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How can the context of a film be utilised to add complexity to an analysis?
Writing a film analysis can be daunting in comparison to analysing a written text. The task of dissecting a motion picture consisting of dialogue, camera shots and dialogic sound is challenging, but an understanding of a film’s social, cultural and political background can elevate your analysis from standard to spectacular. Thus, before analysing Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller ‘Rear Window’, it is important to consider its cultural, political and social context:
The Greenwich Village setting of ‘Rear Window’ is located in Lower West Manhattan, New York, and was known as America’s ‘bohemian capital’ during the 1950s, in which avant-garde artists freely explored unconventional lifestyles.
Hitchcock’s decision to use Greenwich Village as the backdrop of the film links its image of human suffering to the failed vision of American progressivist culture.
Despite acting as the main location of progressive culture, such as the beginning of the international gay rights movement, Greenwich Village was also the setting for the broken dreams of its eclectic residents.
This cyclical nature of hope and defeat can be observed in the film, as the audience can perceive the frustrated songwriter destroying his latest work, and Miss Lonely hearts desperately seeking true love in the seedy bars and gloomy alleyways of the ‘bohemian heaven’.
Additionally, it is this social radicalism of Jeff’s neighbours that provides the basis for his voyeuristic habits; by portraying their individual eccentricities though their respective apartment windows, Hitchcock offers to Jeff a range of human peculiarities, which he eagerly observes through his ‘portable keyhole’.
‘Rear Window’ encapsulates the rampant Mccarthyism, and subsequent suspicion, at the time of its release in 1954.
The fear of Communist influence in the USA led to heightened political repression from the government, and Americans could only prove their loyalty to the country only by offering others’ names to the government.
As such, Jeff’s insubstantial speculation about Thorwald murdering his bedridden wife is disturbingly reflective of the social strife in 1950s America, as thousands accused their neighbours for treason or subversion without concrete evidence.
Along with heightened political surveillance followed the allure of voyeurism; just as Jeff is contained to his wheelchair, and can merely gaze through his rear window into his wider world - the courtyard, so were Americans during the Cold War; expected to only ‘gaze’, and leave all the ‘involvement and engagement to the politicians’.
The suburban setting of‘Rear Window’ reinforces the sense of confinement and suspicion rampant during the 1950s.
After WWII ended in 1952, millions of US soldiers returned to a multitude of suburban homes built using mass production techniques, all overwhelmingly close to another. The Greenwich Village of ‘Rear Window’ is an example of one of these suburbs.
The crowded Greenwich Village apartment complex of the film acts as an effective narrative device, as Hitchcock employs the physical proximity of the apartments to reinforce the overwhelming sense of voyeurism and paranoia amongst neighbours.
How to Analyse a Scene
The Film’s Opening Sequence:
As the blinds roll up to reveal the apartment complex, a medium shot of the wide-open windows of each apartment immediately convey to the audience an environment of an uncomfortable openness. However, despite this, the separation of each apartment by brick walls as a separate entity on its own serves as a symbol of the widespread suspicion characteristic of the McCarthyian era. Within the frame of the main window, the windows of each apartment act as mini frames within the big frame, multiplying the sense of voyeurism present in the shot.
Although seemingly insignificant, the brown tabby cat that runs across the steps of Greenwich Village represents freedom and individual autonomy, later comparable to the character of Lisa in the film. The compounding sense of surveillance during the 1950s add more meaning to the freedom symbolised by the cat, which can then be contrasted to the suppressed independence of the protagonist, who is seen invalid in a wheelchair in the next shot:
By this extreme close-up shot of Jeff sleeping in his wheelchair during the opening sequence, Hitchcock immediately places the viewer in an uncomfortable position as the original and ultimate voyeur, surpassing the intimate boundaries of the protagonist. The camera’s focus on the beads of sweat on Jeff’s forehead signify the intense heat of summer in Greenwich Village, confirmed by the following close up shot of 94F on the thermometer:
The stifling temperature of the season foreshadows imminent tension about to unfold in the film, as does the following close-up shot:
The slow panning from Jeff’s head to his broken left leg in a cast, in tandem with the ominous, epitaph-like words, ‘Here lie the broken bones of L.B Jefferies’, increase the impending sense of tragedy.
Jeff’s profession as a photographer becomes gradually more evident, as the camera slowly pans from focusing on Jeff’s injury to around his room. This close shot of a destroyed, seemingly irreparable camera, literally reflects the cyclic nature of broken dreams characteristic of Greenwich Village, and also signifies that Jeff too has been hurt (literally) by radical pursuits in his progression. It is important to note that Jeff’s room is plain and lacks any decorative sophistication, establishing his character as a simple, ‘everyday’ American man.
The only things adorning Jeff’s small room are his many photographs, all taken by himself. Despite varying in size and setting, they all share a single point of similarity; they all focus on sights of destruction, such as the race car crash or the remains of a volcanic eruption. The framed nature of these photographs signify Jeff’s appreciation for tragic devastation, establishing further doom in the film by lending a darker note to his voyeuristic tendencies.
The last photograph the camera focuses on in the opening sequence is the picture taken by Jeff of an elegant woman, who bears a striking resemblance to Lisa.
This image of ‘Lisa’ in the negative literally symbolises Jeff’s negative perception of his girlfriend Lisa at the beginning of the film. In contrast, the following shot of ‘Lisa’ in the ‘positive’ foreshadows the development of the film, as he begins to perceive Lisa as a possible life partner:
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Being one of the few texts that was added to the text list this year, Euripides’ play Women of Troy is definitely a daunting task for English and EAL students to tackle due to the lack of resources and essay prompts available. In fact, the only materials that can be found on the internet are those analysing the older translation of the play (titled The Trojan Women). That is why we are here to help you as much as we can by offering you a mini-guide for Women of Troy, in the hope that you can get a head start with this play.
Women of Troy 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.
LSG-Curated Essay Topics
A+ Essay Topic Breakdown
Women of Troy is a tragedy which takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Trojan war, critiquing the atrocities committed by the Greeks to both people of Melos and Troy. By constructing a play in which women are able to dominate the stage and exude their genuine despair in response to their impending enslavement, Euripides shifts the perspectives from epic tales of Greek and Trojan male heroes to the conversely affected women who suffered at the hands of the heroes, while simultaneously providing both the contemporary and modern audience with a unique insight into the true cost of war. This is especially significant because the society was pervaded by patriarchal values, where women were subordinated to their male counterparts. Euripides’ proto-feminist works were not well received by his peers at the time of writing as women’s personal thoughts and pain were not commonly discussed in the Hellenic repertoire.
2. Historical Context
The Trojan war occurred as a result of the conflict between Greece and Troy and was said to last for over 10 years. According to a tale, during a festival on the Olympus, Athena, Aphrodite and Hera were fighting over a golden apple. They chose a random mortal, which was Paris who would then be the Prince of Troy, to decide who the most beautiful goddess of the three was. As a reward for picking her, Aphrodite promised Paris that he would be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, which was Helen – wife of Menelaus, the Spartan prince. Aphrodite had her son Eros (a cupid) enchant Helen and Paris so that they would fall endlessly in love with each other. Helen then escaped from Menelaus’ palace to be with Paris, starting the war between Greece and Troy. Menelaus was enraged and he convinced his brother Agamemnon to lead an expedition to retrieve Helen. The Greek army was commanded to attack the Trojans. The siege lasted for more than 10 years until the Greeks came up with a strategy to abduct Helen from the palace. The Greek soldiers build a giant wooden horse and hid in there to get in the citadel of Troy, attacking them in the middle of the night and winning the war. After the war, the Greek heroes slowly made their way home, however, the journey home was not easy. Odysseus took 10 years to make the arduous journey home to Ithaca because Poseidon agreed to punish the Greeks for the atrocities committed before and after their victory.
Love and Lust
Euripides’ works often warn the audience of the detrimental effects brought on by excessive passion, asserting that it is best to moderate emotions and exhibit sophrosyne (the power of self-control over one’s emotions). He often criticises the goddess of love, Aphrodite, for enchanting mortals and leading them into a life governed by love and lust. In this play, he purports that it is inherently Aphrodite’s fault that the Trojans are fighting against the Greeks, as it is Aphrodite who makes Paris and Helen endlessly fall in love with each other.
Potential Textual Evidence:
In Women of Troy, Euripides presents a particularly acerbic critique on Menelaus’ 'uncontrollable lust' in 'sen[ding] a hunting party to track down Helen' as he juxtaposes the cost of the Trojan war being and the prize that they receive.
'tens of thousands dead'
'giving up the pleasure of his family and children'
'these Greeks [beginning] to die'
→ All that in exchange for one woman - Helen
His chastisement is further bolstered by Cassandra’s rhetorical question asking 'they kept on dying, for what reason'. This manoeuvres the audience into acknowledging the pointlessness of the Trojan war as it is not worth risking so many lives over Helen or any minor military conflict. In doing so, Euripides once again lambastes the actions of those vindictive and bloodthirsty Greeks.
Cost of War
The play primarily focuses on the loss and pain of the Trojan civilians that survived the war, are sieged in the city after the war and are eventually either killed or enslaved after the fall of Troy. While the Trojan war is the setting of many famous classical works being examined by various different angles, not many focus on the consequences suffered by women. This enables Euripides to raise the question of whether or not such victory is worth fighting for while simultaneously inviting the audience to emulate the playwright’s disapprobation of such a violent and brutal resolution of conflict.
You can also use the evidence from the above to justify your arguments on the cost of war. They all aim to magnify the extent to which the Trojan people, as well as the Greeks, have to suffer as result of this pointless war.
Potential Textual Evidence:
We can also discuss how wars affect beliefs and their people’s faith. In the Hellenic society, gods have always been a significant part of their life as it is believed that mortals’ lives are always under the influence of divine intervention. This is evidenced through the ways in which Hellenic people build temples and make sacrifices to the gods, thanking the gods for allowing them to live prosperous lives and begging for their forgiveness whenever they wrong others. This is why it is significant when Hecuba referred to the gods as 'betrayers' in her lamentation, implying that there is a change in attitude in time of tragedy. Events such as this make people question their fate and belief, galvanising them to wonder 'what good [gods] were to [them].
Integrity and Sense of Duty
Some characters in Women of Troy are also fundamentally driven by their sense of duty and integrity, and act according to their moral code regardless of what the circumstances may be. Hecuba, for instance, sympathises with the Chorus of Troy and acts as a leader even when she loses her title and her home. She is held responsible for her actions but is still governed by her honesty and integrity as Helen makes her plea. Talthybius is also governed by both his sense of duty and integrity. Despite his understanding of Hecuba’s circumstances, he still follows his order and ensures that the Trojan women are allocated to their Greek households. However, he does not disregard her sense of morality and treats Hecuba with understanding and sensitivity.
Helen, on the other hand, does not demonstrate the same degree of moral uprightness. In time of tragedy, she chooses to lie and shift the blame to others to escape her execution. She prioritises her own benefits over everyone else’s and allows thousands of others to suffer from the impacts of her treachery in eloping with Paris.
The prologue of the play opens with a conversation between Poseidon and Athena, foreshadowing their divine retribution against the Greeks. Witnessing the immediate aftermath of the Trojan war, they curse the war which they ironically themselves initiated, thus condemning the horrific injustice of the conflict and the actions of its vengeful and blood thirsty so-called heroes. This is evidenced through the ways in which they punished Odysseus by creating obstacles on his journey home.
However, it can also be argued that the gods in Women of Troy themselves act as a symbol of injustice in a way. From the feminist view, the fall of Troy and the enslavement of Trojan women demonstrate the gods’ lack of care as they disregard the monstrosities that occur to women after the Greeks’ victory. The divine intervention which is promised in the beginning casts the following injustices cursed upon the women of Troy in a different light as it can be argued that the gods caused the war. While their retribution against the Greeks can be seen as a means to punish the heroes, it is evident that that they are more concerned about the sacrilege committed and the disrespect they receive after the Trojan war than the injustices suffered by women. This thereby humanises the gods and fortifies the notion that they also have personal flaws and are governed by their ego and hubris.
The idea that there are forces beyond human control is enhanced, and Poseidon and Athena’s pride proves that humans are just innocent bystanders at the mercy of the gods. It can be argued that the chain of unfortunate events are unpredictable as they are determined by gods, whose emotions and prejudices still control the way they act. On the other hand, the characters in the play do at times make choices that would lead to their downfall and tragic consequences. For instance, it is Menelaus who decided to go after the Trojans just because of one woman and he was not enchanted or under any influence of divine intervention.
Euripides centres his play on Trojan women, enabling the discussion on the cause and effect of war. Given that females' points of view were not commonly expressed in plays or any forms of art works, Euripides’ decision to have his play focus on women allows the Athenian audience, comprised of mainly male Athenians, to observe a part of the military conflict that was not seen before.
The protagonist Hecuba, for example, is portrayed as the archetypal mother. While this image is presented during the aftermath of the Trojan war, Euripides also uses Hecuba as a representative of contemporary Hellenic women as this archetype is universal for all circumstances. It is evident that Euripides’ play mainly focuses on Hecuba’s grief, with her lamentation dominating the prologue. This implies that the protagonist, in this instance, also acts as a diatribe against the patriarchal society which allows women to suffer greatly as a result of war and military conflict. However, this play differs from other plays written by Euripides in that he also explores a woman’s burden and responsibility as a leader, allowing the audience to understand the difficulties of being a woman of power in time of crisis.
Mother of Troy
Potential Textual Evidence:
In employing the simile comparing herself to 'a mother bird at her plundered nest', Hecuba reminds the audience of her endless love for the city of Troy, implying that the devastation of her own home also further deepens her pain. In this scene, Hecuba is portrayed as a female leader who rules with her passion and love.
The image her (Hecuba) as an empathetic Queen is also exemplified through the ways in which she 'weep[s] for [her] burning home'. As the term 'home' invokes connotations of warmth and affection, Hecuba’s endearment for the city she governs is established, accentuating the portrayal of Hecuba as a leader with a passion for her duties.
This in turn propels the audience to be more inclined to feel commiseration for her when she is held responsible for her city’s destruction. As the representative of Troy’s leadership that enables such brutality to occur leading to the wars, Hecuba bears the guilt and responsibility for '[giving] birth to all the trouble by giving birth to Paris' and consequently, for the cataclysmic consequences that ramified from Paris’ involvement with Helen (although she is simply an innocent bystander) → Social accountability for war
Mother of Her Children
Potential Textual Evidence:
From the outset of the play, the former queen of Troy is portrayed as a miserable mother suffering from the loss of her own children and 'howl[ing] for her children dead' (echoed by the Chorus, referred to as 'howl of agony'). By employing animalistic language in describing Hecuba’s act of mourning over Hector’s death, Euripides intensifies the magnitude of her emotional turmoil as it is likened to a loud and doleful cry usually uttered by animals → It is almost not humanly possible to endure so much pain.
This notion is bolstered by the image of Hecuba drowning in 'her threnody of tears' as it engages the pathos of the audience, establishing her as a victim of war and emphasising the poignant story that is to be unveiled.
The simile comparing herself to a woman 'dragged as a slave' in her lamentation further fortifies Hecuba’s portrayal as a victim of a play. Here, the juxtaposition between her former title 'by birth [as] Troy’s...Queen' and her current state magnifies the drastic change in life and the loss she suffered, compelling the audience to better sympathise with Hecuba. → Powers can be ephemeral in times of crisis.
Talthybius is sympathetic towards women, establishing himself as a complicated figure with a strong sense of integrity. This is epitomised through the ways in which he employs euphemistic language when announcing the dreadful news to Hecuba. He tries his best to be sensitive and mitigate the impacts of Hecuba’s daughter death to her, announcing that Polyxena 'is to serve Achilles at his tomb' and that 'her fate is settled', 'all her troubles are over'. He was being sensitive and subtle instead of abruptly delivering the news. While he represents an enemy state, he shows that men can also be compassionate, contradicting the Phallocentric belief that men should only be governed by cool logic.
Chorus of Trojan Women
It can be argued that Hecuba acts as the paradigm of the Trojan women as her pain (i.e. the deaths of her children, slavery, the devastation of her city), in a way, represents the suffering of the majority of Hellenic women in times of war, which enhances Euripides’ condemnation of a society where military conflicts can easily be facilitated. The Chorus of the play often echoes her deepest pain, establishing a sense of camaraderie between female characters of the play.
In this play, the Chorus acts as the voice of the 'wretched women of Troy', representing the views of the unspoken who are objectified and mistreated by their male counterparts. After Troy lost the war, women were seen as conquests and were traded as slaves, exposing the unfair ethos of a society that was seen as the cradle of civilisation. By allowing the Trojan women to express their indignation and enmity as a response to their impending slavery, Euripides is able to present a critique on the ways in which women were oppressed in Ancient Greece.
5. Literary Devices
Simile (e.g. dragged as a slave)
Euphemism (e.g. serve Achilles at his tomb – euphemism for death)
Symbolism (e.g. Hector’s shield or Troy’s citadel)
Animal imagery (e.g. howl of agony)
Rhetorical question (e.g. for what reason)
Why are these important? Watch how we integrated literary devices as pieces of evidence in this essay topic breakdown:
[Modified Video Transcription]
TIP: See section '7. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown' (below) for an explanation of our ABC approach so that you understand how we've actually tackled this essay prompt.
Staged in a patriarchal society, Women of Troy was set during the immediate aftermath of the Trojan war – a war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Hecuba is the former queen of Troy, who suffered so much loss as the mother of her children as well as the mother of Troy. She lost her son Hector and her husband in the Trojan war, her daughter Polyxena also died and Cassandra was raped. After the Greeks won, women were allocated to Greek households and forced into slavery, including the queen of Troy. She was also the mother of Paris, the prince of Troy. It was purported that Paris and Helen were responsible for initiating the war as Helen was governed by her lust for Paris and left Menelaus, the Spartan prince, for this young prince of Troy. Consequently, Menelaus was enraged by this elopement and declared that he wanted Helen dead as a punishment for her disloyalty. Helen defended herself and lied that it was against her will, crying that she was kidnapped and blamed Hecuba for the fall of Troy and for the conflict between the two sides. However, Menelaus did not believe what Helen had to say and decided to bring her back to her home on a separate ship.
The play ended with the Greek ships leaving Troy, which was then on fire. The Trojan were singing a sad song together as they left to prepare for their new lives as slaves living in Greek households.
The play’s main focus is on the suffering of women, as exemplified by the way Euripides chose to portray Hecuba’s loss and Cassandra’s helplessness.
So, our essay prompt for today is
'How does Euripides use the structure of the play to explore the role of women and their suffering in time of war?'
This is indeed one of the more challenging prompts that VCAA wouldn’t probably give, the reason being that it is a language/structure-based prompt. It requires you to have a much more profound knowledge of the text, and it is not always easy to spot language features, especially in a poetic sounding play like Women of Troy. There is just so much going on in the text! While it is not super likely that you will get this prompt for the exam, I have seen a lot of schools give language/structure-based prompts to students for SACs as it gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves and look for textual evidence that will distinguish them from their peers. These types of evidence are definitely worth looking for because they can also be used as evidence to back up your arguments for theme-based or character-based prompts (learn more about the different types of prompts in How To Write A Killer Text Response).
Now let’s get started.
Step 1: Analyse
The first thing I always do is to look for keywords. The key words in this prompt are 'structure, 'role of women' and 'suffering'.
With the structure of the play, we can potentially talk about:
Character-related evidence (e.g. strong female character base)
Language-related features (metalanguage/literacy devices)
Plot-related features (order of events) – irony, foreshadowing
Step 2: Brainstorm
In a male-dominated, patriarchal society, women are oftentimes oppressed and seen as inferior. Their roles in the society were limited, they were only seen as domestic housewives and mothers. It is important to look for evidence that either supports or contradicts this statement. Ask yourself:
Is Euripides trying to support the statement and agree that women are simply creatures of emotions who should only stick with domestic duties?
Or is he trying to criticise this belief by showing that women are so much more than just those being governed by their emotions?
Since this play primarily focuses on the cost of war and how women, as innocent bystanders, have to suffer as a result of the Trojan war, it should not be difficult finding evidence related to women’s suffering. It might include:
Hecuba’s loss (she lost her home and children)
Hecuba’s pain (being blamed for Troy’s ruin)
Cassandra’s helplessness despite knowing her fate, surrendering and accepting her future
Andromache’s 'bitter' fate having to give up her child
The Chorus voicing their opinion – slavery
Once a prompt is carefully broken down, it is no longer that scary because all we have to do now is organise our thoughts and write our topic sentences.
Step 3: Create a Plan
P1: Euripides constructs a strong female character base to contradict the prevailing views of the period that women are inferior to their male counterparts.
It is significant that Euripides chose to have a strong female protagonist, as the character herself acts as a diatribe against the patriarchal society, contradicting any engrained beliefs that pervaded the society at the time. An example of evidence that can support this statement is the way in which Hecuba dominates the stage while giving her opening lamentation. The lengthy nature of the monologue itself enables Euripides to present his proto-feminist ideas and go against the Hellenic gendered prejudice.
We can also talk about Hecuba’s leadership and her interaction with the Chorus of Trojan women. She refers to them as 'my children' and employs the simile 'a mother at her plundered nest'. The way the Greek playwright constructs the relationship between characters is worth mentioning as Hecuba in this play is portrayed as a compassionate and empathetic leader, showing that women are also capable of leading others in a way that engenders a sense of camaraderie between them.
Another good thinking point is to talk about how Helen acts as a paradigm of a group of women who had to turn to deception and go against their integrity to survive in time of tragedy.
P2: Euripides’ selective use of language and literacy devices in portraying women’s pain and suffering further enables him to portray the ways in which women, as innocent bystanders, are oppressed in time of war.
An example of a metalanguage used in this play is the animal imagery the Chorus used to depict Hecuba’s pain. By referring to her pain as a 'howl of agony', they intensify the magnitude of Hecuba’s pain as the term 'howl' is usually used to describe a loud cry usually uttered by animals like wolves. This implies that Hecuba, who acts as representative of Hellenic women, has to suffer from an emotional turmoil that is far beyond bearable, which in turn further fortifies the audience’s sympathy for her, as well as the Trojan women.
Another piece of evidence that I would talk about is the simile 'dragged as a slave'. It was used to describe Hecuba, the former queen of Troy. By likening someone who used to be at a position of power to 'a slave', Euripides underscores the drastic change in circumstances that occurred as a result of the Trojan war, magnifying the tremendous amount of loss Hecuba experienced. Furthermore, the image of the protagonist’s devastated physical state enhances the dramatist’s condemnation of war as it allows him to elucidate the detrimental impacts such violence and dreadfulness impose on innocent bystanders.
There is, of course, plenty of other evidence out there such as the way in which Cassandra is portrayed as a 'poor mad child', her helplessness in surrendering to her 'wretched' fate with Agamemnon who wanted her for himself. We can also talk about the inclusive language positing, 'our misery', 'our home', used by the Chorus in echoing Hecuba’s pain, etc.
The use of symbolism can also be discussed. For instance, the citadel in the city of Troy in the epilogue acts as a metonym for Hecuba’s resistance before entering slavery. The image of it crumbling exemplifies women’s helplessness and enhances the notion that they are still in positions of explicit subjugation.
P3: While Euripides primarily focuses on portraying women’s pain and suffering, he does not completely vilify men or victimise women, maintaining an unbiased view so as to underscore the importance of integrity through his characterisation of both male and female character.
The last body paragraph of our essays is often the one used to challenge the prompt, showing the assessors our wealth of ideas and depth of knowledge. Basically, what we are saying is 'while our playwright is obviously pro-women, he definitely does not condone everything women do and criticise everything men do'. In this way, we have the opportunity to explore the ways characters are constructed and the ways they are used in the play to convey its meaning.
If I were to write an essay on this, I would talk about Talthybius and Helen, mainly because they are both complex characters that the audience cannot fully love or hate.
Talthybius is surprisingly sympathetic towards women, establishing himself as a complicated figure. This is epitomised by the ways in which he employs euphemistic language when announcing the dreadful news to Hecuba. He tries his best to be sensitive and mitigate the impacts of Hecuba’s daughter's death to her, announcing that Polyxena 'is to serve Achilles at his tomb', that 'her fate is settled' and 'all her troubles are over'. He was being sensitive and subtle instead of abruptly delivering the news. While he represents an enemy state, he shows that men can also be compassionate, contradicting the Phallocentric belief that men should only be governed by cool logic.
Similar to Talthybius, Helen is also a complicated figure as she is both a victim of fate and a selfish character. It is possible for the audience to sympathise with her as she is merely a victim of fortune in that she was bewitched by Aphrodite and governed by her love for Paris, the prince of Troy. However, the ways in which she shifts the blame to Hecuba and makes her pleas preclude the audience from completely sympathising with her they, in a way, render her as a self-absorbed and repugnant character. This notion is further fortified by the fact that she cared so little for the 'tens of thousands' lives taken on her behalf as the phrase quantifies and magnifies the cataclysmic consequences of her lust for Paris.
6. LSG-Curated Women of Troy Essay Topics
Euripides’ play Women of Troy mainly focuses on the true cost of war. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
Women of Troy demonstrates that there is no real winner in war. Discuss.
In the Trojan wars, the Trojans suffered great losses while the Greeks did not suffer. Do you agree?
How does Euripides use language to portray the loss and suffering of Hellenic women in Women of Troy?
Characters in Women of Troy are all driven and motivated by their sense of duty and obligation. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
Hecuba’s greatest pain stems from the deaths of her children. Discuss the statement.
While Helen’s selfishness should be condemned, the audience can still condone her actions due to the circumstances she is in. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
Women of Troy is a tragedy, rather than a war-play. Do you agree?
Euripides argues that fate and fortunes are not preordained, and tragedies do not incriminate. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
It is impossible to sympathise with Helen because she is the most mischievous character of the play. Do you agree?
Women of Troy explores the ways in which a character’s true self might emerge in times of tragedy. Discuss.
In Women of Troy, The Chorus’ only role is to act as the representative of Hellenic women. Do you agree?
In the end, the gods are not responsible for the tragedies caused by the Trojan war as it happened as a result of poor choices. Do you agree?
Hecuba is the victim of fate. Discuss.
Love is a dangerous passion that can lead to tragic consequences. Does Women of Troy support this statement?
Hecuba is a tragic hero. Discuss.
How is the structure of Women of Troy used to convey its meaning?
It is possible for the audience to sympathise with Helen because of her love for Paris. Do you agree?
There is no villain in Women of Troy because everyone in the play suffers. Do you agree with the statement?
Discuss the role of dishonesty in Euripides’ Women of Troy.
If you'd like to see A+ essays based off some of the essay topics above (written by Mark Yin - our LSG content guru and 50 English study score achiever), complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+ so that you can emulate this same success, then you'll definitely want to check out our A Killer Text Guide: Women of Troy ebook. In it, we also cover themes, characters, views and values, metalanguage and have 5 sample A+ essays completely annotated so that you can smash your next SAC or exam!
The quote mentions long-lasting sufferings, and the prompt seems to ask who suffers, and who is responsible. If you’ve been reading this guide in order, a lot of similar ideas from the last four essays might jump out here - I think that’s okay, because ideally you do get to a point where you can ‘recycle’ some of your quotes and ideas between essays (and the examiner won’t have to read all your practice essays anyway!).
While I’ll be doing a little bit of recycling here, I want the main take-away point from this essay to be around framing. Even if you’re using similar ideas that you’ve already seen, the trick is to explain and frame your analysis in a way that answers every prompt specifically. This is best done through how you thread your arguments together, and how you make those links. We’ll get into this as we plan.
Step 2: Brainstorm
For now, let’s recap these ideas of suffering and responsibility. Hecuba and the Trojan women suffer, and they argue Helen is responsible - but Helen also suffers, and she argues that the gods are responsible. The gods, as we know, are insulated from suffering because of their divine and superhuman status. So, are they the villains?
Step 3: Create a Plan
This is a similar progression of ideas that we have seen before, but I want to ground them in this cycle of suffering-responsibility.
P1: The eponymous women of Troy certainly suffer, and in many of their eyes, Helen is a villain.
P2: However, Helen does not see herself that way - and she is not incorrect. She too seems to suffer, and she sees the gods as the main villains who are responsible.
P3: Euripides may see the gods as careless and negligent beings, but he doesn’t necessarily depict them as cruel; rather, the excessively passionate war itself is depicted as the true enemy, and villains are those who revel in its cruelty.
As you might notice, parts of this plan are recognisable: we’ve started a few of these essays with a first paragraph about the Trojan women’s suffering, developed that in paragraph two by contrasting with Helen, and ending our analysis with the gods. But when reusing some of those ideas, it’s important to make sure they answer the specific question by modifying and adding new ideas as needed - this way, you don’t rewrite essays for new prompts and risk losing relevance, but you do reuse ideas and tailor them to new prompts every time.
The contention for this one will be: the Trojan War undoubtedly has its winners and losers, and few of these characters agree on who the responsible villains are, with some blaming Helen (P1) while she herself blames the gods (P2). However, the gods only form a part of the picture - rather, Euripides depicts war itself as the villain, lambasting those who take pride in inflicting cruelty in the midst of war (P3).
Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window was released nearly 65 years ago. Back then, Hitchcock was a controversial filmmaker just starting to make waves and build his influence in Hollywood; now, he is one of the most widely celebrated directors of the 20th century. At the time of its 1954 release, Rear Window emerged into a world freshly shaken by World War II. The fear of communism riddled American society and Cold War tensions were escalating between the two global superpowers, the USSR and USA. Traditional gender stereotypes and marital roles were beginning to be challenged, yet the ‘old way’ continued to prevail. The culture of the 1950s could hardly be more different to what it is today. Within the Western world, the birth of the 21st century has marked the decline of cemented expectations and since been replaced by social equality regardless of gender, sexual preference and age. So why, six decades after its original release and in a world where much of its content appears superficially outdated, do we still analyse the film Rear Window?
Rear Window is a film primarily concerned with the events which L.B. (Jeff) Jefferies, a photographer incapacitated by an accident which broke his leg, observes from the window of his apartment. He spends his days watching the happenings of the Greenwich Village courtyard, which enables Jeff to peer into the apartments and lives of local residents. The curiosities which exist in such an intimate setting fulfil Jeff’s instinctual need to watch. The act of observing events from a secure distance is as tempting as reality television and magazines. To this day, these mediums provide entertainment tailored to popular culture. At its roots, Jeff’s role as a voyeur within Rear Window is designed to satisfy his intense boredom in a state of injury. As the film is seen through Jeff’s voyeuristic eyes, the audience become voyeurs within their own right. Until relations between Thorwald and his wife simmer into territory fraught with danger, Jeff’s actions are the harmless activities of a man searching for entertainment.
So, if Rear Window teaches us that voyeurism is a dangerous yet natural desire, does the film comment on the individuals who consent to being watched? Within Greenwich Village, Jeff’s chance to act as an observer is propelled by the indifference of those he observes. Almost without exception, his neighbours inadvertently permit Jeff’s eyes wandering into their apartments by leaving their blinds up. The private elements of others’ lives, including their domestic duties, marital relations and indecencies, are paraded before Jeff. Greenwich Village is his picture show and its residents willingly raise the stage’s curtains. This presentation of Hitchcock’s 1954 statement remains relevant today. Jeff’s neighbours’ consent to his intrusion into their lives bears striking similarities to current indifference. The prevalence of social media enables information to be gathered as soon as its users click the ‘Accept Terms & Conditions’ button. Rear Window is a commentary on social values and provokes its audience to examine habits of their own, especially in a world where sensitive information is at our fingertips. Just as Hitchcock’s 1954 characters invite perversive eyes to inspect their lives, society today is guilty of the same apathy.
The characters of Hitchcock’s thriller are a pivotal element of the film’s construction. They add layers of depth to the text and fulfil roles central to the plot’s development. One of Hitchcock’s fundamental directorial decisions was leaving multiple characters unnamed – within Greenwich Village alone, we meet Miss Lonelyhearts, Miss Torso and Miss Hearing Aid. The stereotypical nature of these labels, based on superficial traits that Jeff observes from his window, exemplifies the sexism prevalent in the 1950s. Jeff’s knowledge of these women is limited to such an extent that he does not know their names, yet considers himself qualified enough to develop labels for each of them. The historical background of stereotypes is imbedded within Rear Window and shares vast similarities with the stereotypes we recognise today.
Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller Rear Window portrays a little world that represents the larger one. Its themes, primarily voyeurism, and character profiles illustrate Hitchcock’s societal messages and provide a running commentary on issues which govern America during the 1950s. In the six decades since the film’s release, the Western world has undergone significant developments both socially and culturally. L.B (Jeff) Jefferies’ perception of women and married life is inconsistent with the relations between men and women that we observe today. Regardless, the timeless views that Hitchcock’s conveys through Rear Window continue to speak volumes about our society. Jeff’s voyeurism, which comprises much of the film’s major plotline, is a channel for Hitchcock to comment about the instinctual desire for individuals to observe others. Additionally, Hitchcock delves into the flip side of this matter, presenting the theory that those he watches are just as guilty of allowing his intrusion into their private lives. Apathetic mindsets in today’s digital world are responsible for the same indifference that Hitchcock explores within his film. Let’s not forget the sexist stereotypes that Jeff develops to label certain women within Greenwich Village. Miss Lonelyhearts, Miss Torso and Miss Hearing Aid are all victims of Jeff’s narrow mindset towards women, emphasised by these superficial and demeaning names. Stereotypes remain as apparent within society today as they were within the world of Rear Window and can be identified within the media’s diverse presentation of social issues. It is easy to assume that Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller, Rear Window, lacks the relevancy we expect from films. Contrary to this perception, its ingrained messages are fundamentally true to this day.
It’s time your conclusions got the attention they deserve! So grab a massive piece of chocolate, a glass of water and prepare to be taught about the beginning of the end (of your essay, that is).
Having a rushed conclusion is like forgetting to lock your car after an awesome road trip- that one rushed decision could jeopardise the whole experience for your assessor. A mediocre conclusion is the same as powering through a 500 metre race then carelessly slowing down seconds before the finish line! Dramatic comparisons aside, the way you choose to end your text response either leaves the marker with a bad taste in their mouths or increases your chance of hitting a home run. On the other hand, if you’re feeling discouraged by how your essay has shaped up to be, having a killer conclusion could set you up for a pleasant surprise.
5 Tips for a mic-drop worthy conclusion
1. Make a plan for the conclusion
It has been said many times, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and it could not be more true when it comes to crafting a killer conclusion. By setting a few minutes aside before even beginning your essay to plan everything out, you get to see the necessary elements which you will want to address in your conclusion. In simpler terms, an essay plan reminds you of your contention and your main points, so that you are able to start gathering all of your arguments and create the perfect concluding paragraph. Planning for each paragraph sets you up for a win as you begin to refine key ideas and explore the many ways of expressing them, which is crucial for a conclusion.
2. Don't tell the reader you are concluding!
Time and time again I have seen people fall into the trap of using phrases such as “in conclusion” or “in closing”. The person marking your work may be blown away by the majority of your response, then reach those rotten words and will reconsider this thought. Being this ‘obvious’ with opening a conclusion does not earn any points. In fact it’s simply not sophisticated. The main reason many students are tempted to begin in such a clumsy way is that they don’t know how to begin their conclusion. If you are having difficulty to start and experiencing a bit of writer's block, simply go back to your essay plan and start to unpack the contention - it’s that easy! Rephrase your answer to the actual essay question. In most cases, you can just cut out those nasty little words and the opening line of your conclusion will still make perfect sense.
3. Rephrase, not repeat
The definition of a conclusion is literally to “sum up an argument”, thus your last paragraph should focus on gathering all of the loose ends and rewording your thesis and all of your arguments. It’s great to reinstate what you have said throughout the body of your response but repeating the same phrases and modes of expression becomes bland and bores the reader. Instead, aim to give them a fresh outlook on the key ideas you have been trying to communicate in the previous paragraphs. All it takes is a little time to change the way you are saying key points so that the conclusion does not become tedious to read. Conclusions are there to unite all of your points and to draw a meaningful link in relation to the question initially asked.
4. Keep things short and sharp
Your closing paragraph is NOT for squeezing in one or more ‘cool’ points you have- no new points should be brought into the conclusion. You should focus on working with the arguments and ideas that have ALREADY been brought up throughout your response. Introducing new arguments in that last paragraph will cause a lack of clarity and may cause the paragraph to become lengthy. A long conclusion will slow down the momentum of your piece and the reader will begin to lose interest and become impatient. Having a clear aim before writing your conclusion will help avoid a lengthy paragraph as your final thoughts will be more concise and refined.
5. The last line is where you get to really shine
Your closing sentence is the ultimate make or break for the entire essay so it is a shame to see many responses ending awkwardly due to students running out of time or becoming lazy with that final sentence. Last words are so important but don’t spend too much time on it! One awesome way to finish is with a very well thought-out phrase which summarises your contention one last time. Imagine dropping the mic after the final sentence of your essay, your conclusion needs to be stronger.
The Erratics is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Setting is a literary element that refers to the context of where a story takes place, usually alluding to the time and location. Your expectations of a story that takes place in Victorian England would differ greatly from a story set in late 2000s Australia, showing us that the historical, social and geographical aspects of the setting shape the meaning of the text.
In the memoir The Erratics, the setting plays a vital role in Vicki Laveau-Harvie's storytelling. From the beginning of the novel, Laveau-Harvie uses both the title and prologue to foreground the importance of the Okotoks Erratic (a geographical phenomenon in Alberta, Canada) to establish the role that place and belonging have played in her life. Further reinforcing the importance of the setting, the memoir’s narrative follows Laveau-Harvie’s experience flying back to Alberta, Canada (her hometown), after having moved to and started a new life in Australia.
Why Focus on Setting When Writing a Text Response?
The setting can be useful evidence to have in your repertoire as it helps you show that you not only have an understanding of the ideas of the text but also how those ideas are constructed. When looking at the criteria you will be marked against in the end-of-year exam you will see that to score a 7 and above in Section A you need to consider the ‘construction’ of the text (read more here). Construction refers to your ability to discuss the parts that make up a text through the use of metalanguage as evidence to support your views. The setting is just one of the ways you can address construction in The Erratics, but, as a text so focused on physical environments, it’s a good type of metalanguage to start with.
Famous for producing Justin Bieber and maple syrup, Canada has a similar history to Australia. Canada has an Indigenous population who inhabited the land for thousands of years before British and French expeditions came and colonised the land. In the 1700s, due to various conflicts, France ceded most of its North American colonies while the United Kingdom stayed. Over time the country gained greater autonomy and, like Australia, it is now a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister but recognises the British royal family as its sovereign. Further mirroring Australia, Canada also has a colonial past that it is still reckoning with as recent headlines about the human remains of hundreds of Indigenous people at a residential school reminds us.
Vicki is specifically from Alberta, and the majority of the novel is about her experiences returning there after having moved to Australia (at the start of the memoir she had been estranged from her parents for 18 years). Known for its natural beauty and its nature reserves, Alberta is a part of Western Canada. Alberta is one of only two landlocked provinces in Canada which is interesting considering that Vicki leaves it for a country famous for its beaches and coastal cities.
When annotating the text, highlight the descriptions of the setting. You’ll notice that when Laveau-Harvie describes Alberta or Canada as a whole she presents the country as being dangerous and hostile. An example of this is the blunt statement that the ‘cold will kill you. Nothing personal’. However, Laveau-Harvie does find some solace in the landscape, observing the beauty of the ‘opalescent’ peaks and the comfort in predictable seasons.
Vicki’s Parent’s Home
The first description Laveau-Harvie gives us of her family home is to call it ‘Paradise, [with] twenty acres with a ranch house on a rise, nothing between you and the sky and the distant mountains.’ The idyllic image foregrounds the natural landscape but is then immediately juxtaposed with the description of the home as a ‘time-capsule house sealed against the outside world for a decade’. This description heightens Vicki’s mother and father’s isolation from the outside world and alludes to the hostility of the home that is reaffirmed with the doors that ‘open to no one’. The family home becomes an extended metaphor for Vicki’s parents themselves, with the description of it as a ‘no-go zone’, hinting at the sisters’ estrangement from their parents who have shut them out.
Moreover, the land the house sits on does not produce any crops despite it being such a large expanse of land, heightening the home’s disconnect from the natural world. This detachment from the natural world is furthered by her labelling her parents as ‘transplants from the city’ and contrasting them to locals who ‘still make preserves in the summer’. Vicki’s mother in particular is at odds with nature due to materialism, such as her wardrobes being full of fur coats.
The Erratics + Napi
In the prologue we are introduced to the Okotoks Erratic as being situated in ‘a landscape of uncommon beauty’ with the Erratic itself being something that ‘dominates the landscape, roped off and isolated, the danger it presents to anyone trespassing palpable’. The memoir then immediately shifts to Vicki’s experience in the hospital trying to convince the staff that she is her mother’s daughter, drawing a parallel between the dominating and dangerous landscape to the dominating and dangerous mother. In the memoir, the Erratic is an extended metaphor for the mother with both the land and the mother being described as ‘unsafe’, ‘dominat[ing]’ and a ‘danger’. Moreover, the structural choice of opening the novel with the Erratic makes its presence felt throughout the novel even though it is not mentioned again until the end of the text.
In contrast to the prologue, the epilogue has a feeling of peace and reconciliation as the mother and what she has represented to her family is reconciled with the landscape. This is particularly pertinent as the geographical and spiritual origins of the rock revealed in the epilogue is a story of stability after a rupture. This alludes to the ability of Vicki’s family to heal after the trauma inflicted on them by the mother. The epilogue could also be understood as a reminder of humanity's insignificance in the face of nature and larger forces, as represented by Napi.
While Laveau-Harvie does not directly address Canada's colonial past in her memoir outside of the inclusion of Napi, the colonial presence is felt throughout the memoir through the setting of both Australia and Canada. These settings allude to how living on stolen land means that while individuals - particularly middle-class, white individuals - may not always recognise and address the colonial history of the land they live on, the fact that land was never ceded is still felt.
As discussed before, Canada and Australia are similar as they are both former British colonies that are now constitutional monarchies, so why would Vicki want to move to a place that is similar to where she already lived and experienced trauma?
There are a few potential answers, the first being the geographical distance. There are over 1300kms between Sydney and Alberta and, considering the trauma Vicki and her sister have experienced, it stands to reason that she would want to put distance between her childhood home and her adult life. This leads to the second reason, travelling to ‘Far flung places’ as a method to deal with trauma. While in Canada, Vicki reminisces about the ‘boozed-up Brits on Bondi’ that embodies her life in Australia. The evocative, alliterative image creates a stark contrast between warm and carefree Australia and cold and emotionally taxing Canada, reinforcing how travelling provides individuals with a means to survive their traumatic childhoods and create new lives for themselves.
When writing about setting you do not need to be an expert in geography. As this blog post has shown, to understand Laveau-Harvie’s use of setting in The Erratics you only need to know about two countries, so next time you write a text response, consider using your understanding of setting to show your teacher or examiners that you’ve thought about the text’s construction.
Introduction to William Wordsworth and Romanticism
Key Features of Romantic Poetry
Poetic Analysis Examples
1. Introduction to William Wordsworth and Romanticism
William Wordsworth was a British poet and primary co-founder of the Romantic literary movement. He strongly believed that the poetry of the nineteenth century was much too fast-paced and too mindless to be able to evoke a meaningful message to the reader. Contending that ‘all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling,’ he wished to pioneer Romanticism to create a genre of poetry that reminded the reader of the very essence of humanity.
As such, Wordsworth and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge founded a new style of poetry through their co-written 1798 Lyrical Ballads, a collection of poetry which attempted to unite the human condition with the tranquility of nature.
As a resident of England’s picturesque Lake District, Wordsworth enjoyed becoming one with nature by wandering through the neighbouring hills, moors and lakeside views, while mentally composing poems inspired by its glorious elements.
William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
2. Key Features of Romantic Poetry
The Romantic movement of poetry was founded during the Industrial Revolution, a period in which people were growing farther from the serene comfort of nature and closer towards modern mechanisation and mass manufacturing. As such, a primary characteristic of Romantic poetry is nature, as poets attempted to remind humanity of its meditative respite, and the comfort it could provide in the backdrop of the pollution that accompanied the growing industrialisation of England.
Wordsworth was a pantheist and believed that God was within every aspect of the natural world. In addition to this, he categorised himself as an ardent ‘worshipper of nature’. Thus, much of his poetry explores nature in a sacred and religious sense, presenting goodness and naturalness as synonymous - aptly displaying his belief of nature as a living, divine entity that could only to be ignored at humankind’s peril.
Romantic poetry subdues reason, intellect and the scientific truth in order to place more focus on the ‘truth of the imagination’. As a result of the harsh rigidity and rationality of the Enlightenment era, all human sentiments, from melancholiness to hopefulness, were celebrated by Romantics as important instruments in poetry to remind the common people of sentimentality in a modern and intransigent era.
As Romantics believed that these feelings allowed one to look deeper into one’s self, the theme of powerful emotions constructs the very essence of Romantic poetic poetry. As a result of this, rather than placing much importance on sense or sensibility, much of Wordsworth’s poems scrutinise his own effusion of feelings and the universal truths that these help him discover, speaking as the characteristic Romantic poet occupying a sentimental place of alienation.
Rebellion and Individualism
The Industrial Revolution oversaw the creation of distinct class differences between the extremely wealthy class of businessmen, and financially struggling workers and entrepreneurs. Poets, like all other artists, were forced to become increasingly independent and needed to rely on their unique vision and style in order to succeed in their gradually declining line of work. The Romantics subsequently began to view themselves as heroes who challenged and overcame the social challenges that arose; as champions of independence and self-awareness. As such, Romantic poetry often features characters or symbols of valiant heroism, as the poet acts as a visionary figure in his work, like a prophet telling of poetic self-awareness.
In accordance with their celebration of human emotions, Romantics also became fascinated with the literary conception of ‘the sublime’, a mental state that Classical authors such as Longinus defined as ‘physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual, or artistic greatness’ that is of such magnificence that it cannot be measured.
The Romantics explored these extraordinary experiences in their poetry, describing the power of such sublime experiences on one’s senses, mind and imagination. Wordsworth expressed in his essay that a sublime experience is what occurs when one’s mind attempts to attain ‘something towards which it can make approaches but which it is incapable of attaining’. For example, his biographical poem, The Prelude recounts his ascent of Mount Snowdon and the sublime emotions he experiences as a result of its powerful atmosphere.
Many have viewed Wordsworth’s view of the sublime as the Romantic standard, as his poetry focuses equally on both the alluring and devastating aspects of such sublime experiences. His work focuses on the intertwined pleasure and terror that is generated as a result of such experiences, and how either end of the spectrum is ultimately beautiful and inspiring.
Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife: Come, hear the woodland linnet, How sweet his music! on my life, There's more of wisdom in it.
And hark! how blithe the throstle sings! He, too, is no mean preacher: Come forth into the light of things, Let Nature be your teacher.
This passage, taken from Wordsworth’s Tables Turned; An Evening Scene on the Same Subject, is a primary example of a poem displaying the Romantics’ propensity and reverence for the natural landscape.
The speaker of the poem contrasts the ‘endless strife’ of book-learning to the spontaneous and liberal method of learning through interacting with nature. The description of the ‘woodland [linnet’s]’ song as ‘sweet’ music evokes an image of heavenly bliss associated with the charms hidden within nature. That ‘there’s more of wisdom in’ such nature works in tandem with this, as the speaker asserts that the natural landscape is able to teach a lesson of a magnificence incomparable to the monotony of the ‘dull’ studying thorough book-learning.
The speaker’s evocation of ‘blithe’ emotions through sound is continued in the second stanza, in which ‘the throstle’ delivers another divine ‘song’ in an attempt to entice the reader. The speaker furthers his advocation for natural learning through a condemnation of route learning, as he attacks teachers of such as ‘mean preachers’. The directly following use of a pun emphasises this contrast, as the ‘light of things’ symbolises both the enlightenment that will accompany nature’s teaching, as well as the literal ‘light’ of nature underneath the sun.
The final line of the passage summarises the speaker’s persuasion aptly, as the phrase, ‘let nature be your teacher’, rings similar to a passage which can be found in the Bible; the speaker thus implies that the natural world is the all-superior entity and source of knowledge that one should take lessons from.
The rhyme and the rhythmic beat of the poem give it a sound comparable to a nursery-rhyme. This works in tandem with the Romantic viewpoint that great poetic language should be simple, accessible and conversational; as understandable to the common people as a nursery rhyme is to a child. This similarity also works in accordance with the authorial message of the poem, that nature should be a universal ‘teacher’, as nursery rhymes are often employed as enjoyable sing-songs that educate children on a moral level. As such, Wordsworth here strengthens his viewpoint through his poetic words; that nature should be a mentor to all.
Example Passage 2
For thou art with me here upon the banks Of this fair river; thou my dearest Friend, My dear, dear Friend; and in thy voice I catch The language of my former heart, and read My former pleasures in the shooting lights Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while May I behold in thee what I was once, My dear, dear Sister! and this prayer I make, Knowing that Nature never did betray The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege, Through all the years of this our life, to lead From joy to joy… Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; And let the misty mountain-winds be free To blow against thee: and, in after years, When these wild ecstasies shall be matured Into a sober pleasure; when thy mind Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms, Thy memory be as a dwelling-place For all sweet sounds and harmonies; oh! then, If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief, Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts Of tender joy wilt thou remember me, And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance— If I should be where I no more can hear Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams Of past existence—wilt thou then forget That on the banks of this delightful stream We stood together; and that I, so long A worshipper of Nature, hither came Unwearied in that service: rather say With warmer love—oh! with far deeper zeal Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget, That after many wanderings, many years Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs, And this green pastoral landscape, were to me More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!
This passage is taken from the final section from Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, a critical work in Wordsworth’s poetic career. Tracing the growth of his mind in different periods of time, the poem is a condensed, spiritual autobiography of Wordsworth himself as it views his younger self from the perspective of his older self, weighing the sense of ‘loss’ suffered against the belief that the years have brought him ‘abundant recompense’.
After recalling his experiences with nature over his formative and adult years, the speaker now addresses his younger sister Dorothy, as he gives her heartfelt advice about what he has learnt. Here, Dorothy becomes a ghost of his former self, as he hears ‘the language of his former heart’ when she speaks and perceives his ‘former pleasure’ in the ‘soothing lights of [her] wild eyes’.
The speaker depicts his loyalty to nature and its reflective loyalty to him, by the expression that ‘nature never did betray [his] heart’ that loves Dorothy, and this is the reason they have been living from ‘joy to joy’, lending nature a role of salvation.
The speaker then directly addresses the moon as a kind of separate entity, in order to ask it to bless his sister by shining on her ‘solitary walk’, so that when she is an adult her mind may become a ‘mansion for all lovely forms’. This is an ode to the harshness of the society at the time, in which the privileged businessmen and factory owners possessed a monopoly over British wealth, and accompanying prejudices clouded social judgement. As such, the speaker expresses his desires for his beloved sister to be exempt from such hardship that he was once subjected to, so that she can enjoy ‘sweet sounds and memories’ without experiencing the vexations of an unrelenting human society.
The conclusion of the poem is cyclic, as it takes the speaker back to the ‘green pastoral landscape’ of the beginning of his meditations. This symbolises the omnipresent timelessness of nature. As the speaker muses upon his ‘past existence’, he wishes to convey his own reverence for nature to his beloved sister, as he expresses that she will not forget the ‘steep woods and lofty cliffs’ upon which he first understood and respected nature.
The language utilised in this poem is lucid and natural, characteristic of Romantic poetry. The simplicity of the words chosen by Wordsworth effectively communicate the honesty of his own emotions towards nature. The elevated blank verse structure furthers this simplicity, as its familiar and easy tone is like that of a comfortable heartbeat or pulse that runs throughout one’s body in a serene state of mind.
Ultimately, the unconstrained and liberating tone of the poem, in accordance with its free blank verse structure emphasises Wordsworth’s belief that nature is within our very selves. Just as the poem runs smoothly and continuously, akin to a human pulse, Wordsworth suggests that nature too runs within everyone as an incessant heartbeat, necessary in order to experience a ‘warmer’ and ‘holier’ love for this universe.
Text Response is seen, often, as ‘bipolar’: weeks of inactivity followed by sharp spikes of panic as you churn out 20,000 words in six days. If not, students fall for the “quantity=quality” trap, pumping out essay after essay as their one form of study.
Don’t get me wrong. Diligence is key. But here’s what many miss: Essays are the END PRODUCT, not the starting point. To begin, foundations are required:
Step 1: Deliberate Reading
Remember: the better and sooner you engage with your text, the easier to write on it. So. Even when first reading, have a pen in hand! At this stage, nothing fancy is needed ---annotate what you can. Circle, highlight and underline anything that catches your attention.
Afterwards, a helpful tip is the “21 words” exercise, which forces you to summarise the text’s messages as early prep for topic sentence construction.
“Macbeth, a dark, brooding tragedy, explores the corruptive effects of extreme ambition through the moral decay of a great man.” (21)
“Whilst seemingly about human flaw, Macbeth declares that all mortals are in fact vulnerable to supernatural forces beyond their control.” (21)
LESSON LEARNT: First impressions matter. The author ALWAYS seeks to make readers feel and think a certain way. Even before you write, you should be tapping into these currents as best you can. All early thinking, guaranteed, will turn into priceless essay ammunition because you’ve given time for your thoughts to develop and mature.
Step 2: Understanding Context
VCE English involves the study of some sophisticated literature. Authors/filmmaker have used the written word to comment on past and present society. For a high score, then, you too must understand these contexts.
---Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1950s film All About Eve: a satirical jab at the post-war ideal of a traditional nuclear family ---Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites: critiquing the patriarchy of 19th century Iceland
Step 3: Note taking
Now we’ve gained some understanding of the text, time for rigorous and more detailed analysis. There are three tiers involved.
1. Chapter summaries
Basically a timeline of significant moments: what happens and what is said. Note the STRUCTURE of the text: is it chronological or non-linear? Is it a circular narrative? Why is this structure employed, and what is its literary function for the broader story?
2. Event significance
This is where we begin to understand not only WHAT HAPPENS and WHAT IS SAID, but WHY. Go back to each chapter and write down the significance of each defining moment. What does it show about a character or theme? Does it reveal an author’s viewpoint on a certain idea?
Put these thoughts into “essay” sentences. This way, you are constantly practicing how to ANALYSE complex ideas. Come SAC or exam time, you will have already honed your written expression to a far more sophisticated level and what’s more, increased your familiarity with RELEVANT CONCEPTS. This approach is far more efficient than starting off by writing essays on random topic questions. Build up the knowledge base first!
Now, it’s time to elevate your analysis to the divine by understanding the text’s CONSTRUCTION: HOW significant events, significant people are portrayed, and what it all means. Go back to each chapter and look for compelling language/filmic devices, including its impact:
Metaphor Juxtaposition Imagery Sentence length Setting Word choices Intertextual references Symbolism/motifs Camera angles Diegetic/non-diegetic sound
Step 4: Themes and Characters
After close reading and closer analysis, we come to the last stage: bringing all the elements together by zooming BACK OUT FOR A BIG PICTURE VIEW OF THE TEXT: its themes and underlying ideas, its central characters, and the lasting messages conveyed as a result.
Notes on Themes
By now, a ‘theme’ no longer has to be a one word affair like in our younger years: “identity” “friendship”, “tragedy”, “ambition”, “evil” etc. Rather, a theme is closely linked to the text’s views and values: put simply, it can express opinion.
E.g. “The struggle for personal identity”
“The unbreakable bonds of childhood friendship”
“The vulnerability of all ordinary men to extraordinary tragedy”
“The harms of excessive ambition”
“The pervasiveness of evil”
Once you’ve identified the themes, use the notes you’ve made on context, plot, significant events and language, to help support your interpretation.
Notes on characters
Using the previous evidence you’ve gathered, you can now also make detailed and insightful character studies. Obviously, a focus on their defining traits, relationships and flaws is important.
However, in Year 12, what is more crucial is understanding what the character represents. After all, an author will never craft someone out of thin air. Just like a theme, a character is used as a vehicle to express opinions on the nature of society and humans in general.
Now you’ve finished the four steps. Using your understanding of 1) big ideas and 2) close evidence, you’re ready to start writing!
Of course, along the way, there are a few extra tricks one can deploy.
Read academic/critical/high scoring essays
Exposing yourself to the widest possible range of academic literature---whether it be your friend’s 20/20 essay or a New York Times review on the text----is a sure fire way to juice up vocab.
Keep reading the text
Whenever you’ve got spare time, open up the book or film you’re studying and refresh your memory! This way, you’ll really internalise what you’re studying. Quote learning will be easier, you’ll form a genuine attachment to the characters… overall, the insights will flow all the faster. To learn more about studying for Text Response, read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Whether you’re analysing at one article or two, there are plenty of things you can write about. In this, we’ll look at the structure of articles, the placement of different arguments and rebuttals, and other things you can use to nail your essay!
There are four main parts of an article:
What: The arguments that support the contention
When: Their placement in the article
How: The language techniques used to support them
Why: The overall effect on the reader
Try to address all these elements of the article in your essay, as it’ll ensure you’re not leaving anything out.
The arguments an author uses can usually fall into one of three categories - ethos, pathos, or logos.
Ethos arguments are about credibility, for example, using quotes from credible sources or writing about a personal anecdote.
Pathos arguments target the emotion of the reader. Anything that might make them feel happy, angry, sad, distressed and more can be classified as this kind - for example, an argument about patriotism when discussing the date of Australia Day.
Logos arguments aim to address the intellectual aspects of the issue, and will often have statistics or logic backing them up.
It’s important to mention the different arguments used in the article and it can be useful to take note of the category you think they fit into best. It’s also helpful to mention the interplay between these elements.
Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them.
If an author places their rebuttal at the beginning of the article, it can set up the audience to more readily accept their following opinions, and separates them from contrasting views from the get go. You can see this in the 2013 VCAA exam, where the author argues against opposing views early on in their article. In it, the author references the opposition directly as they say ‘some people who objected to the proposed garden seem to think that the idea comes from a radical group of environmentalists’, and rebut this point by proposing that ‘there’s nothing extreme about us’.
The placement of a rebuttal towards the end of the article can have the effect of the author confirming that their opinion is correct by demonstrating why opposing opinions are not, and can give a sense of finality to the article. It’s sometimes used when the author’s contention is a little controversial, as it’s less aggressive than a rebuttal placed at the beginning.
In some articles, the author won’t include a straightforward rebuttal at all. This can imply that their opinion, and theirs alone, is correct and must be supported - as it’s the only opinion that exists. Check out the 2018 VCAA exam for an example of this kind of article.
An author’s contention is the main claim they’re trying to prove throughout their article.
Placing their contention at the beginning is the most direct method, and has the effect of positioning the reader to the author’s beliefs from the outset.
A contention placed at the end of an article can have the effect of seeming like a valid, logical conclusion to a well-thought through discussion. To see this in effect, you can look at the 2014 VCAA exam, where the article leads up to the author’s final contention that the governments needs to ‘invest in the next generation of technology’.
The contention can also be repeated throughout the article. The author may have chosen to present it in this way in order to continue reiterating their main point in the audience’s minds, aligning them to their views. An article that uses this technique is on the 2016 VCAA exam, as the author repeats multiple times that a ‘giant attraction’ must be built to encourage visitors and put the town ‘on the tourist map’.
The different ways an author orders their arguments is also something worth analysing.
A ‘weaker’ point might be one that the author doesn’t spend much time discussing, or that isn’t backed up with a lot of evidence. In comparison, a ‘stronger’ argument will generally have supporting statistics or quotes, and may be discussed in detail by the author.
If an author starts with their strongest point and ends with their weakest, they may be attempting to sway the reader’s opinions to align with their own from the beginning so that the audience is more likely to accept their weaker points later on. Take a look at the 2017 VCAA exam to see this kind of technique, as the author’s arguments - that ‘superfluous packaging’ will cause irreversible environmental damage, that the changes they want to implement are easy, and that students should prepare their own snacks rather than have takeaway - get less developed as the article continues.
On the other hand, ending with their strongest point can give the piece a sense of completion, and leave the reader with the overall impression that the article was strong and persuasive.
Want to learn more about these different article components and see how different A+ essays incorporate these elements? If so, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook for all of this and more!
This refers to the different persuasive language techniques used in the article and their effect on the reader.
The main thing to remember is that the study design has changed from Language Analysis to Analysing Argument. This means you’ll need to focus on the language in relation to the argument - such as how it supports the author’s contention - rather than on the language itself.
If you’re after some more resources, you can look at some Quick Tips or this video:
There are many different ways you can describe what the author is trying to do through their article, but they all come down to one thing - persuasion, that is, the writer of the article is trying to get their audience to agree with them. Linking different arguments, their placement and the language that supports them to the overall authorial intent of the article is a great way to enhance your essay.
On the Waterfront 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.
On the Waterfront is a part drama, part gangster film that’s authentic and powerful in its approach. Set on New York’s oppressive waterfront docks, longshoremen are forced to play a game where the odds are always stacked against them. The film approaches concepts such as trade unionism, corruption, and racketeering, and is a story that stitches together other stories. As discussed later, Kazan used Terry Malloy as a representation for his own real-life struggles against the powers above. The film is also a depiction of the hardships of life on the docks in 1940s America.
Inspired by real-life incidents, Kazan has created a world where workers live under the iron fist of corrupt trade union bosses. Let’s take a deeper dive into what this world looks like and the events that form the basis of the film.
Johnny Friendly’s maintenance of power involves controlling several aspects on the waterfront – from the operations to the stevedores. Firstly, threats are repeatedly made against all the longshoremen in an effort to ensure that if anyone dares to act out against Friendly, they are sure to meet dire consequences. Their fear is reinforced through the various murders committed by the gang, most of which are the deaths another longshoremen, thus warning the workers that any one of them may be next. Although Friendly is clearly behind the homicides, the longshoremen and their families are unwilling to speak to the authorities, as they know full well that they would be risking their lives. This demonstrates their lack of protection and vulnerability in the hands of the union leader, which is exactly what he has aimed to establish.
Faith is a strong underlying theme set forth by Father Barry and the church. The priest’s constant remainder of what is right and wrong urges the men to step outside Friendy’s grasp and begin to think about themselves. When Father Barry conducts the congregation, the interruption caused by the mob falters the longshoremen’s hopes, since Friendly’s power can even reach as far as a church, where people are supposed to be ‘safe’. To do what is morally correct is a simple concept but one that is difficult for the longshoremen to embrace. It is only when they begin to have faith in their actions that things begin to change on the waterfront.
The film poses the question, what is true loyalty? Friendly pretends to be looking after the longshoremen by sending out loans and offering them better work positions, for example, Terry on the loft. However, in reality Friendly uses this action to manipulate the men to his advantage. It is a tactic to ensure that the longshoremen believe that they in return, have to support Friendly. An additional tactic of Friendly’s manipulation is shown though the infiltration of the longshoremen’s minds. The words ‘rat’ and ‘stool’ prevent the men from speaking out since they believe that they will betray one another. Terry believes that he will ‘rat’ on his friends when in fact, he is simply telling the truth. He ultimately learns that instead of abiding by Friendly, he needs to be loyal to himself, and this eventually saves himself and the other longshoremen from the clutches of the union leader. The name ‘Friendly’ is ironic since he is hardly a ‘friend’ but a ‘nemesis’ of all those who reside on the waterfront.
Throughout Terry’s personal journey, it is clear that he is uncertain about his feelings and thoughts in regards to various aspects of his life, from his low-ranking position as a stevedore, Joey’s death and Friendly’s involvement, the longshoremen’s lack of rights, to Edie’s unique perspective. His initial ambivalence after Joey’s death is highlighted through the thick mist that covers the city and consequently obscures the people’s vision. At the end of the film when he is finally resolute on overthrowing Friendly, the omnipresent fog that sweeps over Hoboken suddenly disappears, reflecting that his mind has now ‘cleared up’ or that he has an ‘unclouded vision’. His behaviour shifts from an introverted person who appears uncomfortable in his own skin as he refuses to look people eye-to-eye and constantly chews gum, to someone who possesses a confident stance, standing tall and proud.
On the Waterfront emphasises that it is never too late to redeem oneself. The religious imagery of Joey, Dugan and Charley ascending to heaven demonstrate that although they had spent much of their life turning a blind eye to the indiscretions of Friendly and his men, their actions at the very end of their lifespan allowed them to compensate for their sins.
Bird symbolism is heavily embedded throughout On the Waterfront. The longshoremen represent pigeons, as they are docile and delicate in the hands of Friendly, who is portrayed as the ‘hawk’ who swoops above at them, keeping his watchful eyes on each and every pigeon in case they misbehave. Kazan often films Terry positioned behind Joey’s Coop fence, therefore characterising Terry as a pigeon stuck in a cage, as if bound by Friendly into a small world that he cannot escape. When the longshoremen await work on the docks, the recurrent high-angle shots peer down at them, depicting them as a flock of birds, rummaging around. Much like pigeons, they compete with one another when ‘pecking’ at the tabs that Big Mac throws at them, as if the tabs are like ‘seeds’.
Instead of being ‘D and D’, those who ‘sing’ or in other words, speak out against Friendly are labeled ‘canaries’, since these birds are most notably recognised for their singing behaviour. Canaries were once used as a barometer for air quality down in mines. If there were toxic gases in the mines, this would subsequently lead to the canary’s death as this type of bird is extremely sensitive to air borne pollutants. Thus, this would be an indication for miners of whether or not it was safe to work in the pit. The bird’s self-sacrifice parallels that of Joey and Dugan, who tried their best to help out the other longshoremen, yet both met their deaths after ‘singing’ out against Johnny Friendly.
Originally named The Hook but eventually changed to On the Waterfront, the sharp tool is an important representative of Friendly’s power over the men. All the longshoremen carry silver hooks on their shoulders as part of their work on the docks, but from another view, it is as though Friendly has ‘hooked’ onto the men – and thus, they cannot escape the union leader. Like many other words used in the film, it is a pun, as ‘hook’ is also a term used in boxing, meaning a short swinging punch with the elbow bent.
Hudson River and New York City
The river is always subtly lurking in the background of several scenes throughout the film. It acts as a metaphorical barrier that prevents the men from escaping Friendly’s grasp as they appear to be ‘trapped’ on the Hoboken docks. The ever-present fog is a veil that manages to conceal Manhattan on the other side of the river. Since the city’s silhouette barely peeps through, it portrays a sense of mystery and unknown to the stevedores who can seemingly never leave Hoboken. At the end of the film however, when Friendly no longer exerts any control over the men, the shot of the Hudson River and the city on the other side is crystal clear. The outlines of the skyscrapers, which were once unidentifiable, are now easy to recognise, demonstrating that the men are free, as their vision is no longer clouded by Friendly.
Gloves have significant meaning in two key scenes in On the Waterfront. Most notably, Edie’s white glove symbolises a ‘good’ world, a place that is peaceful and pure. It reflects Edie’s personality as she conducts herself virtuously and with amiability. When Terry wears one of her gloves, it demonstrates that he is ‘trying on’ her perspective of life, where ‘everybody [should] care about everybody else’. On the other hand, when Charley and Terry share an intimate conversation in the taxi, Charley’s black gloves represent Friendly’s ‘evil’ world. Charley begins to feel uncomfortable in his clothing and removes a glove when he confronts the truth about being solely responsible for coercing Terry into forfeiting his career and subsequently becoming just another longshoremen. His removal of the glove depicts the notion that Charley will no longer be manipulated and controlled by Friendly, and is essentially, taking a step out of Friendly’s oppressive world.
On the surface, the windbreaker is simply a jacket that is passed amongst the longshoremen, in particular, from Joey to Dugan to Terry. The sharing of the jacket represents camaraderie and brotherhood, since the men have little money to spend on buying warm clothes and as a result, most of their clothing has been worn through. This is a stark comparison with the mob, who are proud owners of long thick coats with scarves, hats and gloves to protect them from the Hoboken bitter cold weather. Symbolically, the jacket motivates the three men stand up to Friendly. Firstly, Joey talks to the Crime Commission yet before he is able to do any damage to the mob, he is found dead. As a result, his jacket is passed to Dugan, who later on musters the courage to continue in Joey’s shoes and reveal thirty-nine pages worth of notes about Friendly’s operations to the Crime Commission. Unfortunately, Friendly manages to successfully silence Dugan. The windbreaker is ultimately passed to Terry who testifies in court and defeats Friendly once and for all. The jacket demonstrates that even with murder, the truth cannot be silenced.
Joey's Death (Part 1)
"Maybe he could sing but he couldn’t fly."
"I kept telling him, "Don’t say nothing. Keep quiet, you’ll live longer.""
‘I’ve been on the docks all my life boy, and there’s one thing I learned. You don’t ask no questions, you don’t answer no questions unless you want to wind up like that."
"Did you ever hear of a saint hiding in a church?"
"We got the fattest piers in the fattest harbour in the world."
Joey’s Coop (Part 2)
"They sure got it made. Eating, sleeping, flying around like crazy, raising gobs of squabs."
"Be careful. Don’t spill no water on the floor. I don’t want them to catch a cold."
"Johnny Friendly the “great labour worker.""
"Why don’t you keep that big mouth of yours shut."
"I’m poorer now than when I started."
Terry and Edie (Part 3)
"Your brother was a saint, the only one who ever tried to get me compensation."
"You don’t buy me. You’re still a bum."
"Who’s calling me a bum?"
"Don’t pay no attention to him. He’s drunk, he’s falling down. Everything. He’s just a juicehead that hands around the neighbourhood. Don’t pay no attention."
"It isn’t just brains. It’s how you use them."
Terry’s Confession (Part 4)
"Favour, who am I kidding? It’s “do it or else.”’
"It’s like carrying a monkey on my back."
"Question of “who rides who.”’
"If I spill, my life ain’t worth a nickel."
"And how much is your soul worth if you don’t?"
Sample Essay Topics
1. Edie is depicted as an angel that saves Terry. To what extent do you agree?
2. On the Waterfront portrays a world where people are only successful through money and violence.
3. We are able to understand the moral struggles of the characters through the cinematic devices used in On the Waterfront.
4. On the Waterfront demonstrates that silence cannot be achieved through murder.
5. The actions of only a few individuals can result in a revolution. Discuss.
Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our On the Waterfront Study Guideto practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
Theme-Based Essay Prompt: On the Waterfront shows that power and money can destroy a man’s soul.
Step 1: Analyse
This essay prompt is an example of a theme-based prompt. It specifies ‘power’, ‘money’, and ‘soul’ as ideas for you to consider. When faced with a theme prompt, I find it most helpful to brainstorm characters and author’s views that are relevant to the given themes, as well as considering more relevant themes that may not have been mentioned in the prompt itself.
Here are some of my thoughts scribbled down:
We cannot discuss power without also touching on redemption, as those that subscribe to power corruption are morally defeated, whereas the characters that reject power and money are somewhat martyred. Faith is also important: what happens to those who place faith in money and power versus those with religious faith?
The prompt is asking us to show (and essentially prove) the point that power and money are destructive.
How are power and money intertwined?
Souls are ambiguous and intangible, although in this film it can be interpreted as the character’s moral code and how the film validates those morals.
A soul destroyed is one that has been chipped away, whittled down and eventually broken to pieces. Power doesn’t wear a soul down in an instant, it’s progressive.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Power & money
In capitalism, money is a tangible representation of power. Money talks. Having lots of it seemingly makes you powerful over those that don’t.
Friendly controls the docks because he has the money (and the power) to do so.
Chasing money (for survival, status or ego) can lead a man to do unethical and problematic things.
Those that chase power & money
Charley, Friendly and the rest of the mobsters. They’re faithless.
Terry to a certain point. His loyalty is “bought” and “owned”.
Charley follows Friendly wholeheartedly which results in his own bitter end.
Friendly embodies power & money and ends up beaten and alone.
Mr. Upstairs turns on Friendly in an instant.
By contrast, those that reject power & money
Edie, Father Barry
Dugan and Joey, both die for their beliefs. The film validates their actions by treating them as martyrs throughout.
Dugan’s body ascending with Father Barry after he dies under whiskey barrels
Joey’s jacket being handed down from one heroic dockworker to another
Terry after a certain point
Step 3: Create a Plan
Contention:On the Waterfront uses its characters to show that having faith in power and money can destroy a man’s soul, whereas having faith in the greater good can lead to redemption.
P1: Having faith in power & money destroys Johnny Friendly and Charley.
P2: Rejecting power & money and having faith in the good of people is rewarded (Dugan, Joey, Edie, Father Barry, for example).
P3: Terry sits in between these two notions for most of the film. His soul is redeemed when he rejects power & money and chooses to do the right thing.
As you can see, in this structure, each paragraph grapples with the theme in a way that links each character and the film’s treatment of them.
If you find this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our On the Waterfront Study Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.
As you all know, English subjects are integral to VCE studies, since it is compulsory that at least all four units of an English subject be done in order for you to reach that ATAR goal at the end of the VCE tunnel. Given the richness in cultural backgrounds of VCE students cohort, EAL is designed to mend the linguistic gaps between local students and those from non-English speaking backgrounds. Students eligible to complete EAL are those who have no more than 7 years residency in a predominately English-speaking country AND no more than 7 years having English as their main language of instructions. Therefore, it is generally considered ‘easier’ than mainstream English. So how exactly is this subject easier, or is this just some unproven prejudice? Let’s find out through my quick comparison between the two!
According to the study design published by VCAA, both these English subjects ‘[contribute] to the development of literate individuals capable of critical and creative thinking, aesthetic appreciation and creativity…’ It might sound complex, but this basically just means that these subjects enable us to enhance our understanding and usage of the English language, which, in my opinion, serves to support our daily English communication. This purpose holds even greater significance to students from non-English speaking backgrounds, as those skills offered by English subjects are essential to their life in Australia. That’s said, EAL can be different from mainstream English in the sense that it also assists students whose mother tongue is not English in adapting to the predominately English-speaking community, via developing their language skills.
Both EAL and English assess students on multiple areas, including: Text response, Creative writing, Argument Analysis, Compare and Contrast, Presenting Argument. The only difference is in Unit 3, where EAL students are required to do a Listening task, whereas mainstream students study an additional text. Shown below is Unit 3 coursework for these two subjects (from the VCAA English/EAL study design):
We can see that there is an extra outcome for Unit 3 EAL, which is ‘Comprehension of a spoken text’. This is where you will listen to two texts (twice each), take quick notes and fill in short-answers. Listening, therefore, is viewed by many as the least difficult compared to other tasks, because all you need to do is hear people speak English – something students do everyday. Yet it is absolutely not easy at all to attain a perfect score on this component! You have to pick up the right information from bunches of words, structure your response well so that the examiner understands what you try to convey, pay attention to paralinguistic elements (tone, volume, pitch…), etc. All of these skills can never be acquired without persistent practice.
In place of Listening component, mainstream English students get to do creative response to a different text. This is why Year 12 English students study a total of 4 texts (selected from VCAA text list), whereas it’s only 3 for EAL students.
VCAA has also noted down differences in the two subjects’ tasks conditions, as shown below:
Let’s have a look at another table:
Overall, they have similar components, except for the orange-shaded cells. Though EAL students do have a SAC on comparative analysis, this area is not assessed in their exam but replaced by the Listening task. Section C often has similar texts in both exams, with some modifications in language expression.
Both exams are to be done in 3 hours, non-stop! You’ll get quite weary I’m sure, but trust me, it will be followed by a sense of accomplishment to see all your hard work paid off on the exam papers!
Is EAL really easier?
So yep, EAL students get to write fewer essays and have lower word limit than mainstream students. But should we say that it’s easier? My personal opinion is: NO. The reason being learning a language that is not your mother-tongue is really never easy. Australian students doing VCE French will definitely agree with me! Given a large number of EAL students is international students, this subject can be a challenge to them. Yes, Listening might be easier than comparing texts, but taking super quick notes, picking the correct piece of info, paying attention to the way the speech is delivered, watching out for traps… are not that simple! I believe that no matter what subject you do, whether it be EAL or English or Maths… it only gets ‘easier’ after a period of constant effort and hard work.
For those eligible for both English and EAL, you might be tempted to go for EAL, but my advice is to consult available resources (the study design, this blog, teachers, peers…) before making a decision so as to figure out which style of learning best suits you. After all, you’ll learn most where you enjoy the most.
The Great Gatsby 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.
Call it the greatest American novel or ultimate story of unrequited romance—The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly a stunning snapshot of one of the most American decades that America has ever seen. The 1920s saw significant economic growth after WWI, and what’s more American than material excess, wealth, and prosperity? The stock market was going off, businesses were booming, and people were having a great time.
Well, not everybody—and on the flipside, what’s more American than socio-economic inequality or the ever-quixotic American Dream?
In this blog, we’ll go through the novel in this context, examine some of its key themes, and also have a think about the critiques it raises about American society. We’ll also go through an essay prompt that ties some of these things together.
Life in the Roaring Twenties
This snapshot from the 2013 film adaptation actually tells us a lot about the 1920s. On the one hand, social and cultural norms were shifting—men no longer sported beards, and women were dressing more androgynously and provocatively. On the other hand, the modern, American economy was emerging—people began buying costly consumer goods (like cars, appliances, telephones etc.) using credit rather than cash. This meant that average American families were able to get these things for the first time, while more prosperous families were able to live in extreme excess.
In Fitzgerald’s novel, the Buchanans are one such family. Tom and his wife Daisy have belonged to the 1% for generations, and the 1920s saw them cement their wealth and status. At the same time, the booming economy meant that others (like the narrator Nick) were relocating to cities in pursuit of wealth, and (like Gatsby) making significant financial inroads themselves.
The Great Gatsby traces how the differences between these characters can be destructive even if they’re all wealthy. Add a drop of Gatsby’s unrequited love for Daisy, and you have a story that ultimately examines how far people go for romance, and what money simply can’t buy.
The answer to that isn’t so obvious though. Yes, money can’t buy love, but it also can’t buy a lot of other things associated with the lifestyle and the values of established wealth. We’ll get into some of this now.
Wealth and class
Fitzgerald explores tensions between three socio-economic classes—the establishment, the ‘nouveau riche’ and the working class.
Tom and Daisy belong to the ‘old money’ establishment, where wealth is generational and inherited. This means they were born into already wealthy families, which affects their upbringing and ultimately defines them, from the way they speak (Tom’s “paternal contempt” and Daisy’s voice, “full of money”) to their major life decisions (including marriage, symbolised through the “string of pearls” he buys for her—which, fun fact, is estimated to be worth millions of dollars today). It also affects their values, as we’ll see in the following section. For now, consider this image of their home (and those ponies on the left, which they also own), described as follows:
“The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for [400 metres], jumping over sun-dials and brick walls and burning gardens—finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.”
Nick Carraway also comes from a similar (though not as extravagant) background—his family had been rich by Midwestern standards for “three generations” before he came to New York.
Conversely, Gatsby belongs to the ‘nouveau riche’, or new money. Unlike the Buchanans, Gatsby was born into a poor family, only coming to wealth in the 1920s boom. Specifically, he inherited money from Dan Cody after running away from home at 17.
Although they are all rich, there are significant cultural differences between old and new money. Old money have their own culture of feigned politeness which Gatsby doesn’t quite get. When Tom and the Sloanes invite Nick and Gatsby to supper in chapter six, Gatsby naively accepts, to which Tom would respond behind his back, “Doesn’t he know [Mrs. Sloane] doesn’t want him?” Even though Gatsby is financially their equal, his newfound wealth can’t buy his way into their (nasty, horrible) lifestyle.
Finally, this is contrasted with the working class, particularly George and Myrtle Wilson who we meet in chapter two. They live in a grey “valley of ashes”, the detritus of a prosperous society whose wealth is limited to the 1%. Fitzgerald even calls it a “solemn dumping ground”, suggesting that life is precarious and difficult here. Consider what separates George—“blond, spiritless… and faintly handsome”—from Tom (hint: $$).
Myrtle is described differently, however—she is a “faintly stout” woman with “perceptible vitality”. This may be less of a description of her and more of a commentary on Tom’s sexuality, and what attracts him to her such that he cheats on Daisy with her. Still, Myrtle’s relative poverty is evident in her expressions of desire throughout their meeting—“I want to get one of those dogs,” she says, and Tom just hands her the money.
Ultimately, looking at the novel through the lens of class, we see a society where upward social mobility and making a living for yourself is possible, just not for everybody. Even when you get rich, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll suddenly, seamlessly integrate into the lives of old money.
Morality and values
Added to this story of social stratification is a moral dimension, where Fitzgerald can be a little more critical.
Firstly, old money is portrayed as shallow. Daisy’s marriage to Tom and the Sloanes’ insincerity are elements of this, but another good example is Gatsby’s party guests. Many aren’t actually invited—they invite themselves, and “they came and went without having met Gatsby at all.” Their vacuous relationship to Gatsby is exposed when he dies, and they completely abandon him. Klipspringer, “the boarder”, basically lived in Gatsby’s house, and even then he still wouldn’t come to the funeral, only calling up to get a “pair of shoes” back.
The rich are also depicted as cruel and inconsiderate, insulated from repercussions by their wealth. Nick’s description of Tom’s “cruel body” is repeatedly realised, as he breaks Myrtle’s nose in chapter two and condescends Gatsby with “magnanimous scorn” in chapter seven. After Myrtle dies, Nick spots the Buchanans “conspiring” and describes them as “smash[ing] up things and creatures and then retreat[ing] back into their money or their vast carelessness”—he sees them as fundamentally selfish.
Gatsby is portrayed more sympathetically though, which may come from his humble upbringing and his desire to be liked. This is probably the key question of the novel—is he a hero, or a villain? The moral of the story, or a warning? Consumed by love, or corrupted by wealth?
I’m going to leave most of those for the next section, but I’ll finish here with one last snippet: Lucille, a guest at his parties, tears her dress and Gatsby immediately sends her a “new evening gown”. Weird flex, but at least he’s being selfless…
That said, a major part of Gatsby’s character is his dishonesty, which complicates his moral identity.
For starters, he fabricates a new identity and deals in shady business just to reignite his five-year-old romance with Daisy. We see this through the emergence of Meyer Wolfsheim, with whom he has unclear business “gonnegtions”, and the resultant wealth he now enjoys.
In chapter three, Owl Eyes describes Gatsby as a “regular Belasco”, comparing him to a film director who was well-known for the realism of his sets. This is a really lucid analysis of Gatsby, who is in many ways just like a film director constructing a whole fantasy world.
It’s also unclear if he loves Daisy for who she is, or just the idea of Daisy and the wealth she represents. Indeed, he doesn’t seem to treat her as a person, but more like something that he can pursue (like wealth). This is a good read, so I won’t really get into it here—just consider how much things have changed since Gatsby first met Daisy (like her marriage and her children), and how Gatsby ignores the way her life has changed in favour of his still, stationary memory of who she used to be.
Love, desire and hope
All of this makes it tricky to distil what the novel’s message actually is.
Is it that Gatsby is a good person, especially cast against the corrupt old money?
This analysis isn’t wrong, and it actually works well with a lot of textual evidence. Where Nick resents the Buchanans, he feels sympathy for Gatsby. He explicitly says, “they’re a rotten crowd…you’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” Maybe love was an honourable goal compared to money, which ostensibly makes you “cruel” and “careless”.
I wouldn’t say he was cruel, but this reading is complicated by how he can be careless, choosing not to care about Daisy’s agency, and letting his desires overtake these considerations.
Is it that Gatsby and his desire for Daisy were corrupted by wealth despite his good intentions?
There’s also evidence to suggest wealth corrupts—Nick describes it as “foul dust” that “preyed” on Gatsby, eroding his good character and leaving behind someone who resembles the vacuous elite. Although love might’ve been an honourable goal, it got diluted by money.
Gatsby’s paradigm for understanding the world becomes driven by materialism, and he objectifies Daisy. He starts trying to buy something that he originally didn’t need to buy—Daisy’s love. She certainly didn’t fall in love with this man who owned a mansion and a closet full of “beautiful shirts.” Thus, Gatsby is a sympathetic product of a system that was always stacked against him (a poor boy from North Dakota). Capitalism, right?
Is it that capitalist America provides nothing for people to pursue except for wealth, and therefore little reason for people to feel hope?
Past the basics: structural economic tension and the doomed American Dream
Now we want to start thinking beyond the characters (e.g. if Gatsby is a good person or not) and also factor in their social, historical, political and economic context (e.g. if he was doomed to begin with by a society driven by money). This subheading does sound a bit much, but we’ll break it down here.
A key part of this novel is the American Dream, the idea that America is a land of freedom and equal opportunity, that anyone can ‘make it’ if they truly try. Value is placed on upward social mobility (moving up from a working-class background) and economic prosperity (making $$), which defined much of the Roaring 20s…
For many others, there was significant tension between these lofty values and their lived reality of life on the ground. As much as society around them was prospering, they just couldn’t get a piece of the pie, and this is what makes it structural—as hard as George Wilson might work, he just can’t get himself out of the Valley of Ashes and into wealth. Indeed, you can’t achieve the Dream without cheating (as Gatsby did).
So, there’s this tension, this irreconcilable gap between economic goals and actual means. Through this lens, the tragedy of The Great Gatsby multiplies. It’s no longer just about someone who can’t buy love with money—it’s about how nobody’s dreams are really attainable. Not everyone can get money, and money can only get you so far. Everyone is stuck, and the American Dream is basically just a myth.
Thus, the novel could be interpreted as a takedown of capitalist America, which convinced people like Gatsby that the answer to everything was money, and he bolted after the “green light” allure of cold, hard cash only to find out that it wasn’t enough, that it wasn’t the answer in the end. (.
Consider what kind of message that sends to people like the Wilsons—if money can’t actually buy happiness, what good is it really to chase it? And remember that Gatsby had to cheat to get rich in the first place.
Is [the novel’s message] that capitalist America provides nothing for people to pursue except for wealth, and therefore little reason for people to feel hope?
You tell me.
Prompt: what does Fitzgerald suggest about social stratification in the 1920s?
Let’s try applying this to a prompt. I’ll italicise the key points that have been brought up throughout this post.
Firstly, social stratification clearly divided society along economic lines. This could be paragraph one, exploring how class separated the Buchanans and Wilsons of the world, and how their lifestyles were so completely different even though they all lived in the prosperity of the Roaring 20s. George Wilson was “worn-out” from work, but he still couldn’t generate upward social mobility for his family, stuck in the Valley of Ashes. Conversely, Tom Buchanan is born into a rich family with his beach-facing mansion and polo ponies. Colour is an important symbol here—the Valley is grey, while East Egg is filled with colour (a green light here, a “blue coupe” there…).
The next paragraph might look at the cultural dimension, exploring how you just can’t buy a way of life. This might involve analysing Gatsby’s wealth as deluding him into thinking he can “repeat the past” by buying into the life(style) of old money. This is where Fitzgerald disillusions us about the American Dream—he presents a reality where it isn’t possible for anyone to ‘make it’, where the Buchanans still treat you with scorn even if you’re just as wealthy. Gatsby’s dishonesty is ultimately a shallow one—try as he might, he just cannot fit in and win Daisy back.
Finally, we should consider the moral dimension—even though the wealthier socioeconomic classes enjoyed more lavish, luxurious lifestyles, Fitzgerald also argued that they were the most morally bankrupt. Money corrupted the wealthy to the point where they simply did not care about the lives of the poor, as seen in the Buchanans’ response to Myrtle’s death. Even Gatsby had to compromise his integrity and deal in shady business in order to get rich—he isn’t perfect either. Social stratification may look ostentatious and shiny on the outside, but the rich are actually portrayed as shallow and corrupt.
A good essay on this novel will typically combine some of these dimensions and build a multilayered analysis. Stratification, love, wealth, morality—all of these big ideas can be broken down in terms of social, economic, cultural circumstances, so make sure to consider all angles when you write.
Have a go at these prompts!
1. Nick is biased in his assessment of Gatsby—both of them are no better than the corrupt, wealthy Buchanans. Do you agree?
2. In The Great Gatsby, money is a stronger motivating factor than love. Do you agree?
3. Daisy Buchanan is more innocent than guilty—explore this statement with reference to at least 2 other characters.
4. What does Fitzgerald say about happiness in The Great Gatsby?
5. Is money the true antagonist of The Great Gatsby?
6. The women of The Great Gatsby are all victims of a patriarchal society. To what extent do you agree? (Hint: are they all equally victimised?)
Challenge: According to Fitzgerald, what really lays underneath the façade of the Roaring 20s? Make reference to at least 2 symbols in The Great Gatsby. (Hint: façade = “an outward appearance that conceals a less pleasant reality” – think about things like colours, clothes, buildings etc.)
Maxine Beneba Clarke’s seminal novel, The Hate Race, follows the childhood and adolescence of its author, who is the main protagonist. The book is a memoir, meaning that it is based around a recollection of her life and filtered through her psyche and experiences.
The book begins with Clarke’s family, British citizens of Afro-Carribean descent, moving to Sydney, New South Wales. They settle in the town of Kellyville, which is known as a ‘white picket’ community. Although these communities largely don't exist anymore, what they once described was suburban environments where only Anglo-Australians lived. As you can probably imagine, this immediately caused problems for Clarke’s family, with suspicion from neighbours and racist interactions with other kids in the neighbourhood.
Clarke initially focuses on her experiences in kindergarten, revealing how prejudice and discrimination can be inculcated (meaning, ‘taught to’) in children even from such a tender age. Clarke meets her first tormenter - Carlita Allen. Carlita makes every effort to exclude Clarke from participation in usual preschool activities, hurling insults across playgrounds and calling her ‘dirty’. Literally, of course, Carlita is referring to Clarke’s black skin colour, but, metaphorically, it reflects the deeply hateful implication that anyone with a dark complexion is inherently inferior and lesser than white Australians.
The bullying doesn’t stop by the time Clarke reaches primary school. In fact, it intensifies, aided and abetted by teachers who consistently turn a blind eye to the constant, gut-wrenching racial abuse. One of the most salient (meaning, ‘important’) scenes arises when Clarke is asked by a teacher what her parents do for a living. Upon informing the teacher that her mother is an actor, and her father is a Mathematics Professor - the first British citizen of Afro-Carribean descent to attend a British university - she is met with the patronising assumption that she must be lying. Surely black people wouldn’t have the emotional and intellectual intelligence to perform such high-powered jobs? Clarke also develops eczema during her primary school years, leaving patches of lighter-coloured skin covering her face, and a newfound hope that, bit by bit, God is answering her prayers and making her white.
In high school, the racist rot sets in even further. Clarke develops a new habit for scratching her skin at night to the point of bleeding and bruising. Looking back at this experience, Clarke theorises that this was her body’s way of expressing her extreme discomfort with being black. It gives us a picture of how horrific racism can truly be, and the ways in which it forces minorities into believing that there’s something wrong with them, instead of there being something wrong with the people hurling abuse in the first instance!
It is this stage of her life when Clarke deals with one of the most difficult parts of being a minority in a majority white country. Through her interactions with teachers, friends and boyfriends alike, she becomes deeply angry at those people who abhor racism themselves, but seem unable to step in when racist events are actually occurring. Clarke also deals with more nuanced experiences of racism - people who don’t intend to be racist, but end up making insensitive comments anyway. Whether intentional or not, these comments still hurt, and are still part of the challenges of growing up black in a white country.
Nonetheless, Clarke continues to rise above the odds, becoming a prolific high school debater, maintaining her position at the top of the academic cohort, and forming a small but tight-knit group of friends whom she can trust.
Clarke’s recollection of her childhood ends on a relatively abrupt note, with Clarke returning home to realise that her father has left the family for another woman. In a note to the family, he provides no explanation other than that he had a secret affair for many years. Suddenly, Clarke, her brothers, sisters and mother are left to pick up the pieces.
In the epilogue, Clarke is now an adult with a child of her own. Walking down Melbourne’s North Road, she reflects on the challenges and opportunities to which her child will be witness. Clarke portrays it as the dual sadness and happiness of knowing that, in Australia, her children will surely have access to more opportunity than in most parts of the world - but it will come at a cost. Namely, they will also have to contend with the remaining undercurrent of racism that, even now, still seeps through Australian society.
The unsatisfying end to the novel reflects the nature of racism and the experience of a minority growing up in a white country itself: there is no happy ending. Rather, life becomes a series of painful incidents interspersed with minor victories; those who stand up against racism, those who fail to do so and the hundreds of thousands of Australians who will forever grapple with a society that sees them as ‘lesser than’ due to the colour of their skin.
Summary - Charlie’s Country
Charlie’s Country, an Australian movie directed by Dutch-Australian Rolf De Heer, follows the story of Charlie, a First Nations man living in late-2000s Australia.
The movie is set in the wake of the 2007 Northern Territory Intervention. As a bit of quick context, this was an action taken by the Commonwealth Government under Coalition Prime Minister John Howard to send Australian Defence Force troops into the Northern Territory. It came in response to the ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report, which raised allegations of child sexual abuse and neglect of children in Aboriginal communities. The intervention also involved restricting alcohol consumption, quarantining a portion of welfare payments to Indigenous residents (with the justification that this would prevent it being spent on alcohol, pornography, cigarettes, etc.) and hefty fines as well as jail sentences for those forced to comply.
It is important to note that, throughout the whole intervention, not a single person was prosecuted for child sexual abuse or any related offence. Nonetheless, this intervention had real world, drastic consequences - and that’s exactly what Charlie’s Country explores.
At the time of de Heer’s film, Charlie lives in a remote Indigenous community. Signs of the intervention are all around - alcohol is banned from most communities, many individuals face personal bans on procuring alcohol, police officers dot the streets and citizens live under constant watch. Charlie, on a surface level, is a fairly happy-go-lucky individual; he exchanges jokes with police, is friendly with other elders and people in his community and doesn’t seem to do much else.
As always with a movie like this - there’s a bigger story behind this all! Rolf de Heer takes us through an increasingly concerning image of Aboriginal communities in the wake of the intervention. Charlie visits his local housing officer and is unable to obtain a house. Here, we see that Charlie is willing to work and wants stable accommodation, but the government is unwilling to provide.
Going on a hunting trip with his friend, ‘Black Pete’, the two are stopped by police and have their guns, as well as the water buffalo they killed, confiscated. Yet again, two Indigenous men try to provide for themselves - but are stopped by a legal system more concerned with rules and procedure than listening to First Nations communities themselves. Charlie decides he’s had enough of having his every move and action monitored, and takes a stolen police car into the bush.
Abandoning the car, he tries to live amongst nature for an unidentified amount of time. Cooking fish, performing traditional First Nations dances, painting on the bark and looking for shelter, Charlie finally appears to be home. Yet, as usual, it’s too good to be true - the extreme cold makes Charlie incredibly sick, and, before we know it, he wakes up in a Darwin hospital.
After refusing further treatment from the white doctors who fail to understand Charlie’s situation and why he is so angry at what’s happened to him, the predictable cycle begins again: Charlie returns to his community, they all share alcohol as a way of coping with their current situation and flee when the police come running to confiscate the liquor.
Charlie isn’t civil with the police this time. In a fit of anger - an outburst of emotion after decades upon decades of control and being denied access to any opportunity - he picks up a bat and smashes the police officer’s car window. Brutally beaten into submission, Charlie is imprisoned as the police officer remarks that he should never have 'gone soft on a blackfella’.
Dragged before the courts, Charlie is imprisoned for assault. When the judge asks him to make a comment, he gives a lengthy speech in his native language. For de Heer, this acts as a symbolic assertion of the First Nations’ rights to their own culture, and a proud statement against the many governments that have continually placed barriers in the way of Indigenous Australians having the same opportunities as any one of us.
Eventually, Charlie is released on parole. He expresses a deep desire to go home - but also a sense of defeat. He resolves, in the end, to believe that even if he will always live under the watchful eyes of the Australian Government, he can at least fight back and contribute by doing his bit to maintain the many cultures of our First Nations Peoples. Charlie teaches young Indigenous boys traditional dances, speaking proudly of when he performed a dancing ceremony for Queen Elizabeth in 1973 at the Sydney Opera House.
The movie ends with Charlie staring mournfully into the camera, almost looking at the audience themselves. There seems to be no happiness in his eyes - nothing left but a sense of sadness and resignation. I know that, upon approaching the end of the film, I started to feel the same sadness that Charlie so evidently shows us. It’s a different type of emotion; one centered around the pain of knowing that we live in a country that still has not made peace with its past, and refuses to listen to the First Nations Peoples who know it best.
Charlie’s Country exposes to us that Australia isa country where, even today, our First Nations citizens are not treated as equals. As such, de Heer’s film is a stark reminder that this state of affairs is not good enough - and that the responsibility for change doesn’t just lie with politicians and decision-makers. It’s our job too:and failure is not an option.
2. Themes, Motifs and Key Ideas
Through discussing Themes, Motifs and Key Ideas, we’ll gain a clearer understanding of some super important ideas to include in your essays. Remember that, when it comes to themes, there’s a whole host of ways you can express your ideas, but this is what I’d suggest as the most impressive method to blow away the VCAA examiners. We’ll be adhering to the CONVERGENTand DIVERGENTstrategy. While we don’t go into detail into how to use LSG’s CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy in this guide, I’d highly recommend you get familiar with it by reading How To Write A Killer Comparative.
Connection to Culture (CONVERGENT)
Both de Heer and Clarke offer a unified idea around culture: that being connected to one’s culture is inherently good and positive, and should be encouraged. Let’s break this down.
The Hate Race and Charlie’s Country are both works that explore the challenges of individuals maintaining their culture in surroundings which would otherwise see them revert to the ‘standard’. In this case, because we’re talking about Australia, de Heer and Clarke take us through the same story of an overarching, implicit acceptance that the Christian, Anglo way of life is the norm. This standard has deep roots in the colonisation of Australia, and the resulting claim of sovereignty by the Crown. Even as this country has evolved into a multicultural land, it still bears the marks of a ‘European’ country; whether that be our British legal system, Anglo-American democracy or any of the other institutions we have taken from the Western world.
It is in this context that de Heer and Clarke go to special lengths to explain why people should be empowered to connect to their culture. To our author and director, culture is an essential element of who you are, and it is this identity which carries people through life. For Maxine, the shock of realising that she may be the descendant of African slaves, and had lived so many years without having any idea this may be the case, is drawn from the fact that she, as a child, feels incredibly disconnected to who she is. Clarke’s memoir thus reminds us that ‘growing up black in a white country’ is an experience that often results in minority children not truly learning about who they are. Travelling through life, Maxine is continually disconnected from her culture, to the point where performing ‘African tribal dances’ to the school is nothing more than a joke. Even in her own estimation, Maxine has internalised (meaning, she’s adopted it herself) the view that her culture is irrelevant, and there’s no real reason for her to properly engage with all its complexity and beauty.
If we consider Charlie’s perspective, his involuntary burst of tears at the hospital stems from a recognition that his people have been denied the free opportunity to embrace the world’s longest-surviving culture; the First Nations traditions that date back 40,000 years. With his friend slowly dying of lung cancer, at that moment, the old man is more connected to the cigarettes that slowly sapped his life away than he is to the First Nations way of living. Unable to hunt, gather as a community, work the lands as the First Nations traditionally would or embark on any other activity that would keep them connected to their culture, this country’s first inhabitants are instead told to abandon ‘the old ways’ and embrace Anglocentric standards of life.
It is a shocking reminder that, without culture, people are left like driftwood swimming through a vast ocean. By that, I mean that people are left without an anchor through which they can independently experience the world. Instead, their understanding of themselves, their sense of self and their actions in life are all filtered through the preferences of the dominant majority.
Intergenerational Disadvantage (DIVERGENT)
Whilst Charlie’s Country and The Hate Race share many similarities in terms of the negative impacts of racism and prejudice, the texts carry different connotations when it comes to the notion of intergenerational disadvantage.
To explain this idea, let’s first define and unpack ‘intergenerational disadvantage’. We could spend days talking about this, but, simply, intergenerational disadvantage refers to cycles of poverty and criminality that pass from generation to generation, worsening with time. Think of it this way: assume you’re a teenager - or at least still financially reliant on your parents. If your parents were to lose everything they owned today in a massive financial crisis, you’d be in big trouble too, right? Suddenly, that part-time job you had that was helping you save money might be the only income for the entire family. You might even have to drop out of school, TAFE or university to care for everyone, denying you a higher paying job in the future.
You’ll have to work your tail off for years on end. Since you’re supporting an entire family, say goodbye to saving up for a house or to pay for your kid’s education in future. Your kids now have to start from square one with less opportunity than the people around them, meaning it’ll be harder for them to succeed in life.
When we apply this to Charlie’s Country, the analogy becomes quite clear. Charlie lives in a community where there is no opportunity. Because there are no jobs - and no real way to gain steady, meaningful employment - people fall into alcoholism, marijuana and anything else that’ll help them cope. Lung cancer and alcoholism shorten lifespans for people like the old man with failing kidneys, while no employer is going to waste a chance on those still living. There is simply no ability to ‘succeed’ here, because the local residents don’t see that there’s anything worth working towards. Hopeless, unheard and disillusioned, it becomes easier for Charlie’s community to just accept their sorry lot in life than futilely work towards changing it.
We aren’t made witness to this same cycle in The Hate Race. Instead, Bordeaux Clarke is the epitome of someone who has broken the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage; becoming the first individual in his community to attend a British university. Marrying a high-powered Guyanese actress in Cleopatra, the married couple represent success and a defiance of racist stereotypes, not the grinding poverty and disadvantage we see in Charlie’s Country. Although Maxine experiences terrible discrimination and prejudice as a child, there is always a sense that she will academically remain on top. Maxine uses the prejudice with which she’s faced as a motivator, giving her the impetus to consistently emerge successful; whether that be in her schooling, cross-country running, as a debater or any other academic endeavour. Sure, she faces racism that inhibits her from always succeeding - the Lions Club competition is a great example of such - but this isn’t so much about intergenerational disadvantage as it is about racism, plain and simple.
Ultimately, the difference between the two is a matter of emphasis. It’s not that intergenerational disadvantage doesn’t exist in The Hate Race, but more so that Clarke is choosing to focus on how even the most successful individuals can suffer from prejudice and racism. This in turn helps us to understand that racism impacts everyone, and we should never pretend it isn’t a massive problem. Conversely, Charlie’s Country is all about social disadvantage, and explores how prejudice can prevent oppressed individuals from becoming successful in the first place.
3. LSG’s Bubble Tea (BBT) Strategy for Unique Strategies
Why Is an Interpretation Important?
Your interpretation is what English is all about; it’s about getting you to think critically about the essay topic at hand, to formulate a contention (agree, disagree, or sit on the fence) and argue each of your points with the best pieces of evidence you can find - and it’s something you might already be starting to do naturally.
In this section, we aim to help you develop your own interpretation of the text, rather than relying on your teacher, tutor or even a study guide (including this one) author’s interpretation. By developing your own interpretation, you become a better English student by:
Writing with meaning. For a text to be interpreted, you need a text and an interpreter (i.e. you!). Whenever we read a new text, our interpretation of a text is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, knowledge and expectations. This should be reassuring because it means that you can leverage your own life experiences in developing a unique interpretation of the text! We’ll show you how this works in the next point.
Remembering evidence (quotes or literary devices) more easily. If you know you admire a character for example (which is in itself an interpretation 😉), you can probably remember why you admire them. Perhaps the character’s selflessness reminds you of your Dad (see how you’re using real life experiences mentioned in Point 1 to develop an interpretation of the text?). You will then more easily recall something the character said or did in the text (i.e. evidence) that made you admire them.
Having an analysis ready to use alongside the evidence. As a result of Point 2, you’ll be able to write a few sentences based on your own interpretation. Rather than memorising entire essays (we’ve talked about this before) and regurgitating information from teachers, tutors, study guides and other resources - which can be labour intensive and actually detract from the originality of your essay - you’re approaching the essay with your own thoughts and opinions (which you can reuse over and over again across different essay topics).
Let’s look on the flip side. What happens when you don’t have your own interpretation?
When you don’t take the time to actively think for yourself - i.e. to think through your own interpretations (we’ve talked about the importance of THINK in the THINK and EXECUTE strategy here) - when it finally comes to writing an essay, you may find it difficult:
a) to get started - formulating a contention in response to the essay topic is challenging because you have no strong opinion about the text,
b) complete the essay - writing up arguments and using evidence in paragraphs becomes challenging because you have no strong opinion about the text,
c) to score higher marks - ultimately, you end up regurgitating other people’s ideas (your teacher’s, tutor’s or from study guides) because you have (you guessed it) no strong opinion on the text.
Having your own interpretation means that you’ll eliminate issues a, b and c from above. Overall, you’ll have opinions (and therefore contentions) ready for any prompt when you go into your SACs or exams, which means it’ll be easier not only to write a full essay, but an original and insightful one as well.
To overcome the issues above, you need to be confident with your own interpretation of the text. This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of students, and it makes sense why. After all, so many subjects reward specific answers (2 + 2 = 4), whereas English is tricky because there’s so much more flexibility in what constitutes a ‘correct answer’. It’s scary treading the sea of different possible interpretations because you’ll ask yourself questions like:
How do I know if my interpretation is correct?
How do I know if my evidence actually backs up what I’m arguing?
What if I disagree with my teacher, and they mark me down for a differing opinion?
Or worse - I’m not smart enough to come up with my own interpretation!
Let me say that you are absolutely smart enough to develop your own interpretation, and I’ll show you how to do so in A Killer Comparative Guide: The Hate Race & Charlie’s Country with LSG’s unique strategy - the BUBBLE TEA (BBT) strategy. By following our step-by-step framework, you can be confident that your interpretation is valid, that it backs up your argument, and that most importantly, you won’t lose marks for it!
4. Structural Features Analysis
In How To Write A Killer Text Response, we cover Metalanguage. A Structural Features Analysis and Comparison goes over a lot of the same material, and will help elevate your essays to the next level. Knowing quotes and themes is essential, but being able to pair that with analysis of the title, setting, narrator and overall structure - we'll cover title here - shows the examiner that you really know exactly what you’re talking about. This section will be especially crucial for metalanguage topics that are all about how Charlie’s Country and The Hate Race are structured, so, enjoy!
The title of a text is always significant - and this text pairing is no different. First, of course, please do keep in mind that there is no universally accurate interpretation of what a title means. I’m giving you my assessment, but the author and director could very well disagree themselves! That’s okay, because as long as we back it up properly, your interpretation is as valid as any. As always, that’s the beauty of English.
Let’s first unpack The Hate Race. What this title signifies is that, for minorities in Australia, life is constantly akin to a race. There is no rest, no comfort and no sense of home when your mind is preoccupied with all the ways you don’t belong. Australia, as a colonial outpost representing the Crown in a region that is overwhelmingly non-white, was once proud of its discriminatory stances; holding itself as the 'White Man’s Paradise'. It is in this context that racism, for Clarke, is not just a reality that lurks beneath the surface, but rather, a guiding tenet of Australia since 1788. With this overarching narrative, it is also important to acknowledge that the mere experience of racism is immensely emotionally, physically and mentally taxing for Clarke, and all people of colour. Being denied a firm sense of self, and constantly being forced to justify one’s own existence isn’t easy, and becomes a ‘race against time’ to see who can cope and rise above, and who will be swept away along with the tide. This sorrowful reality is what engenders the never ending race against being consumed by such hatred, because, for non-white Australians, there simply is no other choice. If they stop running, they run the risk of being consumed by the hatred themselves and becoming so cynical and disillusioned that they forget their culture and accede to the Anglocentric, white majority.
Moving to de Heer’s film, Charlie’s Country, the title reflects a simple reality: this is Charlie’s country. However, when de Heer speaks of ‘country’, he is really talking about ‘Country’; the Indigenous notion of connection to and respect for one’s traditional lands. Nurturing this connection is a sacred responsibility, and the film reminds us that, despite Charlie’s many trials and tribulations, the land on which he lives is truly his own. Throughout the film, Charlie maintains a keen awareness that what is happening to him is unjust, and, unlike Maxine, he doesn’t need someone to convince him that he belongs. Whatever Anglo Australia does, it cannot change the continuing legacy of his people and their sovereignty. To Charlie, it is laughable to think that his Country - which the First Nations have nurtured and kept in common use for 40,000 years - could suddenly become someone else’s property in less than 200 years. He may not have any legal authority under the Crown, and his people may be dispossessed of their sovereignty and authority, but this cannot and will not change the remaining truth of First Nations sovereignty. De Heer’s film title thus challenges us to confront our own perceptions of Australia and remember that we all live on stolen land.
Essay Topic Breakdown
As with all our essay topic breakdowns, we'll follow LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy, as taught in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide. The LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy follows three steps in the THINK phase - Analyse, Brainstorm, and Create a Plan. Learn more about this technique in this video:
'I’m free now!' (Charlie’s Country) 'My children are the descendants of the unbroken.' (The Hate Race) Compare the characters’ understanding of freedom in the two texts.
Step 1: Analyse
Let’s break down the prompt. This is a quote-based prompt, meaning the quote must feature somewhere in your essay. Ensure that you have a good understanding of the place from which the quote is drawn. In this case, Charlie’s exclamation of joy features when he escapes to the wilderness and is able to cook, dance and provide for himself. The quote from The Hate Race is the last line of the memoir, with Clarke expressing the sentiment that her children belong in Australia and will be as strong as their parents.
Step 2: Brainstorm
The next part is to establish the link between the quote and the topic. The essay topic at hand asks us how 'freedom' is understood, so we need to actually understand freedom itself in relation to the quotes provided.
For de Heer and Clarke, freedom isn’t an abstract concept relating to rights, liberties and responsibilities. Rather, freedom is found when people have the ability to be themselves, own their culture and live their truth. For Charlie, that mainly relates to his right to live in his country and maintain the traditional ways of the First Nations Peoples. Clarke, however, is more focused on the balancing act of finding freedom through a multicultural society that includes all, and in doing so celebrates the contribution that all cultures make into the melting pot that is Australia.
Step 3: Create a Plan
There’s no one correct way to structure your paragraphs for Charlie’s Country and The Hate Race. However, I find it consistently helpful to follow a chronological structure. This refers to going through events of the memoir and film in the order they actually occur, and finding unique points of analysis based around these chronological groupings.
We also need to think of examples and points of comparison. Base these around the themes we’ve gone through, so you can easily identify DIVERGENT and CONVERGENT points of comparison. I’ll walk you through my thinking.
Paragraph 1 – unable to experience freedom because systems exist to stop individuals from embracing their own culture
Kellyville and Alice Springs are immediately established as communities where rules and standards of association are both made and enforced by white authorities. The types of authorities and the prevalence of this overarching system of control differs between The Hate Race and Charlie’s Country, but are not any less harmful.
Paragraph 2 – attempts at pushback are rebuffed, resulting in further punishment for the simple crime of failing to conform
Anglo Australia maintains its dominance through an assumption that minority Australians and First Nations Peoples will not question their place. Thus, when there is even the smallest semblance of resistance, punishment is the only solution.
The difference here is that while Charlie wages an active resistance against white authorities, Maxine is moreso placed into submission by the repeated failure of her pleas to be heard by anyone in a position to change what is occurring. At the centre of both situations, though, is a desire to break free of white Australia’s chains.
Paragraph 3 – finding cultural freedom is a slow process of change, but one that begins with self acceptance
There is no happy ending to either The Hate Race or Charlie’s Country. Freedom does not suddenly spring forth. Instead, our author and director elucidate that cultivating freedom is a slow process. For Charlie, that begins with embracing his culture again and seeking to keep it alive. On Maxine’s part, it is about refusing to be broken by her past, and instead using her trauma as a motivator to build a better future.
The life of an
English teacher during assessment time is miserable. This is great for us! If
you know how to use their misery to your advantage.
Hello, I am here
to teach you how you can claim some easy English points off these poor, poor,
professors. Let’s begin 😊
1. Engage with the historical context
This should be a
baseline expectation! Yet, if I had a dollar for every student I see launching
into an essay not even considering the socio-cultural context in which their
book was written, I’d have enough to purchase the VCAA institution and have historical
context made mandatory with the punishment being immediate expulsion from VCE.
Just put some
historical context into your introduction, it’ll make it beefier and add some
spice to your essay. Historical context generally entails listing the form
(novella, play, etc…) of your text; the time period in which it was written
(Victorian, 20th century, etc…), its genre (Gothic, biographical,
etc…), and finally, any of the relevant literary titles it could be classed
under (Romantic, Feminist, post-colonial, etc…)
For example: “Mary
Shelley’s Victorian Gothic Romantic novella Frankenstein…”
Bonus points if
you can actively engage in a set of philosophical ideas that were present at
the time, eg: “Age of Enlightenment values”, or the “Feminist movement”.
2. Write a strong introduction
You must impress
an assessor within two minutes. With this in mind, what do you think looks
better: a little five-line intro vaguely outlining your points and just barely
tickling on the structure and context of the texts; or a sprawling introduction
which hits the historical context on the head and articulates beautifully the
direction your essay is going and how it plans to get there. It’s a simple
Virgin vs Chad dichotomy, be a chad, write a strong introduction.
3. Clear and concise topic sentences
sentences NEED to be easy to read and easy to follow. Apply the K.I.S.S rule
here (Keep it Simple, Stupid). State the point of your paragraph with clarity,
there should be nothing too complex or vague about it. For example: “The
architecture of Frankenstein enables the story to act as a cautionary
tale”. If you feel you cannot encapsulate your topic within a single sentence,
then I suggest dialling back the complexity of your paragraph topic. Remember,
text response is a process of stating a concept, then proving it – nothing
more, nothing less.
‘Grammar Nazis’? Well English assessors are Grammar Hitler’s. Make sure your
expression is on point. Avoid run on sentences, break them up with full stops,
a comma is not a substitute for a period.
5. Understand language
I’m hoping we
all know what verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, conjunctions and etcetera are
here? This kind of rather basic English knowledge can seriously pepper up your
analysis once you understand how language works. Begin by simply noting how an
adjective modifies a verb within a sentence and what affect that has. Once you
master this, you can move onto actually classifying the language under specific
tones; for example: a pejorative verb, or a superlative adjective of degree. I’ll
throw a few free ones your way! A pejorative verb is a doing word with negative
connotations, such as: “penetrate” or “molest”. Whilst a superlative adjective
is a describing word of the highest degree, for example: “grandest” or
“calmest” (as opposed to simply “grand” or “calm”. Although this language seems
complex, it’s deceivingly simple once you understand some basic English rules.
6. Write about structure
Structure is the
‘secret high scoring English students don’t want you to know!!’ If you aren’t
writing about structure, then you are missing out on an absolute gold mine of
analysis. If you understand how structure works within a text and can write it
out coherently you’re essentially guaranteed a 40+. Y’all may call that an
exaggeration, but knowing how to write about structure in an essay is like
crossing the threshold, your eyes become open – you attain nirvana. Structure
is the Bifrost which separates the land of Gods from the land of mortals. Some
good ways to begin thinking about structure include: pondering how the text
begins and ends, does it begin as a jovial and upbeat story and end as a
depressing mess, why might the author have structured the text this way? Or,
think about which characters we follow throughout the text and what journey
they undergo, are their multiple narrators? Why might this be relevant or what
may the author be trying to emphasise? Another great one is just looking for
recurring themes and motifs across the text, such as a repeated phrase or
similarities between characters. The key to writing on structure is
understanding how the text has been structured, and then connecting that to a
meaning or using it to support your contention.
7. Structure your essays
PSYCHE I’M STILL
NOT DONE TALKING ABOUT STRUCTURE. Structure. Your.
Essays. I cannot stress
this enough, use TEEL (topic sentence, evidence, elaboration, link), use
whatever your teacher taught, but use it! This one is especially important in
language analysis, legit, lang anal essays are almost 100% structure, just WHW (what,
how, why) your way through that essay. Once you understand how to structure an
essay, everything else improves. So, structure your essays!!
8. Write about allusions
getting into the big boy material. An allusion is any reference within a text
to another text. So when Peter Griffin from Family Guy pokes fun at the
Simpsons, he is making an allusion to the Simpsons. Or when your protagonist
happens across a bible verse, that is a biblical allusion. Whenever I hear a
student mention a literary allusion, my day improves and so does their mark.
Most every text has allusions in it somewhere, do your research. Frankenstein
has Rime of the Ancient Mariner, about half the books on the planet have
biblical allusions, just ask your teacher or research online and you’re bound
to come up with some excellent analysis material. Bonus points for allusions to
classic texts such as: the Faust mythos, Greek/Roman tales such as Prometheus,
the Bible, Paradise Lost, etc…
9. Reference influential philosophical
This one is
eating from the tree of knowledge. Including a philosophical concept in your
essay immediately places you in the upper echelons. It separates plebs from
patricians. You’ll have to do a bit of research here, but it is well worth it.
Once you can mention that an idea is “characteristic of the Romantic period”,
or that a concept is “Lockean (referring to John Locke)”, you’re balling,
you’ll be hustling A+s in no time. Bonus points for philosophical ideas that
were relevant to the time period (historical context, remember).
10. Authorial Agenda
authorial agenda is just minty fresh, it demonstrates a clear understanding of
concepts even beyond just the text itself. Guaranteed to put a sparkle in your
teachers’ eye. Although adding authorial agenda augments your essay
extraordinary, don’t overdo it.
If you made it
to the end of this then great work! Proud of you <3. Including these tips in
your essays is a surefire way to push them to the next level. For sticking
through, I’ll give you a few quick bonus tips. Have pre-prepared zingers: you
should write out and memorise a few bits of analysis that are intensely high
quality, (do it in your own writing) this not only helps with ironing out your
language, it also ensures you’ll have some mic drops in your essays. Analyse
all included images and titles: this one’s just for language analysis, but you
should analyse everything, including logos! And finally… RESPOND TO THE ESSAY
QUESTION, this should be a given but there are hordes of people just spewing
out words which are absolutely irrelevant to the actual essay topic.
Thanks again for
getting this far, unless you just scrolled to the bottom hoping for a TLDR. I
wish you all best of luck in your VCE and the exam season, try to make it
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