English & EAL

Text Response – fulfilling the VCAA marking criteria ‘Views and Values’

by
Lisa Tran

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Text Response can be difficult because there are many different aspects of the text you need to discuss in an intellectual and sophisticated manner. The key points you need to include are stated in the VCAA Text Response criteria as shown below:

  1. the ideas, characters and themes constructed by the author/director and presented in the selected text
  2. the way the author/director uses structures, features and conventions to construct meaning
  3. the ways in which authors/directors express or imply a point of view and values
  4. the ways in which readers’ interpretations of text differ and why.

We have explored some of the different criterion points in past blog posts, but this time we’ll be focusing on number 3,

the ways in which authors/directors express or imply a point of view and values.

Views: How the author sees something

  • Opinion
  • Perspective
  • Way of thinking
  • Impression
  • Observation

Values: How the author thinks about something

  • principles
  • moral
  • ethics
  • standards

In VCE, simply exploring themes and character development is not enough to score yourself a higher-graded essay. This is where discussion on ‘views and values’ comes in. Essentially this criterion urges you to ask yourself, ‘what are the author’s beliefs or opinion on this particular idea/issue?’ All novels/films are written to represent their author’s views and values and, as a reader it is your job to interpret what you think the author is trying to say or what they’re trying to teach us. And it’s not as hard as it seems either. You’ve instinctively done this when reading other books or watching movies without even realising it. For example, you’ve probably walked out of the cinemas after thoroughly enjoying a film because the ideas explored sat well with you, ‘I’m glad in Hunger Games they’re taking action and rebelling against a totalitarian society’ or, ‘that was a great film because it gave insight on how women can be just as powerful as men!’ Therefore, it is possible in this case that the author of this series favours the disintegration of tyrannical societies and promotes female empowerment.

Views and values are also based on ideas and attitudes of when it was written and where it was set – this brings both social and cultural context into consideration as well. Issues commonly explored include gender roles, racial inequality, class hierarchy, and more. For example, Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, is set during the 20th century and explores feminism through women’s roles during World War II while Emily Bronte’sWuthering Heights depicts the divide between social classes and challenges the strict Victorian values of how society condemns cross-class relationships, in particular between Catherine and Heathcliffe.

Questions to ask yourself when exploring views and values:

  • Is the author supporting or condeming/critising this idea?
  • Through which literary devices are they supporting or condemning/critising the idea?
  • Which characters represent society’s values? Which ones oppose them? Do we as readers favour those that represent or oppose society’s values?
  • Does the author encourage us to support the morals and opinions displayed by the characters or those supported in that setting/time?

Here’s a sample discussion on the author’s views and values:

‘…Dickens characterises Scrooge as being allegorically representative of the industrial age in which he lived. Scrooge describes the poor as ‘surplus population’, revealing his cruel nature as he would rather they die than having to donate money to them. Dickens critiques the industrial revolution whereby wealth lead to ignorance towards poor as the upperclassmen would easily dismiss underclassmen, feeling no responsibility to help them as they believed they were of no use to society. ‘ (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Here’s a list of some sample essay prompts you may get in regards to exploring ‘views and values’:

  • ‘Cat’s Eye shows us that society’s expectations are damaging to women.’ To what extent do you agree? (Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood)
  • ‘Bronte criticises the social class conventions of her time as she demonstrates that those in the lower classes can succeed.’ (Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte)
  • ‘Social criticism plays a major role in A Christmas Carol.’ (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)
  • ‘Hamid shows that it is difficult to find our identity in modern society, with the ever-changing social and politics surrounding us.’ (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid)
  • ‘In Ransom Malouf depicts war as the experience of grief, loss and destructive waste. The event of war lacks any heroic dimension. Discuss.’ (Ransom, David Malouf)

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