Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...
The life of an
English teacher during assessment time is miserable. This is great for us! If
you know how to use their misery to your advantage.
Hello, I am here
to teach you how you can claim some easy English points off these poor, poor,
professors. Let’s begin 😊
1. Engage with the historical context
This should be a
baseline expectation! Yet, if I had a dollar for every student I see launching
into an essay not even considering the socio-cultural context in which their
book was written, I’d have enough to purchase the VCAA institution and have historical
context made mandatory with the punishment being immediate expulsion from VCE.
Just put some
historical context into your introduction, it’ll make it beefier and add some
spice to your essay. Historical context generally entails listing the form
(novella, play, etc…) of your text; the time period in which it was written
(Victorian, 20th century, etc…), its genre (Gothic, biographical,
etc…), and finally, any of the relevant literary titles it could be classed
under (Romantic, Feminist, post-colonial, etc…)
For example: “Mary
Shelley’s Victorian Gothic Romantic novella Frankenstein…”
Bonus points if
you can actively engage in a set of philosophical ideas that were present at
the time, eg: “Age of Enlightenment values”, or the “Feminist movement”.
2. Write a strong introduction
You must impress
an assessor within two minutes. With this in mind, what do you think looks
better: a little five-line intro vaguely outlining your points and just barely
tickling on the structure and context of the texts; or a sprawling introduction
which hits the historical context on the head and articulates beautifully the
direction your essay is going and how it plans to get there. It’s a simple
Virgin vs Chad dichotomy, be a chad, write a strong introduction.
3. Clear and concise topic sentences
sentences NEED to be easy to read and easy to follow. Apply the K.I.S.S rule
here (Keep it Simple, Stupid). State the point of your paragraph with clarity,
there should be nothing too complex or vague about it. For example: “The
architecture of Frankenstein enables the story to act as a cautionary
tale”. If you feel you cannot encapsulate your topic within a single sentence,
then I suggest dialling back the complexity of your paragraph topic. Remember,
text response is a process of stating a concept, then proving it – nothing
more, nothing less.
‘Grammar Nazis’? Well English assessors are Grammar Hitler’s. Make sure your
expression is on point. Avoid run on sentences, break them up with full stops,
a comma is not a substitute for a period.
5. Understand language
I’m hoping we
all know what verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, conjunctions and etcetera are
here? This kind of rather basic English knowledge can seriously pepper up your
analysis once you understand how language works. Begin by simply noting how an
adjective modifies a verb within a sentence and what affect that has. Once you
master this, you can move onto actually classifying the language under specific
tones; for example: a pejorative verb, or a superlative adjective of degree. I’ll
throw a few free ones your way! A pejorative verb is a doing word with negative
connotations, such as: “penetrate” or “molest”. Whilst a superlative adjective
is a describing word of the highest degree, for example: “grandest” or
“calmest” (as opposed to simply “grand” or “calm”. Although this language seems
complex, it’s deceivingly simple once you understand some basic English rules.
6. Write about structure
Structure is the
‘secret high scoring English students don’t want you to know!!’ If you aren’t
writing about structure, then you are missing out on an absolute gold mine of
analysis. If you understand how structure works within a text and can write it
out coherently you’re essentially guaranteed a 40+. Y’all may call that an
exaggeration, but knowing how to write about structure in an essay is like
crossing the threshold, your eyes become open – you attain nirvana. Structure
is the Bifrost which separates the land of Gods from the land of mortals. Some
good ways to begin thinking about structure include: pondering how the text
begins and ends, does it begin as a jovial and upbeat story and end as a
depressing mess, why might the author have structured the text this way? Or,
think about which characters we follow throughout the text and what journey
they undergo, are their multiple narrators? Why might this be relevant or what
may the author be trying to emphasise? Another great one is just looking for
recurring themes and motifs across the text, such as a repeated phrase or
similarities between characters. The key to writing on structure is
understanding how the text has been structured, and then connecting that to a
meaning or using it to support your contention.
7. Structure your essays
PSYCHE I’M STILL
NOT DONE TALKING ABOUT STRUCTURE. Structure. Your.
Essays. I cannot stress
this enough, use TEEL (topic sentence, evidence, elaboration, link), use
whatever your teacher taught, but use it! This one is especially important in
language analysis, legit, lang anal essays are almost 100% structure, just WHW (what,
how, why) your way through that essay. Once you understand how to structure an
essay, everything else improves. So, structure your essays!!
8. Write about allusions
getting into the big boy material. An allusion is any reference within a text
to another text. So when Peter Griffin from Family Guy pokes fun at the
Simpsons, he is making an allusion to the Simpsons. Or when your protagonist
happens across a bible verse, that is a biblical allusion. Whenever I hear a
student mention a literary allusion, my day improves and so does their mark.
Most every text has allusions in it somewhere, do your research. Frankenstein
has Rime of the Ancient Mariner, about half the books on the planet have
biblical allusions, just ask your teacher or research online and you’re bound
to come up with some excellent analysis material. Bonus points for allusions to
classic texts such as: the Faust mythos, Greek/Roman tales such as Prometheus,
the Bible, Paradise Lost, etc…
9. Reference influential philosophical
This one is
eating from the tree of knowledge. Including a philosophical concept in your
essay immediately places you in the upper echelons. It separates plebs from
patricians. You’ll have to do a bit of research here, but it is well worth it.
Once you can mention that an idea is “characteristic of the Romantic period”,
or that a concept is “Lockean (referring to John Locke)”, you’re balling,
you’ll be hustling A+s in no time. Bonus points for philosophical ideas that
were relevant to the time period (historical context, remember).
10. Authorial Agenda
authorial agenda is just minty fresh, it demonstrates a clear understanding of
concepts even beyond just the text itself. Guaranteed to put a sparkle in your
teachers’ eye. Although adding authorial agenda augments your essay
extraordinary, don’t overdo it.
If you made it
to the end of this then great work! Proud of you <3. Including these tips in
your essays is a surefire way to push them to the next level. For sticking
through, I’ll give you a few quick bonus tips. Have pre-prepared zingers: you
should write out and memorise a few bits of analysis that are intensely high
quality, (do it in your own writing) this not only helps with ironing out your
language, it also ensures you’ll have some mic drops in your essays. Analyse
all included images and titles: this one’s just for language analysis, but you
should analyse everything, including logos! And finally… RESPOND TO THE ESSAY
QUESTION, this should be a given but there are hordes of people just spewing
out words which are absolutely irrelevant to the actual essay topic.
Thanks again for
getting this far, unless you just scrolled to the bottom hoping for a TLDR. I
wish you all best of luck in your VCE and the exam season, try to make it
Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
Are you a slow writer who struggles to write down all of the information that you hear in the listening audio clip? Have you ever been in a situation where the next sentence in the audio comes up way before you finish writing down information from the previous sentence? If yes, then this blog is for you!
You want to write down as much useful information as possible in a short period of time during your VCE EAL exam, so it is very useful to implement a system of techniques that works well for you personally. Here are some ideas and suggestions that you may want to use to increase the speed of your note-taking.
1. Use Different Coloured Pens or Keys for Different Speakers
Under the stress of exams/SACs, you might lose track of which speaker is talking. This is likely to happen if the speakers are of the same sex or they sound similar to each other (from personal experience, I had a listening task with 3 female speakers!) A simple way to remind yourself of who is speaking is to take side notes with different coloured pens and/or symbols for different speakers.
If in the audio: Lisa says, ‘The weather is lovely’ and Cici replies ‘Let’s go for a run’. We can write side notes using L (for Lisa) and C for Cici, which may look like:
L ‘weather is lovely’
C 'Let's go for a run’
Or, you could use a red pen for Lisa and blue pen for Cici.
2. Use Signs & Symbols to Replace Words
Using symbols is an efficient way to increase the speed of writing and ultimately increase the amount of information that you can record. Here are some examples of symbols I have used in the past and the meanings I gave them.
→ Leading to/Stimulate/Result in
∴ Therefore OR Consequently
> Greater than/More than
< Less than/Fewer than
~ Approximately OR Around OR Similar to OR Not Equal OR Not the same as
c/b Could be
Use abbreviations that work for you. There is no right or wrong here as the ‘blank space for scribbles’ will not be marked. Abbreviations can take the form of short notes or letters...you get to be creative here!
You can also choose to keep only the essential vowels and consonants in words. Or, leave out the double consonants and silent letters. The following list contains some abbreviations for common words or phases:
Answer = answ
About = abt
Morning = am
Afternoon = pm
As soon as possible = asap
Before = bef/b4
Between = bt
Because = bc
Common = com
Condition = cond
Diagnosis = diag
Regular = reg
You = u
Notes = nts
To = t
Take = tk
Very = v
With respect to = wrt
With = w/
Will be = w/b
Within = w/i
Without = w/o
Here are some examples of how you might use abbreviations and symbols:
‘You should remember to take notes in classes’
Can be abbreviated as:
‘U shld rmbr t tk nts in cls’
‘Gidon has a rare blood condition which means he visits the hospital quite regularly. Since his diagnosis, Gidon’s family paid more than ten thousand dollars just to visit the hospital. Gidon initiated a petition that advocates for lowering the fees for parking in hospitals and putting a limit on how much the hospital can charge.’
Can be abbreviated as:
G has rare blood condi → he visits hosp. v. reg.
I've used G as an abbreviation for Gidon, and the arrow here represents that the stuff on the left side of the arrow (i.e. his rare blood condition), led to the events on the right side of the arrow (i.e. regular hospital visits).
Since his diag. → G’s fam paid >$10K to visit hosp.
Here I’ve also used the arrow, indicating that the stuff on the left side of the arrow (i.e. his diagnosis), led to the events on the right side of the arrow (i.e. Gidon's family paid more than 10 thousand dollars). I’ve also used >$10K to indicate that the amount Gidon’s family paid is more than 10 thousand dollars.
G → petition → advocates for ↓ $ parking & limit how much hosp. can charge
Using my symbols and abbreviations above, it’s your turn to work out how I’ve abbreviated this ;)
I hope these tips and tricks will assist you with note taking during the EAL listening SACs and exam. If you would like more practice on the listening section, check out the following blogs!
In regards to changing subjects once the school year has started: I've done a bit of research and it appears as though the deadline to change from one subject to another is determined by your individual school. Some schools have a deadline of only a couple weeks whereas others stretch it out a little further. Ask your school for exact dates if this is something you’re considering!
There are several strategies you can use to your advantage to extend yourself in VCE English Language.
Make Finding Examples a Habit
One simple way to expose yourself to more examples is to follow news pages on social media so that you can see regular updates about current affairs. Have a read through of point 7:Year 12 Essay Topic Categories in our Ultimate Guide to English Language so that you can understand what types of examples you should be keeping an eye out for.
Right from the start of the school year, make sure you set up a system to keep track of your examples. You could do this by setting up a document with headings (such as ‘free speech’, ‘egalitarianism’, ‘political correctness’, ‘double-speak’, ‘ethnolects’ and ‘Australian identity’) and adding examples to this document throughout the year as you find them. For more information about the potential headings you could use, have a look at the dot points in the VCE English Language Study Design from page 17 onwards.
The advantage of creating an example/evidence bank of some sort is that if you start looking for examples right at the start of the year, you’ll have more time to analyse and memorise them. Additionally, you’ll also be able to use them far earlier in your essays, which means that the quotes and examples you select will become much easier to remember for the final exam.
Have a Basic Understanding of Australian History, Politics and Social Issues
Having a basic understanding of Australian history, politics and social issues is highly beneficial for enhancing your analytical skills for English Language. This is essential in developing strong contentions for your essays. Some key issues that would be worth having some background information on include the following:
Australia’s colonial history and treatment of Indigenous communities, racism, and the language surrounding these matters.
Look into the following:
How does language reflect or perpetuate prejudice?
How does hate speech affect social harmony?
How can language be used to establish in-group solidarity?
Sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia.
How can bias and prejudice be conveyed through language?
What are some examples of implicit and explicit bias?
What role does political correctness play in this context?
Environmental issues, and the way this intersects with politics.
How can euphemisms, doublespeak, and bureaucratic language be used to obfuscate or mitigate blame?
Immigration and refugee policy related discourse.
What are the origins of pejoratives such as ‘boat people’ and ‘queue jumper’ that are frequently used against refugees?
How does this influence the values or beliefs of a society?
Business and economic issues, labour exploitation
How can bureaucratic language and jargon be used to mislead and manipulate?
Political affairs (historical and recent)
How can formal language be used to mitigate blame and responsibility, negotiate social taboos, or establish national identity?
Having an awareness of key events and social issues in Australia, an understanding of the groups that make up Australia, and exposing yourself to a diverse set of media is really important in developing your essay writing skills. It does take time, but what will ultimately happen is that your discussions in your essays will be much more insightful and demonstrate a well thought out argument.
Apply Your Critical Thinking Skills
When writing essays, try your best to apply your critical thinking skills. Identify the assumptions you’re making when you present a certain point, and try to develop arguments against your position so that you can better understand why you have chosen your side. Developing a holistic and detailed contention is far better than just picking one side out of simplicity, as it allows you to demonstrate consideration and analysis of a range of factors that affect a certain issue. Use your evidence (contemporary examples, linguist quotes and stimulus material) to develop your points, and position yourself to be mindful of any biases you may have by continuously asking yourself what has influenced your way of thinking. Above all, try to discuss your essay prompts with your peers, as this will provide you with different perspectives and help you strengthen your own point.
Consistently Revising Metalanguage
Consistently revising metalanguage is crucial for doing well in English Language. Throughout Year 12, consistently revising metalanguage will be your responsibility. It is likely that you’ll be spending a greater proportion of class time in learning content, and writing practice pieces. Therefore, it’s really important to figure out a way that works best for you in being able to frequently revise metalanguage. Flashcards are useful for revision on the go, as well as making mind maps so that you’re able to visualise how everything is set out in the study design.
One issue students run into when it comes to learning metalanguage is that they’re able to define and give examples for metalanguage terms, however, they are unable to understand how those terms fit into the categories under each subsystem. For example, a student is able to remember what a metaphor is, but unable to recall that it fits under semantic patterning. Similarly, a student may know what a pause is, but not know if it’s part of prosodic features or discourse features.
It’s important to know what all the categories are because the short answer questions usually ask you to identify features under a particular category (e.g. you’d be asked to talk about semantic patterning, not metaphor or pun). Therefore, spending time on just revising the definitions alone isn’t sufficient in learning metalanguage. You also need to be able to ensure that you can recall which category each term fits under. Refer to the study design (pages 17-18), for a list of categories you need to remember; these include:
Processes in connected speech
Word classes, word formation processes
Features of spoken discourse
Strategies of spoken discourse
Sense relations/other semantics
Using Meaningful Examples in Essays
When you talk about a certain variety of English, say for example ethnolects or teen speak, rather than just providing a lexical example or translation, try to find a contemporary example of the term being used in the media, online or by a prominent individual. For example, rather than saying:
‘The lexeme ‘bet’ is an example of teen speak which allows young people to establish solidarity’,
you could say:
‘Bakery owner Morgan Hipworth, who largely has a teenage following and is a young person himself, employs teenspeak in a video recipe, where he responds to the question “Can you make a 10 layer cheese toastie?” with “Bet, let’s go.”’
This will provide you with a better opportunity to talk about in-groups and identity, rather than just defining and identifying an example as part of a particular variety. In doing so, you’re better able to address the roles of different linguistic examples in a contextualised and detailed manner.
In Building Essay Evidence Banks for English Language you’ll see that a short analysis for each of your examples (the ones you are collecting throughout the year) is encouraged, but, you could take things one step further - add on an extra column and combine your analysis and example in a practice sentence. Head to the blog to learn more about building evidence banks.
1. What Is Text Response? 2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria) 3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks 4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam 5. How To Write a Text Response
1. What Is Text Response?
Like its name, Text Response is when you respond to a text. The most popular texts are novels and films; however, plays, poetry and short stories are also common. Your response will be in the form of an essay, in which you discuss themes, ideas and characters. Recall all the novels and films you've studied since Year 7 (there'll be quite a few!). You should be very familiar with the process of watching a film or reading a novel, participating in class discussions about themes and characters, and finally, submitting an essay based on the text.
As you graduate into higher year levels, you spend each year revising and improving on TEEL, learning to better incorporate quotes and formulating even longer essays than the year before (remember when you thought you couldn't possibly write an essay more than 500 words?).
The good news is, all of that learning is now funnelled into VCE’s Text Response, one of the three parts of the VCE English study design. Text Response, officially known as ‘Reading and Responding’ in the study design, is the first Area of study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Text Response SAC in Term 1. Let's get into it!
2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria)
What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Text Response essays.
Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Text Response essay.
a) Critically analyse texts and the ways in which authors construct meaning;
Much of the ‘meaning’ in a novel/film comes instinctively to readers. Why is it that we can automatically distinguish between a protagonist from an antagonist? Why is it that we know whether or not the author supports or denounces an idea?
Here you need to start looking at how the author constructs their texts and why they have made that choice. For example, the author describes a protagonist using words with positive connotations (kind, brave, charming), whereas the antagonist is described with words using negative connotations (vain, egocentric, selfish).
For example, 'in Harry Potter, by describing the protagonist Harry as "brave", the author JK Rowling exhibits the idea of how possessing bravery when making tough choices or facing challenges is a strong and positive trait.'
b) Analyse the social, historical and/or cultural values embodied in texts;
Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us as readers, identity and appreciate theme and character representations.
For example, 'through the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee expresses the belief that the American legal system in the 1930s was not always fair or just.'
c) Discuss and compare possible interpretations of texts using evidence from the text;
Be open to the idea that many texts can be interpreted in many ways. Texts are rarely concrete and simple. Take The Bible, a book that is one of the most popular and famous books in history but is interpreted differently by every person. Acknowledging more than one perspective on a certain aspect of the text, or acknowledging that perhaps the writer is intentionally ambiguous, is a valuable skill that demonstrates you have developed a powerful insight into your text.
For example, 'in The Thing Around Your Neck, feminist readers condone Adichie's stories which all revolve around women either as protagonist or as narrators, giving voice to the disempowered gender in Nigerian society.'
d) Use appropriate metalanguage to construct a supported analysis of a text;
While you should absolutely know how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss, you want to have other types of evidence in your Text Response essay. You must discuss how the author uses the form that he/she is writing in to develop their discussion. This encompasses a huge breadth of things from metaphors to structure to language.
For example, 'The personification of Achilles as "wolf, a violator of every law of men and gods", illustrates his descent from human to animal….' or 'Malouf’s constant use of the present voice and the chapter divisions allow the metaphor of time to demonstrate the futility and omnipresence of war…'.
e) Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task
When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.
3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks
Reading and Creating is assessed in Unit 1 (Year 11) and Unit 3 (Year 12). The number of allocated marks are:
Unit 1 - dependant on school
Unit 3 English – 30 marks
Unit 3 EAL – 40 marks
Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often, schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 800 to 1000 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)
In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays (Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis). The general guide is 60 minutes on Text Response, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Text Response essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.
4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam
Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking on the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Text Response preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):
a) Reread your book (or rewatch the film)
After all the learning and discussion you’ve had with your teacher and peers, you should have now developed a solid foundation of knowledge. Rereading a book enables you to refresh your memory on subplots, popular passages and most importantly, helps you fill in any missing gaps in knowledge. Take this as an opportunity to get familiar with the parts of the texts you're less confident with, or to examine a particular theme that you know you're weaker in (HINT: A good place to start is to make sure you know the difference between themes, motifs and symbols!)
b) Do a close analysis
This is like an advanced version of rereading a book. A 'close analysis' - a term stolen from VCE Literature (thanks Lit!) - is basically where you select a passage (a short chapter or a few pages), and analyse it in detail.
As you move through the passage, you can pick out interesting word choices made by the author and try to interpret why they have made this choice. Doing a close analysis will immensely strengthen your metalanguage analysis skills, and also give you the opportunity to stand out from other students because you can offer unique and original analysis and evidence in your essay. I know this can be a bit confusing, so this video below shows a full close analysis of a Macbeth passage in action:
c) Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources
Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:
We create general Text Response advice videos like this:
We also create text-specific videos:
And if you just need general study advice, we've got you covered too:
Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).
Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written up study guides based on popular VCE texts. Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far:
Most people seem to the think the most difficult part of Text Response is the writing component - and they're not completely wrong. However, what I've found is that not even students place emphasis on the brainstorming, preparation and planning of Text Response.
Think about it - if you don't come to the table with the best ideas, then how can you expect your essay to achieve A+? Even if you write an exceptional essay, if it doesn't answer the prompt, your teacher won't be sticking a smiley face on your work. We need to avoid these common teacher criticisms, and I have no doubt you've experienced at least once the dreaded, 'you're not answering the prompt', 'you could've used a better example' or 'more in-depth analysis needed'.
Enter my golden strategy - the THINK and EXECUTE strategy. This is a strategy I developed over the past 10 years of tutoring, and I've seen my students improve their marks every time. The THINK and EXECUTE strategy breaks up your Text Response into two parts - first the THINK, then the EXECUTE. Only with the unique THINK approach, will you then be able to EXECUTE your essay to its optimum potential, leading yourself to achieve those higher marks.
To learn more about the THINK and EXECUTE strategy, download my ebook sample on the shop page or at the bottom of this blog, or check out the video below:
d) Get your hands on essay topics
Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to hint you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask.
We have a number of free essay topics curated by our team at LSG, check some of them out. Also go scroll back up to our list of study guides above, as most of those also have essay prompts included:
Once you've done some preliminary revision, it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Text Response essay.
Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans can will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.
I've curated essay topic breakdown videos based on specific VCE texts. In these videos, I explore keywords, ideas and how I'd plan an essay with corresponding examples/evidence.
f) Write essays
Yes, sad, but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing. Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Text Response next.
Take a look at some of the essays our amazing LSG team have written:
If you need any more tips on how to learn your text in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your text and is a must read for VCE English students!
Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life. There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.
Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and then move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.
Most of you will be familiar with TEEL. TEEL can stand for:
If your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different - that's okay too. At the end of the day the foundations are the same.
Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, 'as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace'. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; 'his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain'. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; 'we Jews have to be on the lookout'. Elsa sees 'a look in his eyes that she recognised', thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.
Conclusions should be short and sweet.
Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.
Measure for Measure is currently studied in VCE English under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Ahh William Shakespeare. That guy. You’re probably thinking, “Great. More fancy language. Hasn’t he been dead for centuries? Why does he keep popping up in our English curriculum?”
At least, that’s how I reacted.
Shakespeare is actually a huge figure in the history of the English language, and really no high school English curriculum is complete without a mandatory dose of him. In fact, the current VCAA study design demands that one of his texts must be on the text list. What a legend.
Shakespeare doesn’t only influence our world in the classroom. The Bard coined many words and phrases that we use today. We can thank this playwright for “be -all, end-all”, “good riddance”, and my personal favourite, “swagger”.
The Bard’s play “Measure for Measure” was first performed in 1604; over 400 years ago. So why do we still study his works today? In fact, the ideas and themes that are evoked in his plays are universal and timeless; pertinent to his contemporary counterparts, as well as today’s audience. Shakespeare’s plays are like soup (bear with me, this is going somewhere). One could say the playwright is a master chef; he mixes tales of the human condition and experience and asks us to question people and ideas. Everyone, regardless of their time, will gobble up the story.
So, what is this soup- I mean ‘Measure for Measure’ about? The play is known as a “problem play” and/or “tragicomedy”. That’s right, it’s both a tragedy and a comedy. Dire trials and tribulations are intertwined with humorous gags and jokesters. I guess Shakespeare couldn’t choose just one.
‘Measure for Measure’ is also a problem play. Critic W.W Lawrence defined a problem play as one in which "a perplexing and distressing complication in human life is presented in a spirit of high seriousness ... the theme is handled so as to arouse not merely interest or excitement, or pity or amusement, but to probe the complicated interrelations of character and action, in a situation admitting of different ethical interpretations".
Ok, crazy, but he also said that "the 'problem' is not like one in mathematics, to which there is a single true solution, but is one of conduct, as to which there are no fixed and immutable laws. Often it cannot be reduced to any formula, any one question, since human life is too complex to be so neatly simplified.”
In short, a problem play presents lots of complications and issues that are open to different ethical interpretations. As in “Measure for Measure”, the “problem(s)” is/are not always solved.
So, what actually happens in this play that is problematic? What are our ingredients in this problem soup?
Get it? Cause soup is cooked in a pot. Sorry.
The Duke of Vienna appoints his deputy, Angelo, as the temporary leader. This Duke then pretends to leave town but instead dresses up as a friar to observe what happens in his absence. Angelo, strict and unwavering in his dedication to following the rules, decides to rid Vienna of all the unlawful sexual activity; including shutting down the brothels. Prostitutes like Mistress Overdone (pun alert) and her pimp Pompey are poised to lose their livelihoods. Laws against this activity exist, but they’ve gotten lax over the years. Angelo, a stickler for the rules, has Claudio arrested because young Claudio has gotten his engaged wife-to-be (Juliet) pregnant before they were officially married. Claudio is to be executed.
The virtuous Isabella, Claudio’s sister, is poised to enter a nunnery. Upon hearing of her brother’s arrest and sentence, she goes to Angelo to beg him for mercy. He hypocritically, in an absolutely dog move, propositions her, saying he’ll pardon her brother if she sleeps with him (with Angelo, not Claudio). She immediately refuses, being the religious and chaste woman that she is. At first Claudio is upset because he wants to live, but then he calms down and accepts death.
Luckily, the Duke (secretly dressed as a friar) helps in their sticky situation. He brews up a plan; Angelo’s former flame Mariana was engaged to him, but he broke off their engagement after she lost her dowry in a shipwreck. The Friar (Duke) plans to have Isabella agree to sleep with Angelo, but then send Mariana in her place. In theory, Angelo would pardon Claudio and be forced to marry Mariana by law.
The old switcheroo goes off without a hitch. But come morning, Angelo refuses to pardon Claudio, fearing he will seek revenge. The Duke, in collaboration with the Provost, send Angelo the head of a dead pirate (Ragozine) who died of natural causes. They claim that it’s Claudio’s head, and Angelo is satisfied, thinking him to be dead. Isabella is also told that her brother is dead and is encouraged by the Friar (Duke) to complain about Angelo to the Duke, who is returning home.
The Duke makes a grand return to Vienna, saying he will hear any complaints immediately. Isabella tells her story, and the Duke feigns disbelief, despite having orchestrated the plan himself. In an act filled with more twists and turns than a Marvel movie, everything comes out; the Duke reveals he was a friar all along, Angelo is forced to confess, and Claudio is pardoned amongst other things. To top it all off, the Duke proposes to Isabella. Crazy!
It’s important to acknowledge what was going on in the world during the writing of a text. This may help give insight into why the author has included (or not included) some aspect of their work.
The Divine Right of Kings
This holy mandate states that a monarch derives his right to rule from the will of God and is not subject to earthly authority. The “king” or monarch is hence practically divine, and questioning his orders is also questioning god; blasphemy.
The Great Chain of Being/Class divides
This chain is a hierarchy of all life forms and matter in the following order:
Kings & Royalty
Commoners (Gentry, Merchants, Yeoman, Laborers)
Hence, alongside The Divine Right of Kings, this ideal gave monarchs huge power over their subjects.
In early 1600s England, there was a defined social hierarchy and class system. Everyone had a place in the hierarchy, and there was little movement between the classes. Within each class, men were considered superior to women.
Shakespeare encourages us to ask a few questions of our supposedly holy leader and his actions. According to the Divine Right of Kings, the Duke is god’s right-hand man, and thus all his decisions are holy and backed by heaven. However, the Duke is pretty shady when he plots his bed-trick plan with Isabella and Mariana. Is this deceptive behavior still holy? Furthermore, is it not sacrilege to pretend to be a holy friar when one is not truly a holy man?
Moreover, when the Duke assigns Angelo as his deputy, would this transform Angelo into a divine ruler too? Could he be divine, considering his cruel rule and despicable request to Isabella?
Women were considered subservient, lower class citizens then men. Alliances were forged between powerful families through arranged marriages of daughters. These girls may have received an education through tutors attending their homes (there were no schools for girls), but their endgame would be marriage, children and maintaining the home. Women and girls of a lower class did not receive any formal education but would have learned how to govern a household and become skilled in all housewifely duties. Impoverished and desperate women (Mistress Overdone) would turn to prostitution to stay alive.
Shakespeare perhaps highlights the struggle of women in his female characters; Isabella, Mistress Overdone, Juliet, and Kate Keepdown. Their futures appear bleak; Isabella is poised to enter a nunnery, Juliet’s husband (her only source of income and protection) is to be executed, while the brothels that facilitate Mistress Overdone and Kate Keepdown’s livelihoods are being closed down by Angelo.
It was a tumultuous time when Shakespeare penned ‘Measure for Measure’ in 1604. A year earlier came the end of the 45 year long Elizabethan era and began the Jacobean era under the rule of King James. Since the late Queen Elizabeth had no direct heirs, King James of Scotland (a relative) took to the throne. Little was known by the English people of this foreign king.
Perhaps, as Shakespeare portrays the ruler in ‘Measure for Measure’ as clever and good-hearted, the Bard sought to appease the king by calming the people and encouraging them to trust in their new monarch.
The playwright characterizes the Duke as loving his people, but not enjoying being before their eyes and in the spotlight; much like King James, a quiet ruler who relished studying privately in his great library.
Playhouses and Brothels
The general public (commoners) paid a penny (could buy you a loaf of bread back in the day) to see Shakespeare’s plays, standing in the “yard”; on the ground, at eye-level of the stage. The rich (gentry) paid 2 pennies for seating in the galleries, often using cushions. The really rich (nobles) could watch the play from a chair set on the side of the stage itself. Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the Globe Theatre. Playhouses in Shakespeare's time were often close to brothels, both in terms of their physical locations in the suburbs and the way they were viewed by some of polite society. Thus, Shakespeare's relatively sympathetic portrayal of sexual deviance in ‘Measure for Measure’ may also constitute a defence of other suburban entertainment—his plays—and a way to humanize lower classes who patronized them.
WRITING ABOUT 'MEASURE FOR MEASURE'
If you’re lucky enough to study this interesting piece, the study design requires you to prepare “sustained analytical interpretations…discussing how features of the text create meaning and using textual evidence to support (your) reasons”. Basically, you’ll be given a topic; this topic could surround themes, characters, etc., and you must write analytically.
While you may choose to structure paragraphs around themes, ideas or characters, make sure to embed some historical context in there; that’ll show the examiner that you’ve done your research and have a thorough and deeper understanding of why Shakespeare put this or that in. Talking about authorial intent in your analytical essay leads to a more in-depth analysis.
“Shakespeare portrays characters that are flawed as a result of pre-destined circumstances. These characters, such as bawd Pompey and prostitute Mistress Overdone, lived in a time when there existed strong class divides, and movement within the social hierarchy was rare. As per the “Great Chain of Being”, a contemporary religious dogma, there was a hierarchy of all living things and matter, from lofty God and his angels down through the ranks of men and finally to animals and non-living things. In some cases, attempting to move up the social ranks was even considered a blasphemous rejection of the fate chosen by God.”
- embedding historical context (The Great Chain of Being) into a paragraph that discusses characters being flawed because of their circumstances
“Shakespeare offers characters such as Isabella and The Duke who strive for self-improvement through understanding and temperance. Perhaps the playwright suggests that perfection is very difficult if not impossible to attain, even for a ruler like the Duke and a pure soul like Isabella. However, he posits that it can be strived for and that perhaps this attempt to become better is what truly matters.”
- talking about authorial intent - what is Shakespeare trying to tell us?
Think of it as an opportunity to make your very own soup! Add some themes, stir in character analysis, sprinkle in some quotes and serve with historical context and authorial intent. Just like with a soup, there’s got be a good balance of all your ingredients; test out different structures during the year to find what works for you. (Just try not to overcook it, like I have done with this soup metaphor). If you need more help, How To Write a Standout Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare Essay is for you!
So, you see, there’s more to Shakespeare and ‘Measure for Measure’ than just fancy old language and iambic pentameter (What’s that? Well...). Keep on reading this blog post, where we’ll delve into themes, characters and symbols/motifs. In the meantime, let’s have a break. Grab a snack, a drink, and enjoy this tasty Shakespeare meme.
...Aaaaand we’re back!
Are you ready for part 2 of the Shakespeare train? Hop on board as we explore themes, characters and symbols/motifs.
These are the major themes in ‘Measure for Measure’.
As you can see, the themes are interconnected. (Do you like the diagram? Made it myself :)) Why does this matter? Well, if you get an essay topic about Justice, for instance, you can also link it to Sexual and Gender Politics as well as Social Decay/Cohesion.
So, why is any one theme an important theme?
Which moments and characters are these themes related to?
Is there a link to historical context?
What are some key quotes?
What could be Shakespeare’s potential message? (Keep in mind that depending which pieces of evidence you look at, the Bard could be saying something different. In this piece, we’ll only discuss one or two authorial messages. The beauty of Shakespeare is that much is open to interpretation. You can interpret characters and ideas in so many different ways!)
Those are some great questions. Let’s explore some of the biggest themes...
Power and Authority
Power not only dictates the Viennese society, but we see it is a basis for moral corruption (I’m looking at you, Angelo!). The Duke is the leader of Vienna, ordained by God. He hands this power to his deputy Angelo, who misuses it in his request of Isabella. Now consider Isabella - she has power too, but a different kind… Also consider characters who have little to no power - Mistress Overdone, Pompey etc.
This theme could be linked to the Divine Right of Kings, the Great Chain of Being and Women.
“O, it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant” - Isabella when she pleads to Angelo to not kill her brother (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 130-132)
“He who the sword of heaven will bear should be as holy as severe” - The Friar (Duke) to himself, not happy with Angelo’s dog move (Act 3, Scene 1, 538-539)
“When maidens sue, men give like gods” - Lucio to Isabella, encouraging her to convince Angelo not to kill Claudio (Act 2, Scene 1, Line 87-88)
"Hence we shall see, if power change purpose, what our seemers be.” - The Duke lowkey suggesting that once Angelo gets power, he’ll change into something evil (Act 1, Scene 4, Line 57)
“Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall.” - Escalus is sneakily hating on Angelo. This quote shows that power and authority often involve corruption (Act 2, Scene 1, Line 41)
Perhaps Shakespeare is suggesting that power is a dangerous weapon and that in the wrong hands, it could be deadly.
Morality and Sin
This is an interesting theme. What defines sin? For instance, if Isabella sleeps with Angelo she’s sinning before God. But if she doesn’t, then she’s letting her brother die, which is not good either. Bit of a pickle that one. Some characters to consider include Isabella, Angelo, The Duke, Claudio, Lucio, the Provost…. jeez just about everyone! So many of the characters take part in questionable deeds. Was it immoral for the Duke to pretend to be a holy friar? Is Claudio’s sin of impregnating Juliet really punishable by death if both parties were willing, and no one else has been punished for the same “crime”? Are Pompey and Mistress Overdone being immoral in being in the prostitution business, if it’s the only way to survive?
Deep stuff man. This can be linked back to class divides, women and the contemporary playhouses/brothels.
“What sin you do to save a brother’s life, nature dispenses with the deed so far that it becomes a virtue” - Claudio begs his sister to sleep with Angelo (immoral, especially since she’s poised to enter a nunnery), saying that it’s for a good cause, and will actually be a virtue/good deed (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 146-148)
“Might there not be a charity in sin to save this brother’s life?” - Angelo asking Isabella to sleep with him and trying to paint the act as a charitable deed (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 65-66)
“I am a kind of burr, I shall stick” - Lucio, who represents sin and immorality in Vienna (we’ll talk more about this later in symbols/motifs) (Act 4, Scene 3, Line 182)
“To bring you thus together ‘tis no sin, sith that the justice of your title to him doth flourish the deceit.” - The Friar (Duke), encouraging Isabella and Mariana to do the dodgy bed-trick and trick Angelo (Act 4, Scene 1, Line 79-81)
Perhaps Shakespeare tries to tell us that there is a fine line between something moral and something sinful. Maybe he’s asking, “who are we to judge?”, since we all do questionable things sometimes. Everyone from the almighty Duke to a lowly prostitute has committed potentially immoral acts. Perhaps audiences are encouraged to be more understanding of others, and their reasons for these deeds.
Mmm, this theme ties in nicely with just about all of the others. How does one define justice? The play explores this idea; does justice mean punishment? Or mercy? How do we balance the two to deliver the right punishment/lack thereof? Characters that dispense justice include The Duke, Angelo (although they have differing ideas of justice) and Isabella. Since Vienna is a religious place, consider the divine justice system (ie. a perfect, flawless system meted out by God) and the earthly one (ie. the flawed, human justice system). Laws exist in an attempt to ensure justice. But does it always work? Consider also the Old and New Testament ways of thinking - the former strict and punitive, while the latter is more measured and merciful (see symbols/motifs below for more info).
This theme can be linked to the Divine Right of Kings, Great Chain of Being, Women, and Jacobean Audience.
“Justice, justice, justice, justice!” - (Wait, are you sure this quote is about justice?) Isabella pleads for (you guessed it) justice to the Duke (no longer dressed as a friar), thinking Angelo has, in fact, killed her brother (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 26)
“The very mercy of the law cried out… ‘An Angelo for Claudio, death for death!’ Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure, like doth quit like, and measure still for measure” - The Duke, explaining that it’s only fair that Angelo die for “killing” Claudio. (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 437-441)
“liberty plucks justice by the nose” - The Duke tells Friar Thomas that the laws have slipped over the years, and the citizens of Vienna are not being punished for immoral deeds (prostitution, sex before marriage etc)
Perhaps Shakespeare says that since we humans are inevitably flawed, that any justice system created by us will too be imperfect. Who are we to decide the fates of our fellow man? Furthermore, the Bard may be encouraging us to be kind when dispensing justice, leaning more to mercy than punishment.
Sexual and Gender Politics
Who run the world? Gir- no it’s a bunch of men. This theme contributes to why ‘Measure for Measure’ is a problem play. The exploration of the female characters in this play are very interesting, and kind of sad. Of 20 named characters, only 5 are women. Together, their lines make up only 18% of the play. Yikes! There is a lot to unpack here. Our female characters are Isabella, Mariana, Mistress Overdone, Juliet, Francisca (a nun who speaks twice) and Kate Keepdown (who we never meet). Their situations: a maiden poised to enter a nunnery, a prostitute, a pregnant girl about to lose her husband, a nun, and another prostitute. Quite gloomy, isn't it? Meanwhile, the men are leaders (The Duke, deputy Angelo, and ancient lord Escalus) and gentlemen (Lucio, Claudio, and Froth). Over the course of the play, our female characters are put into worse situations by men. Their experiences are dictated by men. Consider taking a “feminist perspective” and exploring ‘Measure for Measure’ from a female point of view.
This theme links to the Great Chain of Being, Women and Playhouses/Brothels.
“see how he goes about to abuse me!” - These are the last words we hear from Mistress Overdone, as she calls out Lucio for betraying her even though she kept secrets for him. All this happens while she’s being carted off to prison in only Act 3! What do you think Shakespeare is saying to us? (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 481)
“Then was your sin of heavier kind than his” - The Friar (Duke) says to Juliet that she sinned more than Claudio, even though their sin was “mutually committed”. Even though they were both consenting, the woman is blamed more. Consider what would become of Juliet if Claudio was executed. She’d probably end up like Mistress Overdone... (Act 2, Scene 3, Line 31)
“Who will believe thee, Isabel?” - Angelo says this after Isabella threatens to reveal his disgusting request. Ouch. It really goes to show how untrustworthy women are deemed. (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 163)
“Why, you are nothing then: neither maid, widow, nor wife?” - The Duke says this to Mariana. Basically, he says a woman can only be those 3 things. Jeez. (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 196-197)
“When maidens sue, men give like gods” - Lucio to Isabella, encouraging her to convince Angelo not to kill Claudio. So, perhaps women do have some power. But, it’s due to their sexuality; something evaluated by men. Peachy. (Act 2, Scene 1, Line 87-88)
Perhaps Shakespeare suggests that women are treated unfairly in society. Maybe he posits that women are afforded so few opportunities in a man’s world. The Bard potentially says that such sexual and gender politics do not create a cohesive and just society.
This theme, again, connects to many others. It can link to all groups of people (The wealthy, the poor, women, criminals etc). Most of the mercy is dispensed at the end of the play when the Duke does his grand reveal. Characters who choose to mete out mercy over punishment include The Duke and Isabella. Also consider Angelo, who instead of choosing to spare Claudio, decides to kill him to uphold a law that hasn’t seen anyone punished for the same deed. We might think this is harsh, but it a legal and lawful decision.
Connect this idea with historical context, specifically Jacobean audience and playhouses/brothels.
“I find an apt remission in myself” - Apt remission = ready forgiveness. The Duke says this after pardoning Angelo (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 539)
“pray thee take this mercy to provide for better times to come” - The Duke pardons murderer Barnadine, asking him to use it to do better. How lovely! (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 525-526)
“let us be keen (shrewd/sharp), and rather cut a little than fall and bruise to death” - Escalus says this to Angelo, who wants to enact all strict laws immediately. The ever-reliable Escalus advises Angelo to be lenient and merciful. (Act 2, Scene 1, Line 6-7)
“Mercy is not itself that oft looks so, pardon is still the nurse of second woe” - Escalus says this, defending Angelo’s decision to punish Claudio. He suggests that sometimes being merciful can encourage further wrongdoing. (Act 2, Scene 1, Line 282-283”)
“I show it (pity) most of all when I show justice” - Angelo says to Isabella that he is showing Claudio pity/mercy by punishing him. A firm believer in the law, Angelo thinks he’s doing the right thing and teaching Claudio a lesson by punishing him. (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 123)
Perhaps Shakespeare encourages us to look at mercy and punishment from different perspectives. Angelo believes he is punishing Claudio for his own good, and cleaning up Vienna of lechery too. Maybe we ought to be merciful in our opinion of the deputy. Nonetheless, the Bard shows that in the case of young Claudio, mercy and forgiveness is the right path to choose. Finally, consider why Shakespeare may have portrayed a merciful leader to his Jacobean audience. Maybe if he were to portray a leader as fair and merciful, the Jacobean audience would trust that their new king (a man similar in character to the Duke) could be kind and merciful too. Earning the favour of the king and writing a killer play? He’s killed two birds with one stone.
Human Frailty & Fallibility
I’ve encountered many essay topics about how humans are flawed and imperfect. It’s a pretty big theme in many texts, not just in our friend William Shakespeare’s. Human fallibility is to blame for a lot of the going-ons in ‘Measure for Measure’. Angelo takes the law too seriously, he gets heart eyes for Isabella and kills Claudio even though he thinks he’s slept with Isabella. Why? He wants to save his own ass, fearing Claudio will seek vengeance. The Duke is flawed too. He’s a leader, but he just avoids his problems, leaving Angelo in charge to deal with them. Then he plans to swoop in and look like a hero. Kinda dodgy. Consider Claudio and Juliet too. They, like Angelo, succumbed to lust and slept together before they were officially married. (Sigh, humans just can’t get it right.) It’s also worth thinking about the “low-lives” and poorer characters. Are the poor frail in a different way? For example, Mistress Overdone keeps Lucio’s secrets for him. In that way she is virtuous. However, she sells her body to survive. Perhaps she is not prone to desire like Angelo, but serves another desire - a desire to survive?
In terms of historical context, consider the Divine Right of Kings, the Great Chain of Being and Playhouses/Brothels.
“They say best men are moulded out of faults, and for the most become much more the better for being a little bad” - Mariana pleads to Isabella to support her in begging the Duke to pardon (her new husband) Angelo. She is optimistic for man, believing our bad deeds can lead to self-improvement. (Act 5, Scene 5, Line 473-475)
“Why, all the souls that were were forfeit once” - Isabella pleads to Angelo to pardon Claudio. She states that all souls were flawed before Christ offered redemption. (Act 2, Scene 2, Line 93)
“I speak not as desiring more, but rather wishing a more strict restraint” - Isabella is speaking to a nun as she is poised to enter the ranks of the nunnery. We usually think of a nun as living a very strict life, but Isabella wants it even stricter! Here we see her flaw is that her thinking is too singular and blinkered. (Act 1, Scene 5, Line 3-4)
“Lord Angelo is precise, stands at guard with envy, scarce confesses that his blood flows, or that his appetite is more to bread than stone.” - The Duke talks about how unhuman Angelo is. The deputy follows rules very closely, almost to the point where he’s like a machine. His nature is too strict. (Act 1, Scene 5, Line 53-56)
“I love the people, but do not like to stage me to their eyes” - The Duke says this to Angelo and Escalus as he hands over power to his deputy. Even the Duke is not perfect, in that he does not like being before crowds of his people (Act 1, Scene 2, Line 72-73)
Perhaps Shakespeare suggests that no one is truly perfect, not even a leader supposedly ordained by God, a law-abiding deputy, or a maiden who is poised to enter a nunnery. Yet while Angelo is overcome by his lust and emotion, the Duke and Isabella attempt to better themselves by showing mercy and temperance. Maybe Shakespeare suggests trying to improve one’s flawed self is most important.
God, Religion and Spirituality
Phew, we’re at our last theme. So, society in Vienna is very much religious. Their beliefs dictate actions and laws within the city. Some very religious characters include Isabella and Angelo. However, our novice nun, who is obsessed with virtue and chastity, agrees to and takes part in the bed-trick, a deception that is not particularly Christian. Our lusty deputy also succumbs, hellishly propositioning a maiden to sleep with him in exchange for her brother’s life. Even The Duke, supposedly semi-divine, makes some dubious choices. He spends most of the play posed as a holy man, even though he is not. He plans the bed-trick to deceive Angelo and lets poor Isabella think her poor brother is dead, instead of saving her so much pain. Furthermore, the title of the tale, ‘Measure for Measure’, comes from the Gospel of Matthew. (See symbols/motifs for more deets). The question of how much we should let religion dictate us is another reason this piece is a problem play.
The theme of God and Religion can link to historical context such as the Divine Right of Kings.
“more than our brother is our chastity” - (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 194) and “Better it were a brother died at once, than that a sister by redeeming him should die forever” - (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 111-113) show that Isabella values her chastity and virtue over her brother!! Damn girl!
“Ay, but to die, and go we know not where, to lie in cold obstruction and to rot” - Claudio tells Isabella that he fears the uncertainty of death. Perhaps his belief in a heaven has left him in the wake of his impending death? (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 129-130)
“Let’s write good angel on the devil’s horns - ‘tis not the devil's crest” - Angelo is talking to himself about his lust for Isabella. It’s an appearance vs reality (ooh another theme!) kind of idea, where you can try to pretend something is something else (ie. Angelo doesn't lust after Isabella), but it doesn't change the thing (ie. he’s still keen). The deputy is comparing his emotions to these religious extremes. (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 16-17)
Perhaps Shakespeare criticises religious extremism in his portrayal of characters like Isabella and Angelo. Or maybe he just wants us to remain open-minded about ideas and our spirituality.
Yikes, there are so many themes in this play! Let’s move it along, and talk a little bit about characters.
Each character can be viewed in different lights, even more so than themes can be. We’re going to discuss characters very briefly because it’s up to you how you want to read them.
Here are the characters, in order of how much they speak in the play. To keep things short, let’s pretend these are all tinder bios. Who would you swipe right on? (Hint: not Lucio)
super chill (the benevolent ruler of Vienna who’s let the laws slip a little)
loves dressing up (actually spends most of the play disguised as a friar)
clever/cunning (secretly counteracts the injustices decreed by Angelo)
strong morals (would rather her brother die than she lives in shame)
can get wild (conspires with the Duke to complete the bed-trick)
holy gal (poised to enter a nunnery)
a gentleman (well, his title is. He’s rude about the Duke and abandoned a prostitute that he got pregnant, so maybe he’s not that kind of gentleman)
loves attention (legit! He’s a minor character but he has the third most lines of them all! Lucio loves to stir the pot!)
loves some symbolism (Lucio represents all the bad stuff in Vienna…..see symbols/motifs)
plays by the rules (a little too much)
hypocrite (Sentences Claudio to death for sex before marriage, while asking the same thing of Isabella…. wow we’ve found our antagonist)
Deep (Angelo is a bit of a complex character. He seems aware of his misdeeds and struggles to deal with these desires. It’s hard not to pity him at times)
reliable (consistently counsels Angelo against acting too harshly)
virtuous (he’s merciful, lets Pompey go with a warning in Act 2 Scene 1)
loyal (trusts in the Duke)
hard worker (he’s a prison ward)
virtuous (does what’s right by him, disobeying Angelo’s orders to behead Claudio)
magician (not really, but he makes Angelo believe that pirate Ragozine’s head is Claudio’s)
clever (philosophically debates whether prostitution is worse than murder)
funny (his character is the clown, and he’s got some sassy comebacks)
poor (Pompey is a bawd employed by Mistress Overdone. Not the best dating bio)
down for a good time ;) (impregnates Juliet before they are officially married)
cool family (he’s Isabella’s brother)
good hearted (initially is horrified at Angelo’s request of Isabella, saying she shouldn’t do it. Unfortunately, his fear of death get’s to him. After he’s calmed down, he’s accepting of death)
a man in uniform (a policeman)
a little dumb (he speaks a lot of malapropisms - hilariously using similar but incorrect words)
not like Pompey (Pompey is a clever poor man, while Elbow is a policeman who’s a little bit all over the place)
dedicated (still in love with Angelo even though he called off their engagement because her dowry was lost)
a willing accomplice (participates in the bed-trick)
poor (she’s a prostitute, who fears for her livelihood when Angelo announces he’s destroying all the brothels)
good hearted (kept Lucio’s secret. What secret? Read on…)
works for the Duke (as an executioner…. there’s no way to make that sound nice)
doesn't have a great name (c’mon it’s true)
also likes to have a good time ;) (pregnant before official marriage)
dependent (if Claudio dies she will probably end up as a prostitute to survive)
can sing (Mariana asks him to sing a sad song about how she lost her beloved Angelo)
holy gal (she is a nun)
Kate Keepdown (we never actually meet this character)
a colleague of Mistress Overdone (a prostitute)
single mum (Lucio got her pregnant and then ran away. He thinks marrying a prostitute is akin to whipping and hanging)
Ragozine (we never actually meet this character)
dies (legit that’s all he does)
SYMBOLS & MOTIFS
These are people, objects, words etc that represent a theme or idea. For instance, the fact that I’ve used a bad soup metaphor AND a tinder reference means I need to go outside more. But let’s move on…
The title, “Measure for Measure” draws from the gospel of Matthew. The idea of heavenly justice vs earthly justice is prominent throughout the text. Moreover, it’s worth exploring the Old Testament ways of “an eye for an eye” and “measure for measure” in comparison to the New Testament teachings which lean towards forgiveness and mercy. Now, where do the Duke’s actions fit in? Is he harsh and equalising? Is he just and sympathetic?
New Testament vs. Old Testament
When the Duke sentences Angelo to death, he makes a fancy speech which includes the play’s title.
“‘An Angelo for Claudio, death for death!
Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure.
Like doth quit like, and measure still for measure.”
Act 5, Scene 1, Line 439-441
This mimics the Old Testament views, which famously states “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Exodus 21:24). These ideals teach that the person who committed a misdeed shall have the same misdeed done unto them. (For example, if you don’t like my new Facebook profile picture, I’m not liking yours…..but way more severe.)
In comparison, the New Testament states that we “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:36-37)
So, when sentencing Angelo the Duke employs the words of the Old Testament. However, he doesn’t go through with Angelo’s execution, instead showing the mercy encouraged by the New Testament. He’s not really following either way. Perhaps he’s instead choosing a middle road; one of temperance and justice.
Wait, who? We haven’t mentioned the “gentleman” Lucio much in the plot and in this blog post. That’s because he doesn’t really do that much other than buzz around and annoy everyone. Maybe that’s why his name rhymes with mosquito….
Regardless, we do see enough of Lucio’s character to learn that he’s not a very nice person. He treats Mistress Overdone and Pompey poorly, makes visits to the brothel, doesn’t take responsibility for his actions (getting Kate Keepdown pregnant) and bad-mouths the Duke. So yeah, we don’t like Lucio, what’s the big deal? Well, in Act 4, Scene 4 Line 182, Lucio says something very intriguing.
“I am a kind of burr, I shall stick.”
Burr - those little brown prickly things that get stuck to you.
We can think of Lucio as representing all the sins and misdeeds in Vienna - lechery, immorality, lack of justice, selfishness etc. Hence, Lucio is saying that these shortcomings and flaws will always be present to people and in Vienna, sticking to the city like a nasty burr. Damn, that’s deep.
The metre of the verse (ie. the classic Shakespeare writing) in ‘‘Measure for Measure” is iambic pentameter. This means that each line is divided into 5 feet. Within each foot, there is one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one.
I’ll TELL him YET of ANgelO’S reQUEST, And FIT his MIND to DEATH, for HIS soul’s REST. (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 195-196)
Verse does not have to rhyme, as the above lines do. Shakespeare often employs a rhyming couplet to close a scene and add some drama.
Verse is usually reserved for the higher class citizens, with those who are less fortunate speaking in prose.
Prose is language in its ordinary form, with no metre.
Certain characters, such as Lucio, switch between verse and prose depending on who they are speaking to. This could allude to Lucio’s duplicity, or perhaps a deep understanding of class divides in Vienna.
Names: Escalus and Angelo
Escalus is the ever reasonable and loyal lord and close confidant of the Duke. His name gives connotations of scales and balance - characteristic of the rational man.
Angelo’s name has connotations of “angel”. If we judge him only by his name, he should be a pure and heavenly being. Bah! That’s so fake! We can see that appearance is very different from reality. Isabella notices this too, stating that “this outward-sainted deputy...is yet a devil” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 95-98).
There is so much to unpack about this douchebag. Let us briefly consider 2 ideas. When he propositions Isabella to sleep with him, he requests that she “lay down the treasures of (her) body” (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 100).
Firstly, that’s weird. Perhaps Angelo can be seen as someone who is obsessed with the physical - Isabella’s body and treasure. Maybe this obsession leads to his immorality and poor leadership.
Secondly, Angelo struggles to directly say, “hey, let’s sleep together”. He weaves his way around the request, propositioning Isabella so indirectly that at first, she does not even seem to understand his request! However, once she threatens to tell everyone about his vile demand, he speaks bluntly; “Who will believe thee, Isabel?” (Act 2, Scene 4, Line 163). Perhaps this shows Angelo is self-aware that he’s being an ass. Or maybe this scene is yet more evidence of a patriarchal society, with the men knowing very well the power they hold.
We never actually meet this fellow. Ragozine is a pirate who dies in jail while “Measure for Measure” unfolds. His head is used in place of Claudio’s to convince Angelo of the former’s execution. Fascinatingly, Ragozine is the only person who dies in the entire play. ALSO, he dies of natural causes. Interesting. It feels like the play is full of death, grief and many heads on the chopping block. But curiously, there is only one death, of a minor character, of natural causes. Perhaps this says something about fate and justice or offers some commentary on life and hope.
Elbow vs. Pompey
Elbow is a silly policeman who speaks in malapropisms (using a similar but incorrect word for humorous effect). Pompey is a clever pimp who seems to have a deep understanding of justice and the Viennese people. The comparison of these characters, fortunate and dumb to unfortunate and clever, perhaps serves to show that the law is not always apt and that sometimes those who break the law are more clever than it.
Mistress Overdone (or lack thereof)
Mistress Overdone is a pitiable prostitute. She worries for her survival when Angelo begins pulling down the brothels, and she keeps Lucio’s bastard child a secret, only for him to throw her under the bus to save his own skin. The last we see of Mistress Overdone is her getting carted off to prison, crying “See how he goes about to abuse me!” (Act 3, Scene 1, Line 481) Yes, the last we witness of one of five speaking female characters is of her imminent incarceration. Furthermore, this happens in Act 3 of 5, around halfway through the play! The audience never hears from Mistress Overdone again, and her future is left uncertain. Even Barnadine, a convicted murderer, is given freedom and a happy ending.
Consider writing a few sentences of your essay from a feminist’s perspective. Think about the events of the play from the female characters’ points of view. What is Shakespeare saying by portraying Mistress Overdone (and other women) in such a way? Perhaps he is pointing out the injustices of the patriarchal system, or how uncertain a woman’s life was in his contemporary time.
“Measure for Measure” truly is an incredible text. This blog post is by no means an exhaustive list of all its quirks and complexities. This play’s relevance has survived centuries, and I believe it will continue to be pertinent to audiences well into the future. You are very lucky to be studying a text with such universal themes and ideas that you can carry with you even after high school.
Themes, motifs and symbols are different kinds of narrative elements - they’re parts of a story that help to shape its overall effect. However, even though they’re words we use all the time in our English studies, it isn’t always easy to tell the difference!
This post will take you through some definitions, give you some examples and show you how you can use them in essays too. Let’s start with the broadest of the three…
What Is a Theme?
A theme is an idea or a subject that an author wants to explore. Themes appear throughout a work, and they’re often abstract ideas rather than concrete images that you can explicitly identify. Themes usually appear in interactions: for example, a parent reuniting with a child might evoke the theme of parenthood or family, an experience of discrimination might evoke the theme of prejudice or racism, a character facing a difficult choice might evoke the theme of morality or conflict, and so on. As you might be able to see, themes can require us to read between the lines because they are usually implied.
What Is a Motif?
A motif is something a bit more specific. Rather than an abstract idea, we’re looking for a concrete object (usually physical items, but also potentially sounds, places, actions, situations or phrases) that returns time and time again throughout a text. This repetition of motifs helps to create structure for a text - it can tether parts of the story to or around a central image. Because motifs are often linked to a theme, they can also serve as a reminder of that theme’s importance. For example, if the central theme was family or parenthood, the author might create a bird’s nest outside a character’s room; as we watch the bird and the chicks grow throughout the text, parallels are also drawn back to the theme.
What Is a Symbol?
You can think of symbols as motifs minus the repetition. It’s the more default word we use when referring to an object that represents an idea, and unlike a motif, symbols only need to appear once to have an impact. They can simply tell us more about a character or situation in that instant, at that specific time, rather than being a parallel or recurring throughout a text. However, they’re still identified in a similar way to motifs: symbols are also concrete objects and they’re still connected to themes.
Examples of Themes, Motifs and Symbols
Here are some text-specific examples for a closer look at these terms:
Themes usually come across in interactions, and a possible first step to identifying them is thinking about if an interaction is good or bad, and why. For example:
In Rear Window, one of the neighbours berates everyone else for failing to notice their dog’s death.
This is a bad interaction because:
a dog dying is never any good
it tells us that none of these neighbours are looking out for or really care about each other
someone may have killed the dog
The theme we might identify here is duty. The film might suggest that we have a duty to look out for our neighbours (without sacrificing their privacy) or to do our part to keep the neighbourhood safe from potential criminals.
Another example might be:
In The Great Gatsby, the Sloanes invite Gatsby over for dinner without really meaning it.
This is a bad interaction because:
it tells us how nasty the Sloanes are
Gatsby still seems to be a misfit despite his wealth
Tom is at best complicit in the Sloanes’ insincerity
The themes here might be society, wealth and class. This interaction shows us where these characters really stand with regard to these categories or ideas. Because he is ‘new money’, Gatsby cannot understand or fit in with the cruel and disingenuous customs of ‘old money’.
Most interactions in a text will fit into a theme somewhere, somehow - that’s why it’s been included in the story! Try to identify the themes as you go, or maintain lists of interactions and events for different themes. Because themes are so broad, they’re useful for guiding your understanding of a text, particularly as you’re reading it. They also provide a great foundation for essay planning since you can draw on events across the text to explore a certain theme.
Identifying and Using Motifs & Symbols
While themes can generally appear in texts without the author needing to make too much of an effort, motifs and symbols have to be used really consciously. A lot of interactions might just be natural to the plot, but the author has to take extra care to insert a symbol or motif into the story.
To identify either, pay attention to objects that might feel unusual or even unnecessary to the scene at first - from the examples above, Gatsby showing Daisy his shirts might seem like a strange detail to include, but it’s actually an important symbol in that moment. Then, you go into the brainstorming of what the object could represent -in this case, Gatsby’s newfound wealth. Symbols in particular often appear at turning points: the relationship between two characters might take a turn, an important sacrifice might be made or perhaps someone crosses a point of no return - all of these are potential plot points for the author to include symbols. For motifs, look more for repetition. If we’re always coming back to an image or an object, like Daisy’s green light or Lisa Fremont’s dresses, then it’s likely that image or object has significance.
Symbols and motifs can be more subtle than themes, but they will also help to set your essay apart if you find a way to include them. You’d usually include them as a piece of evidence (with or without a quote) and analyse what they tell us about a theme. For example:
On the surface, Gatsby appears to be financially successful. Over several years, he has acquired many material belongings in order to demonstrate his great wealth. For example, Fitzgerald includes a scene featuring Gatsby tossing his many ‘beautiful’ shirts onto Daisy, who sobs as she admires them. This display of wealth represents the superficial natures of both characters, who prize material belongings over the substance of their relationship.
You don’t need a quote that’s too long or overpowering; just capture the essence of the symbol or motif and focus on what it represents. This is a really good way to show examiners how you’ve thought about a text’s construction, and the choices an author has made on what to include and why. To learn more about text construction, have a read of What Is Metalanguage?
All the Light We Cannot See is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Breaking Down an All the Light We Cannot See Essay Prompt
We've explored themes and symbols and provided a summary of the text over on our All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!
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
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
‘In All the Light We Cannot See there is a fine line between civilised and uncivilised behaviour.’ Discuss.
Step 1: Analyse
Taking a look at this prompt, the first thing to note is that it is theme-based. Specifically asking about the line that separates civilised and uncivilised behaviour within the novel, this prompt focuses directly on the theme of human behaviours and how you ultimately interpret the fine line (i.e. seamless, difficult, changing, manipulative) between such ideas. Fundamentally, you have to discuss how this theoretical line drawn between the contrasting behaviours is explored within the novel in various ways throughout Doerr’s examination of humanity.
The question tag of Discuss is the most flexible type of prompt/topic you will receive, providing you with a broad and open-ended route to pretty much discuss any ideas that you believe fit within the prompt’s theme of uncivilised and civilised behaviour. Although this may seem hard to know where to start, this is where Step 2: Brainstorm, comes into play. You can read through LSG’sQuestion Tags You Need To Know section (in How To Write A Killer Text Response) to further familiarise yourself with various ways to tackle different prompt tags.
A fundamental aspect of writing a solid Text Response essay is being able to use a diverse range of synonyms for the keywords outlined in the prompt. Our keywords are in bold. When you are brainstorming, if any words pop into your head, definitely list them so you can use them later. You may want to have a highlighter handy when unpacking prompts so you can do just this!!
‘In All the Light We Cannot See there is a fine line between civilised and uncivilised behaviour.’ Discuss.
How people have grown up determines the civil and uncivilised behaviours shown by individuals of different backgrounds and childhoods - Bastian is symbolised as the eagle that circles the youth camp, which is an uncivilised/unwanted form of hawk-like behaviour. This compares to Fredrick's love of birds as a young boy which makes him a softer character. - Bernd had ‘no friends’ as a child - showing his isolated past - which could be described as the reason he leaves his father and goes off to join the Hilter Youth ‘just like the other boys.’ (find this analysis in the chapter ‘The Death of Walter Bernd’)
There is a fine line that Doerr draws between the stereotypes of women and their ability to remain civilised despite being suppressed by uncivil livelihoods and experiences. - Jutta is characterised as a strong and independent woman instead of the traditional ‘pretty girl in a propaganda poster’. Society expects most women to stand on that side of human behaviour and representation however she defies this.
The strength of women to cross/overcome the line of uncivilised behaviour is significant within the sexual abuse and misconduct driven by soldiers. Can remain true to oneself despite the horrific behaviours a woman faces. - The role of women on the homefront (i.e. Fredrick’s Mother) highlights the stark contrast between men fighting and thinking about the ‘men they killed’ and mothers who put on a ‘fake smile to appear brave’ (the line between barbaric behaviours of many soldiers and caring/loving behaviours of those on the homefront) - women and their sacrifices is an important topic here
It is one’s ability to adapt to change that draws the line between civil and uncivilised behaviours. - Marie Laure’s ability to look past being a ‘blind girl’, and move on from this hardship. She adapts to the ‘changing times’ around her despite others who are suppressed in such an environment (e.g. Etienne and his ‘dread’).
The game of flying couch is a symbol of escaping the uncivilised world around them (metaphorical line of the human imagination). - Werner is predominantly overwhelmed by the world around him, which reflects his inability to no longer ask questions as he did as a young boy. Instead, he succumbs to the uncivilised world of death and destruction as he is unable to change.
Symbolic use of Werner’s ‘soft covered notebook’ in epilogue - symbolises his loss of perspective and wonder of the world,
Ultimately it is this line that makes the human existence so unique
Step 3: Create a Plan
After having brainstormed all the ideas that came to mind, I’ll be approaching the essay prompt with the following contention.
In a world where society is grounded by behaviours both civil and uncivil, there is a clear distinction between humanity's response and representation of these behaviours.
Coming up with a clear contention allows you to put together a cohesive and strong essay that answers all aspects of the prompt question.
Now, onto developing our topic sentences for each paragraph!
P1: Embedded within Doerr’s nonlinear narrative*, the environment in which individuals have grown up consequently influences their behaviours later in life.
*A nonlinear narrative is a storytelling technique Doerr uses to portray events out of chronological order.
P2: Encompassing the social paradigms that pervade a woman’s existence, the strength and civilisation of females allow them to traverse a line of unjust behaviours that suppress them.
P3: In essence, it is the human response to change that divides individuals from ultimately displaying civil or uncivil acts in the world.
The art of recognising the ephemera of the human existence is painted by Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See as a fine line between behaviours of civilisation and extreme brutality (1). In the inordinate scheme of history, Doerr fosters the dichotomy between those who remain socially aware and others who are marred by desolation as a reflection on one's past. Further subverting the traditional depiction of women in a ‘war story’, the strength of women is established as a key turning point for individuals to escape barbaric behaviours and cross the line to civilisation. Fundamentally, however, it is the overall response to change that crafts human behaviours that Doerr underpins within society (2).
Annotations (1) it is important to include synonym variation in your opening sentence to ensure that it does not look like you have just copied the prompt and placed it on your page. This idea should be carried out throughout your essay - vary your words and try not to repeat anything, this will ensure you are clear and concise!
(2) In order to improve the flow of your writing, the final topic sentence of your introduction can be a concluding statement on why/how the topic is OVERALL expressed within the novel. When you formulate your contention, it is not enough just to state it, you must also provide reasoning as to why you are writing from this point of view or how you came to this conclusion. For example, my final topic sentence here is a concluding sentence about how I believe a fine line between uncivilised and civil behaviour has an influence throughout the entire novel and Doerr’s intention, one’s response to change. As you read on, you’ll also see that this sentence relates to my final paragraph, thus linking together ideas throughout my essay.
Embedded within Doerr’s nonlinear narrative, the environment in which individuals have grown up consequently influences their behaviours later in life. The initial illustration of the ‘smokestacks hume’ and the ‘black and dangerous’ imagery (3) of the war paints a clear picture of the destruction and trauma that individuals have lived amongst, thus why people were ‘desperate to leave’. Empathising with an ‘old woman who cuddles her toddler’ on the streets, Doerr laments how young individuals who end up ‘surg[ing] towards one cause,’ which this toddler may similarly grow up to do in the Hitler Youth, directly reflects the ‘intense malice’ of their childhood. This idea that one’s past affects the future behaviours of a generation is further captured within the chapter ‘The Death of Walter Bernd’ (4), which outlines how Bernd’s upbringing with ‘no friends’ promotes him to ‘just leave’, in order to experience something new, despite knowing this something new would bring unjust decisions into his life. Becoming ‘just like the other boys’, Doerr suggests that the line between civil and uncivil behaviours is so thin (5) that a mere need to escape one’s past is enough to create feelings of negativity and at worst death. Encapsulating the darkness that prevails over such individuals, the symbolism of Bastian’s ‘sharp eyes’ (6) poetically describes the eagle that circles the youth camp where Doerr seeks to paint a metaphorical cruel depiction of Bastian as a harmful hawk. Underpinning the fine line between human behaviour, Fredrick’s ‘love of birds’ is ‘so beautiful[ly]’ representative of his respectful nature and approach to life while Bastian’s immersion in ‘the self interest of the world’ ultimately explains how his fallacious behaviour towards others is embodied by his environment within the war. Overall, the behaviours displayed by humanity are a reflection of past experiences and how they shape the individual.
Annotations (3) Imagery is a key aspect of All the Light We Cannot See and goes hand in hand with the vast symbolism Doerr uses within his novel. When including imagery, it is great to include a few related quotes; however, you must then ensure you analyse and delve into how this technique (imagery) demonstrates the idea you are writing about. In this case, the imagery of the chimneys and foggy/dirty air illustrates the desolate environment individuals lived in during the war.
(4) This chapter is something not many students analyse or touch on so if you’re looking to add some spice to your writing I would definitely take a look and see what you can extract from some of those more unique and nuanced chapters!
(5) Referencing the ‘fine line’ continually throughout your essay ensures that you are staying on track and not talking about topics away from the prompt.
(6) Symbolism is very important in All the Light We Cannot See. The use of the quote ‘sharp eyes’, really shows that you have considered not only how Doerr simply explores the behaviour of each character but also the physical interpretations of how individuals may demonstrate a certain persona within the novel. This focus on character description on top of dialogue adds extra layers to your writing.
Encompassing the social paradigms that pervade a woman’s existence, the strength and civilisation of females allow them to traverse a line of unjust behaviours that suppress them. Instead of characterising Jutta as a ‘pretty girl in a propaganda poster’, whom the soldier will ‘fight and die for’, Doerr proffers the unconventional humanisation of women on the home front to pay tribute to the power of staying true to oneself (7). Despite facing the barbaric reality of ‘sex crazed torturers’, Doerr illuminates Jutta’s capacity to ‘look them in the eye’ rather than shy away from them as a meditation on her own morals of (8) ‘what is right’. The tragic nature (9) of such abuse is specifically chronicled by Doerr to concatenate (10) the continual brave behaviours Jutta portrays even when succumbing to the line that attempts to draw women away from strength and independence. Further referencing her desire to ‘lock away memories’ of the past in her life after the war, the novel posits the importance of women during a period of inordinate history as a powerful force that remained civil even in times of ‘absolute blackness’. From the perspective of Fredrick’s mother, Doerr seeks to display how her ‘fake smile to appear brave’ outlines how many mothers and women had to remain strong for their children, such as Fredrick with brain damage, even though they were so close to falling into a world of sorrow and isolation. A clear segregation between soldiers who thought about ‘the men they killed’ and women who were made to ‘feel complicit in an unspeakable crime’ (11) they did not commit overall affirms the sacrifices women made during the war and without such sacrifices and strength the thin line between behavioural acts would be broken.
Annotations (7) Here I have included an analysis of Doerr’s message - what he is trying to say or show within his novel. Ultimately an author has a message they seek to share with the world. Providing your own interpretation of certain messages the author may be attempting to send to his readers adds real depth to your writing, showing that you are not only considering the novel itself but the purpose of the author and how this novel came to explore the fundamental ideas of the essay prompt.
(8) This quote directly relates to the keyword: civilised behaviour. Finding quotes that are also specific to your prompt is crucial to producing an essay that flows and has meaning.
(9) The use of adjectives within the essay paints the picture of whether an act is civil or uncivil which is ultimately what we are attempting to discuss from the prompt. Here the phrase ‘tragic nature’, underpins the essence of unjust behaviours shown by the soldiers.
(10) Concatenate - link/connect ideas together
(11) Comparing aspects within the novel is a great way to show your understanding and how the same theme or idea can be shown in many different ways.
In essence, it is the human response to change that divides individuals from ultimately displaying civil or uncivil acts in the world. Established by Marie Laure’s characterisation as a ‘blind girl’ who can ‘project anything onto the black screen of her imagination’, Doerr illuminates her ability to adapt to the ‘changing times’ around her. She is seen to be ‘carried away by reveries’ rather than a plethora of voices who ‘forgo all comforts’ and ‘eat and breathe nation’. Through the chapter and make-believe game ‘flying couch’ (12),Marie’s nature to ‘surrender firearms’ with Etienne in their imagination is a symbolic adoption to escape the world around them, hence the uncivilised society they are learning to live in. Doerr’s congruent imagery of Etienne’s changing voice of ‘dread’ to ‘velvety’ as he becomes intertwined within ‘Marie’s bravery’ underpins the ability for individuals to seamlessly cross the line from a lack of cultured behaviour to a world of hope and prosperity. Contrasting this, however, Werner, an individual who was initially curious about ‘how the world works’, is so ‘overwhelmed by how quickly things are changing around [him]’ that his ‘interest in peace’ is stripped away and no longer exists due to his inability to change with a changing world. Doerr, therefore, laments the transmogrification of his character as a reflection of his uncivil thoughts and ideals as a soldier, ultimately resulting in his loss of ability to ask questions. This idea places emphasis on Volkheimer receiving Werner’s ‘soft covered notebook’ in the epilogue (13) where the translation of the book’s title ‘Fragen’ - to ‘ask’ in English - is symbolic of the moment Werner decided to ‘work, join, confess, die’ he immediately lost the open mind and curiosity he once had. Ultimately, the dichotomy between these two lives and their opposing character transformations resembles the line between remaining calm or acting out of haste when subject to change.
Annotations (12) Analysing not only the game but the whole meaning behind chapters and why Doerr has given them certain names is an interesting avenue to take. Here ‘flying couch’ not only underpins the imagination of Marie Laure but also symbolises freedom and bravery within just the name itself.
(13) The analysis and evidence used from the epilogue is a crucial part of this paragraph and is significant to Doerr’s novel. Unpacking All the Light We Cannot See, there is a lot of evidence and juicy ideas you can draw from the beginning and end of the novel. Here I have almost analysed the meaning of Werner’s ‘soft covered notebook’ to the bone; however, this adds a lot of depth to your writing as I’m sure your ultimate goal is to make your essays as unique as possible?!
As a project of humanism, Doerr seeks to portray a fine segregation in people's behaviours as the microcosm (14) of what makes the human existence so unique. Following the journeys of individuals who even ‘see a century turn’’ the novel displays how one’s past has an immense influence on how their future values, actions and behaviours grow and develop. Further subverting the stereotypical representation of women living in a war, Doerr establishes an acknowledgment of their roles and strength in the face of cruel situations. Ostensibly, it is the human capacity to adapt to change that marks the difference between what is just and unjust in a society that weighs both on a very unstable scale.
Annotations (14) Microcosm - a community, place or situation regarded as encapsulating in miniature the characteristics of something much larger.
If you find this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our All the Light We Cannot See Prompts blog post. You can have a go at those essay prompts and feel free to refer back to this essay breakdown whenever you need. Good luck!
Photograph 51 & The Penelopiad are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of our most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out ourUltimate Guide to VCEComparative.
We've explored themes, characters and literary devices amongst other things over on our Comparing The Penelopiad and Photograph 51blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text pair, I highly recommend checking it out!
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
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
‘You heard what you wanted to hear.’ (Photograph 51)
‘Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.’ (The Penelopiad)
Compare the ways in which both texts suggest there is power in storytelling.
Step 1: Analyse
The first step is to deduce what type(s) the essay question is (for a refresher on the 5 types of essay prompts, check out this blog). I usually find that a process of elimination is the easiest way to determine this. The prompt doesn’t explicitly include the keyword ‘How’, so it isn’t how-based. There are also no characters mentioned in the prompt, so we can rule out character-based. There’s no metalanguage included, so it isn’t metalanguage-based either. However, the prompt does mention the themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’, so yes, it is theme-based. There are also two quotes (one from each text) included as part of the prompt, so it’s also quote-based.
Now that we’ve determined what types of essay prompt are relevant here, the next step is to identify its keywords: ‘the ways’, ‘both texts’, ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’.
The inclusion of ‘the ways’ tells us that we must consider different examples from ‘both texts’ where Ziegler and Atwood show us there is ‘power in storytelling’. The thematic words ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’ are especially important in your selection of evidence and also your three distinct paragraph ideas, as singling out the thematic keywords will make sure you do not go off-topic.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Let’s look at the common themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’ that are central to the essay topic, and more specifically, how there is power WITHIN storytelling. In the case of Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad, a common representation of storytelling that is present in both texts is that truthful storytelling is subjective. This means that both Atwood and Ziegler posit that those in power throughout history have been afforded the ability to shape the historical narrative to best fit their interests. Both texts are also set within patriarchal societies - 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece. Therefore, our overall contention in response to this topic can be:
Both texts suggest that the ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout history.
This opening line addresses ‘power in storytelling’ in a specific way that brings in the contexts of both texts. Each of your paragraphs should fall somewhere under this umbrella of thought - exploring the dynamics of the patriarchal systems within both texts in relation to storytelling. Who tells the story? How does it benefit them? Why not others?
Step 3: Create a Plan
It is now time to develop the three main ideas that will form your essay structure. It is important to remember that each paragraph should include a discussion of converging and diverging ideas. Try to only use one or two examples from each text in a paragraph, as this way, you will have more time and space in your paragraphs to analyse your literary techniques and quotes. As the old saying goes, show don’t tell!
P1: Both texts give women a voice through the retelling of their stories from a different perspective.
Photograph 51 serves as a correction to the history of the discovery of the helix structure.
The Penelopiad inserts the female perspective into the famous myth of The Odyssey, giving reasoning and depth to the female voice.
Rosalind’s story is primarily told by the male scientists as the play retells the events, injected with commentary from the male scientists.
The Penelopiad is a first-person recount from Penelope herself, therefore she is given more agency and control of the narrative.
P2: However, women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their subjective truth and perspective is often undermined.
Predominantly, the narration is told from the male perspective as male scientists narrate Rosalind’s life. Her story is still subject to male opinion.
The Maids interrupt Penelope’s first-person narrative through the 10 interludes from the maids’ perspective. In doing so, they cast doubt on Penelope’s retelling of the narrative and offer a more truthful perspective.
Rosalind’s story is often interrupted by other male scientists, therefore more directly illustrating that men have more control over the subjective truth. Despite Rosalind’s story being central to the novel, Ziegler still demonstrates the difficulty women face in being believed and accredited for their contribution to history.
Penelope’s story is not interrupted by men like Rosalind’s is. Therefore, there is a lack of male dominance in this aspect of the tale. However, the theme of patriarchal dominance is instead illustrated through the lack of authority that the maids have. Despite their account of the events in the tale being the most accurate, their low social status limits the power of their voice in a patriarchal society.
P3: In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately control their own narrative and how they are remembered, amplifying their own greatness by omitting the potential blemishes on their character.
The male scientists deflect the blame for discrediting Rosalind by instead blaming her cold personality instead of their own deception and inability to cooperate with a woman.
The execution of the maids is dismissed in the trial of Odysseus as Odysseus’ actions are justified in the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece.
The male scientists’ reputations remain untarnished at the conclusion of the narrative, aside from personal guilt and shame. They achieved the scientific success they set out to achieve and were remembered as heroes.
Unlike the untarnished reputation of the male scientists, the maids curse Odysseus at the conclusion of the narrative.
The ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout the retelling of history (1).This is a result of the dominance of patriarchal systems, which inherently give men more agency in society to dictate the narrative for the next generations to remember (2).Both Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Ziegler’s Photograph 51 criticise this power imbalance in historical storytelling and deliver the female perspective in two different eras of history. Each text recognises that the lack of voice women are granted in society undermines and suppresses their contribution to history (3). Ultimately, both authors question the objectivity of the legacies that men have left behind, casting doubt on the narratives that they have shaped by introducing the underrepresented female perspective (4).
Annotations (1) A ‘universal truth’ or broad thematic statement is a great way to start an essay. This is your overall contention that does not mention the specifics of the texts - it purely deals with the themes of the topic.
(2) As seen here, your second sentence can be used to back up the universal truth in a way that is more specific to the texts and the ideas you’re going to discuss. In my second sentence, I’ve included more information about the societal power structures that are present within the texts and how men have more power to dictate historical narratives.
(3) Then, you signpost the three ideas that you’re going to discuss within your essay in a clear, precise and summarised way. Here is where you can mention textual details such as the titles, authors, forms and setting (i.e. 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece).
(4) I have finished off my introduction with an ‘Ultimately’ sentence that discusses the authorial intent of both authors. This offers a broader in-depth look at the topic as a whole, as it acknowledges the author’s intentional decisions about the text.
By writing narratives that focus on the female perspective in history, both texts afford the female protagonists power through the representation of their voice. Atwood and Ziegler address the imbalance of female input in history and aim to rectify that through representing the contributions women made in both narratives. Photograph 51, through the form of a play that retrospectively reenacts the events leading up to the discovery of the helix structure, cements Rosalind Franklin as the true genius behind the 'secret of life'. This honour has been credited to Watson and Crick solely throughout history, with them being given recognition of the 'Nobel' and having their names 'in textbooks'. Ziegler firmly details how the key to their success is the 'photograph she took of B', which Watson exploits to eventually win the race to construct the model. Similarly, The Penelopiad is also a societal correction to the lack of female representation in the narratives presented (4). Written as a first-person narration, Penelope’s aim as a narrator is to be given the opportunity 'to do a little story-making' in this retrospective novel, inserting her perspective into the well-known myth of Odysseus and The Odyssey(5). The characterisation of Penelope is subverted in Penelope’s retelling, as the generalisation of her character being only recognised for her 'smart[s]', '[her] weaving', and '[her] devotion to [her] husband' is challenged. Atwood contends that Penelope is also determined, self-sufficient and tactile through the narrative voice she grants Penelope as the main protagonist of the text. Rosalind in Photograph 51 is not the narrator of her story, which limits her agency in the telling of her truth in comparison to Penelope, who is able to shape her story the way she wishes (6). Underpinning both of these texts is Atwood and Ziegler’s authorial intention to contend that there is an underrepresentation of female contribution to history, and therefore utilise their texts to give power to female characters in patriarchal systems (7).
Annotations (4) The transitional sentence between texts can be less jarring and clunky if you introduce your example from Text B in a similar vein to the discussion of Text A. As seen here, I have used my discussion of how Ziegler represents Rosalind in a manner that is seen as a historical correction to then transition into how Penelope also serves the same purpose.
(5) The explicit stating of the first-person narration style in The Penelopiad directly addresses the keywords of 'the ways' from the essay question. By incorporating different textual examples like narration and characterisation (as seen in the following sentence), I’m able to analyse multiple ways that the authors suggest there is power in storytelling.
(6) It makes it easier to discuss your divergent idea if it is directly linked to the converging ideas you’ve already mentioned, just as I have here in pointing out the difference in protagonists and narration. This means you don’t have to waste time re-explaining things from the texts!
(7) I conclude with a more broad statement that references the authors’ intentions in order to finish with a more in-depth exploration, just like the end of the introduction.
Women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their version of the truth is often undermined. Despite the main motivator for the texts being to empower the women by giving them a voice, both texts also recognise the limitations of a patriarchal society by illustrating the challenges the protagonists face in having their voices heard. By viewing the past through a retrospective lens in The Penelopiad, Penelope is finally able to deliver her perspective, encapsulated in the opening line of 'now that I’m dead I know everything'. (8) The notion that Penelope had to be dead and free of the restraints placed on her voice whilst she was alive in patriarchal Ancient Greece demonstrates the complete lack of authority the voices of women have in establishing themselves in history. This is echoed in the same retrospective retelling of Rosalind’s story in Photograph 51, as the play begins with Rosalind stating that 'this is what it was like', establishing that the events that follow this initial line are a snapshot into the limitations she had to face as a woman in the male-dominated scientific field. It also references that the interjections of the male scientists as they commentate on her life were 'what it was like', as male opinion majorly shaped the suppression of Rosalind’s success throughout the play. On the contrary, (9) Penelope’s recount of the story is less interrupted by interjections of other characters, specifically those from men. However, the maids deliver ten interludes throughout The Penelopiad. These interludes are another example of female voice being represented in the text, but often being dismissed due to their crudeness or sarcastic nature in their casting of doubt over both Penelope and Odysseus, as they taunt Penelope’s decision to 'blame it on the [...] poxy little sluts!' and blemish Odysseus’ name by characterising him as the 'artfullest dodger' or 'blithe lodger', in reference to his infidelity. Despite the maids being the most authoritative in terms of true Greek theatre, (10) as they deliver the truest and most objective judgement of events, they are 'forgotten' and are not served true justice as a result of their low social status and gender that limits their voice in a patriarchal society. The female perspectives in the texts are truer representations of history in both contexts, yet because of limitations regarding their gender in the two patriarchal systems, they are overshadowed by the male recounts of history.
Annotations (8) To strengthen your essay, it is important to also use evidence that is not strictly dialogue or themes from inside the text. In this line, I use a literary device - retrospective storytelling - to back up the analysis I am talking about.
(9) Starting your discussion of the divergent ideas is easy with the use of phrases such as ‘on the contrary’, ‘unlike this…’ and ‘however’. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time on filler sentences. Be efficient!
(10) By further strengthening my analysis with a range of examples (e.g. mentioning the historical importance of genre, such as Greek theatre in this instance), I’m able to demonstrate a deeper knowledge of not only the texts and their context.
In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately have more control over their own narratives and shape them for their own personal glorification of character. The omission of immorality and emphasis on male achievement by the men narrating the story is a clear indication that despite the selfish choices they make, men are still able to shape their legacies in their favour. Watson and Crick in Photograph 51 are depicted as 'arrogant' and duplicitous as they extort their 'old friend[ship]' with Wilkins for personal gain, pressuring him into 'talking about his work' to further progress towards notoriety. The conclusion of the play, with Watson and Crick accepting the honour of the Nobel Prize and claiming it as the 'finest moment' of their lives, illustrates that the motivation of personal success justifies the immoral actions of men as they are remembered fondly as scientific heroes without the blemishes of their characters. Similarly in The Penelopiad, Odysseus is revered as a hero through the intertextual reference of The Odyssey, a myth detailing the legend of Odysseus and his 'cleverness'. Penelope’s recounting of the 'myth of Penelope and Odysseus' sheds light on her ingenuity in the tales of Odysseus, showing that she 'set the whole thing up on purpose', referring to the deceiving plan that Odysseus had been awarded all the credit for in the original retelling of their story. Additionally, in the 'trial of Odysseus', Odysseus’ character is evaluated in the setting of a court, as the maids have demanded justice for Odysseus’ unjust execution of them. However, the judge overturns this decision as it would serve as a 'blot on an otherwise exceedingly distinguished career', encapsulating the idea that men in a patriarchal society will omit personal errors in favour of presenting themselves and other men as heroes of their narratives. However, unlike the untarnished male success of Photograph 51, the maids curse Odysseus so he would 'never be at rest' in the conclusion of the narrative, as Atwood makes the final statement that men throughout history should be held accountable for the immoral actions they make (11).
Annotations (11) By concluding with a specific reference to the authorial intent of this specific idea explored throughout the paragraph, you ‘zoom’ back out and show your reader the bigger picture.
At the end of each text it is evident that, regardless of the representation and voice that is given to the female characters, the deeply entrenched patriarchal systems in both timelines negate this power in favour of the male voice (12). Ziegler’s play asserts that Rosalind’s 'groundbreaking work' should 'cement her place in history', and aims to give her recognition from a relatively more progressive, feminist society. Atwood’s conclusion also is representative of giving women more recognition for their achievements, like giving credit for Penelope’s 'intelligence' as an esteemed character trait in contemporary society. Both characters cast doubt over the previously revered male heroes in both texts, and further criticise the lack of female representation in those heroic stories. In conveying both Penelope and Rosalind’s stories, the authors call for a further critique of past and future accounts of human achievement.
Annotations (12) In this conclusion, I have chosen to focus on comparing the authorial intentions of Atwood and Ziegler in relation to the topic. In doing so, it can summarise my contention that I introduced earlier in the essay. By starting my conclusion with an overall statement regarding the ending of the two texts, I draw on the readers’ preexisting ideas of how they felt at the end of each narrative.
If you’re studying Photograph 51 and My Brilliant Career, check out our Killer Comparative Guide to learn everything you need to know to ace this assessment.
The following is a snippet from my study guide, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation. It's filled with unique advice that takes you from start to finish in mimicking the techniques used by a perfect-scorer VCE Year 12 student. You may want to start off reading Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations and come back to this blog if you haven't already!
This blog covers the first step within Pillar 2: Writing The ‘This Is-Going-To-Blow-You-Away’ Speech. Once you've chosen an interesting topic and have researched all of its different viewpoints, it's time to formulate your contention. Often, creating a killer contention is about avoiding some common traps that will make your overall presentation boring, bland and just like the rest of your cohorts'.
So, I like to avoid:
Broad, overarching statements
If you think your contention is, ‘abortion in Australia’ then you’re wrong. This is simply not a contention! A contention is an opinion. The example, ‘abortion in Australia’ offers no insight into your opinion on the issue at all. Instead, ‘We need to consider women’s mental health when judging their decision on abortion’ is an opinion.
A contention that is just plain obvious
Let’s say we use the issue of ‘homelessness in Australia’. Arguing ‘homelessness in Australia is a problem’ or ‘we need to fix the homelessness issue in Australia’ just isn’t going to cut it because you’d never argue the opposite, ‘homelessness is great’. There are no differing viewpoints against your contention which means that you have nothing to argue against.
You need to be more specific with your issue - that’s why you looked up all those viewpoints in your research. For example, you could contend, ‘We need to fix the problems in homes in order to fix Australia’s homeless issue.’ This does has varied viewpoints because someone else’s solution could be to give homeless people greater access to help.
TEST: Before you move on to writing structure, ask yourself, can people argue against my contention? If yes, proceed ahead! If no, you’ll need to revise your contention again. Do this over and over until you can confidently answer ‘yes’ to the above question.
Avoid a contention that is generally accepted as true in today’s age
When climate change first came onto the radar, the main debate was whether it was a real or a conspiracy theory. These discussions were in full force over 5+ years ago. These days (with the exception of climate change skeptics of course), discussion on climate change revolves more heavily around the slow pace of policy implementation, intergenerational effects of climate change, and mental health surrounding climate change.
Rather than arguing, ‘Climate change is real?’ (which your teacher has probably listened to a dozen times), you’re better suited to argue ‘Young people, not governments, should lead the fight against climate change’. Not only does this tie into the LSG belief that you should be more specific with your issue, it’ll also mean that your contention is relevant to today.
Now it's your turn. Give it a go! You might need to take a few tries to get your contention right, and that's absolutely OK.
If even after that you’re still unsure about your contention, make it a priority to speak to your teacher about it. Ask them if they could review your proposed contention and offer you any constructive feedback. Heck, even if you are confident with your contention, I’d ask your teacher anyway for any insight you mightn’t have thought of.
Wondering where to go from here? Well, luckily, my eBook, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation, details my exact step-by-step process so you can get that A+ in your SAC this year.
Access a step-by-step guide on how to write your Oral Presentation with simple, easy-to-follow advice
Read and analyse sample A+ Oral Presentations with EVERY speech annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY students achieved A+ so you reach your goal
Learn how to stand out from other students with advice on your speech delivery
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