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For an overview of the EAL study design plus tips and tricks for reading comprehension, time management and more, check out The Ultimate Guide to EAL.
The listening section of the curriculum was introduced by VCAA in 2017 and I highly recommend having a look at the examination reports from 2017 onwards as they provide valuable insight into what the examiners are looking for in high-scoring responses. In this blog, I will explain three key tips that helped me receive a perfect study score in EAL so that you can better prepare for EAL listening.
Tip #1: Pay Attention to the Choice of Delivery
Delivery of speech can be described from 5 aspects:
Pitch refers to the highness or lowness of a sound. High-pitch can be used to heighten the emotion; conversely, a low-pitched voice is often softer and quieter or used to make an important point.
Pace is the speed at which the speech is delivered. Pace can be described as ‘fast’ or ‘slow’.
Presence of pauses, repetition, hesitation
These are often used in conjunction with pace and pitch of voice to illustrate the speaker’s feelings, attitude or views towards a certain issue.
Emphasis/stress on certain words
The emphasis a speaker places on specific words or phrases serves to draw the listener’s attention to the most important information.
Tone of voice
When I first started learning how to nail the listening component, I made an extensive list of descriptive words for tone of voice that can be incorporated into my answers when it comes to SACs and the exam:
It is, of course, awesome and somewhat satisfying to have a glorious list of A+ words under our belt, but they are of no use if we are not comfortable using them. By this, I mean we need to make sure we know the meaning of these fancy words and how to incorporate them into sentences.
Although the full list is very useful, I found myself frequently tending to use a certain few as highlighted below. This helped me to memorise the words I found most versatile, rather than trying to memorise ones I was unlikely to use. You can select the words that work best for you individually - no right or wrong here!
Tip #2: How To Tackle the 3 Marks Question!
Usually, towards the end of a listening task, you will get a 3 marks question that asks for ‘choice of language and delivery’.
Note: For background information on this ‘Gidon’ question, see this blog. And, if you’re not sure why we have highlighted and underlined certain words, see here.
So how do we formulate a cohesive response for this question and ensure we can get 3/3? The train of thought for answering this question is similar to that of analysing how language is tailored to persuade the readers.
The following is an example of what your final answer might look like:
Describe Gidon’s response to the change made to hospital fees. Support your answer with his word choice and delivery. 3 marks
Gidon is very happy and proud of the change in hospital fees. Gidon uses a cheerful and hopeful tone (1st mark) to deliver the message that the change brings him ‘a really good feeling’ and he feels ‘unbelievably proud’ that ‘small people can make great change’ (2nd mark). In addition, Gidon states this in a high pitch and at a fast pace, demonstrating that he is pleased and satisfied with the reduction in hospital parking fees (3rd mark).
Here is another sample answer question and answer (see this blog for background information):
What is Beverley Wang’s opinion on some apps showing many ‘likes’? Support your answer with an example of word choice and language. (3 marks)
Beverley Wang expresses her opinion that some apps can foster addictive behaviours and can be scary by using a frustrated and alarmed tone (1st mark). Additionally, by repeating the term ‘consuming’ four times in a row (2nd mark), delivered at a fast pace, Wang affirms the unethical and addictive nature of the apps (3rd mark).
Tip #3: Build Your Vocabulary to Describe the Interaction Between Speakers
In EAL listening, you are often expected to describe the interaction between two or more speakers. This allows you to comment on how multiple speakers express their ideas. There will typically be a question that asks you to describe the interaction between the speakers, such as, ‘Suggest 2 words to describe the interaction between A and B’. The answer you need to provide will typically be a two-word answer. Here is a list of words that I frequently used to answer questions like this:
Words to describe positive interactions include:
Professional, formal, polite
Words to describe negative interactions include:
Tense, unpleasant, disappointed
Hint: You have probably noticed that a lot of the words used to describe the tone for language analysis overlap with the ones you employ to describe the interaction between speakers. This is a bonus since once you have learned these adjectives, you can use them for both sections of the exam.
The scariest part of the EAL exam, while might not be the most daunting task, is probably getting your head wrapped around an unfamiliar language analysis task under time condition. Jargons and difficult terms might be used, and some articles tend to not be so straightforward making this task more challenging for EAL students. This blog post aims to alleviate this fear for all EAL students as much as possible and better your performance in the end-of-year exams. After reading this, I'd highly recommend our Ultimate Guide To Language Analysis as you study for your next SAC or exam.
To understand and analyse an article well, you will need to know the writer’s contention well, identifying whether they are for or against an idea. Most language analysis articles are written on an issue, which is why it is important to spot what the issue is and the writer’s stance. Most of the time, the writer’s contention is found at the beginning of the article, in the title, though there are times it is found at the end of the article. Sometimes, skimming through an article might be sufficient for you to find its main point.
Spotting and understanding arguments, on the other hand, might be much more difficult as they can be found anywhere within the articles and the number of arguments contained varies from articles to articles.
The good news is, there is no right or wrong answer in English so there is no need to be too worried about whether what you are writing is ‘precise’ or not. In order to look for arguments and ‘chunk the reading passage’ in the most efficient way, you should be paying attention to the ways the writer tries to structure the article (e.g. paragraphs, headings and subheadings if there are any, etc). More than often arguments can be found at the beginning of paragraphs (writers might also use that good old Topic-Evidence-Example-Linking structure in drafting their piece) and sometimes two consecutive paragraphs focus on one singular argument.
Also, arguments should be specific and support the writer’s contention. For instance, if the contention is ‘technology ameliorates Americans’ standards of living’, the arguments might be something along the lines of ‘it is beneficial as it improves efficiency in workplace environment’ or ‘it allows people to communicate easily’. Trying to make an educated guess on what the arguments might look like will definitely help if you already know the contention of the article.
Language barriers might be an issue if the writer uses technical terms related to an unfamiliar area (e.g. an article about “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis”, a lung disease caused by a certain type of dust, might pop up – highly unlikely but thank me later if it does come up). This is why dictionaries are there to help us and they are a must-have coming into EAL exams and SACs. You are allowed to bring bilingual dictionaries as well, so make sure you have a good set of dictionaries that you can bring into SACs and exams. Regardless of how fluent you are, there is still a possibility that they use one if not more than one unfamiliar term in your language analysis articles.
However, it is not always difficult to guess the meaning of the word without using the dictionary (time restraints!!) by looking at the sentence as a whole. The location of the words within a sentence might allow you to make a reasonable guess of what type of words it is or what it might mean. If it is the subject or object of the sentence, it is either a pronoun, a noun or a name. If the word is after a subject, it is likely to be a verb which describes an action! To familiarise yourself with sentence structure further, read my guide on The Keys To English Fluency and Proficiency.
Answering Reading Comprehension Questions
Section C, Question 1 requires students to write short answers, in note form or sentences, which altogether will make up of 50% of the marks in Section C. I am not sure about you but for a lot of students, getting good marks for Question 1 is much easier than getting good marks for Question 2, which requires you to write a full language analysis essay. This is why it is important that you are able to maximise your marks in this question because they are purported to be easier marks to get! Some of the questions will ask the students for factual information but more difficult questions will require to think about that is contained in the text and make an interpretation based on your understanding.
1. Question words
To know what sort of answer you are expected to give before looking for details from the article, you need to be familiar with question words.
WHO - A particular person or group of people impacted by an incident or involved in a situation
WHAT - This really depends. It might require you to give out information about something or to identify reasons for the writer’s opinions (which is good it might make it easier for you to find the writer’s arguments)
WHEN - The timeframe within which an issue or event occurred (date, day, etc)
WHERE - The location of an event
WHY - The reasons for something
HOW - How a problem can be resolved
2. Direction words
Unfortunately, not all questions in this section have “question words” and examiners usually give out questions that are broader using “direction words” or “task words”, making this section more challenging for students. EAL is not the only subject that requires students to know their direction words well so it is definitely worthwhile learning these words to improve your performance. These are the most common direction words used in Section C (see below!).
Giving information about something or to identify the writer’s opinions
This requires you to give out information in your own words and elaborate
Students will be required to find what is asked from the article and write them down in the briefest form possible
Usually in note forms – to answer this you need to identify what is asked and briefly noting them down
Retelling something in a succinct and concise ways in your own words, it should only be enough to highlight key ideas
Finding evidence from the text to justify a statement or opinions
3. Marks allocation
Another super helpful tip is to pay extra attention to the marks allocation of the questions. It usually gives you a fairly accurate indication of how much you should write. The general rule of thumb would be that the number of marks tell students how many sentences or points they should be making.
Identify the reasons why the writer loves travelling (2 marks)
Students should be writing down 2 reasons why the writer loves travelling
The editor strongly opposes the use of plastic bag. Support this statement (3 marks)
In this case, it is probably best to find 3 pieces of evidence from the article that justify the statement stated to make sure you do not lose any marks by not writing enough.
4. Sample Questions And Response
My own response and annotation of Question 1 and Section C of the 2017 EAL exam is below. I really hope it would give you guys a better idea of what is expected from EAL students.
Time Management Tips
Look at the comprehension questions during reading time
I usually used my reading time skimming through the article, looking at the questions and flip back and forth the booklet to look for answers for the questions at the back. The reason why this was the first thing I did was because they often contain clues of what the arguments might me. Questions such as “give three reasons why the editor thought technology is beneficial” will help you immediately identify some key ideas and arguments in the article.
Look for key features instead of analysing and finding techniques straight away
I also used the reading time to find the contention, determine what type of article it was and the source, etc. The following acronym might help you! I often tried identifying all of the features below as it also helped me plan my introduction within reading time.
For a detailed guide on How to Write an A+ Language Analysis Introduction, check out our advice here.
Set out a detailed time management plan for your essay the night before the SAC or exams(or earlier if possible)
Be strict with yourself, know your writing speed and know how long it takes you to write a paragraph.
Stick with one introduction’s structure/ format
If you are used to writing an introduction that, for instance, starts off by introducing the issue, title of the piece, author, and then the contention, tone, audience then stick with it, or memorise it if you do not have the best writing speed or just do not work well under time pressure.
Whether or not (issue) is an issue that garners much attention in recent media. In response to this, (author) writes a (form) titled “(title)” to express his disapprobation/endorsement of (issue) to (audience). By adopting a (tone word 1) and (tone word 2),(author) asserts/ articulates/ contends that (contention). With the use of an accompanying visual, the writer enhances the notion that (contention).
Not be way too thorough with annotation
When it comes to performing well under time condition, perfectionism might hinder you from best maximising your marks! Everyone learns differently and has different approaches to this task but it is probably better if we do not spend way too much time annotating the article. While it is important to scan through the article and identify important persuasive techniques, sometimes it is more than sufficient to just circle or highlight the technique instead of colour-coding it, writing down what its effects on the audience, labelling techniques. Don’t get me wrong, these aforementioned steps are important, but there is no point writing that information down twice because you will be repeating those steps as you write your essay anyway! I’d recommend trying out different annotation techniques and see what works for you, but for me minimalism served me well.
Create your own glossary of words
Sometimes, it takes too much time just sitting down staring at the paper deciding what words you should be using. We’ve all been there, worrying if you have repeated “highlight” or “position” way too many time. Memorising a mini glossary might solve this issue and save us writing time. I have included a sample glossary for you to fill in, hopefully it helps you as much as it did me! It might be a good starting point for you.
The writer criticises …critiques, lambastes, chastises, condemns, denounces, etc
At the end of the day, regardless of how many tips you have learned from this blog, it would not be enough to significantly improve your marks unless you practice frequently. Knowing how long it takes you to write the introduction, or each paragraph will better enable you to finish the essay within the time set and allow you to spend a bit of spare time proofreading your essay. If you are aiming for A+’s, writing every week is probably the best piece of advice I can give because without enough practice, your performance under pressure cannot match up to your usual performance.
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!
What Are You Expected To Cover? (Comparative Criteria)
School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks
How To Prepare for Your Comparative SAC and Exam
How To Write a Comparative Essay
1. What Is a Comparative?
Comparative is also known as 'Reading and Comparing', 'Comparative Essay' and less frequently, 'Compare and Contrast'. For our purposes, we'll just stick to 'Comparative'.
As its name may indicate, a Comparative is when you analyse and write on two texts, comparing their similarities and differences. In VCE, there are 8 pairs of texts Year 12s can choose from (or more accurately, your school chooses for you!). The most popular combination of texts include novels and films, however, plays also make it onto the list.
When you start doing Comparative at school, you will move through your texts just as you have for Text Response (except...instead of one text it's actually two) - from watching the film and/or reading the novel, participating in class discussions about similar and different themes and ideas, and finally, submitting one single essay based on the two texts. So yep, if you've only just gotten your head around Text Response, VCAA likes to throw a spanner in the works to keep you on your toes!
But, don't worry. The good news is all of your Text Response learning is applicable to VCE’s Comparative, and it's really not as hard as it might first appear. Here's a video I created introducing Comparative (I've time-stamped it to start at 0:55 - when the Comparative section starts - thank me later!).
2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Comparative Criteria)
What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Comparative essays (sourced from the VCAA English examination page).
Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Comparative essay.
a) Knowledge and understanding of both texts, and the ideas and issues they present
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, identify and appreciate theme and character representations.
For example: Misogyny is widespread in both Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad, and both writers explore the ways in which females deal with such an environment. Photograph 51 is set in the 1950s when women begun to enter the workforce, whereas The Penelopiad is set in Ancient Greece, a period when women were less likely to speak out against discrimination.
b) Discussion of meaningful connections, similarities or differences between the texts, in response to the topic;
More about this later in4. How To Prepare for Your Comparative SAC and Exam, Step 2: Understand both your texts - as a pair (below).
c) Use of textual evidence to support the comparative analysis
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 Comparative 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..."
d) 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
Comparative is the first Area of Study (AoS 1) in Unit 2 (Year 11) and Unit 4 (Year 12) - meaning that majority of students will tackle the Comparative SAC in Term 3. The number of allocated marks are:
Unit 2 – dependant on school
Unit 4 – 60 marks (whopper!)
The time allocated to your SAC is school-based. Schools often use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 900 to 1200 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 Comparative, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Comparative 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 Comparative 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 about the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Comparative preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):
Step 1: Understand each text - individually
This doesn’t mean reading/watching your texts a specific amount of times (though twice is usually a recommended minimum), but rather, coming to an understanding of your texts. Besides knowing important sections, quotes, themes and characters (which are still important and which you should definitely know), here are some other matters which are also necessary to consider:
Why has it been chosen by VCAA (out of literally millions of other books)?
Why are you reading it (especially if it’s an old text, and how it’s still important throughout the ages)?
Why did the author write it?
What kind of social commentary exists within the text (especially on specific issues and themes)?
These kinds of questions are important because quite often in this area of study, you’ll be defending and interpreting your own ideas alongside the author’s. When you find a solid interpretation of the text as a whole, then no essay topic will really throw you off - because you’ll know already what you think about it. Moreover, because you’re comparing two texts in this section, understanding a text and being specific (e.g. 'both texts argue that equality is important' vs. 'while both texts A and B agree with the notion of equality, A focuses on ____ whereas B highlights ____') will help your writing improve in sophistication and depth.
If you need any more tips on how to learn your texts in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your texts and is a must read for VCE English students!
Avoid simply drawing connections between the texts which are immediately obvious. When writing a Comparative, the key strategy that'll help you stand out from the crowd is the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy. I discuss this in more detail below, under 'eBooks'.
We'll use George Orwell's Animal Farm and Shakespeare's Macbeth as an example (don't worry if you haven't studied either of these texts, it's just to prove a point). The most obvious connection simply from reading the plot is that both Napoleon and Macbeth are powerful leaders. However, you want to start asking yourself more questions to develop an insightful comparison between the two men:
For example: In Macbeth and Animal Farm a common theme is power
Q: How do they achieve power?
A: In Animal Farm, Napoleon is sly about his intentions and slowly secures his power with clever manipulation and propaganda. However, Shakespeare’s Macbeth adopts very different methods as he uses violence and abuse to secure his power.
Q: How do they maintain power?
A: Both Napoleon and Macbeth are tyrants who go to great length to protect their power. They believe in killing or chasing away anyone who undermines their power.
Q: What is the effect of power on the two characters?
A: While Macbeth concentrates on Macbeth’s growing guilty conscience and his gradual deterioration to insanity, Animal Farm offers no insight into Napoleon’s stream of consciousness. Instead, George Orwell focuses on the pain and suffering of the animals under Napoleon’s reign. This highlights Shakespeare’s desire to focus on the inner conflict of a man, whereas Orwell depicted the repercussions of a totalitarian regime on those under its ruling.
Having a list of comparative words will help you understand your texts as a pair, and helps make your life easier when you start writing your essays. Here's a list we've compiled below:
As well as
At the same time
On the contrary
On the other hand
Feel free to download the PDF version of this list for your own studies as well!
Step 4: Understand the construction of your texts
Besides comparing ideas and themes, and having an understanding of what the text says, it’s also imperative that you understand HOW the texts say it. This type of analysis focuses on metalanguage (also known as literary devices or literary techniques). When you get technical with this and focus on metalanguage, it brings out more depth in your writing.
You could start asking yourself:
What kind of description is used?
What kind of sentences are used?
Are they long and winding or rather short and bare?
Are they dripping with adjectives or snappy?
What is the structure of the text?
Does one begin with a prologue/end with an epilogue?
Is the text continuous or divided e.g. through letters or days or parts?
Does the text end at a climax or end with a true finality?
What reoccurs throughout the text? (specific lines, symbols or images)
These kinds of understanding are important as they are evidentiary material for your arguments. What you say and believe the authors have said, as well as how you believe the texts differ, may rely heavily on these techniques. You'd then translate this analysis to develop your arguments further in your essay. For example:
His depiction of Chapel serves as a subversion of the conventional type of slave; he is 'half a slave, half the master' and belongs to 'another way of life'. His defiance and rebellion against the dictations of society is exemplified through his speech, which consists of rhythmic and poetic couplets, filled with flowery language; which ultimately challenges the idea of illiterate slaves.
Step 5: 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 students by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:
We create general study advice videos like this:
We also create Comparative pair-specific videos:
If you prefer learning through videos, 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 including current and older text pairs:
Tip: You can download and save the study guides for your own study use! How good is that?
And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend my How To Write A Killer Comparative ebook. What's often the most difficult part of Comparative is finding the right examples and evidence to ensure that you're standing out against hundreds of other students studying VCE.
Unlike Text Response where there are over 30 texts for schools to choose from, Comparative only has 8 pairs of texts. This means that the likelihood of other students studying the same texts as you is much higher. And what does that mean?
It means that your competition is going to be even tougher. It's likely the character or quote you plan to use will also be used by other students. So, this means that there needs to be a way for you to differentiate yourself. Enter my golden CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy.
This strategy can be used for any example you wish to use, but by approaching your example with the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT mindset, you'll immediately be able to establish a unique perspective that should earn you some bonus marks.
If you've ever had a teacher tell you that you needed to ‘elaborate’, ‘go into more detail’, or ‘more analysis’ needed in your essays - this strategy will help eliminate all those criticisms. It will also show your teacher how you are comfortable writing an in-depth analysis using fewer examples, rather than trying to overload your essay with as many examples as possible because you barely have anything to say about each one.
To learn more about the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy, get a free preview of this study guide on the Shop page or at the bottom of this blog.
Step 6: Brainstorm and write plans
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 Comparative 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 will save you the burnout and get you feeling confident faster.
I've also 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.
Step 7: 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 nudge 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:
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 Comparative next.
5. How To Write a Comparative Essay
Comparative Essay Structure
Here are a couple of resources to get your Comparative essay structure sorted. Firstly a video (time-stamped at 1:38):
The hopes and dreams of oppressed individuals can be fulfilled to a certain extent. This degree of fulfilment, however, can ultimately become restricted by the entrenched beliefs and dictations of society; and thus, this process of fulfilment is presented to be difficult and rare to achieve. In Fred D’Aguiar’s novella, The Longest Memory, the hopes and dreams for equality and racial acceptance is revealed to coerce oppressed individuals to subvert social norms, all in an attempt to gain liberty and fairness. Similarly, Tom Wright’s play, Black Diggers, explores the collective yearning of oppressed Indigenous Australians who seek to gain a sense of belonging and recognition in society. Both D’Aguiar and Wright expose how the obstacles of social inequality, deep-rooted prejudice and beliefs can essentially restrict the fulfilment of such desires and dreams.
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 move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.
Most of you will be familiar with TEEL learnt in Text Response. 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.
In Comparative, you can still use TEEL, except that you'll be making comparisons between the two texts throughout your paragraph.
The below example adopts the 'Alternate' Comparative essay structure where the first part of the body paragraph focuses on Text 1 (The Longest Memory) and the second half of the body paragraph focuses on Text 2 (Black Diggers).
The ambitions of the oppressed are achieved to a certain extent. However, they are not maintained and thus become restricted due to the beliefs and conventions entrenched in society. D’Aguiar asserts that a sense of liberation can indeed be achieved in the unjust system of slavery, and this is demonstrated through his characterisation of Chapel. His depiction of Chapel serves as a subversion of the conventional type of slave; he is 'half a slave, half the master' and belongs to 'another way of life'. His defiance and rebellion against the dictations of society is exemplified through his speech, which consists of rhythmic and poetic couplets, filled with flowery language; which ultimately challenges the idea of illiterate slaves. D’Aguiar also associates the allusion of the 'two star-crossed lovers' in regards to the relationship between Lydia and Chapel; who were 'forbidden' to 'read together'. Despite this, the two characters take on a form of illicit, linguistic, sexual intercourse with each other, as they 'touch each other’s bodies in the dark' and 'memorise [their] lines throughout'. Here, D’Aguiar illustrates their close intimacy as a form of rebellion against the Eurocentric society, who believed such interrelation between blacks and whites was 'heinous' and 'wicked'. The individualistic nature of Chapel is also paralleled in Black Diggers, where Wright’s portrayal of Bertie expresses the yearning for a sense of belonging. Just like Chapel, Bertie desires free will, and he decides to 'fight for the country'. This aspiration of his however, is restrained by both his Mum and Grandad; who in a similar manner as Whitechapel, represent the voice of reality and reason. Wright employs the metaphor of the Narrandera Show to depict the marginalisation and exclusion of Aboriginal people, as they will never be 'allowed through the wire', or essentially, ever be accepted in Australia. This notion of exclusion is further reinforced through Bertie’s gradual loss of voice and mentality throughout Wright’s short vignettes, as he soon becomes desensitised and is 'unable to speak'. Here, Wright seems to suggest that the silenced voices of the Indigenous soldiers depict the eternal suffering they experienced; from both the horrors of war, but also the continual marginalisation and lack of recognition they faced back home. Consequently, D’Aguiar and Wright highlight how the ambitions of young individuals are limited by the truths and history of reality, and are essentially rarely achieved.
Conclusions should be short and sweet. Summarise your main points while comparing the two texts (just as you have throughout your entire essay).
D’Aguiar and Wright both illustrate oppressed individuals fighting against the beliefs and conventions of society; in order to gain their freedom and achieve their hopes and dreams. However, both reveal the harsh truths of reality that ultimately inhibit and restrict the capacity of people’s ambitions. D’Aguiar and Wright compel their readers to try and grasp an understanding of the past of slaves and Aboriginal soldiers, in order to seek remembrance and closure of this fundamental truth. They both convey the need for memories and the past to never be forgotten; and instead remembered and recognised in history.
If you're looking for more A+ Comparative essay examples, then you can also get your hands on any of our LSG study guide ebooks. Each study guide has 5 comparative essays, all fully annotated so you can see into the mind of a high achiever. These comparative essay examples also adopt different essay structures (block, alternating, and integrated) so you can see all three in action.
This blog guide is fantastic to get you started - there are certain strategies you can implement to ensure your Comparative essay wows your examiner and gives you an A-grade ranking. These strategies have been adopted by high-achievers in the past few years and have resulted in student achieving study scores of 45+. Make sure you don't miss out on these strategies by accessing a free sample of our How To Write A Killer Comparative ebook. In the meantime, good luck!
It’s getting closer to the Literature exam and you’re probably starting to get more serious about avoiding dropping too many SAC marks! Depending on which order your school does Literature SACs in, you may be currently facing the often feared ‘Creative Response’. Whether you feel beyond excited to finally bring some creative flair to Literature, or you’re totally scared at the thought of creating something new, I wanted to use this blog post to help you achieve at least ten of the marks in this section. That is through the reflective commentary, which you can totally score full marks on if you put in the effort.
The VCAA Literature Study Design determines that students must submit ‘a reflective commentary establishing connections with the original text’. This aspect of the assessment counts for 10 of the 60 marks available for the Creative Response outcome. The study design further denotes that students must
‘reflect critically upon their own responses as they relate to the text, and discuss the purpose context of their creations’.
This allows your schools and teachers to direct in a relatively broad way on how you should form your reflective commentary, and may mean your friends at other schools write theirs in a very different way. In this blog post I will leave you with a suggestion of how I best believe a reflective commentary could be structured to include all important aspects, as well as tips on how to include all of what the study design asks. As I said, these are ten marks that can easily be snatched with just a little bit of hard work and attention to detail, so why not snatch them?
To induce the things needed to be included in the reflective commentary, we can look to the key knowledge and key skills points outlined in the study design:
- the point of view, context and form of the original text,
- the ways the central ideas of the original text are represented,
- the features of the original text including ideas, images characters and situations, and the language in which these are expressed,
- techniques used to create, recreate or adapt a text and how they represent particular concerns or attitudes.
- identify elements of construction, context, point of view and form particular to the text, and apply understanding of these in a creative response
- choose stylistically appropriate features including characterisation, setting, narrative, tone and style
- critically reflect on how language choices and literary features from the original text are used in the adaptation
What you’re really trying to do in your reflective commentary is prove to your teacher that you are hitting all these key knowledge and key skills points. As you write, ensure you are discussing how the author uses point of view, context, form, elements of construction and stylistic features in their text. It is than imperative that you describe how you have similarly used such device in your creative response. Ensure that you also discuss how you are involving the ideas and themes of the text in your creative piece, and how you are discussing them further, or exploring them in greater depth. Obviously only talk about those that are relevant to your creative response!
Sample reflective commentary
Having scored a 10/10 in my own reflective commentary, I will provide a structure that can be used to ensure you are including everything you need. I discussed my own reactions to the original text, and described how I wanted to rouse similar reactions in the reader of my creative response.
In your reflective commentary, it can be easier to put everything under subheadings. These are the ones that I used:
-Literary features (here I chose 7 particular literary features used in my text and discussed how I emulated them)
Under each of these paragraphs, I analysed how the author used such features to create and convey meaning, and discussed how I, in my own piece, drew on her use of them and expanded on her ideas. Here is an example of my ‘Purpose’ paragraph, which will hopefully give you an idea on how you might write your own commentary! My text was Cate Kennedy’s Dark Roots, in particular the short story ‘What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved’.
In my piece, I ultimately attempted to lead the reader to a place of discomfort, faced with a situation that they wish never to be faced with. When I first read What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved (Dark Roots, Cate Kennedy), I simply wished never to be in Rebecca’s position, as I was sobered by the sadness of her demise as she watched her lover fade away. I sought to elicit the same response from the reader, as I aimed to convey the deterioration that both lovers suffer, as well as the loss of communication between them. I also attempted to allow the reader to question the humanity in keep people alive by machines and drugs, and whether it is fair to force people to live an unnatural life. I have sought to explore this even further than What Thou and I Did, Till we Loved bringing in the question of euthanasia and whether we have a right to die as Kyle begs of Max to “kill me” at the end of the piece, and Max concedes that “[he] would if [he] could”. The themes of my piece seeks to explore are the ways of coping with grief, guilt at causing the illness of a loved one, a life with a lack of substance, and the loss of communication due to illness.
Hopefully you’re feeling better about how you might go about completing your creative response, and getting that 10/10 on your reflective commentary!
Let’s be honest. Life is crazy right now; everything we know has been completely flipped due to COVID-19 and there’s no denying it. Students studying Station Eleven must be feeling a little creeped out! Everything is changing so quickly as decisions are being made on a daily basis, but as of right this moment, we are in lockdown: schools are shut, gatherings are banned and most of our parents are working from home. Most of us are wondering: how will we be able to reach our teachers? What about my friends? How can I study effectively without being in class? Here are some things to remember whilst enduring the pandemic...
First of all, we are allin the same boat. Nobody in the state will be going to school until at least 13th of April, and between you and me, it’ll probably be longer. You are not alone and certainly we will all get through this together.
For those who are doubting how school will function without physical attendance, remember how far our society has come with technology! Schools across the state are finding ways to optimise your learning. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams and Skype, schools are utilising fantastic platforms to help you learn. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to learn and you’re all set. Furthermore, teachers are usually available over email and if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly reaching out to teachers for help — and I highly recommend it! Ask for help, ask for more resources, ask for advice and guidance.
Finally, if you feel like you need some extra help, private tuition is also a great way to make sure you’re on the right track and moving towards your dream results. LSG has a great private tuition program where you’ll find amazing help online from dedicated and tech-savvy high achievers. They’ll be your tutor, motivator and mentor all in one! Just because there’s no actual school, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to learn effectively.
If you'd like to learn more about LSG's Private Tutoring program, head over here — we'd love to chat!
I know it’s easy to think,
“I can’t study at home, I always get distracted by my sibling, my cat, my parents, YouTube, games and food I just procrastinate too much!”
For me, Year 12 was full of bursts of intense focus and longer bursts of procrastination. I tried so hard to focus but sometimes, Netflix was just too tempting! However, there are a few tips that kept me in check (especially during the holidays) and helped me to do well in the end. Hopefully, they can help you too!
It’s so important to have a consistent routine. This will help you direct your focus to what matters and form consistent study habits. You can even follow your school timetable if that helps! This will integrate study times for certain subjects and also appropriate break times.
Routines also help with stress. You can wake up every day and not have to think about what you are going to do that day — just follow your routine! This will work wonders in helping you to manage all your subjects, homework and socialising needs.
When building a routine, start small and build your way up. Start your day by waking up at a certain time, or scheduling when you’ll eat or even deciding when you’ll do exercise. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I know this is a while, but if you can stick with one or two small routine changes in your life, it will make a huge difference!
There are a few things to remember when creating your own routine!
• Don’t plan out every second of every day. This will make you feel like a robot with no freedom and you’ll get bored very quickly.
• Have a basic routine that can be adapted to everyday needs! This kind of links back to the previous point, if you plan every second, you won’t be able to be adaptable and spontaneous
• Have break time, downtime and exercise time!
For some more advice on work/study/life balance, check out Lisa's interview with LSG Content Manager Matt here.
2. Set specific tasks to get done everyday (to-do lists)
If you create a list to get done everyday, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will both motivate you to study harder and to stay focussed to reach your goals! This also ensures that you are staying on track and that you’re on top of all subjects and homework. By keeping track of what needs to be done and when, your stress levels will be reduced because everything is written down — so, when you have some time to relax, you can actually relax. Your to-do list will act as your ‘second brain’ that you can return to when you’re refreshed and ready to study.
Ensure that your to-do lists are specific. Rather than writing “study for English”, which really doesn’t tell you anything, write tasks like, “quote sheet for English” and “summary book for circular function for Methods”. Then, you know what each task expects of you and what it will look like when it’s finished.
If you’re following your school timetable, make sure that in your scheduled time to study a particular subject you have a list of things to do, otherwise, you’ll be sitting at your desk thinking about what you should be doing instead of actually studying!
3. Use apps that help with productivity/procrastination
There are hundreds of apps that help with productivity, organisation and procrastination. Here are a list of some of my personal favourites:
• Forest grows trees when you aren’t using your phone, and everytime you open it, a tree dies. This helps to prevent you from dawdling on social media too much. • Just turn it on before you start studying and you’ll feel a little grief every time you open your phone because trees will die.
• Todoist helps create to do lists and alerts you with tasks you need to get done. There are plenty of apps that do this, so have a look and find one that suits you and your needs best.
• Mindly helps organise your internal thoughts! You can do pretty much anything from structuring thoughts, explore ideas, plan a speech and take notes! • This particularly works well for subjects like English and Lit that requires a lot of idea generation
4. Get dressed!
This may sound like a strange piece of advice, but it’s so tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day and lounge around. But, if you don’t change, you’ll constantly feel like you’re ready to sleep. Getting dressed in proper clothes helps change your mindset and make you feel ready for the day ahead: conquering every task that you set yourself! It sounds silly, but try it — it actually works.
Not to mention, the little things in life right now are the ones that matter the most. If you can’t do the little things, imagine tackling the bigger tasks in the world. So, start your day off well by doing the things you would normally do when preparing to leave the house.
5. Take breaks and exercise
It’s easy to become a sloth when you’re forced to stay home all day and just eat junk food all day, but remember: a healthy body = a healthy mind. It’s so important to take a break from intense studying period and get moving again. Whether that is doing some yoga, going for a run or just playing with your sibling/pet, it’s up to you. All of this is integral in maintaining your ability to concentrate and prevents burnout!
Doing exercise isn’t easy so if you have a particular routine where you schedule it in, you’ll build a great habit. If that’s not enough to get you up and moving, try incentivising yourself with a particular treat like an episode of your favourite TV show or a snack (a healthy one)! Do exercise that you enjoy.
6. Eat healthily
Eating healthily doesn't always mean eating clean 24/7. Rather, it means simply maintaining a balanced diet. Eat chocolate when you crave chocolate — but don’t go overboard. Try the 80/20 rule, 80% of the time you eat as healthily as possible and the other 20% of the time, you can treat yourself. If you eat healthily, you’ll feel great and be ready to tackle the day's work!
7. Physical distancing not social distancing
With all this talk of social distancing in the media, it’s hard to remember that this really means physical distancing. Please don’t forget to communicate with your friends and family. Use technology to your advantage! Facetime your friends and come up with activities you guys can do together virtually. Gaming is a great idea but as I’m not a gamer myself, my friends and I had a virtual baking challenge (not to brag but I definitely won!) Keep in virtual contact! This will help keep you sane in such crazy times.
8. Use your friends to your advantage
Whilst you might not have the in-person classroom interaction, you can still generate discussion with your friends online and even ask them for help. Remember that a group of minds will always be better than just one. Everyone is trying to stay on top of their learning anyway, so why not do it together?
Hopefully these tips will help you learn to be the best student you can be in this rough time! Remember to stay safe, stay home and stay dedicated to being the best version of yourself.
To quote a professor from one of the most famous schools ever:
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore
The Crucible is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s 1953 realist play, is based on the historical events of the 1692 Salem witch hunts. Although partially fictionalised, it depicts the very real consequences of false accusations based on blind religious faith, as Miller displays the dangers of such baseless rumours. However, the play was written during another type of witch hunt: McCarthyism in 1950s America. This was a political movement in which Senator Joseph McCarthy attempted to control the spread of Communism by placing any Communist sympathisers on a blacklist. This resulted in a widespread fear of Communist influences, and a political hunt similar to the Salem witch trials began, as civilians attempted to escape their own charges by accusing other innocent individuals of treason. Thus, given the historical context of the time, Miller uses The Crucible as an allegorical warning for the audience against the dangers of McCarthyism in 1950s America.
These concepts will be fully unpacked later, but it is important to keep these key notions of hysteria, accusation and blind faith in mind as you study the text. These are the fundamental ideas that the play is based upon, and also the elements which make The Crucible hugely relevant in our society today. One could even say that the development of technology has made it easier for false allegations and social rumours to spread - leading to drastic consequences specific to the 21st century, such as the leaking of critical government information and cyberbullying. Not to mention, the anonymity of technology has enabled individuals to start modern-day witch hunts as a nameless, faceless user behind the comfort and security of their screens!
In varying degrees, every work of literature reflects its historical context, or the social and political conditions that shaped its time period. The Crucible is a four-act play, which presents a dramatised and partially fictionalised depiction of the 1692 Salem witch trials. It was also published in 1953, at the height of the Second Red Scare, or the heightened fear of Communist influences in America. As such, the play is not merely a play based on historically accurate events, but also an allegory of the disastrous consequences of McCarthyism.
Proctor is a strong and hardworking farmer, respected by those in Salem for his power and independence. Possessing a “sharp and biting way with hypocrites”, Proctor is the symbol of autonomous leadership in the play, acting as another source of social authority to the theocratic leaders of the Puritan Church. He is the protagonist of the play, but a flawed individual - while he has great strength of character, he is also presented in The Crucible as an adulterous husband, who is openly defiant of his church. As such, he is described by Miller as a kind of “sinner” - one who experiences an internal moral conflict within himself. Proctor undergoes much personal growth during the plot of the play, redeeming his name and obtaining “goodness” by choosing moral honesty over freedom. This ultimate act of courage symbolises the importance of integrity and honour, and represents the “shred of goodness” in his character.
Although described by Abigail as a “bitter woman”, Elizabeth is the quiet yet resilient wife of Proctor. Her husband’s affair with Abigail renders her resentful towards the former and jealous of the latter, resulting in a wounded and fragile marriage. Her humility is made evident as she blames herself for Proctor’s infidelity, believing she erred in keeping a “cold house”. In tandem with this icy imagery, Miller utilises Elizabeth as a symbol of honesty and strict moral justice, despite it often being mistaken as “coldness” by others - Proctor asserts that Elizabeth’s justice “would freeze beer”. Despite this, Elizabeth proves herself to be a caring source of support for her persecuted husband, believing him to be “a good man”, and ultimately breaking her characteristic honesty in the hopes of his freedom. Her extreme courage is ultimately made evident by her willingness to lose Proctor to the hangman’s noose, rather than for him to lose his moral virtue by signing his name to lies.
Described as “a wild thing”, Abigail is a beautiful, yet manipulative and deceptive adolescent with “an endless capacity for dissembling”. Still in love with Proctor after their brief affair, she lies to the court and condemns Elizabeth as a witch, in a desperate, jealous attempt to win him back and take Elizabeth’s place as his wife. Abigail is the ringleader of the girls, and the progenitor of the false rumours that spiral into the witch hunt. Thus, she embodies falsehood, in a stark contrast to Elizabeth, who is a symbol of truth. Her violent nature is made evident in the play, as she threatens the girls with physical violence and “smashes Betty across the face” in an effort to silence her. Despite this, Miller makes clear that Abigail is a victim of psychological trauma, as she is revealed to have borne witness to the violent death of her parents - partly explaining her disturbed and devious nature.
Mary Warren is a sullen, sensitive and easily manipulated servant of the Proctor household. Her volatile nature makes her an easy target for Abigail, who manipulates her into betraying the Proctors by planting a poppet in Elizabeth’s room, which ultimately becomes the leading evidence in her sentencing. Mary is a symbol of mass hysteria, as her easily exploitable nature and weakness in spirit represent the irrationality of those who are quick to believe rumours, such as the persecutors of the Salem witch hunts, as well as the accusers of the McCarthy era.
Susanna Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Betty Parris
Referred to as “the girls” throughout the play, these young individuals are manipulated by Abigail to falsely convict Elizabeth and numerous others as practicers of witchcraft. All of these girls possess a common fear of Abigail, and carry out her orders in an attempt to evade their own punishment at her hands. Thus, Miller uses them to emphasise his allegory of the McCarthy trials, in which numerous people accused others of Communism based on their own fear of being charged by the Court.
Mass hysteria is one of the most significant themes of the play, as Miller depicts the entire town of Salem engulfed by the superstition of witchcraft and devil-worship. The community-wide fear of consorting with the devil is shown to overwhelm any kind of rational thought. As one rumour created by Abigail and the girls leads to dozens of incarcerations and executions in a matter of days, The Crucible depicts the “perverse manifestation of panic” that can occur from unsubstantiated fear. Miller uses this illustration of hysteria to show the effects of a strictly repressive Puritan society. Although some residents of Salem manipulate the witch hunt for their own benefit, such as Abigail, the majority of the townspeople are launched into the terror-fuelled “fever” by their genuine belief that the devil is running amok in Salem. The strict theocracy of the town thus exacerbates the crisis, as joining the accusatory crowd becomes a religious necessity; a virtuous “plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord”. As such, the play demonstrates how uncontrolled religious fervour can lead to the collective indoctrination of “black mischief”, where panic clouds all reason.
Judgement in The Crucible encompasses three meanings; the legal, personal, and spiritual. The legal judgement in the play is depicted as superficial - mainly illustrated through the characters of Hathorne and Danforth, the theocratical Salem court does not carry out real justice due to its dogmatic focus on its reputation. This is depicted by Danforth’s stubborn refusal to free the innocents accused, due to his belief that it would lead to a tainted esteem of the court. Thus, Miller suggests that the more important judgement is personal - exemplified by the character of Proctor. Believing himself to be a “sinner” against his own “version of moral conduct”, Proctor throughout the play shows limitless remorse and self-hatred for the hurt he has caused Elizabeth by his affair with Abigail. Miller shows the importance of forgiveness through self-judgement, as Elizabeth assures Proctor that there is “no higher judge under Heaven” than Proctor himself, and he ultimately is able to forgive himself and see the “shred of goodness” within him by the end of the play. Furthermore, The Crucible depicts the town of Salem overcome by the fear of God’s judgement, or what Proctor calls “God’s icy wind”. The events of the play unfold due to the town’s collective fear of the higher power of an “Almighty God”. As Hale proclaims, “Before the laws of God we are as swine!”, Miller showcases the extent of the fearsome “power of theocracy” in circumstances of confusion and hysteria.
The events of the Salem witch trials detail various types of accusation. Although all are disguised as the dispelling of witchcraft, the false allegations depicted in the play are carried out with a range of different motives. For example, Abigail’s accusation of Elizabeth as a witch is described to derive from a “whore’s vengeance” due to her passionate jealousy of Elizabeth’s position as Proctor’s wife, and Abigail’s wish to take her place. Similarly, Rebecca Nurse’s charge of “murdering Goody Putnam’s babies” is due to the Putnams’ resentment and jealousy of her numerous children, while they themselves have lost babies “before they could be baptised”. In contrast to this, the accusation of Martha Corey, Giles' wife, of witchcraft is motivated by Walcott’s desire for revenge, as he resents her for the unhealthy “pig he bought from her five years ago”. Thus, his actions are calculative rather than passionate - a cruel attempt to get “his money back”. In his employment of the play as a historical allegory, this depiction of the blind following of rampant accusations depicted in The Crucible represents the similarly irrational proceedings of the McCarthy trials, many of which were carried out without substantial evidence.
Honour and Integrity
Honour is one of the most prominent themes in the play, as the majority of the characters strive to maintain their reputations in society. Miller depicts a community in which private and public characters are one and the same, and the consequences of the obsessive desire to uphold the esteem of their name. For example, although Proctor has the chance to undermine the girls’ accusations by revealing Abigail as a ‘whore’, he does not do so in order to protect his good name from being tarnished. Likewise, Parris at the beginning of the play threatens Abigail and the girls due to his fear that hints of witchcraft will threaten his already precarious reputation in the church and banish him from the pulpit. Furthermore, the judges of Salem do not accept any evidence that could free the innocent accused, as they uphold a false reputation to honour the Puritan church. Despite this, Miller shows the importance of prioritising personal honour over public reputation through the character of Proctor. As he ultimately makes the valiant decision in Act IV to refrain from “signing lies” and thus uphold his name, he is able to redeem himself from his previous sins and is able to die with righteousness.
By the way, to download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use, click here!
Symbols and Motifs
A crucible is a ceramic or metal container in which metals, chemicals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures. As such, Miller in the play employs the violent imagery of a crucible to symbolise the severe and challenging test of the Salem witch hunts. As spoken by Danforth in Act III, “We burn a hot fire in here; it melts down all concealment”, the motif of the crucible represents the merciless nature of both the Salem and McCarthy court proceedings, and their dogged determination to convict, despite the lack of substantial evidence. Crucibles are often used for the chemical process of calcination, during which particles are heated to high temperatures in order to purify them - removing any volatile substances from the compound. As such, Miller also suggests that societal challenges such as those depicted in the play can lead to situations in which the good can be separated from the evil; as the town is split into those who are “with this court or…against it”, the witch hunts illustrate the distinction between the individuals who possesses moral integrity and those who manipulate the situation for their selfish pursuits.
In Act III, Abigail and the girls plant a poppet, or doll, in Elizabeth’s house, in an attempt to frame her as an individual guilty of witchcraft. As Abigail stabs the doll with a needle in its stomach before leaving it on Elizabeth’s shelf, she is able to pretend that her own stomach is injured from Elizabeth’s practice of voodoo with it. The poppet is a symbol of childhood and girlhood, and the play’s depiction of it as a tool for malicious revenge represents the loss of innocence and pretence that arises out of the witch hunts. Miller illustrates the danger of mass hysteria, as he depicts the young group of girls, led by Abigail, become manipulated into condemning innocent townspeople to death; thereby losing their innocence and moral virtue. The poppet is also employed as a symbol of deception, as it emphasises the fact that the Salem persecutions are based on lies and falsehood. As the court ignores Elizabeth’s outraged protests that she has not kept a poppet since she was a little girl, Miller chastises a justice system which values convenient deceit over the cumbersome truth.
Although traditionally associated with knowledge and truth, the motif of paper in the play symbolises morality and individualism. Paper first appears in the play as the judicial list naming the condemned, then as a document of proof outlining Proctor’s alleged crimes as a practicer of witchcraft and agent of the devil. As such, paper initially symbolises the false accusations that run rampant in Salem, and the destructive consequences of such on the lives of the accused innocents. This idea is furthered by Miller’s depiction of the signed, “seventy-two death warrants” of innocents, illustrating paper as a symbol of the unjust punishment and corruption within the Salem court. It is only when Proctor refuses to sign the testimony or have his false confession “posted on the church door”, that the symbol of paper begins to serve as a motif of heroism. As Proctor ultimately refuses to “sign [his] name to lies”, then “tears the paper and crumples” the document denouncing him as a devil-consorter in Act IV, Miller portrays paper as a mode for personal redemption in the face of blind injustice. This advocating for personal salvation is supported by the character of Hale, who undergoes a similar transformation. Although initially described as an intellectual whose paper “books are weighted with authority”, this religious authority loses its value throughout the tragic events of the play, as the injustices of the court lead him to lose his “great faith” in God. Ultimately, like Proctor, Hale is only able to gain personal redemption through his realisation of the immoral nature of the court and his attempts (albeit unrealised) to save the remaining incarcerated innocents from the fate of the gallows.
"There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!”
Ann Putnam speaks this line when she admits to interrogating Tituba about the possibility of witchcraft having caused the early deaths of her seven infants. The audience can perceive her hysteria, as she begins to fear that the rumours of devil worship in Salem may be true, and that she may also lose her last surviving child, Ruth. Her sense of paranoia works to foreshadow the mass hysteria that is to overwhelm the town. This quote is also a direct reference to the prophet Ezekiel in the Bible, who compares his vision of God in his chariot to a gyroscope - an instrument of stability and balance. As such, Mrs. Putnam’s allusion to God is a direct reference to the rigidity of the Puritan values in Salem, disguised as a creed of “unity”, when in reality it’s the root cause of social paranoia and resentment. The quote also illustrates that she believes that there are more complex and intricate forces present in Salem - the “deep and darkling forces” as described by Miller - which work to determine the fates of the townspeople. Combined with its fire imagery, this quote effectively foreshadows the drama that will unfold in the Salem court, in which Abigail and the girls will invent invisible spiritual forces to accuse innocents, in a court of “hot fire”, acting to “melt down all concealment”.
“We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are as definite as stone.”
Hale says this to Parris when he first arrives in Salem from Beverley, after he is asked to inspect Betty for signs of witchcraft or possession by the devil. Although Parris is already convinced by the rampant rumours in the town of the existence of the devil and its effect on his daughter, Hale (being a professional “investigator of witchcraft”) is more meticulous in his examination of such a “strange crisis”. By calling the devil “precise”, Hale depicts his true and unflinching belief in its existence, representing the inflexible Puritan mindset. This quote is integral to understanding Hale as a character, and thus the nature of his disillusionment later in the play, as it reveals that Hale does not believe in witchcraft due to the mass hysteria and paranoia of the town, but because he possesses genuine and resolute faith in every word of the Bible. As this faith is shown to “bring blood” later in the play, Miller displays the dangerous “power of theocracy”, as the audience perceives Hale becoming radically disillusioned in his religion and world view.
Sample Essay Topics
1. “For twenty week he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks til he had them!” Are the leaders of the community misguided in The Crucible? Discuss.
2. Miller uses fire and ice imagery in The Crucible to denounce the nature of humanity. Discuss.
3. ‘In The Crucible, the characters make decisions based solely on their emotions’. Do you agree?
Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our The Crucible Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
Theme-Based Essay Prompt: In a theocracy, law and religion are bound together. What are the benefits and challenges of this depicted in The Crucible?
Step 1: Analyse
Here, we are asked to examine the benefits and challenges of a theocratic system, as depicted in The Crucible. Thus, we must consider both the positive and negative aspects of the binding of law and religion. It is a good idea to delegate two paragraphs to the challenges and one to the benefits, due to the fact that Miller wrote the play with the authorial intention of denouncing the repressive rigidity of its government - this means it is easier to think of negatives rather than positives.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Let’s break down the term ‘theocracy’, as this is the focus of this essay topic. The play shows us various effects of such a system, but what does it actually mean? A theocracy is a form of government in which a religion (in this case, Puritanism) is recognised as the supreme ruling authority. Thus, as mentioned in the essay question, in a theocracy the rules of religion are treated as the law. Now, think of some of the words, phrases or key ideas you think of when you conjure up Salem’s version of theocracy. This may include:
Strictness of Puritan values
Unity vs. individualism
Exploitation of the name of the church for personal gains
Superfluous power given to the court
Opportunity for individuals to reform
Social vs. individual redemption
Step 3: Create a Plan
When planning an essay, it is easy to let yourself go off track, discussing another point that is not quite relevant to the topic given. To prevent this from happening, always keep the topic firmly in your mind - glance at it periodically throughout your planning if needed, and check that every body paragraph that you are planning directly relates back to the topic and answers what it is asking. So, keeping the topic and its focus on theocracy firmly in mind, I chose to approach this essay with the following structured plan:
Paragraph 1: The Salem theocracy leads to the unjust exercise of power, resulting in a tragedy.
Here, our focus is on the overarching injustices that the theocratic nature of the government allows to occur.
Focus on the fact that it is because religion is the law, that the crime of witchcraft (believed to be a crime against God) is so severely punished (by death!).
Also discuss that it is due to the rigidity of the theocracy that any slight divergence from a complete adherence to Puritanism is perceived as a crime.
Examples of this include the witch hunt itself, and the victimisation of innocents who are condemned to be executed for crimes that they did not commit.
Paragraph 2: The town’s theocratic belief in God is exploited by individuals who use it for their own personal gain.
Our job here is to highlight the selfishnatures of certain individuals, who take advantage of the townspeople’s theocratic mindsets to utilise the town’s mass hysteria for their own motives.
Examples of such characters include Abigail and Parris, who participate in the witch hunt out of vengeance and fear respectively.
Paragraph 3: However, the theocratic nature of the government allows opportunity for reform, and the ability to distinguish between morality and immorality.
Here we are discussing the benefit that arises out of the theocracy, namely the idea that the tragedy that results from such allow certain individuals to be enlightened and reformed.
Emphasise the fact that the theocracy does lead to disastrous effects, but it is from this hardship that we are able to distinguish the characters of good from the characters of evil.
An example of a character who undergoes reform is Hale, who becomes simultaneously disillusioned and enlightened by the tragedy of the Salem persecution.
An example of an individual revealed by the events of the play to be ultimately immoral is Danforth, who refuses to change and reform, despite realising the injustice and cruelty of his actions.
If you find this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our The Crucible Study Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.
Pride and Prejudice is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Pride and Prejudice, follows the titular character of Elizabeth Bennet as she and her family navigate love, loyalty and wealth.
When Mrs. Bennet hears that a wealthy, young and eligible bachelor, Mr. Bingley, has moved into the manor of Netherfield Park nearby, she hopes to see one of her daughters marry him. Of the five daughters born to Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Kitty and Lydia, Jane takes an early liking to Mr. Bingley despite his friend, Mr. Darcy, initial coldness and apathy towards her younger sister Elizabeth. Though Mr. Darcy’s distaste soon grows to attraction and love.
While Jane and Mr. Bingley begin to fall for each other, Elizabeth receives and declines a marriage proposal from her supercilious cousin Mr. Collins, who eventually comes to marry Elizabeth’s dear friend Charlotte. While Mr. Darcy is in residence at Netherfield Park, Elizabeth finds and enjoys the company of a young officer named Mr. Wickham who too has a strong disliking for Mr. Darcy. Mr. Wickham claims it was Mr. Darcy who cheated him out of his fortune, which then deepens Elizabeth's initial ill impression of the arrogant man.
After a ball is held at Netherfield Park, the wealthy family quits the estate, leaving Jane heartbroken. Jane is then invited to London by her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner, which Mr. Darcy fails to tell Mr. Bingley as he has persuaded him not to court Jane because of her lesser status.
When Elizabeth visits her newly married friend Charlotte, she meets Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s (Mr. Darcy’s Aunt) other nephew, Colonel Fitzwilliam. While there, Mr. Darcy appears and proposes to Elizabeth unexpectedly claiming he loves and admires her. To Mr. Darcy’s surprise, Elizabeth refuses as she blames him for ruining Mr. Wickam’s hopes of success and for keeping Jane and Mr. Bingley apart. Mr. Darcy later apologies in a letter and admits to persuading Mr. Bingley not to pursue Jane, but argues that her love for him was not obvious. In the letter, he also denies Wickam’s accusations and explains that Wickham had intended to elope with his sister for her fortune.
Elizabeth joins her Aunt and Uncle in visiting Mr. Darcy’s great estate of Pemberley under the impression he would be absent. It is there that Elizabeth learns from the housekeeper that Mr. Darcy is a generous landlord. Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy then have a chance encounter after he returns home ahead of schedule. Following her previous rejection of him, Mr. Darcy has attempted to reform his character and presents himself amiably to Elizabeth’s Aunt and Uncle as she begins to warm up to him.
Mr Darcy happens upon Elizabeth as she receives the terrible news that Lydia has run off with Wickam in an event that could ruin her family. Mr. Darcy then going out in search for Wickham and Lydia to hurry their nuptials. When Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy return to Netherfield Park, Elizabeth is pleased to see him though Darcy shows no sign of his regard for her. Jane and Mr. Bingley soon become engaged.
Soon thereafter, Lady Catherine visits the Bennets and insists that Elizabth never agree to marry her nephew. Darcy hears of Elizabeth's refusal, and when he next comes, he proposes a second time which she accepts, his pride then humbled and her prejudices overturned.
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Mr. Charles Bingley
Lady Catherine De Bourgh
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner
Within the text the theme of pride is ever present as it plays a major role in how Austen’s characters present themselves, their attitudes and how they treat each other. For much of the novel pride blinds both Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth of their true feelings and hence becomes something both characters must overcome. While Darcy’s pride makes him look down upon those not immediately within his social circle, Elizabeth takes so much pride in her ability to judge the character of others that she refuses to amend her opinions even when her initial judgements are proven wrong. Indeed, this is why Elizabeth despises the benign Darcy early on in the text, but initially takes a liking to the mendacious Wickham. By the denouement of the novel, both Datcy and Elizabeth have overcome their pride by encouraging and supporting each others own personal evolution. Indeed, as Darcy sheds his elitism Elizabeth comes to realise the importance of revaluation.
The tendency of others to judge one another based on perceptions, rather than who they are and what they value becomes a point of prolific discussion within Pride and Prejudice. Indeed, the title of the text clearly implies the related nature of pride and prejudice as both Darcy and Elizabeth are often shown to make the wrong assumptions; Darcy’s assumptions grounded in his social prejudice whereas Elizabeth’s is rooted in her discernment led astray by her excessive pride. As Austen subtly mocks the two lovers biases, she gives the impression that while such flaws are common faulting someone else for the prejudice is easy while recognising it in yourself is hard. While Austen’s representation of prejudice is aligned with personal development and moral growth as she wittingly condemns those who refuse to set aside their prejudices like Lady Catherine and Caroline.
The family unit that Austen displays with Pride and Prejudice becomes the social and domestic sphere as it forms the emotional center of the novel in which she grounds her analysis and discussion. Not only does the family determine the social hierarchy and standing of its members but provides the intellectual and moral support for its children. In the case of the Bennet family, Austen reveals how the individuals identity and sense of self is molded within the family as she presents Jane and Elizabeth as mature, intelligent and witty and lydia as a luckless fool. Not only this, Austen reveals the emotional spectrum that lives within every family as shown through Elizabeth’s varying relationship with her parents; the tense relationship with her mother and sympathy she shares with her father.
At the center of its plot, Pride and Prejudice examines the complex inequality that governs the relationships between men and women and the limited options that women have in regards to marriage. Austen portrays a world in which the socio-economic relationship between security and love limits the woman and her choices as it based exclusively on a family’s social rank and connections. Indeed, the expectations of the Bennet sisters, as members of the upper class is to marry well instead of work. As women can not inherit their families estate nor money, their only option is to marry well in the hope of attaining wealth and social standing. Through this, Austen explains Mrs. Bennet’s hysteria about marrying off her daughters. Yet Austen is also shown to be critical of those who marry purely for security, thereby offering Elizabth as the ideal, who initially refuses marriage as she refutes financial comfort but ends up marrying for love.
Class and Wealth
As Austen focuses much of her novel on the impacts of class and wealth, she makes clear of the system that favours the rich and powerful and often punishes the weak and poor. Characters like Lady Catherine, whose enforcement of rigid hierarchical positions often leads her to mistreatment of others. Other characters like Mr. Collins and Caroline are depicted as void of genuine connection as they are unable to live and love outside the perimeter of their social standing. In contrast, characters such as Bingley and the Gardiners offer a respectable embodiment of wealth and class through their kindness and manners. Indeed, Austen does not criticise the entire class system as she offers examples that serve to demonstrate the decency and respectability. Darcy embodies all that a high-class gentleman should as though he is initially presented as flawed and arrogant, it becomes clear as the novel progresses that he is capable of change. Always generous and compassionate, his involvement with Elizabeth helps to brings his nurturing nature to the foreground, evident in his attempts to help the foolish lydia. Ultimately, Austen suggest through Darcy’s and Elizabeth's union that though class and wealth are restrictive, they do not determine one’s character nor who one is capable of loving.
Symbolism, imagery and allegories
Three Act plot
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (ch.1)
When writing on any text in Text Response, it is essential to use quotes and analyse them.
Let’s take this quote, for example.
“it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife”
This is the opening line of the novel. It is satirical, ironic and mocking in tone. Austen makes fun of the notion that wealthy bachelors must be wanting to marry in order to be valued in society. By using this tone, she subverts this “truth universally acknowledged” and encourages readers to question this societal presumption of wealth and marriage.
Have a look at the following quotes and ask yourself, ‘how would I analyse this quote?’:
“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” (ch.3)
"An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do." (ch.20)
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” (ch.34)
“They were all of them warm in her admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” (ch.43)
“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.” (ch.58)
1. What do the various relationships shown in Pride and Prejudice tell us about love, marriage and society?
2. Austen shows that even those of the best moral character can be blinded by their pride and prejudice. To what extent do you agree?
3. Elizabeth Bennet holds a radical view of marriage for her time. What impact does this attitude have on the other characters' lives and relationships? Discuss.
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy, a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response because it’ll dramatically enhance how much you can take away from the following essays and more importantly, to then be able to apply these in your own writing.
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: Analyse
Step 2: Brainstorm
Step 3: Create a Plan
Character-based Prompt: Elizabeth Bennet holds a radical view of marriage for her time. What impact could this attitude have on the other characters' lives and relationships? Discuss.
Elizabeth Bennet holds a radical view of marriage for her time. What impact could this attitude have on the other characters' lives and relationships? Discuss.
A character based essay prompt is pretty self-explanatory as the prompt will have a specific focus on one character or a group of characters. While they may look relatively simple and straightforward, a lot of students struggle with character based questions as they find it is hard to discuss ideas in a lot of depth. With that in mind, it's important that we strive for what the author is saying; what is the author trying to convey through this specific character? What do they represent? Do they advocate for specific ideas or does the author use this character to condemn a certain idea and action?
Step 2: Brainstorm
This question is looking at the attitude Elizabeth Bennet has in regard to the expectation and institution of marriage and how her view could impact the lives of the people around her. As always, we want to make sure that we not only identify our key words but define them. I started by first defining/ exploring the attitude Elizabeth holds towards the institution of marriage; as marriage was not only an expectation in the times of regency England but a means to secure future financial security, Elizabeth’s outlook that an individual should marry only for the purpose of happiness and love was not only radical but dangerous. Her outlook, while noble, could and did put her family at jeopardy of being cast out from their estate as without a union between one of the Bennet daughters and Mr. Collins, Mr. Collins would have every right to do so as the only male inherent. I also looked at the wider implications Elizabeth’s outlook could have on the lives of the other characters such as Charlotte, Darcy and Bingley.
Step 3: Plan
Contention: Your contention relates to your interpretation of the essay prompt and the stance you’re going to take – i.e. are you in agreement, disagreement, or both to an extent.
While radical for her time, Elizabeth's progressive view of marriage can be seen to advocate for the rights of women and love and happiness but also, can jeopardise the livelihoods of those around her as Elizabeth is guided by selfish motives.
P1: The radical view of marriage Elizabeth holds can be viewed as selfish and guided by her own self interest which is shown to negatively impact the lives of her family.
P2: As Elizabeth diverts from the traditional approach to marriage, she encourages her friends and loved ones to follow their own hearts and morals rather than society's expectations.
P3: Because Elizabeth is depicted as a bold and beautiful woman, she is unable to recognise that her radical view is a luxury that not all characters have access to.
If you'd like to see an A+ essay on the essay topic above, complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+ so you can emulate this same success, then you'll definitely want to check out our Pride and Prejudice Study Guide: A Killer Text Guide! In it, we also cover themes, characters, views and values, metalanguage and have 4 other sample A+ essays completely annotated so you can kill your next SAC or exam! Check it out here."
Runaway is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Creative Response. For a detailed guide on Creative Response, check out ourUltimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing.
The biggest challenge of the creative writing SAC in VCE is figuring out how to balance your own ideas and style with that of the text you’re studying. The assessment requires you to incorporate elements of a text into your writing without copying the original narrative. In this case, Runaway by Alice Munro (2004) is a short story collection that explores themes of marriage, loss, mother/daughter relationships, womanhood and more. To be able to emulate Munro’s writing style within your original piece, it’s important to analyse the most frequent devices she incorporates into her work. By focusing specifically on the three stories ‘Chance’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Silence’, we can understand how Munro writes and how to embed that into a Creative Response.
If you would like more information on the themes in Runaway, you can refer to this blog post.
Literary devices can be defined as the techniques that an author uses in writing to convey meaning and their ideas within their work. These devices construct the story and emphasise key themes, which are particularly important to note when studying a text in VCE English. There are many devices that you may already be familiar with - metaphors, similes and repetition are commonly used in a variety of types of writing. For example, repetition of a certain word or phrase within a text highlights that it has significance and is reinforcing a particular idea or theme. By identifying which literary devices an author prefers to include in their novel, you can gain an understanding of their style and have a practical method for emulating it within a Creative Response. Below is a breakdown of some of the techniques woven by Munro throughout ‘Chance’, ‘Soon’ and ‘Silence.’
An embedded narrative is like a story within a story, often with the intention of lending symbolic significance to the narrative. In ‘Chance’, Munro includes many references to Greek mythology, embedding a story within the broader narrative. The myths she has chosen are similar to events in Juliet’s life, creating an intentional comparison.
For instance, Juliet’s affection for Eric prompts her to visit his home where she meets Christa and Ailo, two women Eric has had a relationship with. Upon meeting them, Juliet is reminded of ‘Briseis and Chryseis’, who were ‘playmates’ of a Greek king. Munro’s use of this embedded narrative within Juliet’s story reveals how Juliet feels jealous of the two women and sees them as incapable of having a serious relationship with Eric. To echo this in a Creative Response, you might want to include either a myth, folktale or historical event that relates to your narrative and the characters within it.
Time progression/regression refers to jumping back and forwards in time within a story to give context to certain characters or events. For example, the narrative moves back and forth in ‘Silence’ to slowly reveal the before and after of Juliet and Penelope’s estrangement. This helps to inform the reader of Penelope’s motives for no longer speaking to Juliet, and how Juliet deals with the pain of losing a relationship with her daughter. Any movement through time is typically shown through section breaks in the writing, as it alerts the reader that one scene has ended and a new one has begun. These moments might interrupt the chronological narrative, or you might choose to jump backwards and forwards consistently, although this can make your piece more complicated.
‘Epistolary’ is defined as literary work ‘in the form of letters’. Munro weaves elements of this within Runaway, including letters within several of the stories. The letters help to convey the narrative through one character’s perspective, providing insight into their motivations and perspectives. This is particularly effective when the story is written in the third person, as a letter is usually in the first person, allowing for characters to be understood on a deeper level.
In ‘Soon’, Juliet’s letter to Eric demonstrates their intimacy as a couple. Munro has constructed the letter so that it contains very mundane details about Juliet’s time with Sara, instead of just the exciting or alarming news she might have to share. The personal nature of the letter conveys just how close Eric and Juliet are, and how different her relationship with him is from that with Sara. Epistolary elements can be easily included as a small section of a Creative Response as correspondence between two of your characters.
Finally, Munro often uses italics to emphasise certain words or phrases that are particularly important. Italics can also convey the tone of a character, as they might draw attention to some words spoken in excitement or anger. For example, when Juliet meets Joan at the church in ‘Silence’, Joan’s dialogue often has italics to highlight when she is making passive-aggressive remarks about Juliet’s relationship with Penelope. Munro is demonstrating that Joan has been influenced by Penelope in her opinion of Juliet, as she clearly dislikes her and speaks in a condescending manner towards her. You might decide to implement italics only in dialogue, or to use it in other parts of your response, to highlight an important moment within the plot.
Tips for Emulating Munro’s Style
While emulating the style of an author is an important component of a Creative Response, coming up with your own ideas is equally important! To find an idea that you are invested in, think about the parts of Runawaythat really spoke to you and that you would like to explore more; this could be a broad theme or a specific character. It is easier to write about something you are interested in than something you feel obligated to write about. Come up with potential responses that you are excited to write, and then plan accordingly by asking “How can I incorporate parts of Munro’s style into this piece?”
To plan out your piece, start by creating a simple plot structure to guide your writing. If it helps, this can include a 3-act structure consisting of a set-up, conflict, and resolution; or you might prefer to do a simple dot point plan instead. When considering what literary devices you would like to include, pick at least one literary technique, and work on making it fit with your idea. Focus on incorporating that one as best as you can before you move on to another one. You might want to pick a second technique that is more subtle, like italics, and start applying that in your second or third draft.
False Claims of Colonial Thieves 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.
Why Is Context Important?
When studying a text, it is very important to comprehend its context. Context will help you to understand what the text is about and what the author’s point of view is - key components of doing well in VCE English! Context is especially important for False Claims of Colonial Thieves because the authors frequently reference Australia’s history. Even the title is a nod to its context - it is all about the ‘false claims’ made by Australia’s ‘colonial thieves’, or in other words, Australia’s colonial settlers. Understanding what these false claims are will help you better understand the context and therefore, do significantly better in your English essays and assessments.
Treat this blog as a starting point only. There is so much to learn about these topics, and I recommend you do your own research in addition to reading this blog. To help you do so, I have provided a reliable external source for each topic, so you can start exploring these claims in more depth.
One of the biggest ‘false claims’ that Papertalk Green and Kinsella refer to throughout their collaboration is the colonisers’ claim of Australia being terra nullius. When the British came to Australia, they claimed that the country was ‘no man’s land’, denying that the Indigenous Australians had actually lived here for thousands of years. By pretending that no one lived in Australia, this supposedly gave the British ‘legitimacy’ to assume control over the land and those already living on it - i.e. Australia’s First Nations Peoples.
Terra Nullius was used against the Indigenous peoples for many years to justify their horrific treatment. The principle was only overturned in 1992 when an Indigenous man, Eddie Mabo, challenged this claim in the High Court of Australia. Nowadays, we recognise that the Indigenous people were here significantly earlier than the colonisers and that their sovereignty (i.e. their power over the land) was never ceded.
Another false claim was that the Indigenous people were inferior to white people. This claim led to the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their families, so they could be raised by ‘superior’ white people and taught white cultures/languages - these children are referred to as the ‘Stolen Generation’ because they were taken away from their families without their consent.
It was thought that placing Aboriginal children (especially mixed-race Aboriginal children) with white families would make it easier to teach Aboriginal children the ‘proper’ (British) way of living. They were either placed in institutions or adopted by white families, and often faced terrible treatment, including violence, neglect and assault. Neither the children who were removed nor their families have fully recovered from this appalling policy that continued until the 1970s.
Indeed, the effects of the Stolen Generation can still be felt today. One of the major consequences discussed by Papertalk Green and Kinsella is that a lot of Indigenous culture was lost. Many of the children who were taken away were forbidden from practising their cultural traditions or from speaking their Indigenous languages. This ban led to many traditions going extinct and is a tragic effect of this heinous false claim.
Another claim explored in the text is the idea that Indigenous peoples could not look after themselves and would be better off with white people ‘protecting’ them. This led to the government forcing Aboriginal people to leave their ancestral lands and relocate to newer, smaller areas - a process known as land alienation. There were two types of this land - missions and reserves - and Aboriginal people faced poor treatment on both.
Missions were usually run by Christian groups so they could convert the Indigenous people to their religion. There was a strong degree of control exercised over these Indigenous people, who were expected to learn the skills required for menial jobs (such as cooking and cleaning). Contrastingly, those living on reserves were not typically subject to as much control. These people were sometimes provided with rations from the government, but there were not usually officials to oversee them.
Both missions and reserves are referred to in False Claims of Colonial Thieves, so it is important to understand the difference between the two.
Now that we’ve examined some of the more historical context, let’s take a closer look at the contemporary and modern background that Kinsella and Papertalk Green write about.
Close the Gap Campaign and Black Deaths in Custody
A key section of the text (particularly the latter third) explores current issues which Indigenous peoples face today. Two of these major concerns lie within the health and justice systems, so it is important to understand why Kinsella and Papertalk Green focus so heavily on these matters.
The Close the Gap Campaign (launched in 2007) aims to reduce the inequality in health and education that many Indigenous peoples face. It was created because the life expectancy is much lower for Indigenous than non-Indigenous peoples, and there is a significant difference between their expected levels of education. Unfortunately, many of these concerns have not been addressed today, and Papertalk Green discusses how her family is constantly dealing with death - a key theme in False Claims of Colonial Thieves that can be explained by this contextual understanding.
Similarly, there are a lot of concerns with the number of Aboriginal people in prison, and how many of them die while in police custody. There was even a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (i.e. a governmental inquiry) handed down in 1987, however, many of its recommendations have not been implemented to this day. This idea of unfair policing and laws that target Indigenous peoples is a key idea in the text, and Kinsella dedicates a poem to Ms Dhu, an Indigenous woman killed while in custody.
A key theme of False Claims of Colonial Thieves is mining, which refers to the practice of removing valuable materials from the Earth. Many of these resources are found on traditional Aboriginal lands, which are destroyed by the mining process. This is especially offensive to many Indigenous groups because many Indigenous cultures have a strong spiritual connection to their land (often known as Country). There is consequently a lot of tension between the Indigenous populations and governments, especially in Western Australia, where both of the authors live.
Understanding a text’s context is very important in being able to analyse the text in appropriate depth.
For example, knowing that mining is often considered harmful to the lands to which Indigenous peoples have a strong connection, will allow you to discuss this concept in your essays. Indeed, Papertalk Green argues that mining is just as harmful to Indigenous peoples as earlier ‘false claims’ were, which is a sophisticated idea for you to use in your assessments.
As you begin to better understand and incorporate context into your essays, you can then take things one step further by examining how the author has used context as a means of demonstrating their authorial intent. For example, the effects of the Stolen Generation have been explored in several poems, and a possible viewpoint is that the Stolen Generation was used to demonstrate the devastating loss of Indigenous cultures and traditions.
Ransom and Invictus are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.
Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film ‘Invictus’ centers on the events following the election of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President in the post-apartheid era. The film follows President Mandela’s attempt to infuse a deeply divided country with new energy, by supporting the South African rugby team’s victorious 1995 World Cup Campaign. The unlikely bond formed between President Mandela and Francois Pienarr, the captain of the rugby team, illustrates themes of unity and reconciliation in a divided nation. The film begins with the image of a deeply divided society in 1990, as Mandela is released from 27 years of incarceration. A poignant opening scene sees Mandela drive along a long dirt road that runs between two playing fields, on one side, young black children shout excitedly as Mandela passes. On the other side, immaculately dressed white boys stare vacantly, as their coach proclaims, “This is the day our country went to the dogs.” This tumultuous period in South African history is of central concern to ‘Invictus’, as Eastwood portrays the lingering racial prejudices imbedded in this society. The film portrays the tension between the bitter resentment of black South Africans towards their former oppressors, with the fear and uncertainty of white Afrikaners under Mandela’s political leadership. Eastwood masterfully depicts the true story of the moment when Nelson Mandela harnessed the power of sports to unite a deeply divided South Africa.
Set during the Trojan War, one of the most famous events in Greek mythology, David Malouf’s historical fiction ‘Ransom’ seeks to explore the overwhelming destruction caused by war, and the immense power of reconciliation. Drawing on the Iliad, the epic poem by Homer, Malouf focuses on the events of one day and night, in which King Priam of Troy travels to the enemy Greek encampment to plead with the warrior Achilles to release the body of his son, Hector. Maddened by grief at the murder of his friend Patroclus, Achilles desecrates the body of Hector as revenge. Despite Achilles refusal to give up Hector’s body, Priam is convinced there must be a way of reclaiming the body – of pitting new ways against the old, and forcing the hand of fate. Malouf’s fable reflects the epic themes of the Trojan war, as fatherhood, love, grief and pride are expertly recast for our times.
Malouf and Eastwood both depict societies on the brink: Troy faces annihilation by the Greeks, while South Africa faces an uncertain future as it emerges from the injustices of the apartheid era, both worlds are in dire need of true heroes to bridge the great divide. Together, these two texts echo the significance of hope in the enactment of change. To learn more, head over to our full Ransom Study Guide (covers themes, characters, chapter summaries, quotes and more).
The power of shared human experiences
Both texts are centrally concerned with the significance of the universal experiences of love, loss, grief and hope to unite a divided people. Both Invictus and Ransom explore how societal forces divide people into different, often conflicting groups – whether this be race, history, culture, or war. Each text appeals to the universal experiences that define the human condition, and emphasise the significance of opportunities to cross-cultural divides.
In ‘Ransom’, Malouf is centrally concerned with the theme of fatherhood. This concept links the mortal and godly realms, which King Priam straddles over the course of his journey. The relationship between Priam and Somax illustrates this complex theme most clearly. The two men, despite being deeply separated by their class, education and power, share their common familial experiences. Priam confronts the poignancy of their shared experience of losing sons, questioning whether it “meant the same for him as it did for the driver”. Malouf thus presents Priam as initially lacking in terms of his understanding, Somax’s friendship and stories are the catalyst for Priam to engage in deeper, empathetic understanding. Somax’s trivial yet symbolically significant story about the griddle-cakes represents a moment of anagnorisis for Priam, wherein the shared bond of humanity in fatherhood allows Priam to obtain insight, and progressively grow as a human and as a leader. This incident fuels the journey to appeal to Achilles “man to man”, Priam’s insight into the power of empathy allows him to appeal to their shared bond as suffering fathers.
Just as Priam goes to Achilles “as a father”, using their common quality, fatherhood, to further understand each other, Mandela, too, emphasises the point that you must “know [your] enemy before [you] c[an] prevail against him” and thus he “learned their language, read their books, their poetry”. Mandela attempts to unite Black and white South Africans, despite the mutual animosity and distrust fostered by decades of apartheid. Black and White South Africans share almost nothing in common, with significant cultural and societal barriers to their reconciliation, including different dialects. Rugby emerges as the most poignant manifestation of this divide as the White South Africans support their national team, but the black south Africans barrack for the opposing side. The scene wherein Pienarr and Mandela meet over tea is symbolic of this sentiment of fostering unity amongst deep divisions. President Mandela literally hunches over to pour the tea for Pienaar, this inversion of status demonstrates his willingness to reduce his dignity as a superior and speak with Pienarr, and by extension, white south Africans, on an equal level, modelling an example of how race relations in his nation should be carried out. This equality is also symbolised by the passing of the tea to Pienaar, the close up shot where both arms of the individuals are depicted on an equal level reinforces this sense of mutual equality and respect, extolling the virtues of empathy and integrity as a uniting force.
Leadership and Sacrifice
Mandela and Priam symbolise how leadership must inevitably entail familial sacrifices. Both leaders self-identify with their nation and people. Priam embodies Troy itself, his body is the ‘living map’ of the kingdom. The ‘royal sphere’ he embodies is constrained by customs and tradition, full of symbolic acts that separate him from the mortal world. To an extent, these royal obligations and ritual suffocate Priam’s individuality and he is unable to show his true nature, or connect with his family in the way he would desire to. He regards intimate relationships with his children as “women’s talk” that “unnerves him” as it is not “his sphere”. This articulation of the disassociation of the “royal sphere” with natural human bonds of family reveals the secondary role that family and love must take when one’s role as a leader is paramount. Similarly, Mandela claims “I have a very big family. Forty-two million people”. Unlike Priam, Mandela seeks human connection, predicating his leadership on democratic ideals. This takes a physical and emotional toll, as shown by Mandela’s collapse in his driveway. The cost of leadership here is evident, as Mandela has effectively sacrificed his family for the good of his nation. His strained relationship with his daughter Zindzi further reinforces this, as she disapproves of Mandela reaching out to Pienarr, likening him to one of the white “policeman who forced (her) out of her home”, showing the disconnect between father and daughter due to the sacrifices necessitated by Mandela’s life of leadership, including his 27 year imprisonment.
Fatherhood and Masculinity
In ‘Ransom’ Malouf presents an enclosed, limited and unemotional masculine world, with particularly stringent expectations for men’s behaviour. This is a world characterised by war, wherein the expectations of violent masculinity are paramount. In presenting Achilles inside of “a membrane stretched to a fine transparency”, Malouf reveals the constant tension between the emotional, domestic human nature inside Achilles and the hierarchical violent external society that he is expected to abide by, revealing the constricting nature that the society has on defining men’s actions. Malouf uses words like “knotted” and “rope-like” when describing Achilles’ muscles, implying that his conventional great strength, the source of his fearsome reputation, represents a confinement that the society enforces on him and other men. Further, through a degree of compassion, Priam is able to touch the “sore spot whose ache he has long repressed” in Achilles, a symbol of the emotions that have been supressed by the dominant patriarchal nature of this society.
Whilst the world of ‘Invictus’ is less overtly masculine and patriarchal, the narrative of the film is primarily focused on the male experiences, with female characters assuming a largely secondary role. Zindzi’s strained relationship with her father exemplifies the sacrifices involved in leadership. Whilst Mandela is seen to have sacrificed a close connection with his daughter, this is suggested to be in service of the nation, “I have a big family. Forty two million people”.
Character analysis and comparison
- aging king of troy
- individuality has been subsumed by the ceremonial functions of his high position
- self-identifies with nation
- life of obligation
- foregoes convention and embraces chance with his proposal to offer ransom for his son’s body
- becomes more attuned to the natural world
- gains a greater appreciation of his true self as a man, rather than a symbolic figurehead
- historic figure, symbol of peace
- spent 27 years in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government while he was trying to gain civil rights for all south Africans
- tackled institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality
- suffered under apartheid
- pursues reconciliation, prepared to face down calls for retribution
- in his speech to the sports council, he defends the traditions of the people who persecuted him
- interacts easily with people of all social standings
- charismatic, in touch with the people
- embody essential role that leadership plays in achieving just resolutions to conflict
- sacrifice family for leadership
- illustrate that effective leadership takes a toll on the individual
- exemplify that reconciliation requires unexpected and difficult acts. Such as Mandela’s embrace of the Springboks and Priam’s appeal to Achilles “man to man”
- both show effective leadership involves expressing empathy and understanding the humanity of your enemies
Literary and cinematic techniques
- In one of the first scenes in Mandela’s office after he is elected President, Eastwood strategically frames the racial segregation and tension between the two groups via the mise-en-scene; they stand on separate sides of the room, wearing distinctly different clothing and calling Mandela either “Mr President” or “Madiba”, representative of their own identity. The lingering tension between the two groups permeates the entirety of the film, and the microcosm of the bodyguards acts as a symbol of the chasm within the wider nation.
- The deeply symbolic scene wherein Mandela and Pienaar have tea, Eastwood strategically uses a close up shot to frame the passing of the tea cup so that both arms of the individuals are depicted on the same level, reinforcing this sense of mutual equality and respect. It is this sharing of hope that ignites Pienaar to reciprocate Mandela’s egalitarian actions. As Pienaar brings a ticket for Eunice, recognising that “there’s a fourth” family member, he mimics Mandela’s value that “no one is invisible”. Consequently, it is demonstrated that regardless of skin colour, characters reciprocate Mandela’s empathy and compassion, revealing the limitless power such human qualities to reach across the boundaries of division.
- The wide shot of the passing of the trophy from Mandela to Pienaar is framed against the large crowd, metaphorically representing South Africa’s support with the unity of the black and whites, reflecting Mandela’s desire to “meet black aspirations and quell white fears”. Their diegetic cheers work to create the idyllic depiction of the lasting power of this change, implying the true limitless nature of hope in their society.
- Priam’s moment of anagnorisis in which he discovers the concept of “chance”, marks the beginning of his enactment of change through the power of hope. Despite his family who wishes that he would “spare [himself of] this ordeal”, Priam’s vision guides him to overcome familial and societal obstacles in pursuit of reconciliation.
- Symbol: Griddlecakes – represent pleasure in common things, but also the growing realisation within Priam of his distance from such pleasures. The love and care with with Somax’s daughter cooked the cakes has a value that surpasses the conventional riches associated with the ruling elite. This is a catalyst for a moment of realisation for Priam.
Planning is an essential part of any successful text response essay. It helps you ensure that you’re answering the prompt, utilising enough quotes and writing the most unique and perceptive analysis possible! The hard part of this is that you only have about FIVE MINUTES to plan each essay in the Year 12 English exam… (more info on the best way to tackle that challenge in this video!)
So, I developed the FIVE TYPES of essay prompts to help students streamline their planning process and maximise every minute of their SACs and exams.
By identifying the type of prompt you’re being challenged with immediately, a number of parameters or guidelines are already set in place. For a specific type of prompt, you have specific criteria to meet – for example, in a metalanguage-based prompt, you immediately know that any evidence you brainstorm in your planning stage should be based around the literary techniques used in your given text.
‘Ambition in the play Macbeth leads to success.’ Discuss. (Macbeth)
When you’re presented with a theme-based prompt, you can automatically shift your brainstorming and planning towards the themes mentioned in the prompt along with any others that you can link to the core theme in some way.
In regard to this Macbeth prompt, for example, you could explore the different ways the theme of ambition is presented in the text. Additionally, the themes of guilt and power are intimately related to ambition in the text, so you can use those other ideas to aid your brainstorming and get you a step ahead of the rest of the state come exam day.
2. Character-based prompt
‘Frankenstein’s hubris is what punishes him.’ Discuss. (Frankenstein)
These prompts are pretty easy to spot – if you see a character’s name in the prompt, there you have it; you have a character-based prompt on your hands.
Once you know this, you can assume that each example you brainstorm has to be relevant to the specific character named in the prompt in some way. Also, you can explore how the actions of characters don’t occur in isolation – they’re almost always interrelated. Remember, however, that the actions of characters are always connected to the themes and ideas the author is trying to convey.
This type of prompt also grants you some freedoms that other types don’t give. For example, unlike a Theme-based prompt, a character-based prompt means that it’s perfectly fine to write about characters in the topic sentences of your body paragraphs.
3. How-based prompt
‘How does Grenville showcase Rooke’s inner conflict in The Lieutenant?’ (The Lieutenant)
Unlike other prompts, the ‘How’ positions you to focus more on the author’s writing intentions. This can be achieved by discussing metalanguage – language that describes language (read my blog post about it here). These prompts tell you immediately that you need to be thinking about the literary techniques explored in the text and explain how they affect the narrative.
Rather than using specific techniques to frame your specific arguments, it’s best to use them as evidence to support arguments that attack the main themes/ideas mentioned in the prompt.
4. Metalanguage or film-technique-based prompt
‘Hitchcock’s use of film techniques offers an unnerving viewing experience’. Discuss. (Rear Window)
This type of prompt is very similar to How-based prompts, specifically in the fact that the discussion of literary techniques is essential.
For this type of prompt specifically, however, the actual techniques used can form more of a basis for your arguments, unlike in How-based prompts.
5. Quote-based prompt
“Out, damned spot!” How does Shakespeare explore the burden of a guilty conscience in Macbeth? (Macbeth)
Countless students ask me every year, “What do I do when there’s a quote in the prompt?!” My reply to these questions is actually fairly straightforward!
There are two main things that you should do when presented with this type of prompt. Firstly, contextualise the quote in your essay and try to use it in your analysis in some way. Secondly, interpret the themes and issues addressed in the quote and implement these into your discussion. The best place to do both of these is in a body paragraph – it weaves in seamlessly and allows for a good amount of analysis, among other reasons!
When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into? To learn more about brainstorming, planning, essay structures for Text Response, read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
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