Often, beginning a Language Analysis essay can be tough. How do you start? Do you even need to write an introduction? There are many answers to these questions- some say that because an introduction is not explicitly worth any marks, you don’t need to bother. However, an introduction can be a great way to organise your thoughts and make sure you set up your analysis properly…as long as you don’t waste a lot of time writing unnecessary sentences.
You can use a simple, easy to remember formula that will help you to identify the key aspects of the piece very early on, and this will show your examiner that you know exactly what you’re talking about- all you have to do is to remember the acronym "CDFASTCAT”.
Here is a breakdown of each aspect and its importance:
This gives the audience some background information on the issue, and “sets the scene” for the article or text. In ANY language analysis article/piece you come across (whether it be in the exam or in practice), there is always a box with the context of the article explained. ALWAYS read it and let it influence your analysis. If you exemplify consideration of the information provided to you in your analysis, you will show a deeper understanding of the issue, and your analysis will be more accurate and detailed. Aim to demonstrate that you understand why the article was written, and its surrounding circumstances.
This gives the article a wider context, and helps the audience understand why the author may have a certain viewpoint. It is also good practice to properly reference the article in your analysis, which includes the date, author, source and title.
The form of a Language Analysis text can vary, from newspaper articles, blogs, comics or even speeches. Each form has its own set of conventions which can help you identify language techniques, and can change the way the message is communicated to the audience. For example, in a speech, the speaker is more likely to directly address their audience than the editor of a newspaper may in an editorial.
When writing a Language Analysis essay (or any essay for that matter), always refer to the author by either their full name, their surname only, or a title and a surname - NEVER by their first name alone. For example: 'Lyle Shelton', 'Mr. Lyle Shelton', 'Mr. Shelton' and 'Shelton' are all okay to use in your essay. However, you would never use 'Lyle' on its own.
The source of a text can influence your understanding of the audience. For example, an article written on a blog about gardening is likely to have a different audience to a financial journal. Including the source is also an important so that the article is properly referenced.
Including the title in the introduction is critical to properly introducing the article. Remember to analyse major techniques in the title if there are any during the body of your essay!
Identifying the author’s contention can be the most difficult aspect of Language Analysis for many students. The trick is to ask yourself the question 'What is the author’s argument?' If you want to break it down even further, try asking 'What does the author want to change/why/what is it like now/what do they want it to be?'
Depending on the audience, different techniques and appeals may work in different ways. For example, an appeal to the hip-pocket nerve is more likely to have an effect on single parents who are struggling financially than it is on young children or very wealthy people.
You should not include a tone word in your introduction as the author’s tone will shift throughout the text. However, identifying the tone early on is important so that you can later acknowledge any tonal shifts.
Often, articles will include some sort of graphic; it is important that you acknowledge this in your introduction and give a brief description of the image - enough so your analysis can be read and understood on its own. The description of the image is the equivalent of an embedded quote from an article; both are used to provide evidence to support your analysis.
10 Things to Look for in Cartoons is a great resource to help you learn what to look for in graphics. Don't be put-off by the name; you don't need to be studying cartoons specifically in order to learn heaps from this blog post.
If you follow the CDFASTCAT approach, your Language Analysis introductions will become easy to write, straight to the point and full of all the most important information - good luck! ☺
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Often, with Language Analysis (also known as Argument Analysis or Analysing Argument), it can be hard to find unique things to analyse and set yourself apart from your competitors. Techniques like rhetorical questions, inclusive language and the appeal to family values are regurgitated by thousands of students every year come exam season. As you’d imagine, examiners get tired of hearing the same ol’ thing essay after essay.
So, I challenge you to surprise them! And today’s video will help you do just that.
The TEE rule is a very popular technique that we describe in our top-rated eBook, How To Write A Killer Language Analysis. And for a good reason, too! It guides your analysis to ensure that you’re talking about techniques, how they affect readers and using evidence to back yourself up. If you’ve never heard of the TEE rule, no worries at all! Check out our HTWAKLA eBook for an in-depth look into how the technique can help you get to that A+ level.
Today’s video is all about analysing the structure of Language Analysis articles so you can WOW examiners and score in that upper level.
Now, what does this exactly mean and, more importantly, look like?
When it comes to pieces of writing, when we talk about structure, we’re talking about how the information is organised.
What does the writer talk about first? What do they talk about last? How long are the paragraphs? How many paragraphs are there? While these questions might seem a little pointless to some, they can actually inspire some pretty unique and spot-on analysis in VCE Language Analysis.
OK Lisa, I get it, but how can I do this in my essays? Great question.
Let’s have a look at some examples of this, courtesy of one of LSG’s amazing tutors, Andrea. She’s written up an incredible blog all about these advanced techniques, and it includes much more than what we have time to talk about today. So, as always, I’ll leave the link to her blog in the description and in the card up above – I highly recommend that after watching this video, you head on over and check it out.
Analysing recurring themes and ideas in VCE Language Analysis
Analysing recurring ideas and themes throughout a piece is a fantastic way to show the examiner that you’ve understood the piece as a whole and that you can step back and notice similarities between smaller sections.
Let’s take a closer look at Section C of the 2014 VCAA English exam. The author emphasises the theme of Kolumbus-21 and its significance on space travel, which is an example of a recurring idea of theme.
Paragraph 1: ‘Space exploration has been on my mind this week after visiting an exhibition presented by an international group known as Kolombus-21.’
Paragraph 9: ‘Kolombus-21 talks a lot about international cooperation. This hasn’t always been a feature of space exploration, but now that we have an international space station supported by 15 nations, the era of collaboration seems to be well established.’
Paragraph 11: ‘Perhaps with big dreamers like Kolumbus-21 behind it, it might even turn out that way.’
We can use an array of vocabulary to describe exactly how ideas and themes recur throughout a piece. For example, if something is mentioned repeatedly throughout a piece, we could call it a cyclical, recurring or circular idea. If an idea is built chronologically, piece by piece, we could call it hierarchical, chronological, sequential or even linear.
In this example, notice how from the beginning to the end of the piece, the author mentions the connection between Kolombus-21, space exploration and international cooperation several times. Let’s see what we get...
By returning to the original theme of Kolumbus-21 as a key driver of support for space travel, which indicates the cyclical structure of her opinion piece, Yergon links space travel with international cooperation.
It’s also a good idea to reiterate the overall structure of the piece in the conclusion, as it allows you to link the structure with the author’s contention.
Analysing the ordering of the contention, arguments and rebuttals in VCE Language Analysis
Certain elements of the article can have a different effect on the reader depending on where the author places them. When we’re talking about desired effects on readers, we want to assume that the writer has done everything a certain way for a reason, so when the rebuttal is placed first, for example, we can look into this further for possible explanations.
When the rebuttal is placed first, it can set up the audience to more readily accept the writer’s following opinions, as opposing viewpoints have already been criticised early on.
You can see this in the 2013 VCAA exam, where the author argues against opposing views early on in their article. In it, the author references the opposition directly as they say ‘some people who objected to the proposed garden seem to think that the idea comes from a radical group of environmentalists’, and rebut this point by proposing that ‘there’s nothing extreme about us’.
Or, if the rebuttal is placed towards the end of the article, it could serve to cement that the writer’s viewpoint is correct by explaining why opposing viewpoints are wrong. Also, it can give a sense of finality to the piece – assuring the audience that all bases have been covered by the writer.
What if there’s no rebuttal? Well, this could imply that the author’s opinion, and theirs alone, is correct and to be supported.
I'm so excited to be doing the VCAA 2020 English Exam with you. I have done these Analysing Argument pieces before on YouTube, but this is the first time that I'm doing one live. I wanted to do one live with you guys because I wanted to interact with you, for you to be able to ask me questions and for you to see how my brain works in a live setting. When it comes to analysing - and you know I've got an edited version for you - you don't see me thinking through and understanding what's happening in the article itself. So, I think it will be really handy for you to see my thought processes because sometimes, yeah, you can see somebody's analysis, but if you don't quite understand HOW they arrived at that analysis, then it's not that helpful for you. It's like reading an essay that's already been done by an A+ student and you go, yeah, okay, I kind of get that, but how did they get there? How did they find that language technique to begin with? How did they find that argument? So that's what I want to work with you guys today.
You can download VCAA 2020 English past exam HERE, which is what we're going through today. If you've already read it before, even if you've done it before, I'm confident I'll still be able to give you some new, interesting perspectives and to pick out some new language techniques for you guys. So, go ahead and make sure you download that and print it out. I think printing things out is usually a better option than trying to annotate online, unless you've got an iPad or equivalent. The exam is absolutely free - it's the last few pages of the exam, starting at page 11.
Let's just get into it. I don't think I have any other housekeeping pointers except that throughout this live stream, I'm going to direct you to where you can actually go and get the A+ completed essay I've got for this article. While we're going to be analysing this together now, I think it's handy for you to be able to see an A+ completed version of everything that we've talked about. Then you can take it from the very beginning (the analysis), then the annotations and then you can finally see the written-up version. Being able to take you through that entire process from start to finish is going to be so wholesome, so fabulous.
Pay Attention to the Background Information
Whenever you look at section C, which is Analysing Argument also called Language Analysis (I'm going to interchange these two terms), you really need to ensure that you read the background information. I know it's super obvious, but background information is there for a reason, do not skip over it!
They didn't just give you an entire extra page just for the sake of it. Usually, the background information is a really great place for you to understand conceptually what is going on in this article. If we didn't have this background and therefore context to the article, there's a chance that you might accidentally come up with the wrong contention. You might misinterpret the arguments as something else. The background information is really just there for backup. It's a great place for you to ensure that what you're understanding from the article is actually correct because usually the background information is filled with facts and these facts will help shape your understanding of the article.
Let’s Read the Background Information Together
‘The shire of Byways in regional Victoria depends on both farmers and tourists for its prosperity. The local community is concerned about the increased recreational use of drones by many of the tourists visiting the area. The following is the transcript of a speech’
Ah! Interesting - 'transcript of a speech' is something that makes me go already yep, I need to make sure I note this because as soon as I recognise that it's a speech, it means that my audience, I don't call them readers, I call them listeners.
Simple things, small things will help differentiate you from other students. Someone else might not pick up that this is a speech and they'll just say readers the entire time. And no, you're not really going to get marks deducted for it, but there's an element of finesse I suppose. If you just notice that small nuance and you're able to present that in your essay, it makes the examiner or assessor more confident that you know what you're doing.
'by young farmer Warwick Bandle at a public meeting'
Interesting, ‘public meeting’.
'called by the Byways Shire Council to discuss the community’s concerns.'
It's interesting because I'm already getting this community vibe from this background information. The fact that it's regional Victoria, the fact that it's actually a very specific council, the fact that he's at a public meeting. People have taken time out of their day to go to the council meeting. Who goes to the council meeting? People who care. This is just something that I'm kind of noting for myself as I go into my analysis because then I'll be able to develop my analysis in a particular way.
'Bandle provided two images to be projected on a screen to accompany his speech.'
Okay, cool, all this does is tell me that I just need to be wary that there are two images and that I, as a student, need to talk about them.
Analysing Paragraph One
He says, 'Good evening, everyone', already indicative of a speech, I'm just going to write that down. Remember that it's a speech!
'Drones and their inexperienced users are proving to be a costly problem for us farmers. Drones are not toys. What happens when a drone flies out of range? What happens when the battery runs out? A drone being flown out of control, or crashing out of the sky, can be lethal.'
Wow. Okay, this is what I think when I read an article, I genuinely think about my own personal response. I mean, I am actually the audience of this article. No, I'm not there at the council listening to him live, but I'm still a person who's absorbing what he's saying. I trust my instinct and my gut feeling, and that kind of leads me to develop my own unique interpretations. The reason why I said 'Wow' is because he uses the word 'lethal'. To me, it's a little bit of an exaggeration. I mean I'm sure drones have killed people before, but I guess it's like an I'm serious about this, we're not joking around and he's making it seem like this is a serious problem and that we need to address it seriously. So in that sense, I guess we could talk a little bit about tone. What tone do you think he's using?
Viewers from our live stream suggested:
Nice! I like all of these. I don't think there's anything wrong with them. When it comes to English, it's a matter of your own interpretation. As long as you can back it up, then you've got yourself straight. You can go and find my 195 Tones PDF, which you can download for free. You can use that whenever you analyse an article, it has a bunch of tones listed there for you so that you never run out of tones!
He's already set this tone for the remainder of the article. I'm interested in what he's going to say next. Otherwise, I think the fact that he's serious or alarmist is reaffirmed by what he's saying. He says, 'drones are not toys'. Okay. This is not a game, we're not playing around, we're not fooling around. And I suppose that's important for him to establish because drones are kind of seen as toys, at least for me anyway. When drones first came out, it was kind of like a toy aeroplane that you drive around with your remote control. So, I think he's dispelling that idea or that conception or perception of drones immediately so that we can be on board with whatever he's saying next.
LSG’s Specificity and Simplicity Strategy
I just wanted to point out, this is pretty obvious, but rhetorical questions. There's not necessarily much I would say at this point in time with rhetorical questions, and that's because of my SPECIFICITY and SIMPLICITY strategy. If you don't know much about that - I haven't talked much about it on my YouTube channel - it's a strategy that I developed for myself in Year 12 when I couldn't figure out why I wasn't getting full marks in English and yeah, okay, I was a nerd, I was already getting 17 or 18 out of 20, but you know, the high achiever in me was kind of like, why am I not getting 19 out of 20? Why am I not getting 20 out of 20? Why am I losing these one or two marks?
I realised later on that it's because I wasn't being SPECIFIC enough with my analysis. So, when it comes to some of the comments (referring to comments from live stream) you guys have written, one of you wrote down 'emotive language'. If you're one of my students, you know that you don't use emotive language. Emotive language is way too broad. It's way too general to really mean anything. Instead of saying emotive language, why don't you say exactly what emotion they're appealing to. You're then taking that general vagueness of whatever emotive language means and replacing it with something very specific, and therefore, it's going to be more meaningful for you to write about, but also for your assessor to understand what you're going on about.
So in case you don't know, I have study guides (it is called Lisa's Study Guides after all). In How To Write A Killer Language Analysis I actually go through this golden strategy of SIMPLICITY and SPECIFICITY. This is what helped me get an A+ in my Analysing Argument and in my end of year exam. If you're interested, then I'd highly recommend that you go and check out the study guide. It's a world of value I promise.
More Analysis of Paragraph One
We're still only on the introduction, which is crazy, there's just so much to say when it comes to this stuff.
‘Just imagine the damage that can be done by a falling drone. Imagine, then, these drone users, realising that they have lost their drone, searching, crashing through crops, or leaving gates open and letting livestock out. And finally, when they don’t find the drone, it’s just left to rust away in the field until harvest time, when it’s swept up, damaging the harvester.’
I guess there's this idea of 'imagine'. He's building upon that alarmist attitude, which I'll pull from what you guys are saying, and by asking us to 'imagine' the worst-case scenario, it's making us feel more and more concerned, right? Just by reading this, I go ew, I don't want these drone users to be losing their drones in my farm space, in my land.
One other point for you to think about is, I was talking before about how I am part of the audience too, right? But the next step from that, for a more advanced analysis, is to think about who is HE talking to? If we go back to the prior page, he's at a public meeting to address the community's concerns. You could say that part of the audience would be farmers, people who care about their livestock, people who care about the invasion of privacy and people stepping on their property. Remember this as you analyse, because it's going to make your analysis way more specific, and bonus tip, assessors, teachers, examiners - they love it when you can be specific with who the audience is. It shows that you're capable and you get it.
Even just in this first paragraph, we've managed to talk about quite a bit.
Let's Look at Your Questions:
I think my target audience is probably farmers. I say probably just because I want to keep reading to understand exactly who he's talking about, these are just my assumptions, just from reading the first part of the article.
In terms of how you can incorporate tone into a body paragraph, you can do it as simple as actually just talking about the tone or you can integrate it with another language technique. Remember just before we were talking about rhetorical questions and how the repetitive use of 'imagine' kind of builds upon that sense of concern in the audience? You could link that back to his tone and say, 'By building up this concern, he's using his serious tone in order to persuade the audience to...'.
Analysing the Photograph
You absolutely need to talk about it. We've got this photograph of this girl who seems to be a bit of a dark shadow and because she's a dark shadow I'd say that it's like she is an anonymous person. The sense is that this could be anyone and by making the person anonymous, like a blank face, it's easier for us to hate on them because it kind of takes the humanity away. If you don't know who it is, they're just drone invaders. They're people who don't respect our land. That's one point that I would talk about.
Then you've got that really focused point of view of the drone itself. It makes sense because the drone is the topic of this conversation, so it's the focal point you could say, and it reconfirms or reaffirms that idea of it just crashing out of the sky, crashing through crops or being left to rust away. Remember, imagine that we're in the council meeting, he's put this image up for us and he's saying this. I think about it as how does having the photograph there on a presenter with him talking about it, how does that change how I respond? I think about how I feel and what I think, which is something that we talked about in one of my previous videos, called How to write a Language Analysis (Analysing Argument) - we talk about the TEE rule. In my opinion, when I have that photograph right there in front of me, it definitely makes me angrier. It's more confronting because it's in your face and it definitely riles me up more. So, you could include that in your analysis as well.
Pay Attention to the Structure of Articles/Arguments
The way that he has structured his argument, in the sense that he's structured where he positions his photograph (which is basically right after his introduction), makes me feel more inclined to agree with him. Whereas, if it was just him saying it (without an image as proof), then I'd actually have to just take his word for it. But, here's proof people are doing this!
A viewer says ‘she's dressed for the city and outside of, not part of the community’ - I love it, well done!
Another viewer says ‘the camera angle gives the allusion that she's dominant’ - interesting.
I think to extrapolate what you're saying, that dominance, as somebody who's part of the local community, I don't want that. I don't want somebody else to be dominating over my crib, my place! So it's kind of making me really deterred and making me want to steer clear. It makes me want these people to steer clear of my space.
A viewer says ‘the lack of crop suggests that drones have destroyed the normal way of farming’ - yeah, absolutely! Not only is there rubbish in their plot of land, but if anything, the drone has added to the destruction.
She's dominant, therefore she's a threat.
A viewer says ‘she believes that the black and white makes it gloomy and sad’ - a hundred percent. This is actually a really good point. Sometimes you can get so absorbed in the analysis that you only think about what's there in front of you, but a great way to create contrast and to understand what's there when it's so obvious is by considering what things would be like if it were otherwise. Basically, what I'm saying is, think about why it is black and white. Why is it not in colour? If it was in colour, how would that change your perception of what's happening here? Thinking about what's NOT there helps you understand what IS there.
You can talk about how it's good versus evil.
I wanted to just share with you guys because I won't be able to go through all of this today, but I did mention before that I do want to show you the A+ sample essay. It's in my How To Write A Killer Language Analysis study guide in Chapter 16, Section 10. We've actually recently updated it with the 2020, 2019 & 2017 past English Exams, so it's all A+ essays for you. Plus we have several A+ essays for single articles, double articles and triple articles with images as well.
We've talked a little bit about the photograph, which by the way, we could keep finding more and more, but I think it gets to a certain point where you kind of have to figure out what's valuable for you to talk about and what's not so much. Once you get good enough at Analysing Argument, you should have an excess of language techniques to choose from and then it's just a matter of deciding which ones are going to give you that advantage and which ones are going to help you stand out from the rest of the cohort.
Analysing Paragraph Two
‘It’s time our council started to defend the farmers rather than the tourists’
That's juicy - ‘our council’
What I'm thinking about here is, he's saying 'our council', but he's using inclusive language - 'our'. There's this sense of ownership, this is our space, this is our community.
'Defend farmers rather than the tourists'
Now he's creating a dichotomy between farmers and tourists. I love the word dichotomy; essentially, it just means a true opposition - farmers versus tourists. The way that I remember the word is di as a prefix usually means divide or division, to split things in half. So it's creating this dichotomy of us versus them. And the way that I build upon this - I'm just thinking ahead with an essay - is I'd probably connect it to this girl; there's this sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘Them’ is a threat. ‘Them’ is an outsider. ‘Them’ is all the things that we mentioned before, but ‘us’, he hasn't said too much about ‘us’ yet. So maybe he's going to build upon that here.
'The farmers are the backbone of this community'.
Okay. He is building upon it. This paragraph seems like it's more about the farmers and building the 'us'
'farmers are the backbone of this community, many of us having lived in this area for generations.'
This has been our space forever and look at these intruders coming in now. How rude!
‘While we understand the importance to our town of visitors supporting businesses and, indeed, have welcomed the holiday-makers, when they start causing havoc while searching for their wayward drones it’s time to say, ‘Enough!’’
'when they' - there's that dichotomy again - ‘start causing havoc’.
Another word that kind of adds to that sense of them being a threat, them being intruders while searching for their wayward drones is ‘it’s time to say, ‘Enough!’’.
Build Your Vocabulary
I actually don't know what wayward means, so if this happens, and this stuff happens all the time, what I do is actually look it up in the dictionary and understand it because I know that if I don't know what this word means, it probably means that the majority of other people also don't know what this word means. It, therefore, gives me a potential advantage, because if I'm able to analyse it, there's something that not as many people would have analysed.
So, wayward means difficult to control or predict because of willful or perverse behaviour.
In my own interpretation, I guess it's unpredictable. If I build upon this idea more, I guess there's a sense of loss of control and this builds upon that idea that farmers are losing control of their plot of land and their privacy. You can kind of see this is how my mind works and I just try to sync everything back up to the contention and to what he's saying essentially. That's actually quite a bit that we went through in that little bit there.
I'm just going to have a look at your comments now.
A viewer says 'dichotomy simplifies a debate for an audience to make it seem a neutral position is not possible and consequently one must pick a side.' Thank you, that's actually really helpful.
Analysing Paragraph Three
'Don’t get me wrong! I’m not just another technophobe'
Oh, quickly. I just want to go back while we understand the importance of our town, of visitors supporting businesses, I think there's this acknowledging the opposition, acknowledging that there are benefits in having visitors. He's not completely tunnel-visioned. He is being fairer, or at least that's how he's portraying himself, and that makes me at least more inclined to side with him because I'm seeing that he's a little bit more rational and he's not just saying, oh, screw them. It's not just his way or the highway, there is some give or take, so that kind of makes him more credible in a sense.
The reason why I thought about that just then is because this next part, ‘Don’t get me wrong! I’m not just another technophobe’, builds to this idea as well. I'm just going to say acknowledging the opposition. There, you can finesse that by replacing the word opposition with something else. That's fine.
‘I'm not just another technophobe’
He's kind of anticipating people's reactions to what he's saying and he's going no, no, no, I'm not like that. It's all good, not just another person complaining about technology.
As a young farmer’
I just find that hilarious. He's young guys, okay?! He's not some old person, I guess that’s the stereotype, that old people don't fare well with technology, which I don't think is true by the way. I think everyone's getting on board with technology these days. But, he's kind of reaffirming, I'm young guys, I'm a cool guy, I'm not anti-tech at all. He literally says it 'I'm introducing new tech'. I'm on board with that, you know, ‘we’re using drones’.
Shifts in Tone
Now he's kind of talking about the benefits of drones, the time and the money they save.
‘There is absolutely no way we want to ban drones.’
I think this is a really interesting way he's structuring his argument. He's kind of started off going, drones, they're so bad for you. Then he's showing this picture, which is kind of like drones, they suck. And then in this paragraph here, he differentiates farmers from outsiders, and then he kind of takes a turn and goes, no, I love drones, don’t get me wrong. I think there's this analysis there for you and I'd actually love for you guys to write down in the comments section what you think is going on? Why is he structuring his argument like this?
A viewer says 'there's a shift in tone' Absolutely! Love it. Great pickup.
Here's a tip for you guys. A shift in tone usually means that there's a new argument coming. They usually tie in together pretty well, so if you see a shift in tone, you can kind of hedge the bet that it's a new argument. This is particularly helpful if it's an article that's really hard. Usually for SACs, teachers will choose articles from newspapers and we all know that newspaper articles are way tougher than VCAA articles. If you don't know, it's true.
Another viewer says 'it may be the start of rebuttal' Interesting.
A viewer asks 'will these annotations be provided for our personal use at the end?' - I'm only actually uploading the annotations into my study guide. So, they will be accessible there. Otherwise, it's just access through the live stream video (linked at top of page), which will be posted up afterwards as well.
A viewer says 'By stating he's young and uses drones, it showcases his argument isn't based on personal bias towards young people or drones, but is a legitimate problem.' - Hmm. With your analysis, I'm not a hundred percent sure what you're saying. I think it could be a little bit clearer. Give that a go. Just try rewriting it, see if you can make it even more concise.
Let’s Recap What We’ve Analysed So Far
So we've managed to annotate the background information, paragraph one, the photograph, paragraph two and paragraph three. We still have one more paragraph left and this next page with the image.
Unfortunately, I have to wrap it up there, but if you want to see me annotate and analyse the rest of this article, head over to Part 2 on Youtube where I finish this off.
Have a go at analysing the rest of the article yourself though!
Don't forget that I've got my How To Write A Killer Language Analysisstudy guide. If you want to head over there you can access/download the annotations + a complete A+ essay based on this article.
Ah, language analysis. It’s that time of year again, which sees us trade our novels and films for newspapers and blog articles, and our knowledge of characters and themes for the never-ending list of persuasive language devices which we will soon begin to scour our texts in search of.
Once again we must put ourselves in the mind of an author, only this time it’s a little different. No longer are we searching for hidden meanings within the text, instead we search for techniques and appeals to emotions which our daring author uses to persuade us to stand in solidarity with their view. My, how times change. Just when we think we’re getting the hang of something, VCE English throws us a curveball. Typical VCAA.
There's a lot that goes into a strong Analysing Argument response and it can be difficult to know where to start, so here's a specific breakdown of an A+ essay to help you elevate the quality of your own writing! Just before we get started, if you'd like to find out more about Language Analysis, head here for a comprehensive overview of this area of study.
Now, before you get too deep into this step - and I know how eager you must be to dive into that juicy analysis – you first need to decide on a structure. In this particular case of Language Analysis, we are comparing two articles, meaning we have a couple of different structures to choose from. That is, we now need to decide whether we will be separating the analysis of each article into its own individual paragraph, or rather, integrating the analysis and drawing on similar ideas from each of the texts to compare them within one paragraph. Tough decisions, eh?
While most examiners prefer integrated paragraphs, as it shows a higher level of understanding of the texts, sometimes the articles make implementing this structure a little difficult. For example, maybe one article focuses more on emotional appeals, while the other uses factual evidence such as statistics to persuade the reader. What do we do then? If none of the arguments are similar, but we still want to use that amazing integration technique, what can we do?
Well first of all, remember that we are comparing two articles. Comparisons don’t always have to be about similar things, in fact, the true spirit of comparison should take into account the articles’ differences too. So what does this mean for us? We can still integrate our paragraphs, however, we will be focusing on how two contrasting techniques seek to achieve the same result of persuading the audience.
Next, now that we’ve got structure out of the way, we can work on the actual analysis part of planning. That is, scouring through the articles for those various language devices the author has used to turn this article from an exposition to a persuasive text, and then deciding on how we shall be using this in our essay.
I absolutely cannot stress this enough, but: PLAN YOUR ESSAYS! Yes, I happened to be one of those students who never planned anything and preferred to jump straight into the introduction, hoping all my thoughts would fall into place along the way. Allow me to let you in on a little secret: that was a notoriously bad idea. My essays always turned out as garbled, barely legible messes and I always managed to talk myself into circles. Trust me, planning is crucial to an A+ essay.
It is also crucial that you know what exactly should be going into the planning process. There are two main aspects of planning that you need to focus on for a Language Analysis essay: analysis and implementation. I know that might not make much sense right now, but allow me to explain:
This includes reading through your articles and picking out all the pieces that seem like persuasive techniques. For example, you might find a paragraph using inclusive language such as "our problem” to convince the reader that this is an issue that they need to be directly concerned about, or perhaps you may find a sentence describing the “excess of funds” being poured into the initiative that demonstrates to the audience how big of a problem it is. This step typically includes underlining areas of interest in the articles, making arrows between similar arguments which you think should be linked and doodling in the margins of the paper with all your immediate thoughts so you don’t forget them later. This part is the lengthiest and it may take you some time to fully understand all of the article.
Next, comes implementation.
This is the part where we make ourselves an actual essay plan, in which we decide how to implement all the new information we’ve collected. That is, deciding which arguments or language devices we will analyse in paragraph 1, paragraph 2 and so on. This part is largely up to you and the way in which you prefer to link various ideas.
Below is an example of how you might choose to plan your introduction and body paragraph. It may seem a bit wordy, but this is the recommended thought process you should consider when mapping out your essay, as explained in the following sections of this blog post. You may want to skip ahead and read those first so you know what we’re talking about when you see CCTAP (explained in Step 2: Introduction) or TEEL (explained in Step 3: Body Paragraphs), but otherwise it’s pretty straight forward. With enough practice you may even be able to remember some of these elements in your head, rather than writing it out in detail during each SAC or exam (it might be a little time consuming).
Sample Introduction Plan
Note: Sentences in quotation marks ('') represent where the information has been implemented in the actual introduction.
Context: Detention of Asylum Seekers is currently a popular topic of discussion, 'issue regarding the treatment and management of asylum seekers'.
Contention: Detention of Asylum Seekers is wrong, 'detention as a whole is inhumane'.
Tone: Conviction, 'tone of conviction'.
Audience: Those in favour of Asylum Seekers, 'supporters of his resource centre'.
Purpose: Allow Asylum Seekers into the country, '[barring them from entering the country]…should be ceased immediately'.
Sample Body Paragraph Plan
Topic: Inhumanity of detention
Evidence: Article 1’s Emotive Language
Example: 'harsh', 'brutal regime', 'needlessly cruel' to invoke discomfort.
Evidence: Article 1’s Expert Opinions
Example: Amnesty International, UN, etc. 'repeatedly criticised'.
Evidence: Article 1’s Humanisation of Asylum Seekers
Example: Depicts as individuals who’ve been 'arbitrarily punished'.
Evidence: Article 2’s Invitation to Empathise
Example: Writes he 'cannot imagine the horrors', inviting readers to try too.
Evidence: Article 2’s Emotive Language
Example: 'pain', 'suffering', 'deprivation of hope' to invoke sympathy.
Evidence: Article 2’s Placing of Blame
Example: Blames Australian Government for the 'suffering inflicted'.
Link: Restate topic sentence in relation to entire essay
Step 2: Introduction
Now that you’ve got all the planning out of the way, next comes beginning the essay and writing up your introduction. Having a top notch introduction not only sets the standard for the rest of your language analysis, but it gives you a chance to set yourself apart from the crowd. Your teacher or examiner will be reading heaps of these kinds of essays within a short period of time and no doubt it’ll begin to bore them. Thus, having a punchy introduction is bound to catch their attention.
In addition to having a solid beginning, there are a few other things you need to include in your intro, namely, CCTAP. What does CCTAP stand for and why is it so important, you may ask? Well, the nifty little acronym stands for Context, Contention, Tone, Audience and Purpose, which are the five key pieces of information you need to include about both of your articles within your introduction. In addition to all the various language devices we collected during planning, you will need to scan through the articles to find this information in order to give the reader of your essay the brief gist of your articles without ever having read them.
For an example on how you would accomplish this all in one paragraph, here’s my introduction:
In recent years, the issue regarding the treatment and management of asylum seekers has become a topic of interest for many Australian citizens, with the debate focusing centrally on the ethics of their indefinite detention, and the reliability of this initiative as a working solution. Many articles intending to weigh-in on the debate depict the Australian Government’s favoured solution in various tones, with two pieces, written by news source, The Guardian, by authors Ben Doherty and Helen Davidson, and activist Kon Karapanagiotidis, respectively, asserting that the initiative is the wrong approach to a growing problem. In their piece, 'Australia’s offshore detention regime is a brutal and obscene piece of self destruction', the former of the authors speaks with an accusatory tone to their audience of regular readers of the popular news publication site and debates the practicality of the 'arbitra[y]' detention of these asylum seekers, as well as calls into question the humanity of the act and assesses whether it is an effective use of Australia’s wealth, intending to persuade readers to be similarly critical of the initiative. Likewise, the author of the open letter, 'Stand in solidarity with people seeking asylum this holiday season', writes to supporters of his resource centre in a tone of conviction, asserting that asylum seekers deserve the safety of asylum within Australia, that detaining or barring them from entering the country is inhumane and the root of much suffering, and that overall, it is morally wrong, and thus should be ceased immediately. Both articles contend that Australia’s current solution to the growing issue is incorrect, with Doherty and Davidson specifically believing that there is a better solution that must be sought, and Karapanagiotidis believing that detention as a whole is inhumane and should not be further employed by the government.
Step 3: Body Paragraphs
And now we reach the meat of your essay - the body paragraphs. A typical essay should have at least three of these, no less, although some people might feel the need to write four or five. While this may seem like a good idea to earn those extra marks, you should never feel pressured to do so if you already have three good paragraphs planned out. You have limited time to write your essay and getting as many words on the page as possible won’t always improve your score, especially if you traded quality for quantity. What your teachers and examiners are really looking for is a comprehensive understanding of the texts and the way in which you organise your ideas into paragraphs. So sure, writing an extra paragraph may be useful if you have the time and technique, but never feel pressured to expend the effort on one if it costs you time to the point where you’re turning in an unfinished essay. You can achieve an A+ essay with only three paragraphs, so don’t stress.
Now, onto writing the actual paragraphs. There are various little acronyms to help you through this process, such as TEEL, PEEL or MEAT. Some of these you may have already heard of before and you might even have a preference as to which one you will use. But regardless of what you choose, it is important that you add all the correct elements, as leaving any of them out may cost you vital marks. Make sure you include a Topic sentence, Evidence, Example and Link (TEEL). Once you have the structure down pat, there’s one other thing you need to consider during a Language Analysis essay: don’t forget to analyse the picture.
Seriously, it’s pretty crucial. A requirement of this kind of essay is to analyse imagery, whether it be the newspaper’s header, a cartoon or an actual photograph. This step may involve analysing the image for what it is, or linking the imagery with an already existing argument within the article. Whatever you deduce it to mean, just make sure you slip it into one of the paragraphs in your essay. [Note: an analysis of imagery is not included in following paragraph].
While both articles make very different arguments on the same topic, in one particular case they give voice to the same issue, namely, the inhumanity of detaining refugees, in which both articles become advocates for the abolition of offshore detention. Authors for The Guardian write that it is 'needlessly cruel', 'harsh', and a 'brutal regime', using emotive language to give weight to their argument and invoke a sense of discomfort within their readers, particularly towards the government’s chosen solution. They call on the opinions of a number of other sources who have 'repeatedly criticised', the operation, such as the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among other similar experts on the matter. The authors depict Asylum Seekers as individuals who are 'arbitrarily punished offshore', and who 'have been accused of no crime', and are therefore, by the judgement of the authors, being treated immorally. In agreement, Karapanagiotidis writes of the abuse endured by asylum seekers in detention, including their separation from loved ones, their arbitrary incarceration, and stating that he, himself, 'cannot begin to imagine the personal toll detention has had on [them]', implying further damage has been done and inviting his audience to similarly place themselves into the figurative shoes of an asylum seeker. The author writes that the offshore detention of asylum seekers causes 'pain', and 'suffering', as well as the 'depriv[ation] of [their] hope', using emotive language to invoke sympathy and understanding within his readers. Karapanagiotidis hands the blame for such 'suffering inflicted', on the Australian government, a similar tactic which The Guardian employed throughout their piece. Overall, both articles use a range of language devices and expert sources to agree that the act of detention is inhumane, and the root of much suffering.
If you'd like to see more sample A+ body paragraphs and essays, all with annotations to see exactly what makes them high-scoring, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook for an in-depth guide to nailing your Language Analysis.
Step 4: Conclusion
You’ll be glad to know that this is the final part of your essay, hooray! And some might argue it is in fact the easiest, because now all you need to do is summarise all of those body paragraphs into a concise little one. Simple right?
Conclusions typically don’t even have to be all that long, I mean, you’re only restating what you’ve already written down, so there’s no new thinking involved. Under no circumstances should you be using your conclusion to add in any new information, so just make sure you give a brief description of your previous arguments and you should be good to go!
And one more thing: never start your conclusions with 'In conclusion'. Seriously, that may have worked in Year 8, but we’re writing for a whole different standard these days and starting your conclusions off like that just isn’t going to cut it.
The two articles, in their discussion of Australia’s offshore detention initiative, bring light to several key points. Authors for The Guardian use various appeals, emotive phrases and evidence of reported monetary statistics to sway the reader to share their opinion, as well as arguments regarding the lack of reliability the initiative provides in its ability to deter boats, the sheer cost of the program, and the morality of the issue. Similarly, Karapanagiotidis, the author of the open letter, uses a humanising image, appeals to the values of the readers, and employs phrases with pre-existing connotations known to the audience, to assert main contentions: that asylum seekers deserve asylum, that barring them from settling in the country is the root of much suffering, and that their indefinite detention is not only inhumane, but morally wrong.
Let’s briefly discuss the background of the article before we dive into the analysis…
So, the background information tells us that “Biodiversity is the term used to describe life on Earth — the variety of living things, the places they inhibit and the interactions between them.”
The article at hand is a transcript of a speech given by Professor Chris Lee at the International Biodiversity Conference 2010.
The purpose of this conference is to review the progress made towards achieving the target and to look beyond 2010.
Now, let’s analyse the opening of the speech. Take a second to read through Lee’s speech opener...
Firstly, we can analyse the way in which Lee addresses his audience. Rather than using a phrase like "Hi everyone" or a similar greeting, he actually refers to his audience as his "fellow delegates" which allows him to speak in a particularly candid and honest manner. He wants to be transparent about the reality of the situation with his peers, rather than trying to impress an audience or something similar.
Overall, this anecdote appeals to the emotions of the audience and plays on an apparent devotion/commitment presumably made to the environment by the delegates of a Biodiversity conference. Lee uniquely seeks to persuade his audience by using the information he knows about them – their past commitments.
More specifically, we can dive into the pejorative mood of the adjectives he uses to describe the second scene, which is one of destruction, especially compare to the images he presents first. The "lush jungle" with a variety of "interesting flora and fauna" on the banks of a "clear river" appears particularly idyllic in juxtaposition with the images of the "scorched earth", "gooey mudslide", "sepia tinge" and "barren sticks hopelessly groping for life."
In the last sentence, the repetition of the word "gone" reminds Lee's "fellow delegates" of what will be lost if action on biodiversity is not taken.
Now, we know that in any given Language Analysis article, there are so many things to analyse, which I’ve demonstrated with all of the things we managed to focus on in that single paragraph.
Often, students will be able to identify lots of techniques and as such, lots of elements to analyse, but they struggle to choose between these techniques when it comes to writing their responses.
I’d highly recommend that you download a free sample of my eBook, How To Write A Killer Language Analysis which talks about techniques you can use to pick what to write about in your essays. We won’t have enough time to talk about those techniques today, so we’ve written them down for you in the eBook.
Now that we’ve looked at how Lee has started his speech, let’s skip forward to a later section of the article. Take a second to read through the section.
One of the first things that may jump out at you is this repetition of inclusive language; "we are", "we have". However, this is way too obvious! For an upper level response, we want to steer clear of the cliche techniques and analyse ones that have more value and show off our own perspective of the article.
Utilising the statements, "everyone in the lecture theatre knows this" and "clearly, it is our lack of unity", Lee includes the audience and holds all of the delegates accountable through declaring the reasons for failure as simple matters of fact.
Here, Lee trivializes the actions of the organisation in creating "glossy brochures" with "wonderful words" as marketing tools to create the impression that meaningful action is being taken. Lee exposes such actions as deceitful and calls for "real action", seeking to persuade his audience into putting their effort into actual gains in the biodiversity fight.
There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
How To Find Good Quotes
1. What Are Quotes?
Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our Ultimate Guides to VCE Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis.
A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or double inverted commas (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, just be consistent in your essays.
2. Why Use Quotes?
The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:
Your knowledge of the text
Credibility of your argument
An interesting and thoughtful essay
The strength of your writing skills.
However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):
Overcrowding or overloading of quotations
How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:
What you want to quote
How much you want to quote
How that quote will fit into your essay.
3. What You Want To Quote
As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore, it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:
Description of theme or character
Description of event or setting
Description of a symbol or other literary technique
Never quote just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be irrelevant if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.
4. How Much You Want To Quote
A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not overload your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is your piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.
Single Word Quotations
The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)
Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word and develop an entire idea around it.
Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling', showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
A phrase quotation is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).
Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:
The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ (Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)
In this case, we have deleted: ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([ ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under Blending Quotes.
5. How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay
You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay without inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.
The following is plagiarism:
Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime. (1984, George Orwell)
Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:
Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’ (1984, George Orwell)
There are serious consequences for plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.
Plagiarism should not be confused with:
Paraphrasing: to reword or rephrase the author’s words
Summarising: to give a brief statement about the author’s main points
Quoting: to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work
You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:
John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany, for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ (The Crucible, Arthur Miller)
There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:
1. Adding Words
Broken sentences are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:
‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Never write a sentence consisting of only a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.
Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:
Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere. (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.
2. Square Brackets ([ ])
These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:
Authors sometimes write in past (looked), present (look) or future tense (will look). Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.
Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
Change Narrative Perspective
The author may write in a first (I, we), second (you) or third person (he, she, they) narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first and second person pronouns with the character’s name.
The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’ (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’. (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)
Insert Missing Words
Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.
The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
Achilles, like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)
It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?
The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.
Original sentence: 'Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. (The Secret River, Kate Grenville)
6. There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
Title of Text
When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.
Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. (On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
Alternatively, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.
Quotation Within a Quotation
When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.
Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ (Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)
As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.
Using Quotations to Express Irony
When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.
As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. (Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood)
In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.
7. Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
1. Does the quote blend into my sentence?
2. Does my sentence still make sense?
3. Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?
4. Did I use the correct grammar?
8. How To Find Good Quotes
Tip One: Do not go onto Google and type in 'Good quotes for X text', because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more popular or famous ones.
Tip Two: Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that already exist online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes.
Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying, but just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students.
Tip Four: Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote that's going to offer a refreshing point of view.
For example, if we look at The Great Gatsby, one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, 'He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.' What most people will do is they will analyse the part about the 'grotesque thing a rose', because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead, is focus on a section of that quote, for example the 'raw'. Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote? This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light.
Tip Five: Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also, that way, when you spend so much time analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point.
Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!
Today we're going to go through the 2019 past VCAA English Exam (grab a copy of the exam here so you can analyse with me). As you probably know, if you've watched my videos before, you always want to make sure you read the background information when it comes to Analysing Argument.
I'm going to use Analysing Argument and Language Analysis interchangeably by the way, but I'm talking about the same thing okay?
The background information is pretty important because it gives you context for what is happening in this article. Without reading the background information, you might just head in there and possibly even come up with an entirely different context altogether, which might screw over your actual analysis and the author's intention. So, never skip the background information. Make sure that you read it and also pick out the gems that you find in it.
What I've always found is background information is great for picking keywords - words I might want to use throughout my own Language Analysis. It also has really good details about the article. In this case, you can see that there's a member of the public who has responded, which tells us a little bit about the author; it's a 'response' as well, so there's going to be two articles; it's an advertorial - an advertorial is a paid advertisement that looks like an article (I'll use the word advertorial as I'm describing the article in my introduction), and, I also know where it's been published. This is already really good information for you to start using in your introduction.
Finding Your Own Interpretation
Let's move into the analysis itself. By the way, this is my first time doing this analysis, so we're doing it together. What you'll find is that I come up with particular interpretations that you might not have come up with. I might miss something, you might miss something, and what you'll find is my interpretation is not the only interpretation out there. If you come up with something else, it's totally fine for you to go ahead and analyse it, as long as you can back it up. This is what English is all about, so don't stress if I haven't matched up with you in exactly what I'm saying. You can also use my interpretation as a double interpretation. So, what you could do is go into your essay, write your interpretation and if mine compounds on top of yours pretty well, if it's a great addition to what you're saying, add it in and bam! You're showing your examiner that, you're somebody who can look at one particular technique from several different perspectives and that's kind of cool.
Moving on to the Analysis
So, 'A Better, Faster Shopping Experience'. From what I can already see here is there's this sense of convenience already being brought up. Now, at this point in time, I don't know what the point of that convenience is, but I know for me as a shopper, if I can get something for a better experience and I can get it done faster, then hells yeah, I am all for that. Think about yourself in the reader's shoes, after all, you really are the reader reading this article. Think about how it's starting to impact you.
I've done a video about the TEE rule previously that goes through Technique, Example and the intended Effect on the audience. Make sure you're familiar with that because I will use a lot of that in today's analysis.
'An open letter to our valued customers. As you know, Hailey's Local Store is not your average grocery store.'
Interesting. The 'As you know' is pretty familiar. It's this familiarity that this person is sharing with us (the author's name is Hailey, so I'll just say Hailey). She says 'As you know, Hailey's Local Store is not your average grocery store' and repeating that familiar 'As you know' reminds the audience - us - of our long-term relationship with the store. So, in a sense, she's drawing upon our good will and our trust in the local shop, which creates this differentiation between herself (as somebody who's more proactive and customer-centric) and your bigger grocery stores.
'We're a little bit different - we always put our customers first.'
At this point, we start to feel valued. We know that we are her priority. Her priority isn't about profits, which a lot of stores are about, it's about the people, and as a result, we're more inclined to look at her in a favourable way.
'We offer lots of healthy meals, many specials, locally source food and, as you know, we abolished plastic carry bags four years ago - long before the big stores.'
This whole sentence is pretty good because it shows us that she is somebody who is forward-thinking and she has actually carried through with her claim that she puts her customer first. We know that because she follows it up with:
'Why did we do those things? Because you told us that was what you wanted and needed.'
She's got historical proof of putting customers first, which again, serves to build this rapport and relationship between Hailey and us as her customers.
If I look at the first paragraph as a whole, I see that she's building this up, she's setting this up in a particular way and whatever direction she's going to head in next, we're more inclined to follow her, to believe in her and to support her because she's shown us that she has supported us first. She's helped us out, so why can't we help her out? Again, I haven't read the rest of this article yet so these are just the thoughts that are going through my mind as I'm reading this first paragraph - just to give you a little bit of insight into my brain.
In this first paragraph, I can see that she's using a pretty welcoming and warm tone. If you have a look at the photograph that's been placed at the top of this article - and remember that with particular images they're strategically placed, so if it's placed at the start of the article versus at the end, think about how that impacts your perception of the photograph - for me, the first thing I see when I look at this article is the photo and I see a smiling happy owner. As you can see, the first paragraph serves to back up this photograph as well, with what she's talking about in terms of prioritising customers and valuing customers. You can also see products behind her, which look fresh and full and her shelves are full, so in that sense, it furthers this impression of the local and grounded nature of the store. It feels homey and this invites that comfort and trust from us.
Then, as we move into our second paragraph, I'm seeing a lot of exclamation marks, which gives me the sense of this upbeat, exciting environment, or even tone you could say. I think she's doing this because she wants us to jump on board with cashless payments as well, and to not see them as something that's a burden for us. She ties the advantages of cashless payments directly to the customer’s experience of the store by frequently repeating personal terms, such as 'you' and 'your' throughout these first couple of paragraphs. By the way, I'm not going to write down all the language analysis, because I think there's just not enough space, but me chatting about it with you is good enough. Let's move onto the next paragraph.
'you won't need to go rummaging through your bags for coins. You won't ever have to worry that you don't have the cash to cover your essential food supplies - your card will ensure that you do'.
Not only is she highlighting the advantage. Here, she's arguing for the advantages of cashless payments by showing you the inconveniences of having cash in phrases like 'you won't need to' and 'you won't ever have to'. I also like the phrase 'rummaging through your bags for coins'. It gives this sense of how cumbersome the nature of physical money is in comparison to cashless payments.
In the next paragraph, she highlights cashless payments with the words 'Simple!' which reiterates her point (from the previous paragraph) about how cumbersome coins can be. She finishes off this paragraph with a 'Welcome to the twenty-first century.', so there's this sense of being forward in her decisions and that we should be as well - because nobody wants to be left behind in history. A lot of us like to think of ourselves as people who are open-minded, open to change and will take up things that are better for us, things that are more convenient for us.
So, she's saying that this is it for twenty-first century, join us over here rather than way back when, when we had to use coins. She also highlights 'mobile phone[s]', 'smart watch', 'smart ring' - many things that a lot of people have and this just compounds that idea of, 'yeah, this is a no brainer' essentially. Why shouldn't you move to cashless payments if you're already immersed in this tech world of having mobile phones, smart watches, smart rings, etc.?
She moves into talking about the wider economic context of Australia in this next paragraph. That sense of time I was talking about, comparing the now - the twenty-first century - with a decade ago, you can see that link right here. It's very obvious now. She creates a strong impression of societal inevitability of this technological change, especially because she cites statistics - '70 per cent of household spending was in cash; now it's half of that.' I can see in the next paragraph that she uses expert opinion as well - the 'Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia'. This all connects to this main phrase that we are in a ‘turning point’ now, that cash will be rapidly phased out until we become a cashless society and we should join her; we should make moves on this otherwise we're going to get left behind.
I like that she's bringing in Australia because it also brings in this additional sense of pride on our behalf. We're Australians, we're proud that we've been one of the biggest users of electronic payments in the world, we're the ones who are making waves, we're the ones who are putting our feet forward first. So, you could talk about appeal to patriotism here as well. It's interesting because here she says that she's a leader, or
'We've always tried to be a leader in our community and respond to our customer's needs.'
What do you think when you think of a leader? Typically for me, I admire leaders. They're somebody I look up to and I want to follow in their footsteps essentially. So by positioning herself as a leader, I think that's pretty interesting because she's telling us, ‘Hey, I've done all this thinking, I have initiative, I am forward-thinking, so come with me, join with me on this cashless payments movement.’
'you'll breeze through a check-out'
I like the word 'breeze through', or just 'breeze' because it connects again, back to this idea of convenience with a faster shopping experience, and it is juxtaposed against that cumbersomeness of 'rummaging through...bags for coins'. Something to think about is: as you analyse an article, you don't just have to analyse it chronologically or talk about it chronologically in your essay either. If you see things that connect later on, connect them in your essay and put them together, because what you're showing your examiner is that you can see not just the minor details - i.e. language techniques in each sentence - but you can actually zoom out and see the overall picture, how the arguments are coming together and how she's structuring her piece so that we walk away with a certain perspective. Think about that in a two-step method. There's the zoom in where we're looking at sentence by sentence and what techniques are there, which is basically what we've been doing, but at the same time, you can zoom out and have a look at how the different techniques all come together and work as a whole. If this is something that you're not too comfortable with just yet, just stick with the chronological order and working through the sort of minor details. And then on your next read, you can read through with the focus of, 'okay, what if I was to look at this from a more holistic perspective?'
Ahh! I didn't even look ahead enough, there are more words and more phrases that connect to the idea of convenience and ease. It’s 'faster', ‘will save you time', 'safer' as well?! There's a new appeal. It's not necessarily new, it's just a different angle you could come from. If you wanted to talk about the sense of security, that appeal to safety, then you could do that as well.
'it means not having to spend hours sorting, storing and securing cash'
So, more cumbersome notions. And then in comparison,
'more time', 'We understand the concerns a minority of our customers may have.'
I love when they do this, acknowledging the opposition essentially is what she's doing. She's saying, ‘yup, like, I can hear you, not all customers want this. Some of you don't.’ And my assumption is that she's going to back it up with her own rebuttal. This not only pulls along the people who are already supportive of her, but she's also trying to pull along those who are a little bit more sceptical of this idea of cashless payments. So let's see, she says,
'What if you prefer cash, don't feel comfortable using credit or debit cards, or don't have a mobile phone or smart watch? We don't want to leave anyone out. For the next three months we will offer cashless payments, but still accept cash to people to give people time to adjust.'
It's interesting because she is again, building up this position of hers, where she is friendly, she is helpful, she is thoughtful and she cares about her community. Something you could also say, and this is if you're looking at things more pessimistically, is that she's doing this more so for herself. By saying that these people have three months, there's this unspoken pressure that's happening as well. She's putting pressure on the minority and emphasising the supposed inevitability of a cash-free shopping experience. Even by just saying 'minority' that's in a way applying pressure as well, because it's saying that you are part of this smaller group, the smaller group of people who won't come with us or have not yet come with us, so join us. There's a very clear expectation that these customers need to adapt and catch up.
Want to see these ideas and annotations turned into a full A+ essay?
If you want more, I have also got a fully written up 2019 essay based on the articles that we're analysing today in my How To Write A Killer Language Analysis study guide. In that study guide, not only do I have the essay for 2019, I also have afully written up essay for the 2017 & 2020 VCAA English Exams, and we're always working on adding ones from future years as well. Plus, there's heaps of sample A-plus essays in there already and heaps of information that I think will be super helpful for you before you move into your SAC. So please, go ahead and check that out! It's loaded with value and I know it'll be worth your money.
Così 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.
Lewis is faced with a seemingly impossible task – to bring order to the chaotic world of the asylum – yet in the process of doing so, he develops hugely as a person. Although, it’s important not to take Lewis’ development at face value. His growth is used to highlight many of Nowra’s values on issues surrounding love, fidelity, madness and reality, just to name a few. It’s also important to look at the development (or lack of development) of other characters and think about why Nowra might have included them in the play. Luckily for you, Così is quite a short play and doesn’t have a huge cast of characters. However, this means that it’s even more important to get a great understanding of each character – they’re all there for a reason!
To fully understand this text, you’ll need to move beyond analysing characters and dialogue and consider Nowra’s main messages. Così is essentially a social commentary, packed full of criticisms of conventional perspectives and values. Also, Così is full of symbols and imagery, which can help you score highly on your essays if you integrate them into your work. Lastly, it's vital to remember that Così is a play, not a book, and on top of that, it is a play within a play. This means that setting, structure and stage directions are all crucial, and make for a high-scoring essay.
Melbourne Mental Institution, Australia during the 1970s.
All of the action takes place inside a burnt-out, derelict theatre. This serves to create an atmosphere of confinement for the audience, encouraging them to reflect on the stifling experience of the patients.
Così is divided into two acts and nine scenes. The play is dominated by Lewis’ development. Act 1 highlights his uncertainty and distance from the world of the asylum. Whereas by Act 2, we see Lewis become more invested in the patients and the asylum, as his relationships with the other characters grow. Lewis’ development is symbolised through the changing imagery throughout the play, specifically fire and water.
Così also is a piece of metatheatre, which Nowra achieves through structuring itas a ‘play within a play’. Metatheatre means that the play draws attention to its distance from reality. This makes sense in relation to Così, as Nowra is continually encouraging his audience to accept their own reality instead of falling into escapism. Including Così Fan Tutte in Così also serves to highlight the difference in popular opinion between Mozart’s era and the 1970s, while emphasising the continuity of love. This contrast also helps Lewis to come to terms with his valuation of love over war, which is at odds with the common opinions of his society.
The line between reality and illusion is explored through the characters who are labelled as ‘insane’ as well as those considered ‘normal.’ Nowra demonstrates that reality is unique for each person, and often people may slip into illusions in order to avoid the truth. It is suggested that although they may not have been completely ‘normal’, those considered to be ‘insane’ still possess great insight that ‘normal’ people may overlook. Additionally, Così reminds the reader of the absurdities of a mental asylum shunned by society, which would only have added to patients’ instabilities, especially as families dealt with the matter secretly. Furthermore, the issue of love and fidelity that was valued so highly in Mozart’s era, is proven to still be relevant in our modern times. Ultimately, Così is a play that criticises traditional structures and views of society – whether they be asylums, university education or harsh stigma. Nowra encourages his audience to accept both the complexity of people and of life, which begins with accepting your own reality.
The protagonist of Così, Lewis is a new university graduate who has agreed to direct a play cast with patients from a mental institution because he needs money. At first, Lewis shares the same values as his friends Nick and Lucy - that love is ‘not so important’ in the days of politics and war. During the time he spends with the patients, however, Lewis experiences a turning point in his understanding and perception of people. By the end of the play, Lewis learns to value love and friendship over war and politics, even stating that ‘without love, the world wouldn’t mean as much’. In emphasising the development of Lewis’ values away from the social norm, Nowra highlights the confining nature of society and the danger of its limited focus, which fails to recognise the value of love and companionship.
Additionally, Nowra blurs the lines between insanity and sanity by portraying Lewis as a bridge between the ‘real’ world and that of the asylum. At the beginning of the play, Lewis states that his grandmother was in an asylum. However, despite knowing that ‘she had gone mad’, he reflects that ‘she was still [his] grandmother.’This, alongside his passion for Julie, enables Lewis to see the patients as people, not their illnesses. Therefore, he subconsciously allows himself to be influenced by them, just as he influences them. This contradicts the traditional views surrounding the unproductivity of the mentally ill and instead highlights their value and worth. Therefore, Nowra warns against dismissing individuals who are mentally ill, instead highlighting their capacity to garner change and therefore be productive and valuable members of society.
Moreover, not only is Lewis involved in directing Così Fan Tutte, but he also finds himself playing the part of Fernando. This again further reinforces his roleas a bridge between society and the asylum (and his connection to its patients), and he ends up embodying the role. Like Fernando, Lewis is unfaithful to his partner. While still in a relationship with his girlfriend Lucy, Lewis becomes intimate with a patient, Julie. Nowra uses his unfaithfulness as evidence of the indiscriminate nature of infidelity – it is not restricted only to women.
Finally, Così explores how Lewis deals with a hardship that he essentially created for himself – he signed up to direct the play. This links to Nowra’s view of the senselessness of war, which he views as a problem that mankind has created for themselves.
Girlfriend and roommate of Lewis, Lucy cannot understand why Lewis is directing a play about love when thousands are dying in the war. She has an affair with Nick, who shares similar beliefs – that politics and the Vietnam War protest are more important than anything else. The flippant nature with which she regards her affair with Nick as purely sexual is also reflective of her lack of value towards love. Thus, Nowra portrays Lucy as a personification of the societal norms of the 1970s – she is political, into free love and challenges traditional notions of femininity.
Furthermore, it is ironic that Lucy and Lewis have similar names. At the start of the play, Lewis allows himself to be influenced by Lucy’s values rather than his own, but by the end, Lewis’ true views prove to be very different from hers.
Lucy also acts as a catalyst for Lewis’ change and development. She pushes him to ‘make a choice’between the world of insanity and fidelity that represents truth for Lewis, or the world of sanity, free love and politics that Lewis comes to view as restrictive and stifling.
An experienced student director, roommate and friend of Lewis who is heavily involved in the moratorium (a protest against the Vietnam War). He promises to help Lewis direct CosìFan Tutte, however he quickly breaks this vow in order to spend time furthering his political career with Lucy. Lewis later discovers that Lucy and Nick are having an affair. Unlike Lewis, however, Nick views his relationship with Lucy as ‘only sex’, therefore suggesting his superficiality and lack of compassion.
This superficiality is further shown through his obsession with the moratorium and his disinterest in Lewis’ Così Fan Tutte. He criticises Lewis for prioritising theatre over politics, stating that ‘only mad people in this day and age would do a work about love and infidelity.’ This suggests that what drives Nick is a desire to be seen doing the ‘normal’ and ‘right’ things, rather than an intrinsic belief that what he is doing is good. He views life as a series of transactions and values activities based on the immediate benefit that they bring him. For example, he admitted to helping Lewis with his direction only ‘so [Lewis would] help [him] on the moratorium committee’.
Overall, Nick lives up to his label of being an ‘egotistical pig’ who ‘likes the sound of his own voice’. He is used by Nowra as a benchmark with which Lewis’ development is compared (i.e. we can see how much Lewis has developed by comparing him to Nick). For example, at the start of the play Lewis shares similar superficial values to Nick, admitting to only take the directing job for a bit of money; however, by the end of Così, he holds vastly different views than Nick.
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Fidelity & Infidelity
According to Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, fidelity is depicted as an ideal that is never achieved. Since ‘women are like that’ – the interpretation of ‘Così fan tutte’, Mozart supported the belief that men should simply accept that women will inevitably be disloyal in relationships. Nowra echoes this view of women through Lewis and Lucy’s relationship. While Lucy is ‘sleeping’ with Lewis, she is also triflingly ‘having sex’ with Nick. When Lewis discovers Lucy’s betrayal, she waves aside his shock, defending herself, ‘it is not as if we’re married.’ The revelation thus does prove Mozart right, that ‘woman’s constancy is like the Arabian Phoenix. Everyone swears it exists, but no one has seen it.’
Although the women in both Così Fan Tutte and Così are shown to be unfaithful, so are the men. While the men in Così Fan Tutte do not actively participate in adultery, they do fabricate their departure to the war and also disguise themselves as ‘Albanians.’ Their deception is also a betrayal to their wives. Meanwhile, Don Alfonso manipulates everyone. As seen in Così, Lewis is unfaithful to Lucy as he kisses Julie during rehearsals. Julie later reveals that she has a girlfriend who she would prefer to be with, confirming that both men and women are unfaithful in relationships, despite whatever values they may claim to have.
Nowra considers many perspectives of love and fidelity, without offering a definitive opinion. Instead, he explores the progression (or stagnation) of characters’ opinions on love and contrasts them to those of other characters, in the hope of highlighting its complexity. Nick and Lucy both view love as an indulgence that is incompatible with politics and secondary to life’s basic needs. Whereas Lewis claims, ‘without love, the world wouldn’t mean that much’. These differences between Nick and Lucy’s view on love and Lewis’, are major contributors to the deterioration of their relationships. Therefore, Nowra shows that communication and truthfulness are needed for healthy, and reciprocal, relationships.
Overall, while Così Fan Tutte presents love and fidelity as wavering, Nowra provides a more practical view of love. Nowra suggests that love is complex and cannot be fully understoodor tamed, instead portraying it as akin to madness. As love is universal, this view ties in nicely with his non-judgmental perspective on madness and insanity.
Sanity & Insanity
The line between sanity and insanity is explored through the juxtaposition of the patients and society. In the 1970s, those who behaved abnormally were declared to be ‘insane’ and placed in mental institutions that were shunned by society. As scientific developments have now informed us, these environments often failed to assist their patients. The use of electric shock therapy, for example, frequently led to severe, long-term negative effects upon patients.
While the patients were viewed as ‘madmen’ by outsiders, Lewis soon discovers that they are, in many ways, ordinary people. Although each patient has a mental flaw, all possess interesting opinions and beliefs on different matters. Additionally, Nowra encourages his readers to view insanity as more complex than a diagnosis or something that can be fixed with a ‘coat of paint’. Instead, he suggests that insanity is imposed on people through the judgment of others.
Nowra also attempts to blur the lines between sanity and insanity to emphasize the indiscriminate nature of madness. This is seen through Lewis’ character, who consistently bridges the gap between madness and normalcy. For example, despite his ‘sane’ status, he is mistaken for a patient by Justin, joins Roy in imitating electric shock therapy, replaces Doug in the play, and stands with the patients against Justin.
Overall, Nowra portrays insanity as a matter of perspective, rather than an objective diagnosis. He refuses to define madness, instead depicting it as somewhere on the spectrum of human behaviour. In doing so, he critisises traditional perspectives of sanity and insanity and instead encourages his audiences to consider the complexity of madness.
Reality & Illusion
The question of what is real or an illusion is weaved through the patients’ state of mentality. As shown through Ruth who struggles to pretend like she is having real coffee on stage, it is difficult for some to distinguish reality from illusion, even if it is clear to everyone else. For others, they may willingly refuse the truth and succumb to an illusion. Lewis deluded himself into believing that Lucy was faithful, when all signs (such as Nick residing in the same home and Nick and Lucy spending time together) indicated that Lucy was, in fact, blatantly disloyal. Much like Lewis’ protective delusion, Roy uses illusions of a happy childhood to shield him from facing his reality. This builds upon his tendencies to blame others for his behaviour – he is inherently unable to face the truth of his ‘insanity’ and so manipulates his reality to make it more bearable.
Throughout Così, Nowra also explores the relativity of reality. For the patients of the asylum, pretending to give electric shock therapy to others ‘seems realer’ than ‘kissing and stuff’, whereasthe opposite would be true in ‘ordinary’ society. However, Così also suggests that imagination has the capacity to empower. Through participating in the play, which is an illusory form of reality, the patients are able to explore their views on love and commitment.
Ultimately, the behaviour of characters such as Roy and Ruth encourages us to consider the reliability (or unreliability) of our own perceptions. Alongside this, Nowra stresses the importance of being able to accept your own reality, as he shows that characters who fail to do so, also fail to experiencepersonal growth (e.g. Roy, Julie).
The setting of a burnt-out theatre depicts the miserable environment in which the patients of mental institutions are forced to live. As they are ostracised by the community, a lack of care and support is shown through the rejected and deteriorating theatre. The patients’ considerable enthusiasm highlights their unfortunate circumstances, since even a chance to spend their time in an old building performing a play causes much excitement.
Although we see the theatre being touched up with new lights and a ‘coat of paint’,it still remains derelict and run-down. Nowra uses this to symbolise the futility of surface-level treatments (such as medication and isolation) of mental illnesses, and how we should instead focus on seeing the person behind the illness.
However, Nowra also uses the theatre as a symbol of hope. Despite its desolation, it is in the theatre that Lewis feels safe to grow and develop. Additionally, Julie and Lewis’ kiss takes place on the theatre’s stage. The kiss itself represents Lewis becoming more comfortable with himself and his increasingly counter-cultural views.
The women in both Così Fan Tutte and Così are compared with the Arabian Phoenix. The mythical creature is a representation of women, beautiful and enchanting, capturing men such as the god Apollo with its voice. This reflects the power of women to attract men. Nevertheless, its rarity, as often commented on in Così , is linked with the seemingly infrequent loyalty demonstrated by women.
The frequent reference to the Arabian Phoenix throughout Così continually reinforces the play’s misogynisticundertone. Its rarity is likened to the absenceof women’s fidelity, yet never male fidelity. Similarly, Nowra invites his audience to condemn Lucy’s unfaithfulness towards Lewis, yet we are not encouraged to feel the same way about Lewis’ unfaithfulness to Lucy.
Light and Dark
The lights in Act 1, Scene 1 highlight Lewis’ entrance into a new world, where he befriends patients who will ultimately help him to learn and develop. At first Lewis, much like Lucy and Nick, possesses a ‘pitch black’ perspective of the world. This is a representation of their modern beliefs that circulate around politics and war. When the lights are turned on, Roy is present, demonstrating that the patients of the mental institutions are the source for Lewis’ changing perspective throughout the play. Nowra also uses the lights to represent the hope for change that Lewis brings to the patients, and vice versa.
Light is also used to directly juxtapose the chaos and desperation that darkness brings. Before Lewis entered the theatre, it was dark and derelict, symbolising the abandonment and hopelessness of the asylum’s patients. This desperation is viewed in another light during Julie and Lewis’ kiss (which takes place in the dark). In this instance, their desire for each other and the chaos that ensues is liberating for Lewis, as it enables him to come to terms with what he truly values.
However, Julie notes that the wards are ‘never really dark’ as ‘there’s always a light on in the corridor.’ In this sense, darkness symbolises autonomy and freedom, whereas light represents the constant monitoring and scrutinising that the patients are subjected to.
1. Così contends that some things are more important than politics.
2. In Così, the ‘insane’ characters are quite normal.
3. The line between reality and illusion is often blurred.
4. Ironically, it is through the ‘madmen’ that Lewis learns what is truly important.
5. Nick and Lucy’s ‘modern’ value of free love is depicted to be a backwards belief. Discuss.
Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Così 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
Character-Based Prompt: It is not only Lewis who develops in Così, but other characters as well. Discuss.
Step 1: Analyse
Simply spot a character’s name and there you have it, it’s a character-based prompt. However, it’s important to recognise that your essay does not need to revolve around only the character(s) in the prompt but should also incorporate discussion of other major and minor characters as well.
In this topic, it is important to incorporate other characters, such as the patients, into your essay, because they are crucial to Lewis’ development. To ensure that you stay on topic, it is best to include a paragraph (or paragraphs) that explore characters other than Lewis and their development. Also try and focus on different areas/types of development (i.e. not just Lewis’ changing values).
Highlight Key Words:
It is not only Lewis who develops in Così, but other characters as well.
Così explores the development/growth of multiple characters, including Lewis.
Lewis is the central catalyst that enables other character’s development to be seen (such as Ruth’s and Zac’s)
However, we also see characters who fail to develop. This is either because they fail to accept their own reality (Roy) or they fail to accept the errors in their thinking (Lucy, Nick)
Nowra also uses Lewis as the benchmark against which the development of other characters is measured. For example, Nick’s lack of development is highlighted through comparing his stagnation/unchanging ways to Lewis’ growth.
Lewis’ development is facilitated by the patients. Nowra uses this to suggest the productivity of the mentally ill and challenge traditional stereotypes that label them as incapable.
Through Lewis’ development, Nowra highlights the falsity in societal stereotypes of the mentally ill (i.e. Lewis’s views change from being discriminatory and stereotypical to more compassionate, and well founded.)
Imagery and symbolism are used to represent development and growth (fire and water) as well as Lewis’ catalytic nature (light and dark).
Step 3: Create a Plan
Contention: Nowra encourages his audience to reconsider their perspective on the mentally ill by highlighting their capacity to not only change themselves, but enact change in others.
Topic Sentence 1: Through his exploration of Lewis’ changing ideals during Così, Nowra attempts to highlight the value of companionship and productivity of the mentally ill, which act to increase Lewis’ confidence when faced with adversity.
Examples: Lewis’ changing ideas on love and fidelity, Lewis’ changing levels of subservience to Lucy and Nick
"Not so important."
"Without love, the world wouldn’t mean as much."
"They are coming to take me away, ha, ha."
"Not sing that."
"I said, don’t sing that song."
Linking Sentence(s): In contrasting Lewis’ meekness to his boldness, Nowra alludes to the personal benefits that personal growth can have. Additionally, he ultimately encourages his audience to view Lewis’ learning as evidence against the common notion of the unproductivity of the mentally ill, as we see Lewis’ development flourish during his time at the asylum.
Topic Sentence 2: Moreover, throughout Così we see Lewis develop a greater understanding of the complexity of madness due to his partnership with the patients.
Examples: Lewis’ changing perspective of the patients, Lewis’ involvement with the patients beyond his role as director, fire and water imagery
"Will go bezerk without their medication."
"Unable to believe he has found himself caught up in [directing]."
"Water drip[ping] though the hole in the roof."
Linking Sentence: Ultimately, through highlighting the development of Lewis’ views towards insanity, Nowra positions his audience to reflect on the complexity of madness and thus warns of the danger of stereotypes.
Topic Sentence 3: Furthermore, as an outsider, Lewis assists the patients in their development, acting as their connection to the real world and ultimately providing a space for them to grow and flourish.
Examples: Juxtaposition of light and dark, Ruth’s development.
"Chink of light."
"Burnt out theatre."
"Real cappuccino machine."
"Wasn’t [her], it was the character."
"Time and motion expert."
Linking Sentence: Ultimately, Nowra explores the learning and growth of characters in Così to not only highlight the necessity of a humanistic approach to treating mental illness, but also to illustrate the nature of mental health as a continuum, on which no one person needs to be stationary forever.
If you find this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our Così 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.
The Lieutenant 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.
Grenville’s novel follows the life of protagonist, Lieutenant Daniel Rooke in his journey with the first fleet. Rooke’s primary conflict is his choice between his moral conscience and duty as a soldier. Because he is aware from an early age that he is out of step with the world, he tends to be more reasonable in his way of dealing with conflict. His final response to his inner conflict is to stand strongly by what he believes.
The Lieutenant at its core is a journey of self-discovery as Daniel Rooke navigates the immoral waters of British imperialism and its impact on the indigenous Australians. Becoming closer to Tagaran, Rooke attempts to bridge cultural barriers through the transformative power of language. Rooke observes the scissions created by violence and the perhaps misplaced Western superiority and is perpetually torn between his moral intuitions and his obligations and duty as a Lieutenant.
TIP: Have an understanding of the historical context behind The Lieutenant as well as the real life people that Grenville loosely based her novel off of. This means having a grasp on the first fleet, the British colonisation of Australia and important figures such as Bennelong.
TIP: I have included some examples from the text but this list is by no means exhaustive, occasionally there is a repetition of examples. It’s important to remember that examples are versatile and can be applied to many different themes and ideas. Feel free to add and explore how other examples might enhance these themes.
Language dictates commonality and communication, yet to Rooke he discovers that central to the power of language is the willingness to cooperate, patience and respect. Throughout Grenville’s novel, however, it is clear that language can not only dispel the lasting vestiges of misunderstanding but it can also form the basis for racism and violence. It is through our language itself that reveals our biases.
The language of racism
Weymark refers to the Indigenous men during their first encounter as “mister darkie” etc. each a patronising euphemism concealing his arrogant notions of superiority
The limitation of language to accurately portray and convey a moment
“what had passed between Tagaran and himself had gone far beyond vocabulary or grammatical forms” (pg186)
The language of violence
“what it said was I can kill you. He did not want her to learn that language. Certainly not from him” (pg224)
“Violence had an enlivening effect. As long as someone else was the victim it made the blood pump, gave the world an edge of glamour” (pg239)
“Gamekeeper. He wondered whether that word had killed Brugden” (pg240)
“The gun is the only language the buggers will understand” (pg241)
“war was a species of conversation” (pg108)
Assumed cultural superiority of British empire
The hierarchical nature of British Society stands in diametric opposition to the community-oriented system employed by the Indigenous Australians. This hierarchy defines their people by their contributions to “Her Majesty” and shames and “punish[es]” all those who fail to comply with the loose morals and violence condoned by the British colonists. This notion is elucidated through the exploitation of the natives and the nations reliance on oppression and servitude to maintain its imperial status, put simply: their strength is an accident arising from the weakness of others. It is on this foundation that Grenville explores the violent treatment of the natives by the British and even their treatment of their own people.
“In the world of Church Street, Benjamin Rooke was a man of education and standing and a father to be proud of. At the Portsmouth Naval Academy a mile away, he was an embarrassment” (pg6)
“So we punish…. Every man is the same. If he steals, he is punished… It was interesting to hear that magnificent idea – the product of hundreds of years of British civilisation – spelled out so plain”(pg195)
This was justice: impartial, blind, noble. The horror of the punishment was the proof of its impartiality. If it did not hurt, it was not justice.” (pg197)
“By god they are savage… Dirty too, look at the filth on them”
“they may be savages, we call them savages. But their feelings are no different from ours”
Weymark resorts to derogatory name calling, urging on “my black friend” and “Mister Darkie” in his base supplications
Power of conscience
The morality that is ingrained in Rooke from the onset aligns quite naturally with our own moral standards. Yet Grenville encourages readers to explore the difficult choice between morals and disobedience. Rooke faces such a choice. To obey an order to accompany an expedition to capture or kill six indigenous men, this forms the central conflict of Grenville’s novel. As elucidated through both Rooke and Gardiner, moral acts that defy the expectations and “orders of Her Majesty” are deeply frowned upon.
“But Rooke, think: this is not a request, it is an order” (pg246)
“…spell out the consequences of refusal.” (pg248)
“… the service of humanity and the service of His Majesty were not congruent” (pg249)
“I am sorry to have been persuaded to comply with the order. I would not for any reason ever obey a similar order” (pg285)
“your orders were a most gravely wrong thing, I regret beyond my words my part in the business” (pg285)
Violence is central to the operation of imperialists as the British tightens its grip on the Indigenous Australians. Grenville emphasises that the power sought out by the British empire will always come at the expense of the natives. Violence and force are used to assert power, confirm boundaries around usurped land, promulgate fear and discourage resistance. The gun becomes a symbol of the violence and force of the settle and they show little intention of relinquishing the dominant position that the gun affords them.
The punishment for the mutineers of the Renegade reinforces Rooke’s understanding of institutional power and violence as one lieutenant is hanged in a gruesome spectacle and the others dispatched into a nameless void.
Weymark is determined to affirm his dominance and establish the white man as a powerful force
Brugden’s increased freedom with a weapon results in violence towards the natives which culminates in the kidnapping of the two native men who are “grabbed” against their will
Brugden’s unchecked brutality, and Gilbert’s excessive use of force, highlights the colonialists’ use of violence as a means of achieving their goal
Duty, service, obedience and the military life
Conforming to the pressures of the British Empire, Rooke joins the marines and complicitly serves without attempting to question the morality behind his actions. Importantly, he joins the marines not out of patriotic pride, but because he believes it will aid him to pursue his academic curiosities and steer away from violence. Yet it only brings him closer to the reality that lurks behind the ostensibly moral quest of British imperialism.
TIP: Whilst The Lieutenant focusses on Rooke’s experiences, you can’t neglect the minor characters in the novel, they are there for a reason! Think about how these characters are similar or different, how their storiescontribute to Grenville’s overall message and their relationship with the central protagonist Rooke.
Lieutenant on the first fleet
Struggles to articulate his thoughts and emotions as he is afraid of being “out of step with the world”
From a young age, Rooke’s interactions with others has made it clear to him that he is different. As such this dictates his response to conflict: blaming himself or withdrawing. His connection to Tagaran through mutual empathy demonstrates his ability to overcome conflict through mutual respect
Rooke is bound by duty to Her Majesty yet finds his missions in conflict with his innate instinct for moral righteousness
“quiet, moody, a man of few words”
“he had no memories other than of being an outsider”
Captain on the first fleet
Stands in contrast to Rooke in every respect
Storyteller that is obsessed with his narrative
Ignores the cruelty and violence of the Imperialist expedition in favour of an interesting story
Blinding opportunism that undermines his integrity
His tendency to gloss over the violence committed in the name of Her Majesty reflects his loyalty to the expedition
“man whose narrative was so important to him”
“a storyteller who could turn the most commonplace event into something entertaining”
Connects with Rooke through their mutual love for learning and language
Tagaran voluntarily engages with Rooke in his quest to understand their language, this surpasses the clumsy and mandatory lessons imposed on Boinbar and Warungin.
“Forthright, ferless, sure of herself, she looked to him like a girl who had already mastered whatever social skills her world might demand”
“a clever child like Tagaran was the perfect choice: quick to learn, but innocent. Curious, full of questions but only a child”
Gardiner acts as a foil character to both Silk and Rooke, sharing the same trials and tribulations as Rooke however responding differently than Silk
Rooke’s friendship with Gardiner establishes the grounds for their later discussions on language, the treatment of the natives and the imperialist machine as Gardiner sets an example of the consequences of going against the duties required of him
Brugden is portrayed as an essential element of colonising and the survival of the British fleet. As an embodiment of violence, Grenville suggests that integral to the operation of imperialism is crude and unwavering violence
“Brugden, out there in the woods, that powerful chest… He would be an efficient killer”
“Something had happened out there in the woods about which Brudgen was remaining silent”
“The prisoner, taller than anyone else, his powerful frame half bursting out of its thread bare check shirt…”
Lancelot Percival James
Family of slave owners, product of the empire
Rooke’s inability to understand James is symbolic of his values not aligning with that of the British empire. It foreshadows his later conflict with the value of the empire
James symbolises the derision of the British hierarchy
“Gamekeeper! The word suggested the society that Lancelot Percival James had boasted of at the Academy… But New South Wales was no gentleman’s estate… and the gamekeeper was a criminal who had been given a gun” (pg91)
By the way, to download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use, click here!
Interesting Points of Analysis
Why is Silk obsessed with documenting the first fleet? What does he seek when he writes?
Rooke’s job as an astronomer
Initially signing up for the first fleet as an astronomer, Rooke’s job is supposed to be observing comets and stars yet when he arrives he is tasked with a multitude of laborious tasks that hinder his astronomical work. In what ways does this act as a microcosm for the imperialist mission in Australia?
VOCAB: microcosm - a situation or event that encapsulates in miniature the characteristics of something much larger.
Rooke’s life in Antigua
Why did Grenville include this section? What does it add to Rooke’s journey? Why does Rooke choose to do this?
Third Person Omniscient Narration
Written from Rooke’s perspective, whose opinion do we hear the least of? And what unique perspective does Grenville’s choice of narrative perspective offer us?
Grenville’s language reflects Rooke’s love for language. Her choice of imagery reveals Rooke’s way of seeing the world. For example, “crescent of yellow sand like a punctuation mark” accentuates Rooke’s tendency to observe his world as a linguist might and highlights Rooke’s deep connection with language. Likewise, Rooke’s perception of a gun that speaks a language that “does not require listeners” emphasises his natural tendency to think as a linguist. Grenville does not write in an overly complex, dense or poetic way in order to mirror Rooke’s tendency to view things logically
How does the setting that Rooke finds himself in mirror or parallel the emotions that he experiences?
Naval Academy (Portsmouth)
“just another world that wrenched him out of shape”
“sucked out of his spirit and left a shell being”
“closed in on itself”, “narrow”, “squeezed tightly”
“There is nowhere in the world that I would rather be”(pg97)
"On the northern shore, high dark prows of headlands hung over the water, the sombre woods pressing down into their own reflections. To the south the land was lower, each bay and promontory shining with the glossy leaves of mangroves. Now and then between them a crescent of yellow sand was like a punctuation mark” (pg89)
TIP: Just like the minor characters I mentioned before, meaning and themes come from all aspects of a novel not just plot points and major characters. By including niche examples such as the setting or the narrative perspective, you can demonstrate that you have a really thorough understanding of the text!
This video’s takeaway message focuses on tackling essay prompts that include quotations. The extra quote with the prompt can seem superfluous, but often, they can provide hints about how to tackle or challenge the essay topic. It is there for a reason, and if you are familiar with the quote, I would recommend that you try to incorporate it into your essay!
Before we unpack today’s essay topic, let’s have a look at background information.
Kate Grenville’s The Lieutenant explores the commonality of the human spirit amidst tumultuous conflict during the First Fleet’s arrival in Australia in 1788. Drawing upon the true experiences of William Dawes, a British astronomer and one of the lieutenants to travel with the First Fleet, Grenville crafts a work of fiction inspired by Dawes’ “two little blue notebooks” detailing his growing understanding of the Aboriginal language Gadigal and his conversations and connection with Patyegarang, a young Aboriginal girl.
The ability for two individuals from completely different worlds to transcend their differences in order to share cherished moments and understandings together is exemplified in The Lieutenant, alongside the rife external and internal conflicts which threaten such relationship.
Today’s prompt is:
“But a man could not travel along two different paths.”
How does Grenville explore Rooke’s conflict of conscience in The Lieutenant?
Start off with focusing on the keywords in this prompt, especially the phrases that resonate with you for Steps 1 and 2 of brainstorming (which I have previously covered in other essay topic breakdowns.)
In particular, let’s have a look at the phrase “conflict of conscience” as this captures the essence of the prompt and what you will need to discuss in your essay.
Conflict of conscience suggests internal conflict, which implies that we will need to consider morality and the concepts of right and wrong, especially when a difficult decision must be made and ‘sides’ need to be taken.
Conflict itself is a central theme of The Lieutenant, however, it is important to recognise that this topic considers conflict through the narrower lens of ‘conflict of conscience’. This means that in your discussion, the relevance to the prompt is crucial to keep in mind to ensure you are actually answering the question!
But first, let’s analyse the quote:
“But a man could not travel along two different paths”
This quote alludes to Rooke’s realisation regarding the reality of his identity, not only as Tagaran’s friend or “kamara” but also as a soldier or “Berewalgal". The resignation and recognition of the impossible – that is, for Rooke to continue attempting to appease both ‘sides’ without making critical decisions about who and what he ultimately valued more - is evident in this quote. Hence, this quote refers to the conflict of conscience he experiences and provides us with an insight into not only his character but also conflict itself.
Why is it not possible for a man to travel along two different paths?
What would happen if he tried?
Why was this realisation important for Rooke, especially for his character and development?
These are the kinds of questions coming to mind upon seeing that quote alone, which all provide hints as to how I might tackle this prompt.
Now that we have looked at a few ideas related to the question, we’ll now move into potential paragraphs for this essay.
Paragraph 1: Grenville’s utilisation of Rooke’s perspective in detailing his thought processes, observations and realisations reveals the facets of Rooke’s character contributing to his internal conflicts.
Remembering this is a ‘how’ prompt, we want to be analysing ways in which Grenville explores Rooke’s conflict of conscience. In this paragraph, I have chosen to focus on the raw and intimate expression of his inner thoughts and consciousness as the ‘how’ aspect.
The detailed perspective reveals Rooke’s naivety in assuming the possibility of maintaining a peaceful connection with Tagaran and the Aboriginal community amidst turbulent and violent times. Consequently, it highlights his realisations regarding the morality of the conflicts he is involved in, and how despite one’s admirable intentions, “a man could not travel along two different paths” without facing dire consequences for their actions.
Questions I might ask myself here include: why does Rooke initially try to deny the reality of his situation? What does his preference for a peaceful and accepting approach towards the Indigenous Australians suggest about his approach to conflict?
This cognitive dissonance ultimately contributes to his internal conflict between the value he places in his connections with Tagaran and her community and in his duties and obligations as a lieutenant. As readers, we come to realise the duality of this conflict in Rooke’s mind through the limited omniscient third person perspective, which provides us with an insight into Rooke’s shifting understandings of Indigenous people, conflict and even himself.
I would then continue unpacking these changing understandings, especially ones relevant to his character which reveal his internal conflicts further.
Paragraph 2: In addition, the stark contrast between Rooke’s approach to his conflict of conscience and other soldiers’ approaches underscores the rationale behind his actions and the stakes ineluctably linked with his choices and morality.
This paragraph’s analysis revolves around Grenville’s inclusion of a host of different characters and outlooks - from Indigenous Australians to intransigent Colonial perspectives. I would emphasise the importance of juxtaposition between these different perspectives as it elucidates the values and beliefs underpinning each individual’s choices, especially during conflict.
Although the core of the essay discusses internal conflicts, highlighting the connection between internal and external conflict would add another layer of complexity to your essay. Rooke’s conflict of conscience results in his permanent departure from Australia, and fleshing out the ramifications of dissent and opposition towards other Colonials is key in demonstrating your understanding of the complex and intertwined nature of conflict.
Paragraph 3: Through the detrimental implications of Rooke’s initial conflict avoidance, Grenville’s focus on his subsequent self-awareness to unite his morals and his actions highlights the strength of his character to resolve his internal conflicts to prevent further perpetration of injustice towards the Aboriginal population.
Here, I am having a closer look at how Rooke's encounters with his conflicts of conscience and the repercussions of his actions in attempting to take a ‘middle-ground’ stance catalyse his development as an individual - in particular, how it solidifies his moral stance and his decision to act in a manner that reflects his beliefs.
By showing Tagaran how to load the gun but not how to fire it, or by accepting the navigator role but distancing oneself from the group, he endeavours to avoid conflict with either ‘side’. However, passivity is a stance within itself, and in the case of the treatment towards Indigenous Australians, Rooke’s silence in not rejecting the actions of other “Berewalgal” inevitably enables injustice to continue.
It is only through his understanding that non-committal actions also incriminate him as a perpetrator that his choice to sacrifice his Colonial obligations for taking an active stance to fulfil his moral obligations comes to light. This reveals the role that internal conflicts may have in inciting powerful change and realisations in an individual.
The complexity of internal conflict can be difficult to discuss, but by using the quote provided in the prompt and asking yourself questions about the implications of the quote, we are able to delve into and construct a sophisticated understanding of The Lieutenant and of conflict itself.
LSG-curated sample essay topics for The Lieutenant
Now it's your turn! Here's a list of essay topics for your studies:
The Lieutenant demonstrates how an individual's true self emerges in the face of conflict.' Discuss.
'The Lieutenant shows the catalysts for miscommunication and misunderstanding between the First Fleet and the local Aboriginal population.' Discuss.
'The Lieutenant presents a society where sustained, amicable relations between the "Berewalgal" and the Aboriginal population were impossible.' Do you agree?
“But a man could not travel along two different paths.” How is Rooke's conflict of conscience explored in The Lieutenant?
'Rooke's own differences furthered his understanding of and connection with Tagaran.' Discuss.
"You did not learn a language without entering into a relationship with the people who spoke it with you." How is this concept explored in The Lieutenant?
"The intention of evil was there which is all that God see when he looks into our hearts." 'Grenville explores the importance of intention over action in The Lieutenant.' Discuss.
Why are Rooke's realisations about and outlook on the world an anomaly?
'The Lieutenant explores how social change can only happen with dissent and non-conformity.' To what extent do you agree?
How does Grenville construct morality in The Lieutenant?
'Rooke discovers that exploration of the self is crucial in shaping one's sense of identity.' Discuss.
'It is easier to resist change than to enable it.' How does The Lieutenant demonstrate this idea?
'In The Lieutenant, it is the individual who determines what is possible and what is impossible.' Discuss.
"If he were to go back to that night on the sand of Botany Bay, would he make the same choice again, knowing that this was where it would lead him...?" How does Grenville explore how and why difficult choices are made?
'Intransigence and a sense of superiority ultimately prevent unity in New South Wales.' Do you agree?
'Without mortality and fallibility, humility cannot exist.' Compare how the two texts explore the importance of humility.
Compare the ways the two texts explore the efficacy of different leadership types.
"In a world that is also subject to chance." (Ransom) "Under the bludgeonings of chance; My head is bloody, but unbow'd." (Invictus). Compare how chance influences lives and societies in these texts.
Compare how these texts examine the societal consequences of conformation and rebellion.
Compare how Invictus and Ransom explore resistance to change.
'Forgiveness can correct any miscarriage of justice committed.' Compare how this idea is demonstrated in these texts.
'Leadership and sacrifice are never mutually exclusive.' Compare the connections between leadership and sacrifice in Invictus and Ransom.
Compare the ways the two texts explore the power of shared experiences.
'...let his name, from now on, be Priam, the price paid" (Ransom) Compare how Invictus and Ransom show the roles of the past in determining one's future.
"But the women's presence is stronger than [Achilles']. This is their world." (Ransom) Compare what these texts say about the power of women in societies focused on masculinity and male experiences.
'Family can have many interpretations and meanings.' Compare the ways family is perceived in these texts.
Compare how the two texts explore intergenerational relations and their importance.
Compare how, in Invictus and Ransom, the aftermath of forgiveness is both redeeming and transient.
"Words are powerful. They too can be the agents of what is new, of what is conceivable and can be thought and let loose upon the world." (Ransom) "Just words. But they helped me to stand when all I wanted was to lie down." (Invictus) Compare how words shape one's hope for change is explored in both texts.
'Stories hold unseen truth and potential.' Compare how the two texts explore the importance of storytelling.
Ransom and Invictus is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing). For a detailed guide on Comparative, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.
As the VCE English exam creeps up on us, many of you will be testing your writing skills under timed conditions (if not, then you better!!!). But, have you sat down under timed conditions for 15 minutes of Reading Time? Have you thought about how to maximise reading time? Many of you may have already figured out how you will approach Reading Time in your exam. Some of you will have a rough idea, while some will pay attention to detail – knowing how to spend each and every minute in that 15 minutes of silence. During Year 12, I was somewhere in between. I knew I didn’t want to waste precious time like others – those who would simply open the exam booklet, check out the three sections, then sit there staring blankly at the clock to tick over to 9:15am (you will definitely see some classmates doing this :’)) Below is a 5x5x5 guideline which, in my opinion, is the most strategic way to maximise every single minute in Reading and Writing Time. Keep reading afterwards for more details!
First 5 minutes: Plan Text Response and Reading and Comparing
The best tip I’ve received from a VCAA examiner is: ‘Don’t automatically select the prompt that looks easiest.’
Why? While a prompt may look ‘easier’, it may not necessarily enable you to delve into the text to the best of your ability. It is worth spending a few extra seconds contemplating how you would break down your other available prompts. This is worth doing because sometimes, you actually realise that the prompt which looked ‘harder’ to deal with initially (probably because of some scary-looking keywords), is more suited to you and your ability to respond.
In case you’re wondering, a ‘mental plan’ is my way of saying ‘do a plan in your head’. You should always plan (don’t even get me started if you don’t!). You will most definitely reassure yourself and calm your nerves once you’ve organised your contention(s) in your mind and the examples you want to use. Don’t wait until Writing Time to do this, because you can knuckle out hurdles straight away (especially if it takes you time to come up with ideas and evidence!).
Second 5 minutes: Read Language Analysis article (1st read)
Don’t jump straight into analysing techniques straight away. Reason: This may obscure your interpretation of the contention. The contention is the first thing you need to get right. So sit back, read the article for what it is, and absorb as much of the argument presented to you.
Last 5 minutes: Read Language Analysis article (2nd read)
Your second reading should firstly, reinforce your interpretation of the author’s contention, and secondly, involve you identifying language techniques! This should take you right up to the end of Reading Time but even if you still have spare time left, it doesn’t hurt to read the article(s) a third time! The more times you read something, the better your mind will consolidate the cold material in front of you!
Feel free to take on board this guideline or to create your own – at the end of the day, if you have a plan for Reading Time, you’re set!
First 10 minutes: Writing plans
You've done all that hard work thinking up 'mental plans' during Reading Time, let's put them to paper. Don't skip this step, because you would otherwise have wasted your precious 15 minutes getting ahead. Moreover, it's highly likely you'll forget the points you want to write about if you just store it in your brain. Remember that you are in an adrenaline-driven situation, where nerves can get the better of you. Avoid any mind blanks by guaranteeing yourself success and write the damn plan down!
Next 3 x 55 minutes: Writing essays
55 minutes is a good goal because it forces you to get your act together. Aiming for an essay in 60 minutes can often turn into 65 minutes, or even longer. At the very least if you do go over time with a '55 minute per essay' rule, you will put yourself in a position where you can afford to go slightly overtime, and yet still have enough time for other essays.
Final 5 minutes: Proof-reading
This is a step that many people skip, but if you're reading this blog - you won't be joining them. A quick review of your work can help you edit errors you didn't notice while writing. As you practise in the lead up to exams, take note of what errors you tend to make when writing. Is it expression, punctuation, or spelling errors? Keep an eye on your most common mistakes when proof-reading to be more a more effective editor. It is these small incremental changes you can make in your essays which add up to make a powerful impact on the final product.
Share this post with your friends and best of luck for your VCE English exam!
• Although its structure and cinematic plot development resemble that of crime fiction, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is a ‘nonfiction novel’ detailing the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Put simply, the book was conceived of journalism and born of a novelist.
• The novel is a product of years of extensive research by Capote and his friend and fellow author Harper Lee, who followed the trails of the Kansas criminals across numerous US states. In Cold Blood revolutionised the American ideals of journalism and literature, blurring the lines between these labels.
• A notable technique Capote employed in order to access classified information was becoming personally acquainted with the criminals of the case. For example, Capote became extremely close to Perry Smith, one of the main murderers in the case, which gave him exclusive information on the personal motives of the killers.
• In Cold Blood reflects this relationship with the murderer through Capote’s narration of the book as an objective bystander. On page 23, we see the almost endearing way that Capote describes Perry; “his voice was both gentle and prim– a voice that, though soft, manufactured each word exactly, ejected it like a smoke ring issuing from a parson’s mouth.” As such, Capote’s friendship with Perry allows him to present the killer to the audience with a certain humanity and empathy, showcasing a broader picture of criminals than just a merciless murderer.
True facts of the Case
• On the 15th of November, 1959, all four members of the small farming Clutter family were brutally murdered, including Herbert Clutter, his wife Bonnie Clutter and their two teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon.
• The family was discovered bound and shot in the head. Herb’s throat had also been slashed. After ransacking the entire house, the criminals had left without finding any cash, carrying with them no more than fifty dollars, a pair of binoculars and a transistor radio.
• Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene ‘Dick’ Hickock were convicted of the crime. The two men had become acquainted during serving time at the Kansas State Penitentiary, and soon confessed to the crime, claiming that that they had heard from another prisoner that Herb Clutter was extremely wealthy, and kept his money in an easy-to-reach safe in his house.
• After the confession, the two murderers were flown from Nevada to Garden City, where they stood trial for their crimes. On 29 March, 1960, they received a guilty verdict, and were sentenced to the death penalty. For the following five years, Smith and Hickock lived on death row in Leavenworth, Kansas and were executed by hanging on the 14th of April, 1965.
Perry Edward Smith
One of the two murderers of the Clutter case, Smith is portrayed as a sensitive and artistic man haunted by his turbulent and lonely childhood. Described by Capote as a man of ‘actorish’ good looks, he disfigured both of his legs due to a motorcycle accident, which gave him chronic pain and an addiction to aspirin. His criminal actions are often directly linked to his childhood, described as ‘no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another’. Smith’s father was extremely abusive towards his wife, Flo Buckskin, and his four children, and so Buckskin later divorced him, taking the children with her. However, on her own she became an alcoholic and died by choking on her own vomit when Smith was only thirteen years old. He was then transferred to a Catholic orphanage, where he suffered from psychological, sexual and physical abuse from the nuns, one of whom attempted to drown him. Smith’s father and two of his siblings committed suicide during his time on death row. Smith eventually befriended Capote through their extensive interviews, and is believed to have shared personal information with him, believing him to be a true friend.
Richard Eugene ‘Dick’ Hickock
The second murderer of the Clutter case. Having grown up in Kansas, Hickock was a popular football player before turning to a life of crime after realising that he could not afford to go to college. During the course of the Clutter murder investigations, Hickock persistently blamed all of the murders on his partner in crime, Smith, claiming that ‘Perry Smith killed the Clutters…. It was Perry. I couldn’t stop him. He killed them all.’ Capote later states that during the murder, Smith was the one who stopped Hickock from raping the 16-year-old Nancy Clutter, as Hickock harboured pedophilic tendencies.
A well-liked and kind-hearted wheat farmer in Holcomb, Kansas. Proprietor of the large River Valley Farm, Herb is described as a hardworking and valued citizen before his murder, who lead a relatively quiet life other than a troubled marriage with his wife due to her chronic depression.
Described as an ‘anxious woman’, it is revealed that Bonnie has a history of numerous mental illnesses, one of which is postpartum depression. Capote states that she and Herb had not slept in the same bed for many years.
Described as the ‘darling of the town’ - the class president and future prom queen Nancy was the 16 year old daughter of the Clutters.
Athletic but introverted, Kenyon was the 15 year old son of Herbert and Bonnie Clutter.
A personal friend of the Clutters, Dewey was the primary investigator in the Clutter murder case and worked for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Themes and Motifs
The American Dream
The novel is Capote’s reflection upon the American Dream, as he portrays both the lives of those who epitomise it and those who are tragically out of its reach. Herb Clutter’s position as an upstanding American citizen with a prosperous farm elicits the reader’s interpretation of his character as the rags-to-riches ideal. In stark contrast with this, the rootless and criminal Dick Hancock and Perry Smith are presented as individuals for whom the Dream is perpetually unattainable. Their attempt to finally become ‘rich’ materialises through their attempt to rob the Clutters’ home, the failure of which ironically results in their brutal murders of the people who successfully represented the American Dream.
In accordance with the American Dream, In Cold Blood also explores the concept of what is considered ‘normal’ in America, and what can be revealed as the darker underbelly of its white picket fence ideal. Dick asserts throughout the novel that he is ‘normal’, but from an external, objective perspective, he is clearly far from such; he has distorted physical features and has committed a terrible, vicious murder. Capote also explores the idea of normal mental health, as Bonnie Clutter seems to have the perfect marriage and life with Herb, and yet suffers from extreme bouts of ‘nervousness’ and chronic depression which result in her hospitalisation.
What is evil is primarily explored through the character of Perry, who has conflicting ideals about what can be considered truly ‘evil’. The more feminine and gentler of the two murderers, Perry possesses conflicting morals, as despite being a ruthless murderer, he does feel remorse and is affected by what he has done. He even thinks to himself that Herb Clutter is a ‘very nice gentleman’ even in the midst of slitting his throat. Capote in the novel reveals that there are numerous facets to the meaning of true ‘evil’, and the blurred borders that exist between each of these.
Symbolising the idea of dominance and power, Dick and Perry, who have a complementary and polarised gender relationship, feed off each other in order to boost their own masculinity. Described as ‘aggressively heterosexual’, Dick is evidently the more stereotypically masculine counterpart, having had numerous relations with women. Perry, on the other hand, is more feminine and submissive, as Dick often calls him names such as ‘sugar’ and ‘honey’. Both men in the novel utilise the other in order to make themselves feel more masculine in their highly restrictive and conservative society — while Dick emphasises Perry’s feminine qualities, Perry admires Dick and craves his words of affirmation that he, too, is masculine.
Essay Writing for In Cold Blood
Below are some possible prompts for In Cold Blood, and possible ideas to begin writing an essay.
Theme-based Essay Prompt
"I think it is a hell of a thing that a life has to be taken in this manner. I say this especially because there's a great deal I could have offered society. I certainly think capital punishment is legally and morally wrong.”
Is In Cold Blood merely a novelistic argument against the death penalty? Discuss.
To learn more about LSG’s Five Types of essay prompts, I’d highly recommend checking out this blog post. It’s a super unique strategy developed by the founder of LSG, Lisa Tran. The Five Types method, outlined in the top-rated How To Write A Killer Text Response eBook, takes the stress of students and gives them easy to follow rules and tips so that they know how to approach every essay topic, every time.
• The best way to approach any essay prompt is to recognise the limiting and/or important words of the essay question. In this thematic prompt these words are: ‘legally and morally’, and ‘merely’.
• Secondly, for prompts which incorporate a quote, it is helpful to understand the context of the quote. In this case, the quote was said by Perry as his last words before his execution by hanging. Consider the importance of this; these words are especially more meaningful as they symbolise the last direct influence he leaves upon society. They are remorseful words of a murderer reproaching the justice system, which begs the question - does Capote position the reader to agree with the murderer’s view?
• Planning this essay can be structured along three arguments...
1. Capote argues against capital punishment through eliciting pathos for the murderers and portraying them as more than mere monsters.
• Evidence for this argument could be based mostly on the descriptive elements of Capote’s writing, or his emotional attachment to the murderers, particularly Perry.
• Capote paints Perry particularly sympathetically, highlighting his sensitivity as well as his broken and abusive childhood. Quotations from the novel make it clear that his character is romanticised to an extent, such as “It was a changeling's face, and mirror-guided experiments had taught him how to ring the changes, how to look now ominous, now impish, now soulful; a tilt of the head, a twist of the lips, and the corrupt gypsy became the gentle romantic.”
2. In Cold Blood supports the anti-death penalty argument through its structure and organisation.
• The epigraph of the novel is a verse of the poem, ‘Ballade des pendus’ by Francois Villon, that he composed whilst on death row in 1463. Villon’s criminal circumstances were strikingly similar with Dick and Perry’s, as he murdered a priest and stole from his strongbox before being arrested and sentenced to death. Despite this, Villon was ultimately charged with a 10 year banishment from Paris, whereas the Clutter family murderers are hanged - a strikingly different outcome. Thus, Capote employs this poetic epigraph to strengthen his argument against the unjust executions of Perry and Dick.
• In addition to this, the structure of the novel is also used to argue against capital punishment. Although Part One focuses on the lives of both the Clutter family members and Dick and Perry preceding the murder, Part Two skips over the actual murders themselves and recounts the aftermath of its events. This allows Capote to further develop Dick and Perry into real, complex people rather than merely cold blooded murderers; people who do not deserve such a cruel fate.
3. However, Capote does ostensibly condemn the cruelty of the murders and presents the opposing argument that capital punishment is not, in fact, ‘legally and morally wrong’.
• The brutality of the Clutter murders are emphasised through the novel, as Larry Hendricks, who discovers the bodies along with the police, provides the gruesome details of the bodies - ‘each tied up and shot in the head, one with a slit throat’.
• As Perry later admits to the murder in his extended confession, Dewey highlights the fact that the Clutters ‘had suffered’ due to the ‘prolonged terror' inflicted by the murderers, and orders them, as such, to be ‘hanged back to back’.
• The argument for capital punishment in In Cold Blood is also supported by religious beliefs. As a small and predominantly Christian town, Kansas and its residents can be perceived interpreting the words of the Bible literally; at the end Dick and Perry’s trial, the prosecuting attorney Logan Green reads an excerpt from Genesis in the Holy Bible: ‘Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ Rejecting the notion that Christianity preaches forgiveness, Green strives to punish the killers for failing to abide by the laws and prophecies of the Old Testament.
Character essay prompt
Perry Smith, despite Capote’s authorial sympathy towards him, is really a cold and merciless monster. Discuss.
When approaching character-based prompts, you must depart slightly from examining the holistic messages of the author, as you would in a theme-based prompt, but rather analyse how the specific character develops this authorial message. The above essay question could be brainstormed in the following way:
1. Capote’s description of Perry shows that he is far from a ‘monster’, but a human being of great sensitivity and emotion.
• During his confession of the Clutter murders, Perry’s comment, ‘There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that,’ shows that he, to some extent, understands the gravity of his actions and regrets them.
• Perry is also described by his sister as ‘gentle’, and someone who ‘used to cry because he thought the sunset was so beautiful’. Likewise, even in moments of cruelty, he often shows mercy and a wide moral compass, even stopping Dick from raping Nancy Clutter during their murder spree.
2. Perry is also depicted as someone ‘weakened’ by the tragic events of his past and his own insecurities, rather than an inherently ‘cold and merciless’ person.
• Capote often links Perry’s violent tendencies with his childhood, described as ‘no bed of roses but pitiful, an ugly and lonely progress toward one mirage and then another’, as he was raised ‘with no rule or discipline, or anyone to show [him] right from wrong’.
• In addition to this, Perry can be perceived to be the more insecure and submissive of the two killers, as while Dick often calls him stereotypically feminine names such as ‘sugar’ and honey’, Perry admires his ‘aggressive’ masculinity and craves his words of affirmation in order to feel as masculine and strong as his counterpart.
3. Despite this, Capote does not entirely erase the murderous aspects of Perry’s character.
• Due to the prompt and seemingly nonchalant way in which he kills the clutters, Dick becomes convinced that Perry is that rarity of a person,"a natural killer.”
• Thus, Capote, despite his empathetic portrayal of Perry, never allows the reader to forget the extent of his criminality, and how easily he was able to fire those ‘four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives.’
Alice Munro is a Canadian Nobel-Prize-winning author of short stories, and Runaway, first published in 2004, is a collection of eight such stories (though kind of actually only six, because three of them are sequential). These stories examine the lives of Canadian women throughout the last century, but not all of them are necessarily realistic to what daily life actually looks like. Rather, Munro uses borderline-supernatural events (which some critics say feel staged or contrived) to shed light on the tensions and challenges of gender in modern life.
This can mean that some of the stories are quite hard to follow; they go through all these twists and turns, and the lines between stories start blurring after a while. Let’s go through each in a bit more detail before jumping into our analysis.
2. Story-by-Story Characters and Summary
The titular story is about a woman Carla, her husband Clark, their goat Flora, and their elderly neighbour Sylvia Jamieson. There are many runaways in the story: Carla ran away from her middle-class home to marry Clark, Flora the goat literally runs away, a scandalous lie about Sylvia’s late husband gets a bit out of hand, and now Sylvia is helping Carla run away once again, this time from Clark. Few of these runaways are really very successful: this story is really interrogating why and how.
The next three stories are sequential, and revolve around Juliet, a well-educated classicist who is working as a teacher in the first story, ‘Chance’ - it is set in 1965 and she is 21. In this story, she meets her lover Eric Porteous on a train, then finds him again six months later. Eric is sleeping around with a few women in light of his wife’s declining health and eventual passing, but by ‘Soon’ he and Juliet have settled down and had a baby together - Penelope.
‘Soon’ focuses more on the relationship between Juliet and her parents, in particular her mother Sara. Juliet feels a bit out of place now at home, and feels guilty about not being more present for Sara. In turn, ‘Silence’ depicts her own daughter running away from her. Juliet returns to her studies and only hears about Penelope’s life through a chance encounter with a friend who reveals that Penelope is now a mother herself.
The next story is about Grace, an older woman revising the family home of her husband Maury Travers. Their marriage never had a lot of passion in it really - Grace was always more interested in Maury’s family - but both of them were just doing what was expected of them. The contrast comes from Maury’s brother Neil, a doctor who accompanies Grace on a hospital trip when she cuts her foot. This trip becomes longer and more sensual, feeling adulterous even though very little actually transpires between them - the story raises questions around what counts as cheating, and what marriages should entail.
‘Trespasses’ is slightly deliberately disorienting from the start (which is actually the end of the story). We go on a flashback in the middle to learn about a father, Harry, and his daughter Lauren. One day when moving house, Lauren finds a cardboard box - Harry explains that it contains the ashes of a dead baby who he and his wife Eileen (Lauren’s mother) had had before Lauren. This leads to Lauren questioning if she was adopted, which is further complicated by Delphine, a worker at a hotel who seems to think Lauren is her biological daughter. The ending (which was teased at the beginning) is the evening of confrontation between the four characters where the truth is finally revealed.
Conversely, ‘Tricks’ has a more linear plot to follow. Robin is a carer for her asthmatic sister Joanne, but she’s taken to watching Shakespeare plays in the next town once a year. One year, she meets a European clockmaker Danilo who plans to meet her next year when she is back in town - but this doesn’t go to plan at all. It’s only 40 years later that Robin finds out Danilo had a twin brother, which is why the plan had gone downhill.
The last story in the collection is arguably the most complex, and it’s broken into 5 parts to reflect that complexity. It follows Nancy as she ages from a fresh high school graduate to an old woman by the end of the sequence, including her marriage to the town doctor Wilf. Importantly, the stories also cover her friendship with Tessa, who has the supernatural powers mentioned in the title. However, by the third story, Tessa has been abandoned in a mental hospital and she has lost her powers. Throughout the stories, we also see Ollie, Wilf’s cousin (or a figment of Nancy’s imagination according to this analysis), who seems to be responsible for Tessa’s demise.
Let’s start tracing some of the common themes between the stories.
A key theme explored throughout many of the stories is marriage and domesticity. There’s a strong sense that it’s an underwhelming experience: it doesn’t live up to expectations and it particularly dampens the lives of the women involved. Nancy’s marriage to Wilf in ‘Powers’ only happens because she feels guilty - 'I could hardly [turn him down] without landing us both in…embarrassment' - but, as a result, she loses her fun, intellectual streak as he tells her to put down her book, 'give Dante a rest'. A similar fate befalls Juliet, who gives up her study in the process of becoming married.
Marriage is also sometimes explored as a deliberate choice, even if it might have unintended consequences - for example, Carla’s marriage to Clark is described as a life that she 'chose'. This interpretation is more unclear though, and is contradicted in other stories like Passion, where Grace’s marriage is described as 'acquiescence ', acceptance without protest. It’s even contradicted to some extent in the same story: Munro compares Carla’s marriage to a 'captive' situation, where she might’ve chosen to enter the marriage, but after that has little say in how it goes.
This sounds a bit trite, but the title is a key theme as well - just not necessarily in the physical sense. Consider all of these different definitions and how they pop up in the stories. In ‘Runaway’, Carla and the goat run away, but also the lie Carla tells Clark about Leon, a runaway lie that taints his relationship with Sylvia completely. Some runaways are described as accidents - 'she – Flora – slipped through' - while others are much more deliberate. The question here is how much control we actually have over our own lives. Not a lot, it would seem.
The other side of runaway/s is to think about who the victim in each runaway is. Does somebody run away because they are 'in a bad situation, the way it happens', a victim of circumstance, or do they run away because they feel guilty, or because they’re abandoning someone else, the true victim of being left behind? Carla does seem like more of a victim of circumstance with good reason to run away, but think about Nancy leaving Tessa behind in ‘Powers’: ‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’
This question about who the real victim is might be the hardest to answer for ‘Silence’. Juliet’s daughter abandons her, but it’s not like there’s a strong history of positive mother-daughter relationships in their family: Juliet wasn’t able to give Sara what she needed ( 'she had not protected Sara') and in turn isn’t able to quite give Penelope what she needs either (Penelope having a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home '). At the same time, Penelope’s abandonment does feel quite callous and inexplicable, even if Juliet feels like it’s what she deserves; Munro suggests at the end of the story that a reunion would be an 'undeserved blessing'. The intertextuality with Aethiopica reveals Juliet’s good intentions, her similarity to the 'great-hearted queen of Ethiopia', but it doesn’t quite give us the satisfaction of a neat resolution either.
Ethics and Morality
Finally, Munro’s stories also raise questions around morality. Besides what we’ve already covered - adultery, runaways - there are further questions raised around parenthood, particularly in ‘Trespasses’. Harry seems to share a bit too much information with his child, who really doesn’t need to know about the dead baby just yet. Lauren is 'not short of information', and it’s worth questioning where that boundary should be for a child of her age.
But not all ethical questions have simple answers: as in ‘Tricks’ they can sometimes just have 'outrageous', cruel punchlines that don’t reveal themselves for decades. Munro doesn’t necessarily have all the answers on this one. She brings up complex moral situations but does not pass judgment on any.
4. Symbols & Analysis
Throughout the stories, Munro brings in a few elements of Greek mythology or literature. The intertextuality in ‘Silence’ is one example, drawing on the classical text Aethiopica, but there are a few more scattered throughout the stories: the constellations of Orion and Cassiopeia in ‘Chance’ and an oracle-like figure in Tessa, a main character in ‘Powers’. All of these elements have some significance:
Cassiopeia is known for her arrogance and vanity, which parallels with the way Juliet detaches herself from her life ('she had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' - despite her very real vulnerabilities)
Orion is known for his forbidden romance with the virgin goddess Artemis, which parallels with Eric’s romance with Juliet (Juliet being relatively inexperienced with men herself, with all of her experiences being 'fantasy')
Oracles in mythology are like mouthpieces of the gods who can prophesy about the future. They were often women, so oracles were unusually influential in their male-dominated societies. The question is whether this parallels with Tessa at all: even though she has these supernatural powers, are there other forms of power she might lack instead?
In general, intertextuality is a way to enrich a text by drawing parallels and linking characters to existing stories or archetypes. Here, Munro uses classical texts to add dimension to her characters in a way that is almost-but-not-quite commentary. Pre-existing Greek myths are a way for us to see what’s really going on.
(Rail)Roads and Transit
The other symbol that comes up a few times in the stories is roads or railroads - basically places where runaways might happen. ‘Chance’ is set in the middle of a train journey, ‘Tricks’ involves a couple of train journeys, ‘Runaway’ maps the roads leading in and out of Carla’s home, and almost all of ‘Passion’ takes place on the road. If we broaden ‘places where runaways might happen’ to include planes as well, then we can add ‘Powers’ and ‘Silence’ to the list.
All of these spaces are what might be called liminal - they’re ‘in-between’ spaces with an air of suspense about what can happen. It’s probably most prominent in ‘Passion’, where Grace describes the events of that road trip as a 'passage” in her life, both physically and metaphorically. In general though, they’re the settings where the wildest and most significant events tend to happen.
'She (referring to Carla) chose this life with Clark.'
'She is just in a bad situation, the way it happens.'
'She saw him as the architect of the life ahead of them, herself as the captive, her submission both proper and exquisite.'
'She might be free.' - this is the second last line in the story. Note the ambiguity here (and through all these quotes, to be honest) about which ‘she’ is being referred to (Carla, Flora or even Sylvia)
'Juliet was twenty-one years old and already the possessor of a B.A. and an M.A. in classics.'
'The problem was that she was a girl. If she got married—which might happen…—she would waste all her hard work.'
'She had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer.'
'…the two of them (referring to Sara and Juliet) intertwined. And then abruptly, Juliet hadn’t wanted any more of it.'
'But she had not protected Sara. When Sara had said, soon I’ll see Juliet, Juliet had found no reply. Could it not have been managed?…She had put everything away.'
Penelope supposedly had a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home.'
'Penelope does not have a use for me.'
'She hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.'
Grace, watching a movie with Maury, felt 'rage…because that was what girls were supposed to be like. That’s what men - people, everybody - thought they should be like. Beautiful, treasured, spoiled, selfish, pea-brained. That was what a girl should be, to be fallen in love with.'
'It was not in her nature, of course, to be so openly dumbfounded, so worshipful, as he was.'
'Describing this passage, this change in her life, later on, Grace might say - she did say - that it was as if a gate had clanged shut behind her. But at the time there was no clang - acquiescence simply rippled through her.'
Lauren 'had been brought up to believe that children and adults could be on equal terms with each other.'
'How could she be sure that they had not got her as a replacement? If there was one big thing she hadn’t known about, why could there not be another?'
'Forgive us our trespasses' - note the ambiguity of ‘trespasses’ (does it mean sins as in the prayer, or overstepping boundaries, or both?)
'Some of the best-looking, best-turned-out women in town are those who did not marry.'
'A means to an end, those tricks are supposed to be.'
'I couldn’t stand for the poor man (referring to Wilf) to have had two girls turn him down’
'I used to have a feeling something really unusual would occur in my life, and it would be important to have recorded everything. Was that just a feeling?'
'She could be upset to see you leave without her. So I’ll give you an opportunity just to slip away.'
'He has nearly forgotten that he ever believed in her powers, he is now only anxious for her and for himself, that their counterfeit should work well.'
Carla, Grace and Tessa are more similar than different in terms of their relationships with the men in their lives. Do you agree?
How does Munro contrast younger and older women in Runaway?
What does the setting contribute to the overall effect of Runaway?
'Forgive us our trespasses.' What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway?
7. Essay Topic Breakdown
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’sTHINK and EXECUTE strategy, a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will give you a brief glimpse on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response.
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
‘Forgive us our trespasses.’ What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway?
Step 1: Analyse
This quote is from ‘Trespasses’ and captures the double meaning of the word as both overstepping physical boundaries and sinning in the moral or religious sense. It’s likely we’ll want to talk about both interpretations - physically trespassing but also encroaching on boundaries in immoral ways. Note that the prompt also includes the action words ‘created’ and ‘overstepped’, meaning that there’ll be a pretty diverse range of examples that we’ll need to use to answer this prompt comprehensively.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Let’s start with physical boundaries: Carla’s marriage and the fences on her property and the US-Canada border in ‘Powers’ come to mind. Then, we’ve got non-physical boundaries: emotionally as in ‘Chance’ and ethically as in ‘Trespasses’. This is where we start getting into whether these boundaries are created or overstepped.
Clark creates boundaries for Carla and her attempts to break free from them are unsuccessful. The border in ‘Powers’ is more of an excuse for Nancy to neglect Tessa, a boundary she creates and never makes the effort to overstep. Finally, the ethical boundaries in ‘Trespasses’ are overstepped from the get-go. How can we synthesise these ideas into one essay?
Step 3: Create a Plan
I think the trick with questions like this is not to just allocate different types of boundaries and/or different action words to each paragraph. Try to think of creative ways to string these ideas together that also build towards a bigger picture or overall contention about the text as a whole. This example plan explores physical and emotional boundaries but makes a bigger argument that they are often associated with regret in Munro’s stories.
Paragraph 1: Physical boundaries are both the most intentional and the most difficult to overstep.
Carla’s farmstead is isolated and bordered by roads; her marriage to Clark and her life on this farmstead is likened to a 'captive' situation, with Clark being the 'architect' of it all
Munro ends Runaway on a pessimistic note about Carla’s ability to leave this boundary: 'She might be free'
International borders also constitute physical barriers, and these are used by Nancy in ‘Powers’ to avoid responsibility; because this is an active decision (‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’), it’s a barrier that never really gets broken. Similar to Penelope in ‘Silence’
Paragraph 2: Munro’s stories, however, focus more on emotional boundaries, and the way these are applied varies greatly. This variation underscores their complexity.
Emotional boundaries when created can prevent intimacy: Juliet 'ma[kes] herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' so as to avoid commitment. These boundaries come back to bite when she has a daughter
Conversely, they cause a great deal of harm when overstepped: for example, ‘Trespasses’ sees 'crazy and dangerous' adults toy with the life of a child, constantly assuming that she 'can take it' when in fact this is not the case
Paragraph 3: Regardless, Munro’s characters often come to regret the boundaries they erect or overstep.
Carla’s ambivalence about her marriage is tinged with regret either way: when she’s there, she wants to escape, and when she escapes, she questions if she has 'anything left in [her]'
Juliet reflects on the boundaries she puts up between herself and Penelope and realises that 'spontaneous remissions' between them are undeserved and impossible
In ‘Powers’, Nancy struggles with the guilt of abandoning Tessa: many years later, she still wants to 'open [the past] up' and understand her motives. However, it is too late, and the boundaries are already there
Munro does not suggest that boundaries are inherently good or bad, but her stories show how they can be sources of regret when treated improperly