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English & EAL
October 11, 2018
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
Click below to get your own copy today!
Wondering what VCAA examiners might be looking for in a high-scoring essay? Each year, the VCE EAL Examination Reports shed light on some of the features that examiners are looking for in high-scoring responses for the Listening and Language Analysis sections of the EAL exams. Let's go through 5 key points from the reports so that you know how to achieve a 10/10 yourself.
Let’s take the 2017 VCAA EAL Examination Report as an example:
‘The highest-scoring responses analysed argument use and language in an integrated way. Some responses used a comparative approach that analysed arguments and counter arguments from both texts in the same paragraph. However, only comparatively few responses focused on how the overall argument was structured.’
So how do we write about/analyse ‘how the overall argument was structured’?
To save time during the exam, we can adopt templates that can help us transfer our thoughts into words in a fast and efficient way. You can construct your own templates, and you may want to have various templates for various scenarios or essays. Below, I have provided a sample template and I’ll show you how you can use this template in your own essays.
(AUTHOR)’s manner of argument is proposed in real earnest in an attempt to convince the readers of the validity of his/her proposal of...by first…and then supplying solutions to...(DIFFICULTIES), thus structuring it in a logical and systematic way.
The above template ONLY applies to opinion pieces that satisfy these 2 rules:
For example, say the author, John White, contends that plastic bags should be banned and does so by:
When we use our template here, the intro may look like this - note that I’ve bolded the ‘template’ parts so you can clearly see how the template has been used:
John White’s manner of argument, proposed in real earnest in an effect to convince the readers of the validity of his proposal of banning plastic bags by first exposing the deleterious nature of these bags to our environment and natural habitat and then supplying solutions to ban plastic bags, putting it in effect in a logical and systematic way.
Head to Introductions for EAL Language Analysis for more templates and guidance on how to nail your Language Analysis Introduction.
The 2019 VCAA EAL Examination Report states:
‘Students are encouraged to use the key words in the questions as a focus for their listening...Short-answer questions require concise and precise answers. Responses that demonstrated understanding provided what was asked for without including extraneous information.’
Some students tend to add unnecessary information in their answers. Although the answers are correct, they will NOT earn you any extra marks. Listening answers should NOT be a mini essay. Writing irrelevant information will not only waste time but may also compromise the accuracy and overall expression of your response.
The examination reports frequently point out that students struggle with identifying and describing the tone and delivery. For example, the 2017 VCAA EAL Examination Report states:
‘Identifying tone and delivery is challenging for students and emphasis on this is needed...Students are encouraged to use the key words in the questions as a focus for their listening’.
The good news is, just like most skills, listening and identifying the tone can both be improved with practice. In fact, VCAA acknowledges the importance of daily practice as well.
‘Students need to develop their critical listening skills both in and outside of the classroom. They are encouraged to listen, in English, to anything that interests them – current affairs, news, documentaries and podcasts can all be useful.’ (2017 VCAA EAL Examination Report)
Practicing listening does not necessarily mean sitting down and doing Section A questions; it can be as simple as talking with classmates, teachers, neighbours, friends from work, church, etc.
Take a look at our EAL Listening Practice and Resources for a comprehensive list of external resources for practicing listening and a step-by-step guide on how to use them!
VCAA encourages us to write answers that make sense to the reader and are grammatically correct. Make sure you do address, and ONLY address, what the question is asking, because marks will not be rewarded for redundant information.
‘Short answer questions require concise and precise answers. Responses that demonstrated understanding provided what was asked for without including extraneous information. Expression skills need to be sufficiently controlled to convey meaning accurately.’ (2017-2019 VCAA EAL Examination Report)
HINT: This may sound super simple, but a lot of EAL students struggle with it. If you do, you are definitely not alone. Some students seek to use complicated words and/or sentence structures, but we should not compromise clarity over complexity.
VCAA acknowledges the importance of sophisticated vocabulary. This phrase ‘analysis expressed with a range of precise vocabulary’ has been repeatedly used to describe high-scoring essays in the examination reports from 2017 onwards
Below is a list of commonly misspelled, misused and mispronounced words. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, check out Collins Online Dictionary for definitions OR you can use a physical copy of the Collins Dictionary (which you are allowed to bring into the exam and SACs).
For an overview of the EAL study design plus tips and tricks for reading comprehension, time management and more, check out The Ultimate Guide to EAL.
As the VCE English exam creeps up on us, many of you will be testing your writing skills under timed conditions (if not, then you better!!!). But, have you sat down under timed conditions for 15 minutes of Reading Time? Have you thought about how to maximise reading time? Many of you may have already figured out how you will approach Reading Time in your exam. Some of you will have a rough idea, while some will pay attention to detail – knowing how to spend each and every minute in that 15 minutes of silence. During Year 12, I was somewhere in between. I knew I didn’t want to waste precious time like others – those who would simply open the exam booklet, check out the three sections, then sit there staring blankly at the clock to tick over to 9:15am (you will definitely see some classmates doing this :’)) Below is a 5x5x5 guideline which, in my opinion, is the most strategic way to maximise every single minute in Reading and Writing Time. Keep reading afterwards for more details!
The best tip I’ve received from a VCAA examiner is: ‘Don’t automatically select the prompt that looks easiest.’
Why? While a prompt may look ‘easier’, it may not necessarily enable you to delve into the text to the best of your ability. It is worth spending a few extra seconds contemplating how you would break down your other available prompts. This is worth doing because sometimes, you actually realise that the prompt which looked ‘harder’ to deal with initially (probably because of some scary-looking keywords), is more suited to you and your ability to respond.
In case you’re wondering, a ‘mental plan’ is my way of saying ‘do a plan in your head’. You should always plan (don’t even get me started if you don’t!). You will most definitely reassure yourself and calm your nerves once you’ve organised your contention(s) in your mind and the examples you want to use. Don’t wait until Writing Time to do this, because you can knuckle out hurdles straight away (especially if it takes you time to come up with ideas and evidence!).
Don’t jump straight into analysing techniques straight away. Reason: This may obscure your interpretation of the contention. The contention is the first thing you need to get right. So sit back, read the article for what it is, and absorb as much of the argument presented to you.
Your second reading should firstly, reinforce your interpretation of the author’s contention, and secondly, involve you identifying language techniques! This should take you right up to the end of Reading Time but even if you still have spare time left, it doesn’t hurt to read the article(s) a third time! The more times you read something, the better your mind will consolidate the cold material in front of you!
Feel free to take on board this guideline or to create your own – at the end of the day, if you have a plan for Reading Time, you’re set!
You've done all that hard work thinking up 'mental plans' during Reading Time, let's put them to paper. Don't skip this step, because you would otherwise have wasted your precious 15 minutes getting ahead. Moreover, it's highly likely you'll forget the points you want to write about if you just store it in your brain. Remember that you are in an adrenaline-driven situation, where nerves can get the better of you. Avoid any mind blanks by guaranteeing yourself success and write the damn plan down!
55 minutes is a good goal because it forces you to get your act together. Aiming for an essay in 60 minutes can often turn into 65 minutes, or even longer. At the very least if you do go over time with a '55 minute per essay' rule, you will put yourself in a position where you can afford to go slightly overtime, and yet still have enough time for other essays.
This is a step that many people skip, but if you're reading this blog - you won't be joining them. A quick review of your work can help you edit errors you didn't notice while writing. As you practise in the lead up to exams, take note of what errors you tend to make when writing. Is it expression, punctuation, or spelling errors? Keep an eye on your most common mistakes when proof-reading to be more a more effective editor. It is these small incremental changes you can make in your essays which add up to make a powerful impact on the final product.
Share this post with your friends and best of luck for your VCE English exam!
Hey guys. So previously I've done a video where I talked about how to write a thousand word, a thousand, a thousand-worded essay, and one hour. And so that segues into this particular video where I'm talking about writing three essays in three hours. So if you haven't watched that video, then I'll pop it up in the comment. I'll pop it up in the card up above. I would recommend you go watch that first before you watch this, because pretty much all of the concepts that I talk about in that video, uh, I just expected details that you should know for this video. So instead of actually breaking down the essays as I did in the previous video, what I'm going to do this time is talk more so about, you know, how to actually write three essays in three hours and just not get burnt out and not die, basically.
Yeah, it's that serious. So I've got a few tips for you guys, but I'll keep this short. First thing is that yes, you do want to practice at least one time writing three essays in three hours. And the reason why I say that is because inevitably there will come times where one essay will kind of overlap into another hour. And you just want to ensure that you can know how to handle those situations when we're practicing in one hour blocks. I think it's fantastic to make sure that we can do that, but then kind of like three hours and three essays is another ballgame altogether. So I would recommend at least practicing once sitting down somewhere and just smashing out the three hours worth of work, just so that you know exactly what it's going to feel like when you go into the exam. Now, most schools will actually offer a, like a mock exam for you to do so that literally could be your one practice that you just need.
But if you were like me, you might want to do it twice. So in your own time, kind of print off your own exam paper and go ahead and just set aside three hours and just do it that way. The second thing is I heavily emphasized doing reading time. So reading time is pretty much your mental thinking game going strong. And this is where a lot of your pre-work will be done before we actually go into the essays themselves. So make sure you practice reading time. It's 15 minutes before the actual exam, but in that 15 minutes, you can plan three of your essays and you can look up in your dictionary, any key words that you might want to define, or you could even look up the dictionary and try to find synonyms for particular keywords. So what I mean by that is when you open up a dictionary and you look up that word inside the dictionary, often the definition for it will have synonyms for it.
So that's like my little hack that I had when I was at school. And then the last thing I would say is just make sure you know what to do if you go over time. So, like I mentioned before, there may be situations where, you know, worst case scenario, you don't finish your essay in time. And that could be because of many reasons. But first thing for you to remember is if you're running over time, sacrifice your conclusion first, do not sacrifice your third body paragraph. I think mostly what happens is students will kind of be somewhere in the third body paragraph for that essay, but rather than skipping that and just do it a little bit of a mess to finish it up and then going into the conclusion, finish off your third body paragraph. And then just forget about the conclusion. The reason why I say that is because a conclusion is basically just the summary of what your entire essay is about.
It's not really supposed to be, to add in any new information where as your third body paragraph. You're still explaining your ideas. You're still elaborating and discussing the prompt itself. So that is way more important to get you the marks that you need than a conclusion. The next thing I would do if you're running behind is save a proofreading until very last. So in the last video I talked about doing proofreading last five minutes of every essay. But if you do not have time for that later, leave all your proofreading until the very end and, and you might find that you only have five minutes, it's true proofread all of your essays, but at least you kind of have that reassurance was that you made yourself more time to write beforehand. And so if you literally find yourself writing right up until the last minute and you can't perforate fine sacrifice that too.
Now last thing is, let's just say that you have sacrificed your conclusion and you're still writing your third body paragraph right up until the very last minute. You still have at least half a paragraph to go, but you know, the first hour is over and you need to move onto your second essay. I feel like you can either approach this two ways. The first way is just finish it off, but then move on to the next one as quick as possible. And obviously your hope there is that you will finish the second essay in time within that hour. So that by the time you get to your thing, essay, you are on track again. Right? But in the other alternative that you could do, and probably one that I via towards a little bit more is just stop your third paragraph. Okay? You still have maybe five more sentences you still want to write, but just move onto your next one. I think that's kind of important because what happens is once we start running into the next hour, you will find that with your first essay, you'll run maybe five minutes into your second hour, but then you might find that you run 10 minutes into the third hour with your second essay leaving only 15 minutes to finish your third essay. And that might not be like what you want. And you might know that you just won't be able to achieve that because the third essay is maybe the hardest one that you left to last. And that's the one that usually takes you the longest. So yeah, like these are just thoughts and considerations for you guys to take away with whatever you guys do. I think just be strategic. Think about these things beforehand, because they are things that could trip you up when you are in the exam, you're stressed, you're anxious, you're under time pressure and you just need to get things done.
It might kind of make you do like bad decisions or you might do something out of the ordinary that you normally wouldn't do. But if you think about these things beforehand and think about, okay, this is what I'm going to do. If this situation occurs, then at least you kind of have some control over what's happening. And that gives you a little bit of reassurance. That is it from me. I wanted to let you guys know that because we are approaching the end of year. And I know that you guys might not need English help from me very shortly, especially when you're in year 12. I wanted to let you guys know that I do have a personal YouTube channel as well. So that's just linked up above for you. And also in the description box below. If you're interested in following me there, then go ahead and subscribe. I would really love to see you guys there and just be able to still have the connection with you guys. You know, it'd be nice to not only just have you guys on board with me for a year, and then you guys kind of disappear and do your own thing, I'd still really love to stay in contact and be able to hear how you guys are going to once you finish school. So I will see you guys next time. Bye!
We've curated essay prompts based off our All the Light We Cannot See Study Guide which explores themes, characters, and quotes.
All the Light We Cannot See 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.
For a detailed guide on Language Analysis, what you're expected to cover, how to prepare for your SAC and Exam and more, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis.
[Modified Video Transcription]
I'm so excited to be doing the VCAA 2020 English Exam with you. I have done these Analysing Argument pieces before on YouTube, but this is the first time that I'm doing one live. I wanted to do one live with you guys because I wanted to interact with you, for you to be able to ask me questions and for you to see how my brain works in a live setting. When it comes to analysing - and you know I've got an edited version for you - you don't see me thinking through and understanding what's happening in the article itself. So, I think it will be really handy for you to see my thought processes because sometimes, yeah, you can see somebody's analysis, but if you don't quite understand HOW they arrived at that analysis, then it's not that helpful for you. It's like reading an essay that's already been done by an A+ student and you go, yeah, okay, I kind of get that, but how did they get there? How did they find that language technique to begin with? How did they find that argument? So that's what I want to work with you guys today.
You can download VCAA 2020 English past exam HERE, which is what we're going through today. If you've already read it before, even if you've done it before, I'm confident I'll still be able to give you some new, interesting perspectives and to pick out some new language techniques for you guys. So, go ahead and make sure you download that and print it out. I think printing things out is usually a better option than trying to annotate online, unless you've got an iPad or equivalent. The exam is absolutely free - it's the last few pages of the exam, starting at page 11.
Let's just get into it. I don't think I have any other housekeeping pointers except that throughout this live stream, I'm going to direct you to where you can actually go and get the A+ completed essay I've got for this article. While we're going to be analysing this together now, I think it's handy for you to be able to see an A+ completed version of everything that we've talked about. Then you can take it from the very beginning (the analysis), then the annotations and then you can finally see the written-up version. Being able to take you through that entire process from start to finish is going to be so wholesome, so fabulous.
Whenever you look at section C, which is Analysing Argument also called Language Analysis (I'm going to interchange these two terms), you really need to ensure that you read the background information. I know it's super obvious, but background information is there for a reason, do not skip over it!
They didn't just give you an entire extra page just for the sake of it. Usually, the background information is a really great place for you to understand conceptually what is going on in this article. If we didn't have this background and therefore context to the article, there's a chance that you might accidentally come up with the wrong contention. You might misinterpret the arguments as something else. The background information is really just there for backup. It's a great place for you to ensure that what you're understanding from the article is actually correct because usually the background information is filled with facts and these facts will help shape your understanding of the article.
‘The shire of Byways in regional Victoria depends on both farmers and tourists for its prosperity. The local community is concerned about the increased recreational use of drones by many of the tourists visiting the area. The following is the transcript of a speech’
Ah! Interesting - 'transcript of a speech' is something that makes me go already yep, I need to make sure I note this because as soon as I recognise that it's a speech, it means that my audience, I don't call them readers, I call them listeners.
Simple things, small things will help differentiate you from other students. Someone else might not pick up that this is a speech and they'll just say readers the entire time. And no, you're not really going to get marks deducted for it, but there's an element of finesse I suppose. If you just notice that small nuance and you're able to present that in your essay, it makes the examiner or assessor more confident that you know what you're doing.
'by young farmer Warwick Bandle at a public meeting'
Interesting, ‘public meeting’.
'called by the Byways Shire Council to discuss the community’s concerns.'
It's interesting because I'm already getting this community vibe from this background information. The fact that it's regional Victoria, the fact that it's actually a very specific council, the fact that he's at a public meeting. People have taken time out of their day to go to the council meeting. Who goes to the council meeting? People who care. This is just something that I'm kind of noting for myself as I go into my analysis because then I'll be able to develop my analysis in a particular way.
'Bandle provided two images to be projected on a screen to accompany his speech.'
Okay, cool, all this does is tell me that I just need to be wary that there are two images and that I, as a student, need to talk about them.
He says, 'Good evening, everyone', already indicative of a speech, I'm just going to write that down. Remember that it's a speech!
'Drones and their inexperienced users are proving to be a costly problem for us farmers. Drones are not toys. What happens when a drone flies out of range? What happens when the battery runs out? A drone being flown out of control, or crashing out of the sky, can be lethal.'
Wow. Okay, this is what I think when I read an article, I genuinely think about my own personal response. I mean, I am actually the audience of this article. No, I'm not there at the council listening to him live, but I'm still a person who's absorbing what he's saying. I trust my instinct and my gut feeling, and that kind of leads me to develop my own unique interpretations. The reason why I said 'Wow' is because he uses the word 'lethal'. To me, it's a little bit of an exaggeration. I mean I'm sure drones have killed people before, but I guess it's like an I'm serious about this, we're not joking around and he's making it seem like this is a serious problem and that we need to address it seriously. So in that sense, I guess we could talk a little bit about tone. What tone do you think he's using?
Viewers from our live stream suggested:
Nice! I like all of these. I don't think there's anything wrong with them. When it comes to English, it's a matter of your own interpretation. As long as you can back it up, then you've got yourself straight. You can go and find my 195 Tones PDF, which you can download for free. You can use that whenever you analyse an article, it has a bunch of tones listed there for you so that you never run out of tones!
He's already set this tone for the remainder of the article. I'm interested in what he's going to say next. Otherwise, I think the fact that he's serious or alarmist is reaffirmed by what he's saying. He says, 'drones are not toys'. Okay. This is not a game, we're not playing around, we're not fooling around. And I suppose that's important for him to establish because drones are kind of seen as toys, at least for me anyway. When drones first came out, it was kind of like a toy aeroplane that you drive around with your remote control. So, I think he's dispelling that idea or that conception or perception of drones immediately so that we can be on board with whatever he's saying next.
I just wanted to point out, this is pretty obvious, but rhetorical questions. There's not necessarily much I would say at this point in time with rhetorical questions, and that's because of my SPECIFICITY and SIMPLICITY strategy. If you don't know much about that - I haven't talked much about it on my YouTube channel - it's a strategy that I developed for myself in Year 12 when I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting full marks in English and yeah, okay, I was a nerd, I was already getting 17 or 18 out of 20, but you know, the high achiever in me was kind of like, why am I not getting 19 out of 20? Why am I not getting 20 out of 20? Why am I losing these one or two marks?
I realised later on that it's because I wasn't being SPECIFIC enough with my analysis. So, when it comes to some of the comments (referring to comments from live stream) you guys have written, one of you wrote down 'emotive language'. If you're one of my students, you know that you don't use emotive language. Emotive language is way too broad. It's way too general to really mean anything. Instead of saying emotive language, why don't you say exactly what emotion they're appealing to. You're then taking that general vagueness of whatever emotive language means and replacing it with something very specific, and therefore, it's going to be more meaningful for you to write about, but also for your assessor to understand what you're going on about.
So in case you don't know, I have study guides (it is called Lisa's Study Guides after all). In How To Write A Killer Language Analysis I actually go through this golden strategy of SIMPLICITY and SPECIFICITY. This is what helped me get an A+ in my Analysing Argument and in my end of year exam. If you're interested, then I'd highly recommend that you go and check out the study guide. It's a world of value I promise.
We're still only on the introduction, which is crazy, there's just so much to say when it comes to this stuff.
‘Just imagine the damage that can be done by a falling drone. Imagine, then, these drone users, realising that they have lost their drone, searching, crashing through crops, or leaving gates open and letting livestock out. And finally, when they don’t find the drone, it’s just left to rust away in the field until harvest time, when it’s swept up, damaging the harvester.’
I guess there's this idea of 'imagine'. He's building upon that alarmist attitude, which I'll pull from what you guys are saying, and by asking us to 'imagine' the worst-case scenario, it's making us feel more and more concerned, right? Just by reading this, I go ew, I don't want these drone users to be losing their drones in my farm space, in my land.
One other point for you to think about is, I was talking before about how I am part of the audience too, right? But the next step from that, for a more advanced analysis, is to think about who is HE talking to? If we go back to the prior page, he's at a public meeting to address the community's concerns. You could say that part of the audience would be farmers, people who care about their livestock, people who care about the invasion of privacy and people stepping on their property. Remember this as you analyse, because it's going to make your analysis way more specific, and bonus tip, assessors, teachers, examiners - they love it when you can be specific with who the audience is. It shows that you're capable and you get it.
Even just in this first paragraph, we've managed to talk about quite a bit.
Let's Look at Your Questions:
You absolutely need to talk about it. We've got this photograph of this girl who seems to be a bit of a dark shadow and because she's a dark shadow I'd say that it's like she is an anonymous person. The sense is that this could be anyone and by making the person anonymous, like a blank face, it's easier for us to hate on them because it kind of takes the humanity away. If you don't know who it is, they're just drone invaders. They're people who don't respect our land. That's one point that I would talk about.
Then you've got that really focused point of view of the drone itself. It makes sense because the drone is the topic of this conversation, so it's the focal point you could say, and it reconfirms or reaffirms that idea of it just crashing out of the sky, crashing through crops or being left to rust away. Remember, imagine that we're in the council meeting, he's put this image up for us and he's saying this. I think about it as how does having the photograph there on a presenter with him talking about it, how does that change how I respond? I think about how I feel and what I think, which is something that we talked about in one of my previous videos, called How to write a Language Analysis (Analysing Argument) - we talk about the TEE rule. In my opinion, when I have that photograph right there in front of me, it definitely makes me angrier. It's more confronting because it's in your face and it definitely riles me up more. So, you could include that in your analysis as well.
The way that he has structured his argument, in the sense that he's structured where he positions his photograph (which is basically right after his introduction), makes me feel more inclined to agree with him. Whereas, if it was just him saying it (without an image as proof), then I'd actually have to just take his word for it. But, here's proof people are doing this!
A viewer says ‘she's dressed for the city and outside of, not part of the community’ - I love it, well done!
Another viewer says ‘the camera angle gives the allusion that she's dominant’ - interesting.
I think to extrapolate what you're saying, that dominance, as somebody who's part of the local community, I don't want that. I don't want somebody else to be dominating over my crib, my place! So it's kind of making me really deterred and making me want to steer clear. It makes me want these people to steer clear of my space.
A viewer says ‘the lack of crop suggests that drones have destroyed the normal way of farming’ - yeah, absolutely! Not only is there rubbish in their plot of land, but if anything, the drone has added to the destruction.
She's dominant, therefore she's a threat.
A viewer says ‘she believes that the black and white makes it gloomy and sad’ - a hundred percent. This is actually a really good point. Sometimes you can get so absorbed in the analysis that you only think about what's there in front of you, but a great way to create contrast and to understand what's there when it's so obvious is by considering what things would be like if it were otherwise. Basically, what I'm saying is, think about why it is black and white. Why is it not in colour? If it was in colour, how would that change your perception of what's happening here? Thinking about what's NOT there helps you understand what IS there.
You can talk about how it's good versus evil.
I wanted to just share with you guys because I won't be able to go through all of this today, but I did mention before that I do want to show you the A+ sample essay. It's in my How To Write A Killer Language Analysis study guide in Chapter 16, Section 10. We've actually recently updated it with the 2020, 2019 & 2017 past English Exams, so it's all A+ essays for you. Plus we have several A+ essays for single articles, double articles and triple articles with images as well.
We've talked a little bit about the photograph, which by the way, we could keep finding more and more, but I think it gets to a certain point where you kind of have to figure out what's valuable for you to talk about and what's not so much. Once you get good enough at Analysing Argument, you should have an excess of language techniques to choose from and then it's just a matter of deciding which ones are going to give you that advantage and which ones are going to help you stand out from the rest of the cohort.
‘It’s time our council started to defend the farmers rather than the tourists’
That's juicy - ‘our council’
What I'm thinking about here is, he's saying 'our council', but he's using inclusive language - 'our'. There's this sense of ownership, this is our space, this is our community.
'Defend farmers rather than the tourists'
Now he's creating a dichotomy between farmers and tourists. I love the word dichotomy; essentially, it just means a true opposition - farmers versus tourists. The way that I remember the word is di as a prefix usually means divide or division, to split things in half. So it's creating this dichotomy of us versus them. And the way that I build upon this - I'm just thinking ahead with an essay - is I'd probably connect it to this girl; there's this sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘Them’ is a threat. ‘Them’ is an outsider. ‘Them’ is all the things that we mentioned before, but ‘us’, he hasn't said too much about ‘us’ yet. So maybe he's going to build upon that here.
'The farmers are the backbone of this community'.
Okay. He is building upon it. This paragraph seems like it's more about the farmers and building the 'us'
'farmers are the backbone of this community, many of us having lived in this area for generations.'
This has been our space forever and look at these intruders coming in now. How rude!
‘While we understand the importance to our town of visitors supporting businesses and, indeed, have welcomed the holiday-makers, when they start causing havoc while searching for their wayward drones it’s time to say, ‘Enough!’’
'when they' - there's that dichotomy again - ‘start causing havoc’.
Another word that kind of adds to that sense of them being a threat, them being intruders while searching for their wayward drones is ‘it’s time to say, ‘Enough!’’.
I actually don't know what wayward means, so if this happens, and this stuff happens all the time, what I do is actually look it up in the dictionary and understand it because I know that if I don't know what this word means, it probably means that the majority of other people also don't know what this word means. It, therefore, gives me a potential advantage, because if I'm able to analyse it, there's something that not as many people would have analysed.
So, wayward means difficult to control or predict because of willful or perverse behaviour.
In my own interpretation, I guess it's unpredictable. If I build upon this idea more, I guess there's a sense of loss of control and this builds upon that idea that farmers are losing control of their plot of land and their privacy. You can kind of see this is how my mind works and I just try to sync everything back up to the contention and to what he's saying essentially. That's actually quite a bit that we went through in that little bit there.
I'm just going to have a look at your comments now.
A viewer says 'dichotomy simplifies a debate for an audience to make it seem a neutral position is not possible and consequently one must pick a side.' Thank you, that's actually really helpful.
'Don’t get me wrong! I’m not just another technophobe'
Oh, quickly. I just want to go back while we understand the importance of our town, of visitors supporting businesses, I think there's this acknowledging the opposition, acknowledging that there are benefits in having visitors. He's not completely tunnel-visioned. He is being fairer, or at least that's how he's portraying himself, and that makes me at least more inclined to side with him because I'm seeing that he's a little bit more rational and he's not just saying, oh, screw them. It's not just his way or the highway, there is some give or take, so that kind of makes him more credible in a sense.
The reason why I thought about that just then is because this next part, ‘Don’t get me wrong! I’m not just another technophobe’, builds to this idea as well. I'm just going to say acknowledging the opposition. There, you can finesse that by replacing the word opposition with something else. That's fine.
‘I'm not just another technophobe’
He's kind of anticipating people's reactions to what he's saying and he's going no, no, no, I'm not like that. It's all good, not just another person complaining about technology.
As a young farmer’
I just find that hilarious. He's young guys, okay?! He's not some old person, I guess that’s the stereotype, that old people don't fare well with technology, which I don't think is true by the way. I think everyone's getting on board with technology these days. But, he's kind of reaffirming, I'm young guys, I'm a cool guy, I'm not anti-tech at all. He literally says it 'I'm introducing new tech'. I'm on board with that, you know, ‘we’re using drones’.
Now he's kind of talking about the benefits of drones, the time and the money they save.
‘There is absolutely no way we want to ban drones.’
I think this is a really interesting way he's structuring his argument. He's kind of started off going, drones, they're so bad for you. Then he's showing this picture, which is kind of like drones, they suck. And then in this paragraph here, he differentiates farmers from outsiders, and then he kind of takes a turn and goes, no, I love drones, don’t get me wrong. I think there's this analysis there for you and I'd actually love for you guys to write down in the comments section what you think is going on? Why is he structuring his argument like this?
A viewer says 'there's a shift in tone' Absolutely! Love it. Great pickup.
Here's a tip for you guys. A shift in tone usually means that there's a new argument coming. They usually tie in together pretty well, so if you see a shift in tone, you can kind of hedge the bet that it's a new argument. This is particularly helpful if it's an article that's really hard. Usually for SACs, teachers will choose articles from newspapers and we all know that newspaper articles are way tougher than VCAA articles. If you don't know, it's true.
Another viewer says 'it may be the start of rebuttal' Interesting.
A viewer asks 'will these annotations be provided for our personal use at the end?' - I'm only actually uploading the annotations into my study guide. So, they will be accessible there. Otherwise, it's just access through the live stream video (linked at top of page), which will be posted up afterwards as well.
A viewer says 'By stating he's young and uses drones, it showcases his argument isn't based on personal bias towards young people or drones, but is a legitimate problem.' - Hmm. With your analysis, I'm not a hundred percent sure what you're saying. I think it could be a little bit clearer. Give that a go. Just try rewriting it, see if you can make it even more concise.
So we've managed to annotate the background information, paragraph one, the photograph, paragraph two and paragraph three. We still have one more paragraph left and this next page with the image.
Unfortunately, I have to wrap it up there, but if you want to see me annotate and analyse the rest of this article, head over to Part 2 on Youtube or on the Blog (coming soon) where I finish this off.
Have a go at analysing the rest of the article yourself though!
Don't forget that I've got my How To Write A Killer Language Analysis study guide. If you want to head over there you can access/download the annotations + a complete A+ essay based on this article.
Don't forget to also check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for everything you need to know for Oral Presentations.
Premise: Mexico and UK have already implemented the ‘Sugar Tax’ on soft drinks to prevent obesity through the avenue of consumer choices, with this debate being sparked in Canada and Australia as to whether this is a viable solution. The World Health Organization believes this could reduce consumption of sugar by reinvesting the more expensive prices into health initiatives against ‘Childhood Obesity’. The Federal Government is facing this decision in 2019, to introduce these radical changes. Thus, whether or not the sugar tax should be implemented would be the core of your oral.
Premise: Lately in the media, paramedic attacks and unreasonable overtime shifts means that the safety of our ambulance staff is compromised. A series of movements and a necessity for awareness has been sparked in Australia, with one paramedic being assaulted every 50 hours, and 147 assaulted in 2018. Whether or not people choose to support ambulance safety on a political front, social front or preemptive front (see Ambulance Victoria’s ‘Help keep our ambos safe at work’), action has been gaining momentum in contemporary news and campaigns. Is Australia doing enough for paramedic safety? This would be the basis of your oral.
Premise: A series of concentrated terrorist attacks on Melbourne’s Bourke Street and around Melbourne’s CBD has led to preventative measures such as 88 concrete blocks and anti-terror speaker systems. With politicians such as Matthew Guy pushing movements such as suspects facing curfews and counselling and drones around the city being put in place to monitor events like Christmas Day and New Years, this issue is being noted. But is enough being done? How effective are these measures, and are the police and government working closely enough to avoid these situations? This would be the basis of your oral.
Premise: The question of whether loot boxes being utilised in video games marketed to underage children are in fact exposing them to gambling is currently being debated at a Senate level in Australia and around the world. Whilst opinions are segregated on whether this is harmless or harmful, statistics and experts seem to believe in Europe that the detriment is too high, with 15 gambling regulators pinning game developers and publishers. Similarly, the UK and especially Australia have been making movements to rid the gaming industry of this practice. However, ‘EA Games’ is a big player against this, thriving of their sales in games such as ‘FIFA Coins’ and ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’. Thus, whether it is just gambling or gaming would form this oral.
Premise: The anti- vaccination movement, concentrated in the beachside town of Byron Bay in Australia is claiming more young lives daily, as medical reports are starting to note a greater toll in whooping cough cases and other vaccination related diseases. With campaigns such as the ‘No Jab, No Play’ initiative and other experts stating the way vaccinations are being handled, the situation is not apt in the current necessity for herd immunity amongst young Australians. Whether or not vaccination should be more heavily emphasised would be explored in this oral.
Premise: The hyper competitive nature of ride-sharing services and transport on the Australian field means that Uber and taxis have a lot more competition with one another, meaning shared business can affect the others customers in a major way. Hence, the Australian approach of lawsuits and the pickup of other services such as Shebah, Gocatch and Ola, means that drivers are facing harder times finding customers and also maintaining a steady stream of income. Whether or not these competing companies escalate the quality of transport or are too detrimental to driver’s livelihood would be explored in this oral.
Premise: Communities within Australia, specifically in Queensland, prepare themselves for overwhelming drought this 2019, with as their profits will most probably drop below $13,000 in this next financial year for farmers. Whilst milk companies and other politicians have attempted to rally with farmers, more attention seemingly may have to be put in place to assure the livelihood of these agricultural practitioners. Hence, even with drought relief practices and campaigns with many stakeholders in the government and as owners of business, it may require more of a push on a formal level in these pivotal years for farmers. The necessary movements and activism for greater support of farmers would be explored in this oral.
Premise: The rise in plastic consumption on a global scale and also lack of environmental solutions has led sea turtle’s digestive tracts and parts of the deepest oceans to be littered with seemingly minute particles called ‘microplastics’. However, these particles have detrimental effects and often litter foods, water sources and our ecosystem, usually sinking to the bottom of the ocean, with 99% of the plastic the seas contain building on the bottom. Ultimately, how we deal with these microplastics and whether it is important would be illustrated in this oral.
9. ‘Indigenous ‘Close the Gap’ Campaign’.
Premise: The ‘Close the Gap’ campaign originally focused on integrating the Indigenous people back into modernized society that excluded them wrongly. Objectives were necessary to fulfill educational reforms, social necessities and the favour within employment that needed to be shown in order to “even the playing field”. Over the years, this has been scrutinised and subjected to downfalls, both political and social, with many of these objectives not achieved. Thus, greater attention or movement may have to be incited. Hence, whether enough is being done or more needs to be provoked would inspire this oral.
Premise: The discussion of GMOs (genetically modified foods) and their ethical, moral and health implications have segregated both consumers and producers alike. Australia’s viewpoint of the scientific practice in modifying foods has been portrayed in the recent elongation to bans in South Australia until 2025, but has also been challenged with groundbreaking research that could double the crop yield in theory, due to the advances in photosynthetic characteristics and other chemical properties of plants. Thus, whether or not they should be refuted or supported would form the basis of this oral.
Premise: It is rare to find a career where the exact same work will be paid differently based on sexuality, race or gender. It seems in the contemporary age the real issue is that cultural norms raise more women lawyers, doctors and teachers than engineers, physicists and STEM workers. Rather than a direct percentage of the pay gap, it is made apparent that it is rather a systematic average of less over time because of the careers being chosen. Whether or not the wage gap is due to STEM and what we can do to prevent this would be the formation of your oral.
Premise: Standardised testing is often a debate that goes without alternatives that truly work. But the core of Finland’s number 1 education system in the world is that they hire so many good teachers, hence independent learning is monitored and possible. The VCE system and IB curriculum does not streamline because students are so pressured they do not take time to explore and ultimately find what they want to do in tertiary. In Finland, it is less about the competition, and more about individual learning up until university so that they excel in different pathways. What would it take to change Australian systems to model this? This would be a key idea within your oral.
Premise: This is a heavily utilised oral topic. The Australia Day debate is a popular one, and this is because it is rich in cultural, social, ethical and political stances within itself. With the date remaining the same in 2019, and with the fireworks of the Perth council still going ahead, more protests and council movement means that these discussions are still very contemporary and readily available online. The bids and failed attempts to change the day to a Reconciliation Week celebration, or any date but ‘Invasion Day’ all form evidence to back up either side. Hence, the question of whether or not the date should be moved would be the primary focus of this oral.
Premise: The National Broadband Network policy meant that the telecommunications sector was supposed to gain momentum and strengthen itself, however, downfalls of the technicians and rollout of the service have meant public scrutiny and Government blame being laid. Telstra’s work on this with ping and download speeds being effective, but upload speeds suffering means that Australian consumers are not completely satisfied with the service, putting into question the ultimate effectiveness of NBN as an invested infrastructure. The success of NBN would form the base of this oral.
Premise: The teaching standards of Australia have been heavily scrutinised after certain lower ATAR scores were primarily accepted into the fields. Thus, the question of whether the right teachers are being accepted and their skills are being honed is put into the spotlight, as a lower bar for the academic necessity of the career sparks debate on whether the standards for Australian education has fallen. However, with 2 teachers in the Global Top 50 for the education sector means there is still hope, and with lots of regional areas geographically, it can be difficult- So whether or not Australia is doing enough would form this oral.
Premise: The cost of living within Australia is inevitably rising, with a spike of homelessness within Sydney and the common retiree locations being in Asian countries forming the basis of whether or not we should start working on this sector of Australia’s wealth. However, some sources argue that our economy is steady and positive, with the perspective gained on this challenging what 2019 seems to hold for the cost of living. It is a contemporary topic as the next generation will have to face these challenges, proving an interesting oral if you focus on the stakeholders in each category (teenagers, workers, government and retirees).
Premise: The ‘Save the Bees’ campaign begun as we started to realise the necessity and imminent danger we would face if bees were in harm's way. Recently, South Australia faced some strange occurrences with mysterious bee deaths, and younger stakeholders attempting to grasp Australia’s bee population. National Geographic focused on real steps and actions that could be taken within Australia, with measures that could potentially be put in place in order to protect these bees. Hence, this could be a unique oral if presented with the statistics and urgency of this issue.
Premise: The Strawberry Needle Scare was a 2018 issue, with 2019 implications in the dangers of food tampering, and a case of needles in grapes at a Melbourne store. Moreover, the implications for farmers and the agricultural community meant that many workers were affected by this, as consumers initially feared the worst, affecting Australian livelihood at its core. Thus, in order to do a contemporary oral on this, you would focus primarily on the impact on the farmers, what future fears could arise, (eg. the grape needle scare), and what consumers need to be aware of in future contamination.
Premise: In a digital, gratification-desiring age, anxiety and depression are symptoms of the high pressure scenarios within daily life. Recently, new studies proving the dire nature within Australia’s mental health provoked more attention by experts and the population into methods and the ‘epidemic’ we face, as we continue to head down a dark spiral. With case studies, statistics and the current situation within pressurised work situations, this could form a strong oral.
Premise: The concept of the ‘Towards Zero’ campaign is that we would have no deaths on the roads in short. This takes drink driving measures, the hazardous first months of a probationary driver and the zones in which these accidents are most highly occurring into consideration, as the government, younger drivers, and adult drink drivers are all concerned. There are already worrying trends going into 2019 however, as this forms the basis of some concerning patterns, and could be explored either way in an oral of whether or not the ‘zero road toll’ is truly possible.
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.
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.
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:
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:
And if you want to learn more about tones, head to 195 Language Analysis Tones.
(1) In response to the divisive 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 the Victorian Government explicitly rejects the accusation from COMAAFS and advocates for the immense benefits that Victorians will receive from the Flagship store in an explanatory and reassuring tone.
(1) In response to the divisive issue of homeless people camping in the city of Melbourne, Christopher Bantick contends 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.
(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 Manne predicts the catastrophic consequence of excessive car use on Australian society in a composed and authoritative tone.
If you want to take your introduction to the next level, see The Importance of the Introduction for tips!
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!
Before you start diving into Jamie's incredible In Cold Blood study guide, I'd highly recommend that you check out LSG's free Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
• Although its structure and cinematic plot development resemble that of crime fiction, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a ‘nonfiction novel’ detailing the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Put simply, the book was conceived of journalism and born of a novelist.
• The novel is a product of years of extensive research by Capote and his friend and fellow author Harper Lee, who followed the trails of the Kansas criminals across numerous US states. In Cold Blood revolutionised the American ideals of journalism and literature, blurring the lines between these labels.
• A notable technique Capote employed in order to access classified information was becoming personally acquainted with the criminals of the case. For example, Capote became extremely close to Perry Smith, one of the main murderers in the case, which gave him exclusive information on the personal motives of the killers.
• In Cold Blood reflects this relationship with the murderer through Capote’s narration of the book as an objective bystander. On page 23, we see the almost endearing way that Capote describes Perry; “his voice was both gentle and prim– a voice that, though soft, manufactured each word exactly, ejected it like a smoke ring issuing from a parson’s mouth.” As such, Capote’s friendship with Perry allows him to present the killer to the audience with a certain humanity and empathy, showcasing a broader picture of criminals than just a merciless murderer.
• On the 15th of November, 1959, all four members of the small farming Clutter family were brutally murdered, including Herbert Clutter, his wife Bonnie Clutter and their two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon.
• The family was discovered bound and shot in the head. Herb’s throat had also been slashed. After ransacking the entire house, the criminals had left without finding any cash, carrying with them no more than fifty dollars, a pair of binoculars and a transistor radio.
• Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene ‘Dick’ Hickock were convicted of the crime. The two men had become acquainted during serving time at the Kansas State Penitentiary, and soon confessed to the crime, claiming that that they had heard from another prisoner that Herb Clutter was extremely wealthy, and kept his money in an easy-to-reach safe in his house.
• After the confession, the two murderers were flown from Nevada to Garden City, where they stood trial for their crimes. On 29 March, 1960, they received a guilty verdict, and were sentenced to the death penalty. For the following five years, Smith and Hickock lived on death row in Leavenworth, Kansas and were executed by hanging on the 14th of April, 1965.
One of the two murderers of the Clutter case, Smith is portrayed as a sensitive and artistic man haunted by his turbulent and lonely childhood. Described by Capote as a man of ‘actorish’ good looks, he disfigured both of his legs due to a motorcycle accident, which gave him chronic pain and an addiction to aspirin. His criminal actions are often directly linked to his childhood, described as ‘no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another’. Smith’s father was extremely abusive towards his wife, Flo Buckskin, and his four children, and so Buckskin later divorced him, taking the children with her. However, on her own she became an alcoholic and died by choking on her own vomit when Smith was only thirteen years old. He was then transferred to a Catholic orphanage, where he suffered from psychological, sexual and physical abuse from the nuns, one of whom attempted to drown him. Smith’s father and two of his siblings committed suicide during his time on death row. Smith eventually befriended Capote through their extensive interviews, and is believed to have shared personal information with him, believing him to be a true friend.
The second murderer of the Clutter case. Having grown up in Kansas, Hickock was a popular football player before turning to a life of crime after realising that he could not afford to go to college. During the course of the Clutter murder investigations, Hickock persistently blamed all of the murders on his partner in crime, Smith, claiming that ‘Perry Smith killed the Clutters…. It was Perry. I couldn’t stop him. He killed them all.’ Capote later states that during the murder, Smith was the one who stopped Hickock from raping the 16-year-old Nancy Clutter, as Hickock harboured pedophilic tendencies.
A well-liked and kind-hearted wheat farmer in Holcomb, Kansas. Proprietor of the large River Valley Farm, Herb is described as a hardworking and valued citizen before his murder, who lead a relatively quiet life other than a troubled marriage with his wife due to her chronic depression.
Described as an ‘anxious woman’, it is revealed that Bonnie has a history of numerous mental illnesses, one of which is postpartum depression. Capote states that she and Herb had not slept in the same bed for many years.
Described as the ‘darling of the town’ - the class president and future prom queen Nancy was the 16 year old daughter of the Clutters.
Athletic but introverted, Kenyon was the 15 year old son of Herbert and Bonnie Clutter.
A personal friend of the Clutters, Dewey was the primary investigator in the Clutter murder case and worked for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
The novel is Capote’s reflection upon the American Dream, as he portrays both the lives of those who epitomise it and those who are tragically out of its reach. Herb Clutter’s position as an upstanding American citizen with a prosperous farm elicits the reader’s interpretation of his character as the rags-to-riches ideal. In stark contrast with this, the rootless and criminal Dick Hancock and Perry Smith are presented as individuals for whom the Dream is perpetually unattainable. Their attempt to finally become ‘rich’ materialises through their attempt to rob the Clutters’ home, the failure of which ironically results in their brutal murders of the people who successfully represented the American Dream.
In accordance with the American Dream, In Cold Blood also explores the concept of what is considered ‘normal’ in America, and what can be revealed as the darker underbelly of its white picket fence ideal. Dick asserts throughout the novel that he is ‘normal’, but from an external, objective perspective, he is clearly far from such; he has distorted physical features and has committed a terrible, vicious murder. Capote also explores the idea of normal mental health, as Bonnie Clutter seems to have the perfect marriage and life with Herb, and yet suffers from extreme bouts of ‘nervousness’ and chronic depression which result in her hospitalisation.
What is evil is primarily explored through the character of Perry, who has conflicting ideals about what can be considered truly ‘evil’. The more feminine and gentler of the two murderers, Perry possesses conflicting morals, as despite being a ruthless murderer, he does feel remorse and is affected by what he has done. He even thinks to himself that Herb Clutter is a ‘very nice gentleman’ even in the midst of slitting his throat. Capote in the novel reveals that there are numerous facets to the meaning of true ‘evil’, and the blurred borders that exist between each of these.
Symbolising the idea of dominance and power, Dick and Perry, who have a complementary and polarised gender relationship, feed off each other in order to boost their own masculinity. Described as ‘aggressively heterosexual’, Dick is evidently the more stereotypically masculine counterpart, having had numerous relations with women. Perry, on the other hand, is more feminine and submissive, as Dick often calls him names such as ‘sugar’ and ‘honey’. Both men in the novel utilise the other in order to make themselves feel more masculine in their highly restrictive and conservative society — while Dick emphasises Perry’s feminine qualities, Perry admires Dick and craves his words of affirmation that he, too, is masculine.
Below are some possible prompts for In Cold Blood, and possible ideas to begin writing an essay.
"I think it is a hell of a thing that a life has to be taken in this manner. I say this especially because there's a great deal I could have offered society. I certainly think capital punishment is legally and morally wrong.”
Is In Cold Blood merely a novelistic argument against the death penalty? Discuss.
To learn more about LSG’s Five Types of essay prompts, I’d highly recommend checking out this blog post. It’s a super unique strategy developed by the founder of LSG, Lisa Tran. The Five Types method, outlined in the top-rated How To Write A Killer Text Response eBook, takes the stress of students and gives them easy to follow rules and tips so that they know how to approach every essay topic, every time.
• The best way to approach any essay prompt is to recognise the limiting and/or important words of the essay question. In this thematic prompt these words are: ‘legally and morally’, and ‘merely’.
• Secondly, for prompts which incorporate a quote, it is helpful to understand the context of the quote. In this case, the quote was said by Perry as his last words before his execution by hanging. Consider the importance of this; these words are especially more meaningful as they symbolise the last direct influence he leaves upon society. They are remorseful words of a murderer reproaching the justice system, which begs the question - does Capote position the reader to agree with the murderer’s view?
• Planning this essay can be structured along three arguments...
• Evidence for this argument could be based mostly on the descriptive elements of Capote’s writing, or his emotional attachment to the murderers, particularly Perry.
• Capote paints Perry particularly sympathetically, highlighting his sensitivity as well as his broken and abusive childhood. Quotations from the novel make it clear that his character is romanticised to an extent, such as “It was a changeling's face, and mirror-guided experiments had taught him how to ring the changes, how to look now ominous, now impish, now soulful; a tilt of the head, a twist of the lips, and the corrupt gypsy became the gentle romantic.”
• The epigraph of the novel is a verse of the poem, ‘Ballade des pendus’ by Francois Villon, that he composed whilst on death row in 1463. Villon’s criminal circumstances were strikingly similar with Dick and Perry’s, as he murdered a priest and stole from his strongbox before being arrested and sentenced to death. Despite this, Villon was ultimately charged with a 10 year banishment from Paris, whereas the Clutter family murderers are hanged - a strikingly different outcome. Thus, Capote employs this poetic epigraph to strengthen his argument against the unjust executions of Perry and Dick.
• In addition to this, the structure of the novel is also used to argue against capital punishment. Although Part One focuses on the lives of both the Clutter family members and Dick and Perry preceding the murder, Part Two skips over the actual murders themselves and recounts the aftermath of its events. This allows Capote to further develop Dick and Perry into real, complex people rather than merely cold blooded murderers; people who do not deserve such a cruel fate.
• The brutality of the Clutter murders are emphasised through the novel, as Larry Hendricks, who discovers the bodies along with the police, provides the gruesome details of the bodies - ‘each tied up and shot in the head, one with a slit throat’.
• As Perry later admits to the murder in his extended confession, Dewey highlights the fact that the Clutters ‘had suffered’ due to the ‘prolonged terror' inflicted by the murderers, and orders them, as such, to be ‘hanged back to back’.
• The argument for capital punishment in In Cold Blood is also supported by religious beliefs. As a small and predominantly Christian town, Kansas and its residents can be perceived interpreting the words of the Bible literally; at the end Dick and Perry’s trial, the prosecuting attorney Logan Green reads an excerpt from Genesis in the Holy Bible: ‘Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ Rejecting the notion that Christianity preaches forgiveness, Green strives to punish the killers for failing to abide by the laws and prophecies of the Old Testament.
Perry Smith, despite Capote’s authorial sympathy towards him, is really a cold and merciless monster. Discuss.
When approaching character-based prompts, you must depart slightly from examining the holistic messages of the author, as you would in a theme-based prompt, but rather analyse how the specific character develops this authorial message. The above essay question could be brainstormed in the following way:
• During his confession of the Clutter murders, Perry’s comment, ‘There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that,’ shows that he, to some extent, understands the gravity of his actions and regrets them.
• Perry is also described by his sister as ‘gentle’, and someone who ‘used to cry because he thought the sunset was so beautiful’. Likewise, even in moments of cruelty, he often shows mercy and a wide moral compass, even stopping Dick from raping Nancy Clutter during their murder spree.
• Capote often links Perry’s violent tendencies with his childhood, described as ‘no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another’, as he was raised ‘with no rule or discipline, or anyone to show [him] right from wrong’.
• In addition to this, Perry can be perceived to be the more insecure and submissive of the two killers, as while Dick often calls him stereotypically feminine names such as ‘sugar’ and honey’, Perry admires his ‘aggressive’ masculinity and craves his words of affirmation in order to feel as masculine and strong as his counterpart.
• Due to the prompt and seemingly nonchalant way in which he kills the clutters, Dick becomes convinced that Perry is that rarity of a person,"a natural killer.”
• Thus, Capote, despite his empathetic portrayal of Perry, never allows the reader to forget the extent of his criminality, and how easily he was able to fire those ‘four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.’
Charlie’s Country is an Australian drama film directed by Rolf de Heer, starring David Gulpilil. The linear film, co-written by de Heer and Gulpilil, tells the story of Charlie, a middle-aged Aboriginal man living in the town of Ramingining. The audience follows Charlie as he sets off to reconnect with his Indigenous origins; choosing to abandon urbanised society, Charlie flees into the bush to live by his “Mother country”. Much to his demise, Charlie subsequently becomes ill and is admitted to hospital in Darwin. After discharging himself from the hospital, Charlie is quickly arrested for assaulting a policeman. Charlie serves time in prison for his crime and the film’s final scenes show Charlie, free and mentoring young Aboriginal boys in their native cultural traditions. As the audience follows Charlie’s everyday encounters, they gain insight into the harsh realities faced by Aboriginals in modern-day Australia. Through his individual plight for survival amidst illness and poverty, de Heer presents profound political commentaries on this very pertinent social issue, spanning decades in Australian history.
The film's critical acclaim upon its release in 2013 was the impetus in prompting conversations and debates about the politics of Indigenous Australians. De Heer’s depiction of this remote community grappling with issues as a result of government-imposed law serves to capture the oppression and deeply ingrained racism that continues to persist.
Tracks is one Australian woman’s survival narrative. The 1980 autobiographical memoir by Robyn Davidson, recounts her courageous 1700 miles trek across Australia, beginning from Central Australia towards the Indian ocean. In the effort to escape the monotony of her daily life, Davidson travels to her first destination -- Alice Springs -- in 1973 to start preparations. In the 2 years she spends there, she learns how to train camels and live minimally, the former proving to be a challenge. Despite her vehement will to refuse any kind of donation or financial help, Davidson eventually accepts a writing deal in partnership with National Geographic, providing the much-needed funds to confirm her departure. It's through this deal that she meets Rick Smolan, whom under the conditions of her deal has been recruited to photograph this journey - an unsettling compromise for Davidson which she ruminates on frequently in the novel. With her beloved dog Diggity and her camels, Davidson traverses the Australian landscape, discovering more about herself, her country and the people.
Fundamentally, this book is as much about Davidson’s internal transformation and personal frontiers as it is about exposing the colonial and masculine ethos that permeates Australian history.
At LSG, we use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out my How To Write A Killer Comparative. I use this strategy throughout my discussion of themes here and in a later section, Sample Essay Plan.
Charlie, drawing on Gulpilil's own experiences, becomes profoundly alienated from his Ramingining community to the extent where he serves no major function in the community life. Charlie is alienated both physically and figuratively, not only does he live in a makeshift hut on the outskirts of town, but he is separated from the Aboriginal community in this town and resents the fact that white Australians have assumed power over his land. He is evidently neglected from the wider society, which causes much of the internal and external conflict he experiences in the film, an ordeal which many within the Indigenous minorities can empathise with.
In his efforts to escape his life within the confines of the intervention, Charlie sees isolation and social rebellion as a mechanism to rediscover his Indigenous roots, spending time in nature to fulfil his journey for self-discovery and to gain the freedom he’s lost. Removing himself from a town permeated by imperial powers provides him with an opportunity to restore his lost sense of self-autonomy. De Heer is intending to reveal the difficulty of assimilation for Aboriginal Australians. He also highlights the importance of human connection and relational harmony for individuals.
“Do you mind if I call you Charlie? I have difficulty pronouncing foreign names.” “Now I’m a foreigner?” (Charlie and the Darwin doctor)
“It's isolated, it's remote.” (Policeman Luke on Ramingining)
“I work for them catching criminals, they don’t pay me.” (Charlie)
“I don’t know what’s wrong with him… shaming us.” (Pete on Charlie)
Robyn Davidson views complete isolation as a way to detach herself from the commercialism and expectations of modern-day Australia, to connect with nature and to challenge her own beliefs of herself. For her, complete solitude in this journey is a private and personal gesture designed to intentionally preserve the sanctity of the trip. While Rick Smolan’s company appears benign, Davidson’s abrasive attitude towards him as well as her reluctance in ‘selling’ her story is particularly revealing of her attempt to maintain the subjectivity of the trip. The act of breaching this solitude is what Davidson sees as an egregious debasement of the sacredness of the journey, allowing it to be objectified by the eyes of the public. In addition to this, isolation signifies liberation and freedom from a society laden with rigid expectations, Smolan acts as a constant reminder of these external responsibilities. Davidson experiences alienation from the wider society, being a confident, decisive woman trekking independently and defying the limitations imposed on her sex. She also repeatedly expresses her sense of alienation when entering Aboriginal communities and although she is sensitive to the impression she gives, she acknowledges her persistent feeling as an outsider. Davidson is aware of the divide between these two cultures that have resulted from a history of inequality and oppression. In Tracks, Davidson also demonstrates the need for meaningful connections, however she sources this from her animal companions and nature.
“My aloneness was a treasure which I guarded like a jewel... but like everything [it] had to follow the laws of change.” (p. 40)
“No more loved ones to care about, no more ties, no more duties, no more people needing you to be one thing or another, no more conundrums, no more politics, just you and the desert baby.” (p. 94)
“I could never enter their reality, [I] would always be a whitefella tourist on the outside looking in.” (p. 146)
“I could not be with the Aboriginal people without being a clumsy intruder.” (p. 146)
Charlie’s displacement from his community is the driving force behind his decision to return to the Aboriginal way of life. De Heer uses this depiction of Charlie, to serve as a wider embodiment of the difficulty for the Indigenous people to assimilate and conform to the western lifestyle. After witnessing the limitations he faces under the ‘whitefella’ laws in Ramingining, it is Charlie who first attempts to escape his community. He repeatedly rejects the life of subordination and compliance under the government laws, which as shown in the film has forced many of the Indigenous people to neglect their own traditions and way of life (for example, they must now eat unhealthy fast foods to survive and go through school). Charlie’s individualistic expressions seen through crafting a spear and going hunting are actively suppressed by the white authority, leaving him to conclude that the only way to fully exercise his personal agency is to live in the Australian wilderness, alone. His act of abandoning the car with his belongings and parting with almost nothing in his possession is significant in demonstrating his defiance of the imposition of western culture and his journey for self-reliance. De Heer depicts how conforming to an oppressive society is detrimental and praises the self-transformative effects of embracing individualism rather than blindly conforming.
"Live the old way… …going to my Mother Country.’"(Charlie)
“F--- those thieving…white bastards.” (Charlie)
“The kids go to school now. They don’t care.” (Charlie)
“Why did you come here? From far away… stealing people’s stuff! Is this your land?... F---ing bastards.” (Charlie)
“I’m free now. I have my own supermarket! And this is my country! I can dance with it!” (Charlie)
Robyn Davidson’s decision to leave her normal life in Queensland to cross the Australian desertland is one that becomes the subject of much scrutiny and doubt. Her bold, dauntless approach towards pursuing this journey, specifically as a single, young woman was radically counter-cultural to the perception of women in the 1970s as delicate and docile individuals. Davidson’s indifference and somewhat dismissive attitude towards the derogatory remarks and reductive characterisations are indicative of her acknowledgement of the unjustified prejudice that permeates Australian culture. Additionally, Davidson’s assertive personality and commitment to travelling in the wilderness alone is ultimately an establishment to herself as an autonomous woman, rebelling against the traditional conventions of marriage, motherhood and domesticity that was previously expected of her. Ultimately, Davidson strongly asserts the need for resistance, particularly where there is the expectation for conformity, as well as her experience, is revealing of the cleansing and liberating feelings of embracing individualism rather than conforming.
“(Dropping eyes to chest level). "Where’s yer old man?" "I don't have an old man." (p. 5)
“I was self-protective, suspicious and defensive and I was also aggressively ready to pounce on anyone who looked like they might be going to give a hard time.” (p. 34)
“It was essential for me to develop beyond the archetypal female creature who from birth had been trained to be sweet, pliable, forgiving, compassionate and door-mattish.” (p. 34)
“I wanted to… unclog my brain of all extraneous debris, not be protected, to be stripped of all social crutches, not to be hampered by any outside interference.” (p. 91)
The laconic and monotonous pace of the film is suggestive of a more deeply rooted issue surrounding the identity distortions experienced by Aboriginals, even to the present day. This depiction acts as a personification of the widespread troubles of Indigenous Australians -- the deep struggle between submitting to the institutions of the ‘whitefella’ intervention and clinging to what is left of their traditional heritage, often rendering them feeling separated from both cultures. The mundane nature of his daily activities conveys the social incongruence between Charlie’s struggle to live sufficiently as a ‘traditional’ elder or as a ‘modern’ Australian, finding himself disconnected from both. This internal battle is psychologically taxing for Charlie, as he encounters many contradictions: receiving welfare payments, only to have to give them away to his family, and so he goes without food and later becomes hungry, only to be denied the opportunity to hunt for his own food. Fulfilling one culture means rejecting the other, and freedom in one means rebellion in the other. Thus, Charlie sees social transgression as his only choice of refashioning his own identity. De Heer reveals how freely establishing a secure sense of identity and belonging in their culture is critical in the lives of these individuals, however, the long-term damage that western society has inflicted has made this almost impossible.
“You’ve got a job, and you’ve got a house…on my land. Where’s my house? Where’s my job?” (Charlie)
“We need to teach them… the traditional ways.” (Charlie’s friend)
“I’ve been away fishing, now I’m home. I’m eating well. It’s my own supermarket.” (Charlie)
“I’m free now. I have my own supermarket! And this is my country! I can dance with it!” (Charlie)
In Tracks, Davidson’s attempt to escape the responsibilities and social pressures to immerse herself in nature is ultimately a journey of self-discovery; to define her own identity irrespective of the expectations imposed on her by the 1970s society. As a solitary female, challenging the restrictions of her sex and exposing herself to unpredictable surroundings, she can curate her own identity as a progressive, post-colonial feminist, seizing and capitalising on the autonomy she has. This endeavour allows Davidson to undergo a form of self-transformation, a search for meaning for herself and others, what she describes as a “desocializing process -- the sloughing of, like a snakeskin”. Furthermore, Davidson is determined to rediscover her place in respect to the desertland, educating herself about the native biodiversity and most importantly, the native people. Although Davidson recognises that she will always be considered a ‘whitefella’, she finds a sense of fulfilment and belonging in engaging with and observing the rural Aboriginal communities. She demonstrates a deep understanding of the distorted identity and loss of belonging for the Aborigines at the hands of imperial white forces and is sensitive to the damage that has been inflicted. Above all, Davidson gains a renewed, stable sense of identity and belonging through her resistance to the imperial Australian racist mentality, challenging the male-orientated culture. However, she is also confronted by the reality of this breakdown of identity within the Aboriginal communities.
“This was my first home, where I felt such a sense of relief and belonging that I needed nothing and no one.” (p. 40)
“From the day the thought came into my head ‘I’m going to enter a desert with camels’, to the day I felt the preparations to be completed, I had built some intangible but magical for myself…” (p. 95)
“I wanted to understand so much… I melted into a feeling of belonging. They were letting me into their world. They asked me if I wanted to dance.” (p. 145)
“Once dispossessed of this land, ceremonial life deteriorates, people lose their strength, meaning and identity.” (p. 167)
The significance of nature to the Aboriginal people is at the core of this film. Charlie embodies this connection through his escape to the Australian wilderness. This first acts as a fresh alternative to the restrictive, repressive lifestyle within his government-intervened community, given. It's an opportunity to rebel against the western lifestyle and restore his traditional way of life, which leaves him feeling free, happy and powerful. However, his struggle to adjust to this change is indicative of the corruption of the intrinsic link between the people and the land. The harmonious, symbiotic relationship that the Indigenous people once had with the land has deteriorated; having been essentially poisoned through the introduction of a progressive white society. As much as Charlie tries to balance elements of both cultures by hunting and quitting smoking, it becomes apparent to him returning to where ‘[he] was born’, is the only way to rediscover his sense of self and truly experience freedom. Ultimately, like much of the wider Indigenous people, Charlie’s unable to fully abandon the constraints of white society and has become dependent. De Heer confronts the audience with the consequences of this irreversible separation through the illness and poverty that the Aboriginal people must endure.
“There’s lots of food in the bush… It's like a supermarket out there.” (Charlie’s companion)
“Then you’ll die in the wrong place… a long way from your country… They’ll be no one with you, no one to look after you.” (Charlie to a friend)
“I was born in the bush. They didn’t find me in the bush.” (Charlie)
“I want to go home now......back to my own country......where my place is...” (Charlie)
The connection to nature seen in Tracks serves several functions for Davidson. Contrary to the majority of attitudes of the time, Davidson can recognise the sanctity of the Australian land and is determined to learn about and experience this connection between the Aboriginal people and their environment. Like in Charlie’s Country, Davidson’s encounter with the rural, minimalist Aboriginal communities is a distinct contrast to the urban society which she leaves behind. It’s a sobering reminder to Davidson of the persisting racism and colonialist mentality which pervades Australian history and confirms the serious consequences that have occurred from the loss of connection between land and people. Even further, her battle to survive and adapt to the unpredictability of the desert is the ultimate test of endurance, which Davidson acknowledges enables lasting self-transformation and consolidates to her the true majesty and reverence of nature. Therefore, this escapism into the desertland is Davidson’s own challenge for personal change and a chance to experience true liberation like Charlie, as well as finding peace with the natives by means of acknowledging the usurpation of their traditional land and rights.
“All around me was magnificence. Light, power, space and sun. And I was walking into it. I was going to let it make me or break me.” (p. 101)
“It is difficult to describe Australian desert ranges as their beauty is not just visual. They have an awesome grandeur that can fill you with exaltation or dread, and usually a combination of both.” (p. 122)
“Besides, no amount of anthropological detail can begin to convey Aboriginal feeling for their land. It is everything -- their law, their ethics, their reason for existence.” (p. 167)
“And just as Aborigines seem to be in perfect rapport with themselves and their country, so the embryonic beginnings of that rapport were happening to me.” (p. 193)
Like in any comparison, it is important to understand some of the key events that were occurring at the time of both the text and the film. While Tracks and Charlie Country are set more than 3 decades apart, the issue of Aboriginal rights is still equally as important in both settings.
In Tracks, the 1970-80s saw many progressive milestones in Aboriginal history. Just years prior to Davidson’s departure, Australians voted for change in the constitution officially recognising Aboriginal people in the national census. Later, 1976 saw the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, which allowed the Indigenous people to assume ownership of land that was acknowledged to be rightly theirs. Many of these legislative changes were indicative of a larger-scale shift in attitudes towards the fairer treatment of Aborigines. While the oppression and racism continued, it was individuals like Robyn Davidson who pioneered the way for greater change and equality. Davidson ultimately intends to highlight the devastation that has occurred to the Aboriginal people following colonisation and aims to shine the light on the persisting issues these individuals face in an ostensibly ‘post-colonial’ Australia.
In addition to this, was the 2007 ‘intervention’. Charlie’s Country is set some years following the introduction of the Northern Territory National Emergency Response. Following reports of child sexual abuse and neglect, the Howard Government unleashed national forces to remote Indigenous communities in the effort to act as law enforcement and impose alcohol and drug restrictions. De Heer examines the consequences of what was described as a ‘last-ditch’ attempt to maintain power; an act that was widely criticised and showed to further exacerbate the suffering of the Indigenous people. Hence, de Heer’s film provides a personal insight into the difficulty of navigating life for Indigenous citizens as a result of the Intervention, and how Charlie’s struggles are representative of the anguish of the wider Aboriginal community.
The 1970s was a critical time for women's rights in Australia. At this point in time, after the first wave enabled women to vote, the second wave of feminism was moving through the nation. Women all across Australia were now fervently advocating for their own autonomy and freedom in the workplace and at home; their efforts directed more to dismantle the rigid social structures and expectations that were demanded from them. Davidson is an avid proponent for this cause and demonstrates a tactful and astute understanding of her image as a white, middle-class woman. She openly reiterates her distaste for the sexist remarks and misogynistic caricatures she faces and is determined to confound the restrictions placed on her sex of being a domesticated and weak female. Overall, Davidson is promoting the principles of breaking through societal expectations, however, also reveals the many challenges she encounters in doing so.
It can be a bit daunting trying to compare techniques in a novel to those in a film. In this instance, it is crucial to first look at the idea you are comparing. For example, we can observe that both Tracks and Charlie’s Country show the liberating and cathartic feeling that comes from escaping social pressures. Now, let's look at how Robyn Davidson and Rolf de Heer achieve this, albeit in different manners. In Tracks, Davidson uses imagery to describe the desertland she meets, when she says, “It is like a vast unattended communal garden, the closest thing to earthly paradise I can imagine”. De Heer communicates this premise of freedom, however, does this by featuring a variety of diegetic sounds of the biodiversity in which Charlie finds himself.
Another example is how intimacy with protagonists is edified. De Heer uses sustained, intimate close up shots and at many times breaks the fourth wall by having Gulpilil look directly at the camera. On the other hand, Davidson employs colloquial language and is liberal with her use of expletives in order to convey a casual, conversational mood between herself and the reader.
Other aspects to consider:
Anthropomorphism in Tracks is the act of attributing human traits or behaviours to a god, animal or object. Davidson’s use of anthropomorphism to describe the animals around her (specifically the camels and her dog Diggety) is suggestive of the necessity for companionship for humans; the need to establish meaningful connections with others. For Davidson, companionship with animals comes easier than with humans (presuming this stems from her perception of society as problematic and grossly flawed).
Cinematography, specifically types of cinematic shots in Charlie’s Country. Those commonly seen in the film include wide shots (camera captures a wide view of the context or setting), close up shots (camera captures events from a short distance away; involves a character’s facial features and expressions), as well as panoramic shots (camera pans around horizontally, showing surroundings). Directors are intentional in the type of cinematography they employ; therefore it is crucial to observe the context in which these shots take place in order to enrich the analysis.
Remember! When analysing, you must consider where these occur in the context of the film’s narrative, and the effect they have on enhancing the events/themes/broader ideas being presented in the scene. (i.e. How are the characters portrayed compared to their surroundings? Compared to others? How are they interacting with these elements? Why has the director chosen this angle/shot?)
Compare how Tracks and Charlie’s Country present the importance of Individualism.
Set amidst an era of significant social and political change, Robyn Davidson’s autobiographical memoir ‘Tracks’ and Rolf de Heer’s film ‘Charlie’s Country’ explores the plight of individuals who embrace individualism. Both Davidson and de Heer assert that individualism is necessary for the protagonists, who find themselves marginalised from the wider population. Through their respective journeys to independence, Robyn and Charlie achieve a sense of empowerment through identity self-refashioning, as well as they express their disapproval of the toxic institutions of society. However, the text and the film also demonstrate how at times, embracing individualism can present challenges to those who pursue it. Ultimately, Davidson and de Heer commend those who do not fully conform to society.
Robyn sees the trip as a demonstration to herself of the shedding of the traditional image of white, middle class woman:
Charlie’s abandonment of the Ramingining community is an attempt to resolve the identity ambiguity he feels as a result of the Government intervention.
Robyn adamantly condemns the deeply entrenched racism of Australian culture and sympathises with the Aborigines and their hardship. Her determination to learn about the Aboriginal people is an attempt to overcome the wedge that has been driven between the two communities:
Charlie becomes increasingly resistant against the traditions and policies of the government institutions.
Robyn is met with harsh opposition and derogatory depictions in the media:
Charlie is constantly shut down when embracing the ways of his culture; ultimately submitting to individualism also unveils his dependency on white society.
‘Resistance to conformity is at the forefront of Tracks and Charlie’s Country’. To what extent do you agree?
Discuss the ways in which the environment assists the protagonists in their journey for self-discovery.
‘The connection to the land is significant for the characters of both Charlie’s Country and Tracks’. Discuss.
‘The stories of Charlie and Robyn represent the plight of many others’. To what extent do you agree?
Compare the ways in which characters in Tracks and Charlie’s Country seek to discover what really matters to them.
‘Despite their deep hardship, Charlie and Robyn find transformation in their journeys’. Discuss.
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