, seems to honestly believe that the longer he agonises over finding something, the more likely it is that some form of life will appear. That those horoscopes in those grimy magazines, written by journalists who’ve probably been fired from their former reputable jobs, may actually hold some validity. I place my hands over my eyes, tentatively pressing against my eyelids, turning my surroundings a dark black and blocking the stream of water that has readied itself to spill when the time comes, when that young boy finally gives up and realises that his degree holds no value in providing me with happiness."
As we can see in this paragraph, the writer is replicating certain themes from the original text, such as grief. Additionally, this piece is written from the perspective of the original protagonist, which means that its characters and context are also directly inspired by Kennedy. Ultimately, by carrying across these text elements of theme, character, and context, the writer is able to clearly demonstrate an extensive knowledge of the text, while also showcasing their creativity. To see more of this creative piece as well as another A+ example, check out the How to Write A Killer Creative study guide!
For a detailed overview of the Written Explanation, check out our Written Explanation Explained blog post.
We create general creative writing videos where I explain the method behind this task:
We also create videos that outline ways you can set yourself apart in this assessment:
Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written a number of blog posts about creative writing to help you elevate the standard of your work!
And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend our How To Write A Killer Creative study guide.
In this study guide, we teach you the unique REPLICATE and IMAGINE strategy, a straightforward and methodical approach to creative writing. The study guide also covers our step-by-step method to guide you through every phase of creative writing (no more not knowing where to start!) AND includes excerpts from multiple A+ creative pieces. Find out more and download a free preview here.
[Modified Video Transcription]
What's up everyone! So, I want to get a new segment started and it's pretty much the ‘essay questions with Lisa Tran’ segment. And basically, what this includes is every now and then I will choose a topic on one of your suggestions of whatever book, or film you’re studying, and break that down together with you on camera, on YouTube. So, if you like the idea of that, then make sure you give this video a thumbs up so that I know that this is something that you're super keen on and that you'll find helpful.
So, I've taken liberties (since this is the first one that we've ever done) of choosing my own essay topic that I was interested in doing. It's based on The Handmaid's Tale, and if any of you have read this or watched it (it's a TV series on Hulu) I have read and watched both and it has just been sensational, so I wanted to basically break down this prompt with you. If it's something that you haven't watched, or if you haven't read it, that's not a problem at all because the skills that I will be teaching you when it comes to breaking down an essay topic will be invaluable when it comes to actually applying it to your own studies. So, let's get started.
Just as a really quick summary (that will probably butcher the overall meaning and the experience that you get from the book, but I don't want to really spoil it for you either), The Handmaid’s Tale is set in this future world where America, or the United States, has become a dystopian society, and women in particular are reduced to nothing more than just a child bearing species. Men are in charge and these women, who are deemed to be people who can give birth, are kept alive and kept around in these rich people's homes or people who are higher up in the hierarchy, and they basically have to have sex with the male leader of the home and just create children, and that is their purpose. If they're no longer fertile, then they'll pretty much be out-casted from society and rejected.
As a book, it's very thought-provoking because it's set in the future. Of course, this is something that we cannot guarantee won't actually happen. It's really scary to see how a world that was progressive (because they lived in modern American society, there was a lot of free movement happening, there were same-sex relationships that were out in the open, people were taking contraceptives) regressed, and it went back to a lot of old values that we had moved on from. It really opens up a pot of questions that you can ask about where we’re going as a society, where we think we're going as a society and where we'll actually end up.
That's just my quick two minute spiel. If you wanted to get your hands on the book then I highly recommend it - I'll pop it down in the description box below (on Youtube).
The question here is ‘Atwood’s concerns in The Handmaid's Tale go beyond women's freedom’ Discuss.
So, the first thing I always do is I look at the keywords; we've got ‘Atwood’s concerns’, ‘go beyond’ and ‘women's freedom’.
The reason why we look at keywords is because we want to confirm to ourselves (as the writer of this essay), that we are going to stay focused and not go off topic with the essay topic, and the keywords will ensure that not only we stay on topic, but they emphasize the ideas that we really need to focus on. So, let's break down each of the keywords individually.
This means that we have to focus on the author's intention or message in writing The Handmaid's Tale. We'd be thinking about ‘what ideas does she criticize or condemn?’, or ‘what does she endorse on the other hand?’
So, ‘go beyond’ is a very straightforward way of saying that an essay that is only focused on women's freedom probably won't be holistic or well-rounded enough. We have to look beyond the obvious.
The third one is ‘women's freedom’. So, what does this mean? To live in a patriarchal society, to be constantly monitored by guards and potential eyes.
It's very easy to slip into just speaking about handmaids. Like I mentioned before, there's a male lead in the house who is the highest up in the hierarchy. He has a wife as well. Serena Joy is a perfect example of someone who on the surface ranks as the highest in female roles, because she is the wife of the commander. So, we see things from her perspective.
From this exploration of the key words, I can come up with two main body paragraphs. The two ideas are one:
‘To live in a chilling, post-modernism dystopia, Atwood showcases the evils of the patriarchy’
My second one is:
‘Moreover, Atwood reveals how, despite being at the top of the female hierarchy as commander’s wives, even they suffer’
Let's have a look at both of these ideas individually.
Some of my rationale behind this idea include one: Offred, who is our protagonist. Offred is actually not her real name, and because Offred is not her real name, she therefore represents any type of handmaid. She's just another one of them with a name assigned to her. Our identity is connected with our name, so her identity, which is what makes her feel human, is completely shredded from her. She has trouble remembering what she even used to look like.
The second thing is that it's dehumanizing. It doesn't matter whether Offred is intelligent, educated or even beautiful, what matters are viable ovaries and therefore, she's classified as a handmaid, and this is her last chance at being able to survive in this type of society.
The third one is that she isn't even given the freedom to take her own life. Suicide is almost impossible, “I know why there was no glass in front of the watercolor picture of the blue irises, and why the window opens only partly and why the glass in it is shatter-proof. It isn’t running away they're afraid of. We wouldn't get that far. It's those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge”. For us as humans, we get the opportunity to do things that we want, but even to take her own life away, to save herself from the world that she's living in, is impossible.
Onto our second idea.
The first example I have for this is how Serena Joy, the commander’s wife, actually used to have her own television show. She used to be really popular, she was a celebrity, and yet she's been reduced to basically just being the commander's wife, where she lurks around in the house. She really doesn't do that much anymore, she's just there to support her husband and that is her role.
The second example is that she's forced to partake in a ritual where her husband has sex with a handmaid, “Which of us is it worse for, her or me?” (her meaning Offred). So, you can see that even for a commander’s wife, somebody who is in a high position in this society (she's the elite basically of what women could be), even she is suffering.
This means that in fact, we should speak about other major issues in the novel and not just about female concerns. Our first two ideas revolve around female concern, but let's see what else we could discuss. To me, another major issue revolving around freedom that's important to talk about is ‘has the Gilliad society actually influenced men and men's freedom?’ It's super easy to just target men and say that, you know, men are in power now and so it's all about the women, but there are ample examples that show that even the men are suffering.
Of course there are heaps of other issues that are brought forward in The Handmaid's Tale, but the ideas that I’ve discussed here are the ones that personally interest me the most, meaning that I've got a lot more to say and a lot more opinion to offer in my discussion.
At this point, I'll leave it up to you guys. If you have read or watched The Handmaid's Tale, tell me what you think or ask me any questions you have about how you would structure this essay. I'd really love to have a productive discussion with you that includes some critical thinking on your part. So, let's get it started.
If you like this type of advice, you may like joining my mailing list. Basically I send out weekly emails to you where I answer student questions and give you more advice, tips and resources that I don't give anywhere else.
And, if you're in need of a more detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
It's 32 degrees today for the first time in Melbourne, in like forever, so I'm going to the beach and I'm going to spoil myself right now. I'll see you guys next week. Bye!
Before you read this A+ essay by one of LSG's tutors, Risini, make sure you've read our Extinction blog post covering themes, characters, and more!
In a play that tackles issues ranging from conservation to human indulgence and morality it can be difficult to write a well-structured and detailed response to what usually seems like an existential topic (just like the one below). And not to mention the challenge of including all four characters in your essay without the stale character-based approach. So, below is an example of a high scoring essay with tips on how you can elevate the quality of your response to get those extra points!
In this essay, you'll see Risini has offered annotations throughout her essay to show you her thinking. If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Extinction: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.
Rayson’s play is about our propensity as humans to make questionable decisions despite our moral convictions.
Mankind’s ambition to improve and develop as human beings distinguishes themselves from their bestial, primal instincts (1). However, Hannie Rayson’s play Extinction, explores the complexities threaded throughout the human condition that propel individuals towards the ethically ambiguous (2). Rayson examines the the insecurities peppering the contemporary lifestyle, that threaten the integrity of our outward ideologies (3). Similarly, Rayson explores our indelible connection with nature that leads individuals to pursue baser impulses. Ultimately however, Rayson captures the strength of the human capacity to align our moral convictions with our judgements (4).
(1) This play tackles humanity and its flaws, so beginning with a broad, conceptual sentence is a good way to ease into discussion.
(2) Addressing topic.
(3) Agreeing with the topic.
(4) Challenging the topic. Indicating Rayson’s play isn’t only about questionable decision making, it is also about people’s ability to make the morally right decisions.
In spite of people’s outward conformity to their moral values, Rayson captures the power of human insecurities to compromise their values (5). It is the birth of moral dilemmas from such insecurities, that prompts questionable decision-making (6). Dixon-Brown, who exercises a pragmatic ideology as fortified by her Dixon-Brown Index and classifies the tiger quolls as “functionally extinct”, leaves her insecure and longing for meaningful connection and companionship (7). Indisputably, Harry Jewell’s charming exterior and sensitivity offers to fill Dixon-Brown’s emotional chasm, but also offers a moral dilemma for Dixon-Brown: to fill this chasm, or uphold her professional integrity. Dixon-Brown’s pursuit of “illicit professional compromise” with Harry, as a result of her moral dilemma, distorts her moral stance, now considering tiger quolls as simply “hard to find” and “shy”. Rayson (8) challenges the integrity of people’s moral values, demonstrating how one’s emotional hunger can outweigh even their own moral expectations. Like Dixon-Brown, Piper (9) values her relationships, yet is neither immune to hypocrisy. Championing the untiring philosophy that “all species are worth saving”, Piper recognises humanity’s moral responsibility to offer compassion to life beyond our own species. However, she is devastated by Beast’s (10) prognosis, lamenting “I am not ready”, despite having previously baulked at “Twinkie’s pacer” (11). Rayson undermines Piper’s outward altruism, challenging whether it merely cloaks a selfish desire to appease her own insecurities of losing her loved ones. Regardless of our moral convictions, Rayson explores the insecurities formed from our fears of loneliness that compel individuals to compromise their moral ideals.
(5) Notice how I discuss many themes in Extinction, beyond morality and decision-making. From understanding and reasoning with characters, I also explore companionship, belonging, isolation and hypocrisy. I avoid introducing character names in the topic sentence, as this can scream ‘character-based paragraph’ to the examiner.
(6) Immediately addressing views and values of writer. This is more interesting than the conventional approach of presenting evidence, exploring it then diving into values of the writer.
(7) Here, I try to bring Dixon-Brown to life by empathising with her. Compare this with: Dixon-Brown’s pragmatic exterior is undermined when she pursues a romantic affair with Harry Jewell. This sounds more like summary and comes off robotic and unemotional, neither does it add any dimension to her character.
(8) Using the author’s name when exploring views and values.
(9) It’s always nice to have a transition sentence between a new piece of evidence, especially in Extinction when a lot of the evidence is character-based.
(10) Use of minor characters.
(11) Minor characters again.
Rayson explores people’s inextricable connection with nature that undermines the purity of our ideology (12). In spite of Harry’s sentimental connection with nature that motivates him to pursue the Quoll Project, reminiscing of his childhood pet “Errol Flynn” and being a part of a family that made a “living off the land”, Rayson explores our darker ties to nature that leads individuals to make questionable decisions (13). Through the symbol of the birds of prey (14) in Harry and Piper’s camp, including the beautiful “barking owl”, Rayson alludes to how humans can too manipulate and prey to indulge their baser impulses, leaving aside morals (15). Beyond this, Rayson investigates the universal concept of mortality (16) that is shared by all life forms in nature. Confronting the shadow of mortality, Andy’s stoic façade and impenetrable ideology is undermined. He shares his stamp of impermanence with the injured tiger quoll with a “snapped spinal column”, and is likely able to empathise with it (17). Thus, his decision to euthanise the quoll may have been the inadvertent projection of his desire to end his own suffering. Through Piper, who challenges Andy for choosing the “most convenient option”, Rayson illuminates how our ties to nature can compromise our ethics and decisions, reaffirming our propensity towards moral contradictions.
(12) In a play concerned with the environment, I try to include people’s connection to nature and the environment when I can.
(13) Good to mention topic.
(14) Include the symbols of nature that Rayson weaves into the play and its meaning.
(15) Good to mention topic.
(16) Again, I try to discuss more themes apart from morality and decision-making by including mortality. In a play concerning endangered species and measuring the worth of life, try to discuss mortality whenever possible.
(17) Again, I think finding similarities between the lives of animals and humans is crucial in this play, rather than considering them as two separate entities.
Ultimately, Rayson captures how humanity’s moral convictions can in fact align with their decisions when decisions are founded through virtuous ideals. Despite oscillating moral values that threaten the balance of Andy and Piper’s relationship (18), their shared morality of compassion and sacrifice reunite them at the play’s denouement. Andy’s willingness to sacrifice their relationship in order to not “waste her life” and Piper’s refusal to leave Andy side despite a future that “just leads to sadness” illustrates the human capacity to reconcile their differences when their moral values align with their future ambition. Rayson echoes this capacity for reconciliation through the setting (19) of the animal shelter in the play; a setting representing preservation and hope. Although the play begins with a “wet and windy night” in the animal shelter, intensifying the arguing and frustration (20), Rayson closes with the “gleam” and “twitch” of the tiger quoll in the same setting. This realises humanity’s capability making moral decisions through their virtuous ideals; striving to preserve and protect one’s relationships and natural habitat. As well as the possibility of a live tiger quoll who offers hope for their natural environment, Andy and Piper, who believe in loyalty and resilience, offer hope in a world permeated by moral contradiction.
(18) I challenge the topic but still acknowledge my previous agreement with the topic.
(19) Use of metalanguage. Here I’ve explored a more natural setting, however Rayson often transitions between the city scape at Dixon-Brown’s apartment where the “noise of the city and peak-hour traffic rumbles below” and the natural landscape, “a wildlife rescue centre tucked away in the Cape Otway rainforest”. It can be effective to notice the contrast between the two and the events that occur in each setting.
(20) If analysing setting: Explore the effect of the setting on the mood of scene or characters. Then explore its significance to the views and values of the author.
Rayson’s (21) Extinction explores humankind’s moral frailty and gravitation towards the ethical when we focus too closely on ourselves. Rayson examines the insecurities woven throughout the human condition and our inextricable ties to nature that threaten our moral foundations, both prompting individuals to consider themselves over their relationships and duties to the environment. However, Rayson ultimately captures the resilience of mankind to unite despite their flaws, offering hope for the future of our environment and species.
(21) Finish with a reflection of the bigger picture and overarching values the author promotes or condemns.
At first glance, Extinction may just seem like a short story of a chaotic quartet, but there are so many hearty themes to unpack and discuss. After a few re-reads, you will discover some unique finds, and after a few essays, you will find overlaps and patterns in seemingly philosophical topics.
For more sample essay topics, head over here so you can start practising some of the tips you've learnt in this blog! You'll also find another essay topic breakdown where we show you a 50 study scorer's essay plan. Happy writing!
When it comes to studying a text for the text response section of Year 12 English, what may seem like an obvious point is often overlooked: it is essential to know your text. This doesn’t just mean having read it a few times either – in order to write well on it, a high level of familiarity with the text’s structure, context, themes, and characters is paramount. To read a detailed guide on Text Response, head over to our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Authors structure their texts in a certain way for a reason, so it’s important to pick up on how they’ve used this to impart a message or emphasise a point. Additionally, being highly familiar with the plot or order of events will give you a better grasp of narrative and character development.
It’s also a good idea to research the life of the author, as this can sometimes explain why certain elements or events were included in the text. Researching the social and historical setting of your text will further help you to understand characters’ behaviour, and generally gives you a clearer ‘image’ of the text in your mind.
The overarching themes of a text usually only become apparent once you know the text as a whole. Moreover, once you are very familiar with a text, you will find that you can link up events or ideas that seemed unrelated at first, and use them to support your views on the text.
For each character, it is important to understand how they developed, what their key characteristics are and the nature of their relationships with other characters in the text. This is especially crucial since many essay questions are based solely on characters.
With all this said, what methods can you use to get to know your text?
Reading the text itself: while this may seem obvious, it’s important to do it right! Read it for the first time as you would a normal book, then increase the level of detail and intricacy you look for on each consecutive re-read. Making notes, annotating and highlighting as you go is also highly important. If you find reading challenging, try breaking the text down into small sections to read at a time.
Discussion: talk about the text! Nothing develops opinions better than arguing your point with teachers, friends, or parents – whoever is around. Not only does this introduce you to other ways of looking at the text, it helps you to cement your ideas, which will in turn greatly improve your essay writing.
External resources: it’s a good idea to read widely about your text, through other people’s essays, study guides, articles, and reviews. Your teacher may provide you with some of these, but don’t be afraid to search for your own material!
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