Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...
This is a 7 part series of videos teaching you how to analyse articles for your SAC. Your school will give you three texts which can consist of articles (opinion, editorial, letter to the editor) or images (cartoons, illustrations, graphs). We've used VCAA's 2016 English end of year exam for this series of videos.
Steps before you get started:
1. Make sure you download and analyse VCAA 2016 exam yourself first, then join me in analysing the texts together.
2. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this blog post to download my annotations plus the full essay referenced in these videos. Let's get started!
Today we're going to go through the 2019 past VCAA English Exam (grab a copy of the exam here so you can analyse with me). As you probably know, if you've watched my videos before, you always want to make sure you read the background information when it comes to Analysing Argument.
I'm going to use Analysing Argument and Language Analysis interchangeably by the way, but I'm talking about the same thing okay?
The background information is pretty important because it gives you context for what is happening in this article. Without reading the background information, you might just head in there and possibly even come up with an entirely different context altogether, which might screw over your actual analysis and the author's intention. So, never skip the background information. Make sure that you read it and also pick out the gems that you find in it.
What I've always found is background information is great for picking keywords - words I might want to use throughout my own Language Analysis. It also has really good details about the article. In this case, you can see that there's a member of the public who has responded, which tells us a little bit about the author; it's a 'response' as well, so there's going to be two articles; it's an advertorial - an advertorial is a paid advertisement that looks like an article (I'll use the word advertorial as I'm describing the article in my introduction), and, I also know where it's been published. This is already really good information for you to start using in your introduction.
Finding Your Own Interpretation
Let's move into the analysis itself. By the way, this is my first time doing this analysis, so we're doing it together. What you'll find is that I come up with particular interpretations that you might not have come up with. I might miss something, you might miss something, and what you'll find is my interpretation is not the only interpretation out there. If you come up with something else, it's totally fine for you to go ahead and analyse it, as long as you can back it up. This is what English is all about, so don't stress if I haven't matched up with you in exactly what I'm saying. You can also use my interpretation as a double interpretation. So, what you could do is go into your essay, write your interpretation and if mine compounds on top of yours pretty well, if it's a great addition to what you're saying, add it in and bam! You're showing your examiner that, you're somebody who can look at one particular technique from several different perspectives and that's kind of cool.
Moving on to the Analysis
So, 'A Better, Faster Shopping Experience'. From what I can already see here is there's this sense of convenience already being brought up. Now, at this point in time, I don't know what the point of that convenience is, but I know for me as a shopper, if I can get something for a better experience and I can get it done faster, then hells yeah, I am all for that. Think about yourself in the reader's shoes, after all, you really are the reader reading this article. Think about how it's starting to impact you.
I've done a video about the TEE rule previously that goes through Technique, Example and the intended Effect on the audience. Make sure you're familiar with that because I will use a lot of that in today's analysis.
'An open letter to our valued customers. As you know, Hailey's Local Store is not your average grocery store.'
Interesting. The 'As you know' is pretty familiar. It's this familiarity that this person is sharing with us (the author's name is Hailey, so I'll just say Hailey). She says 'As you know, Hailey's Local Store is not your average grocery store' and repeating that familiar 'As you know' reminds the audience - us - of our long-term relationship with the store. So, in a sense, she's drawing upon our good will and our trust in the local shop, which creates this differentiation between herself (as somebody who's more proactive and customer-centric) and your bigger grocery stores.
'We're a little bit different - we always put our customers first.'
At this point, we start to feel valued. We know that we are her priority. Her priority isn't about profits, which a lot of stores are about, it's about the people, and as a result, we're more inclined to look at her in a favourable way.
'We offer lots of healthy meals, many specials, locally source food and, as you know, we abolished plastic carry bags four years ago - long before the big stores.'
This whole sentence is pretty good because it shows us that she is somebody who is forward-thinking and she has actually carried through with her claim that she puts her customer first. We know that because she follows it up with:
'Why did we do those things? Because you told us that was what you wanted and needed.'
She's got historical proof of putting customers first, which again, serves to build this rapport and relationship between Hailey and us as her customers.
If I look at the first paragraph as a whole, I see that she's building this up, she's setting this up in a particular way and whatever direction she's going to head in next, we're more inclined to follow her, to believe in her and to support her because she's shown us that she has supported us first. She's helped us out, so why can't we help her out? Again, I haven't read the rest of this article yet so these are just the thoughts that are going through my mind as I'm reading this first paragraph - just to give you a little bit of insight into my brain.
In this first paragraph, I can see that she's using a pretty welcoming and warm tone. If you have a look at the photograph that's been placed at the top of this article - and remember that with particular images they're strategically placed, so if it's placed at the start of the article versus at the end, think about how that impacts your perception of the photograph - for me, the first thing I see when I look at this article is the photo and I see a smiling happy owner. As you can see, the first paragraph serves to back up this photograph as well, with what she's talking about in terms of prioritising customers and valuing customers. You can also see products behind her, which look fresh and full and her shelves are full, so in that sense, it furthers this impression of the local and grounded nature of the store. It feels homey and this invites that comfort and trust from us.
Then, as we move into our second paragraph, I'm seeing a lot of exclamation marks, which gives me the sense of this upbeat, exciting environment, or even tone you could say. I think she's doing this because she wants us to jump on board with cashless payments as well, and to not see them as something that's a burden for us. She ties the advantages of cashless payments directly to the customer’s experience of the store by frequently repeating personal terms, such as 'you' and 'your' throughout these first couple of paragraphs. By the way, I'm not going to write down all the language analysis, because I think there's just not enough space, but me chatting about it with you is good enough. Let's move onto the next paragraph.
'you won't need to go rummaging through your bags for coins. You won't ever have to worry that you don't have the cash to cover your essential food supplies - your card will ensure that you do'.
Not only is she highlighting the advantage. Here, she's arguing for the advantages of cashless payments by showing you the inconveniences of having cash in phrases like 'you won't need to' and 'you won't ever have to'. I also like the phrase 'rummaging through your bags for coins'. It gives this sense of how cumbersome the nature of physical money is in comparison to cashless payments.
In the next paragraph, she highlights cashless payments with the words 'Simple!' which reiterates her point (from the previous paragraph) about how cumbersome coins can be. She finishes off this paragraph with a 'Welcome to the twenty-first century.', so there's this sense of being forward in her decisions and that we should be as well - because nobody wants to be left behind in history. A lot of us like to think of ourselves as people who are open-minded, open to change and will take up things that are better for us, things that are more convenient for us.
So, she's saying that this is it for twenty-first century, join us over here rather than way back when, when we had to use coins. She also highlights 'mobile phone[s]', 'smart watch', 'smart ring' - many things that a lot of people have and this just compounds that idea of, 'yeah, this is a no brainer' essentially. Why shouldn't you move to cashless payments if you're already immersed in this tech world of having mobile phones, smart watches, smart rings, etc.?
She moves into talking about the wider economic context of Australia in this next paragraph. That sense of time I was talking about, comparing the now - the twenty-first century - with a decade ago, you can see that link right here. It's very obvious now. She creates a strong impression of societal inevitability of this technological change, especially because she cites statistics - '70 per cent of household spending was in cash; now it's half of that.' I can see in the next paragraph that she uses expert opinion as well - the 'Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia'. This all connects to this main phrase that we are in a ‘turning point’ now, that cash will be rapidly phased out until we become a cashless society and we should join her; we should make moves on this otherwise we're going to get left behind.
I like that she's bringing in Australia because it also brings in this additional sense of pride on our behalf. We're Australians, we're proud that we've been one of the biggest users of electronic payments in the world, we're the ones who are making waves, we're the ones who are putting our feet forward first. So, you could talk about appeal to patriotism here as well. It's interesting because here she says that she's a leader, or
'We've always tried to be a leader in our community and respond to our customer's needs.'
What do you think when you think of a leader? Typically for me, I admire leaders. They're somebody I look up to and I want to follow in their footsteps essentially. So by positioning herself as a leader, I think that's pretty interesting because she's telling us, ‘Hey, I've done all this thinking, I have initiative, I am forward-thinking, so come with me, join with me on this cashless payments movement.’
'you'll breeze through a check-out'
I like the word 'breeze through', or just 'breeze' because it connects again, back to this idea of convenience with a faster shopping experience, and it is juxtaposed against that cumbersomeness of 'rummaging through...bags for coins'. Something to think about is: as you analyse an article, you don't just have to analyse it chronologically or talk about it chronologically in your essay either. If you see things that connect later on, connect them in your essay and put them together, because what you're showing your examiner is that you can see not just the minor details - i.e. language techniques in each sentence - but you can actually zoom out and see the overall picture, how the arguments are coming together and how she's structuring her piece so that we walk away with a certain perspective. Think about that in a two-step method. There's the zoom in where we're looking at sentence by sentence and what techniques are there, which is basically what we've been doing, but at the same time, you can zoom out and have a look at how the different techniques all come together and work as a whole. If this is something that you're not too comfortable with just yet, just stick with the chronological order and working through the sort of minor details. And then on your next read, you can read through with the focus of, 'okay, what if I was to look at this from a more holistic perspective?'
Ahh! I didn't even look ahead enough, there are more words and more phrases that connect to the idea of convenience and ease. It’s 'faster', ‘will save you time', 'safer' as well?! There's a new appeal. It's not necessarily new, it's just a different angle you could come from. If you wanted to talk about the sense of security, that appeal to safety, then you could do that as well.
'it means not having to spend hours sorting, storing and securing cash'
So, more cumbersome notions. And then in comparison,
'more time', 'We understand the concerns a minority of our customers may have.'
I love when they do this, acknowledging the opposition essentially is what she's doing. She's saying, ‘yup, like, I can hear you, not all customers want this. Some of you don't.’ And my assumption is that she's going to back it up with her own rebuttal. This not only pulls along the people who are already supportive of her, but she's also trying to pull along those who are a little bit more sceptical of this idea of cashless payments. So let's see, she says,
'What if you prefer cash, don't feel comfortable using credit or debit cards, or don't have a mobile phone or smart watch? We don't want to leave anyone out. For the next three months we will offer cashless payments, but still accept cash to people to give people time to adjust.'
It's interesting because she is again, building up this position of hers, where she is friendly, she is helpful, she is thoughtful and she cares about her community. Something you could also say, and this is if you're looking at things more pessimistically, is that she's doing this more so for herself. By saying that these people have three months, there's this unspoken pressure that's happening as well. She's putting pressure on the minority and emphasising the supposed inevitability of a cash-free shopping experience. Even by just saying 'minority' that's in a way applying pressure as well, because it's saying that you are part of this smaller group, the smaller group of people who won't come with us or have not yet come with us, so join us. There's a very clear expectation that these customers need to adapt and catch up.
Want to see these ideas and annotations turned into a full A+ essay?
If you want more, I have also got a fully written up 2019 essay based on the articles that we're analysing today in my How To Write A Killer Language Analysis study guide. In that study guide, not only do I have the essay for 2019, I also have afully written up essay for the 2017 & 2020 VCAA English Exams, and we're always working on adding ones from future years as well. Plus, there's heaps of sample A-plus essays in there already and heaps of information that I think will be super helpful for you before you move into your SAC. So please, go ahead and check that out! It's loaded with value and I know it'll be worth your money.
In your Language Analysis (or Analysing Argument) SAC, you will be required to analyse how language is used to persuade in three or more texts. While this may seem a bit daunting at first, it really isn’t much harder than a single text analysis once you know how to approach it. Of course, there are multiple ways to tackle this task, but here is just one possible method!
Begin with a sentence that briefly describes the incident that sparked the debate or the nature/context of the debate. Remember to use the background information already provided for you on the task book!
Next, introduce the texts one at a time, including the main aspects for each (eg. title, writer, source, form, tone, contention and target audience). You want to show the examiner that you are comparing the articles, rather than analysing them separately. To do this, use appropriate linking words as you move onto your outline of each new text.
Consider significant features for comparison, for example:
Is the tone/style the same?
Is there a different target audience?
How do their key persuasive strategies differ?
You may choose to finish your introduction with a brief comment on any key difference or similarity.
Sample introduction: The recent return to vinyls and decline in CD sales has sparked discussion about the merits of the two forms of recorded sound. In his feature article, For the Record, published in the monthly magazine Audioworld in June 2015, Robert Tan contends that vinyls, as the more traditional form, are preferable to CDs. He utilises a disparaging tone within his article to criticise CDs as less functional than vinyls. In response to Tan’s article, reader Julie Parker uses a condescending and mocking tone to lampoon Tan for his point of view, in a letter published in the same magazine one month later.
Spend the first half of your essay focused on Article 1, then move into Article 2 for the second half of your essay (and, for those doing three articles, the later part of your essay based on Article 3). This structure is the most simple of all, and unfortunately does not offer you ample opportunity to delve into an insightful analysis. Hence, we would not recommend this structure for you. If possible, adopt the Bridge or Integrated structures discussed below.
Analyse the first text, including any visuals that may accompany it. Students often spend too long on the first text and leave too little time to analyse the remaining texts in sufficient depth, so try to keep your analysis specific and concise! Remember to focus on the effects on the reader, rather than having a broad discussion of persuasive techniques.
Linking is essential in body paragraphs! Begin your analysis of each new text with a linking sentence to enable a smooth transition and to provide a specific point of contrast. Continue to link the texts throughout your analysis, for example, you could compare:
The techniques of each writer and how these aim to position the reader in different ways.
Often your second and/or third texts will be a direct response to the first, so you could pick up on how the author rebuts or agrees with the arguments of the first text.
In this type of structure, you will analyse both articles in each body paragraph.
If you'd like to see an in-depth explanation of these different essay structures with sample A+ annotated essays as examples, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook! This study guide includes heaps of other valuable content too, including the SIMPLICITY and SPECIFICITY strategy, which has helped hundreds of students achieve A+ in their assessments.
In Lisa's videos above, she suggests a short and sweet summary in your conclusion by incorporating some quotes from the author's own conclusion.
Alternatively, you could opt for a different approach. In your conclusion, aim to focus on how each text differs from the others in terms of the main techniques used by the author, and more importantly, the effect of these techniques on the reader or audience. You should summarise the main similarities and differences of each text without indicating any personal bias (ie. you should not state whether one text might be more or less persuasive than another). For example, a point of comparison could be the audience appeal - will any particular audience group be particularly engaged or offended? Why?
Finally, finish with a sentence suggesting a possible outlook for the issue.
Watch our 'Language Analysis' playlist where Lisa analyses the VCAA 2016 exam over the span of 7 videos. From the first read all the way through to writing up the full essay, Lisa shows you step by step how you can improve your Language Analysis marks.
*This blog post was originally created by Christine Liu, with additions made by Lisa Tran to suit the new modifications in the English study design.
Often, beginning a Language Analysis essay can be tough. How do you start? Do you even need to write an introduction? There are many answers to these questions- some say that because an introduction is not explicitly worth any marks, you don’t need to bother. However, an introduction can be a great way to organise your thoughts and make sure you set up your analysis properly…as long as you don’t waste a lot of time writing unnecessary sentences.
You can use a simple, easy to remember formula that will help you to identify the key aspects of the piece very early on, and this will show your examiner that you know exactly what you’re talking about- all you have to do is to remember the acronym "CDFASTCAT”.
Here is a breakdown of each aspect and its importance:
This gives the audience some background information on the issue, and “sets the scene” for the article or text. In ANY language analysis article/piece you come across (whether it be in the exam or in practice), there is always a box with the context of the article explained. ALWAYS read it and let it influence your analysis. If you exemplify consideration of the information provided to you in your analysis, you will show a deeper understanding of the issue, and your analysis will be more accurate and detailed. Aim to demonstrate that you understand why the article was written, and its surrounding circumstances.
This gives the article a wider context, and helps the audience understand why the author may have a certain viewpoint. It is also good practice to properly reference the article in your analysis, which includes the date, author, source and title.
The form of a Language Analysis text can vary, from newspaper articles, blogs, comics or even speeches. Each form has its own set of conventions which can help you identify language techniques, and can change the way the message is communicated to the audience. For example, in a speech, the speaker is more likely to directly address their audience than the editor of a newspaper may in an editorial.
When writing a Language Analysis essay (or any essay for that matter), always refer to the author by either their full name, their surname only, or a title and a surname - NEVER by their first name alone. For example: 'Lyle Shelton', 'Mr. Lyle Shelton', 'Mr. Shelton' and 'Shelton' are all okay to use in your essay. However, you would never use 'Lyle' on its own.
The source of a text can influence your understanding of the audience. For example, an article written on a blog about gardening is likely to have a different audience to a financial journal. Including the source is also an important so that the article is properly referenced.
Including the title in the introduction is critical to properly introducing the article. Remember to analyse major techniques in the title if there are any during the body of your essay!
Identifying the author’s contention can be the most difficult aspect of Language Analysis for many students. The trick is to ask yourself the question 'What is the author’s argument?' If you want to break it down even further, try asking 'What does the author want to change/why/what is it like now/what do they want it to be?'
Depending on the audience, different techniques and appeals may work in different ways. For example, an appeal to the hip-pocket nerve is more likely to have an effect on single parents who are struggling financially than it is on young children or very wealthy people.
You should not include a tone word in your introduction as the author’s tone will shift throughout the text. However, identifying the tone early on is important so that you can later acknowledge any tonal shifts.
Often, articles will include some sort of graphic; it is important that you acknowledge this in your introduction and give a brief description of the image - enough so your analysis can be read and understood on its own. The description of the image is the equivalent of an embedded quote from an article; both are used to provide evidence to support your analysis.
10 Things to Look for in Cartoons is a great resource to help you learn what to look for in graphics. Don't be put-off by the name; you don't need to be studying cartoons specifically in order to learn heaps from this blog post.
If you follow the CDFASTCAT approach, your Language Analysis introductions will become easy to write, straight to the point and full of all the most important information - good luck! ☺
Although it appears on criteria sheets, many students never really understand the term metalanguage. Strangely, it is something that is rarely addressed in classrooms. While the word may be foreign to you, rest assured that metalanguage is not an entirely new concept you have to learn. How come? Because you have been unknowingly using metalanguage since the very beginning of high school.
It's a word that is more and more frequently thrown around as you get more advanced in high school. And, it's something that becomes tremendously important in your final year of high school, because the more you include metalanguage discussion in your essays, the more intricate your discussion becomes and the more unique it also becomes.
So, let's find out exactly what metalanguage is.
2. Definition of Metalanguage
Metalanguage is language that describes language.
So, instead of maybe using the word, "He was sad", we might say something like, "He felt sorrowful". The choice in words changes the meaning that is interpreted by the reader, just slightly, but there is still a difference. So, when it comes to studying texts or reading articles, and trying to analyze what the author is trying to do, we look at metalanguage as a way to help give us insight into the ideas that they're trying to portray.
The simplest way to explain this is to focus on part 3 of the English exam – Language Analysis. In Language Analysis, we look at the author’s writing and label particular phrases with persuasive techniques such as: symbolism, imagery or personification. Through our description of the way an author writes (via the words ‘symbolism’, ‘imagery’ or ‘personification’), we have effectively used language that describes language.
Now, if we look at the bigger picture, our analysis of an author’s language can be applied to Text Response, and even Reading and Comparing. To learn more about why metalanguage is important in Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response. Otherwise, for those interested in Comparative, head over to our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.
3. Examples of Metalanguage in VCE English
Grammar and punctuation
Achilles is characterised as a foetus, for his position is ‘chin down, shoulders hunched’ as though he is inside a womb. (Ransom, David Malouf)
In the first scene of All About Eve*, Mankiewicz foreshadows Eve's sinful and regretful actions, as a sorrowful expression is emphasized as she accepts her award
As you can see, the word 'foreshadows' pushes us in a new direction. Rather than just saying what has already happened or telling your teacher or examiner something that they already know, it forces you to actually analyze what's in front of you and to offer your own unique interpretation of why this metalanguage or why this technique has been used.
When Terry leaves Friendly’s bar, the thick fog symbolises his clouded moral judgement as he decides whether he should remain ‘D and D’, or become a ‘rat’. (On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan)
The miniature set Zac creates is designed with a white backdrop, symbolising his desire to wipe away reality since he ‘can’t stand real things'. (Cosi, Louis Nowra)
In Medea, the motif of animals emphasizes the inhuman and bestial nature of Medea, highlighting how she defies natural norms.
This student has actually given us an analysis of why animal motifs are used. And that is to highlight how Medea defies natural norms, because of her inhuman and bestial nature.
As indicated earlier, you should be familiar with many, if not all the terms mentioned above. Take note that some metalanguage terms are specific to a writing form, such as camera angle for films. If you need help learning new terms, we have you covered - be sure to check out our metalanguage word banks for books and our metalanguage wordbank for films.
As you discuss themes or characters, you should try and weave metalanguage throughout your body paragraphs. The purpose of this criteria is to demonstrate your ability to understand how the author uses language to communicate his or her meaning. The key is to remember that the author’s words or phrases are always chosen with a particular intention – it is your job to investigate why the author has written a text in a particular way.
[Modified Video Transcription]
Hey guys, welcome back to Lisa's Study Guides. Today, I'm really excited to talk to you about metalanguage. Have you guys ever heard of metalanguage before? It's a word that is more and more frequently thrown around as you get more advanced in high school. And, it's something that becomes tremendously important in your final year of high school, because the more you include metalanguage discussion in your essays, the more intricate your discussion becomes and the more unique it also becomes. So, let's find out exactly what is metalanguage.
Simply put, metalanguage just means language that analyses language. When authors write anything, we make certain decisions when it comes to writing. So, instead of maybe using the word, "He was sad", we might say something like, "He felt sorrowful". The choice in words changes the meaning that is interpreted by the reader, just slightly, but there is still a difference. So, when it comes to studying texts or reading articles and trying to analyse what the author is trying to do, we look at metalanguage as a way to help give us insight into the ideas that they're trying to portray.
Metalanguage comes in really handy, especially if you're somebody who struggles with retelling the story - I have a video on how to avoid retelling the story, which you can watch. Metalanguage essentially takes you to the next level. It prevents you from just saying what happened, and forces you into actually looking at how the ideas and themes are developed by the author through the words that they choose to use. So, let's have a look at a couple of examples to give you a better idea. I'm going to show you two examples. One uses metalanguage and one doesn't, and you'll see how a massive difference in how the student understands the text is really clear.
Number one, foreshadowing.
In the first scene of All About Eve, Mankiewicz emphasizes Eve's sorrowful expression as she accepts her award.
In the first scene of All About Eve, Mankiewicz foreshadows Eve's sinful and regretful actions, as a sorrowful expression is emphasized as she accepts her award.
As you can see, as soon as we put in the word foreshadows, it pushes us in a new direction. Rather than just saying what has already happened or telling your teacher or examiner something that they already know, it forces you to actually analyse what's in front of you and to offer your own unique interpretation of why this metalanguage or why this technique has been used. So, in this case, it's foreshadowing. Let's have a look at another one, motif.
In Medea, Euripides commonly refers to animals when describing Medea's actions and temperament.
In Medea, the motif of animals emphasizes the inhuman and bestial nature of Medea, highlighting how she defies natural norms.
See how, in the first example, it was really just telling you what we might already know through just reading the book, but when it comes to the second example, this student has actually given us an analysis of why animal motifs are used. And that is to highlight how Medea defies natural norms, because of her inhuman and bestial nature.
So, those are some examples of metalanguage. There are so many more different types of metalanguage out there...
Hey guys, welcome to another week of Lisa's Study Guides. Thank you so much to everyone who came to the VCE expo that happened last Thursday through to Sunday. It was so great meeting so many of you - I really did not expect this many of you to rock up and say hi, but I'm so grateful that you did. So, thank you again so much! It just reinforces that what I'm doing is being really helpful to you guys, and I'm so glad! I'm going to keep going with this. I'm going to keep making sure that I offer you guys amazing English tips on this channel. So, hit that subscribe button below (check out our YouTube channel here), if you do support, and make sure you tell your friends about it as well, because the more love we can share, the more we help each other out.
Today we're going to be talking about tones. You might be interested in looking at tones because you are analyzing articles, but sometimes we're also looking at tones when it comes to the author's writing style when it comes to texts.
So, What Is a Tone and Why Is It Important?
A tone is essentially the attitude that an author takes towards their piece. What is really important is that you realise that there's a difference between tone and mood.
Mood has to do more so with the reader's response to an article, whereas tone is the approach that the author has towards the piece.
It's definitely tricky trying to identify tones, but there are a few things that you can ask yourself to help steer yourself in the right direction.
First thing is: does the author have a positive or negative attitude towards a certain idea? For example, if the author says, 'I can't wait to go to this party' (said in an enthusiastic tone), as opposed to saying, 'I can't wait to go to this party' (said in a sarcastic tone), who do you think is more excited about the party? Probably the first one. In this case, it's been a little bit easier because you see visually how I approached it, but if you just listen to what I've said, the first tone is immersed with a lot more enthusiasm, whereas the second one is sarcasm. Just remember that even though I said it was enthusiasm and sarcasm, if you yourself interpreted it differently than that is okay.
Remember with English, as always, there's not always that one perfect answer. Everyone interprets things differently. It's just a matter of you being able to back it up with your own evidence and your own explanation of why you've come to this certain tone.
So, any form of human emotion can ultimately be translated into a tone. So, whether that is being nostalgic, honoured, sentimental, condescending - these are all tones. And, there are actually so many tones that I've linked a link down below that goes to my blog (if you’re reading this you’re already on our blog!) that includes 195 tones you can choose from. I've also separated these turns into positive, neutral and negative tones and divided them yet again, depending on the type of emotion in order to help steer you in the right direction in picking out a tone amongst all the many, many tones that are available out there.
One more additional tip is that authors can also change their tone. So these can be called tonal shifts, or shifts in tone. An author might not start a book with the same tone and finish it with that same tone - so much has happened throughout the entire book or the event, or maybe even if it's just an article, depending on what they're talking about, they can change their tones. Don't get tripped up by that, acknowledge that sometimes throughout a piece there will be modifications. And, if you're able to pick that up, then that goes a really long way when showing off your efforts to your teachers or examiners.
So, just as a heads up, these tips that I've spoken about are all in our ebook How To Write A Killer Language Analysis. If you're keen to find out more about tones, then go ahead and check it out. There's more there, more examples to help test you, to see whether you're on the right track, more questions that you need to ask yourself to find the right tone and what you can do with tonal changes.
I'm also going to do something a little bit different today, I'll write down three different sentences and I want you guys to interpret them your own way and tell me what tones do you think they are? I think this will be a fun exercise to bring our community together. And I'd just love to see what you guys have to say. I'll check in with you guys next time!
Alright, let's see what different tones you identify from these sentences:
1. Check out my new shoes, I just got them yesterday!
2. It was long since I had returned to this place; the memories washed over me wave after wave.
3. It is imperative that we initiate fair laws for all workers!
List of Tones for Language Analysis
We've all struggled with identifying tones for language analysis. So, I've compiled an assortment of tones you can choose from, categorised into their 'intensities'! For a detailed guide on Language Analysis including how to prepare for your SAC and exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis.
Whether Language Analysis (or Analysing Argument) is your favourite section of the English course or you just wish you could read an article without analysing the effect of a generalisation, here are some quick and simply tips to ensure you can maximise your marks in Section C! For a detailed guide on Language Analysis including how to prepare for your SAC and exam, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis.
Improve your metalanguage
What is Metalanguage?
Words that describe language!
The words infer
The words insinuate
The words suggest
Create a word bank full of different words you can interchange throughout your analysis to eliminate any repetition!
If you’d like to see a list of sentence starters to help you broaden your vocabulary for Analysing Argument, check out this blog.
Do not reiterate what the writer is saying
Remember you are analysing the language the writer uses, not arguing the contention of the writer!
Therefore avoid words such as: states, highlights, uses, utilises, shows etc.
What not to do: The writer states that creating a community garden will make people “healthier and happier”
What to do: The words “healthier and happier” suggest that creating a community garden will improve the lifestyles of citizens.
Analyse the language not the technique
By now we are probably aware that puns are “often humorous” and “gain the reader’s attention”. However instead of using these generalised textbook effects, analyse the words WITHIN the pun and see how these words may affect readers.
What not to do: The pun “A new cycle” in the headline is humorous and therefore captures the attention of the reader.
What to do: The pun “A new cycle” draws a direct link between cycling and advancement in society urging readers to view cycling in a positive light.
Always ask yourself: why?
Why is the writer using particular language? Why may the reader react with concern?
Make sure the answers to these questions are in your analysis!
What not to do: Consequently readers may feel concerned.
What to do: Readers may feel concerned due to the increase in fast food consumption.
If you'd like to see exactly how to achieve this within your essays, check out our How To Write A Killer Language Analysis ebook for a step-by-step explanation of how to clearly and effectively answer 'why' and nail Analysing Argument!
Don’t forget the visual
As silly as it may sound, it is quite easy to forget to analyse the visual when you’re under pressure. The visual can either complement the article or oppose the views of the writer.
Mention what the visual:
And how readers may react to the visual
Keep your introduction and conclusions as brief as possible
Most of your marks will come from your analysis so there is no need to spend copious amounts of time perfecting your introductions and conclusions. Keep them short and concise!
Pick and choose what to analyse
It is simply impossible to analyse every single technique the writer uses in their article. Therefore pick the words/phrases that you find most persuasive. You will not be marked down for what you do not analyse!
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.
Whether you’re studying english, literature or even language it’s hard to avoid Shakespeare. So, we’re going to take a broad look at: Shakespeare’s historical context, his language, and of course, what this means for interpreting his plays. Since Shakespeare has so many plays chances are your text will be excluded. Instead I’m going to use Othello as a case study.
Othello follows the Moorish general Othello and his relationship with his wife, Desdemona. The antagonist Iago is jealous that Cassio was made Lieutenant instead of him, and seeks vengeance on Othello. Iago attempts to destroy Othello’s reputation, and uses the rich but foolish Roderigo to fund his revenge plot. Through careful manipulation of his Wife Emilia, Roderigo, Cassio, and Othello, Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona is unfaithful, sending him into an obsessive jealousy. When Emilia steals Desdemona’s handkerchief, a token of Othello’s love, and Desdemona cannot produce it, Othello believes he has all the information necessary to condemn Desdemona. He smothers her to death, before Emilia reveals Iago’s involvement. Othello, struck by regret, stabs himself, declaring that he “loved not wisely but too well”
So who is this Shakespeare guy? And more importantly, what kind of a world did he live in?
Shakespeare was born in England in 1564, in the middle of the Renaissance Period. This period of “rebirth” was categorised by the increasing reliance on ancient classical authors for information about the world. This is why Shakespeare plots are famously reinterpretations of Ancient histories and Roman plays. Changes in education resulted in the Elizabethan moral and social customs being questioned. This included the Divine Right of Kings, and notions of gender and identity.
Religion is also significant in this period, and the Protestant Reformation is a subject often alluded to by Shakespeare. It is necessary to contextualise Shakespeare within the Renaissance period, because as you will see, themes, words, and references that make very little sense to us were common knowledge in Shakespeare’s time, and understanding them boosts our appreciation of his work.
Now that we understand when Shakespeare was writing, let’s look at how.
Starting as broadly as possible, Shakespeare’s difficult-to-read language is actually Early-Modern English, and so many words Shakespeare used are either lost or unused in modern English. Any good copy of Shakespeare will have definitions of these words in the margin or opposite page.
Moving in closer, we have the two types of plays, Tragedy and Comedy.
Comedy is tonally more light-hearted, and has an apparently happy-ending. These are Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, or As You Like It among others. Despite being made to entertain, they are rarely unsophisticated, and the genre may mask something more sinister. For example, the character of Malvolio in Twelfth Night is entertaining and presented as self-obsessed, but could be used as an example of Shakespeare critiquing masculinity in Elizabethan society, as Malvolio feels entitled to Olivia’s affections.
Tragedies cannot be defined by their tone, however. They are defined by a tragic hero, who has a fatal flaw or Hamartia that results in their downfall. This may be Othello’s Jealousy, Macbeth’s ambition, or Brutus’ naivety in Julius Caesar. These traits all cause the tragic heroes’ demise, as their hamartia leads them to make bad decisions or fail to address the real evil. Tragedies will usually end in the unnecessary loss of lives and an unhappy ending for all involved. Most of Shakespeare’s plays fit into tragedy, including most of those based on historical figures. An analysis considering the conventions of Tragedy--like hamartia and tragic heroes--is a great way to stand out when discussing Shakespeare, and so when interpreting a tragedy you should consider what about it is tragic. For example, is Othello a tragedy because Iago is able to manipulate Othello, or is Othello’s jealousy and mistrust ever-present? Either of these options reveals Othello to be a tragedy, however they both say different things about the characters and plot. If Iago manipulates Othello, the tragedy is because a fundamental good person is corrupted. However if Othello was always mistrusting, the play becomes tragic as the audience must watch an unloving marriage slowly dissolve.
Next, we have the two ways Shakespeare formats his dialogue. Students will often focus on what the characters say without considering how it is said. Knowing the difference between Verse and Prose and how they are used is an easy way to stand out in an essay.
Verse is essentially poetry, where one line follows another. It can rhyme, but often doesn’t. What Shakespeare verse will ALWAYS do, however, is follow the Iambic Pentameter. This is a line of poetry with 10 syllables where every second syllable is stressed. This creates a kind of bounce or flow like a heartbeat. The easiest way to recognise this is to count the syllables in each line: thus / do / i / ev / er / make / my / fool / my / purse. Pay attention to when it is not followed, or when characters are interrupted during the pentameter. When the pentameter is interrupted by another character, look at who is interrupting it. It is likely to reveal a power dynamic between the two characters. Alternatively, a character finishing the pentameter, literally finishing their sentence, could be a symbol of love or affection between them. Using linguistic devices like the iambic pentameter as evidence shows an understanding of the text beyond the words spoken
The alternative format is prose. It’s used quite sparingly so look out for it. Is the way we speak normally in conversation, or how a normal novel is written. You can tell a character is speaking in prose as it’s usually just a big chunk of text. Shakespeare’s prose can reveal different things, so it depends on the context and the character using it. In act 1 scene 3 of Othello, Iago speaks to Roderigo in prose and then transitions to verse once Roderigo leaves. This displays Iago’s ability to code-switch and manipulate those around him with words. Prose is considered more simplistic, so in order to control Roderigo, who is presented as quite dumb, Iago relies on simple language, bringing himself to Roderigo’s level. This is directly contrasted with Iago’s use of the complex verse form, which he uses at all other times.
We’ve now covered Shakespeare’s historical context, his play styles, and his dialogue, but what should we look for when reading Shakespeare that allows us to use this information in a text response or close passage analysis. I’ve already given some examples of how Shakespeare’s language is relevant to his themes, but I’m going to give a rough guide of what themes are common in Shakespeare’s plays, and how they are shown in the language.
Fate versus free-will
This is a theme that can lead to a long discussion and gives you the opportunity to express your own opinion. Are the characters acting with free-will, or is some other force impacting their fate? This isn’t really in Othello, so let’s look quickly at Macbeth; if we consider fate versus free-will with the characteristics of a tragedy in mind, then the tragic hero must act freely even though his ‘fatal flaw’ will lead to his demise. However, the inclusion of the witches in Macbeth subverts the tragic structure and implies Macbeth is being toyed with. Even though Macbeth believes he is in control his fate is met, so is it a coincidence that his decisions fulfill his fate, or was the Witches’ prophecy real?
Appearance versus reality
The different uses of verse and prose are a good way to show when characters are genuine or performing for others. I have already mentioned how Iago ‘code-switches’ by using prose to speak to Roderigo, appearing simple and ‘laid-back,’ but his revelatory soliloquy in verse displays his true nature, both in the content of the speech, and the way it is presented.
Order and disorder
In Othello, disorder could be represented by Iago, destabilising the lives of those around him through his use of rhetoric and manipulation. Order is then returned when Iago is revealed and Othello takes his life, recognising himself as tragically misused. Analysing the theme of order and disorder would support the interpretation that Othello is a good man controlled and abused by disorder and manipulation.
So, hopefully this very brief introduction helps you get into Shakespeare! Even if I didn’t cover your text, the use of tragic heroes, prose, verse, and iambic pentameter are things evident in all Shakespeare plays, so you just have to make it relevant to your text. And remember that in order to read Shakespeare, one must first read Shakespeare. It may take several readings or viewings to grasp what is happening in the play, only after that can you start to analyse in the way I have today.
After Darkness is currently studied in VCE English under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
1. Introduction (Plot Summary) 2. Characters and Development 3. Themes 4. Narrative Conventions/Literary Devices 5. Sample Paragraphs 6. Additional Essay Prompts and Analysis Questions to Consider 7. Tips
1. Introduction (Plot Summary)
Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness deals with suppressed fragments of the past and silenced memories. The protagonist, Dr Ibaraki, attempts to move forward with life whilst also trying to hide past confrontations as well as any remnants of his past wrongdoings and memories. The text consists of three intertwined narrative strands – Ibaraki’s past in Tokyo in 1934, his arrival in Broome in 1938 to work in a hospital there, and his arrival in a detainment camp in Loveday (South Australia) in 1942 after the outbreak of war.
2. Characters and Development
4. Narrative Conventions/Literary Devices
‘a mallee tree’ - Aboriginal word for water which symbolises purity, source of life 'if it’s hit by bushfire it grows back from the root with lots of branches, like all the others here. It’s a tough tree. Drought, bushfire…it’ll survive almost anything…I was struck by the ingenuity of the tree in its ability to generate and create a new shape better suited to the environment.'
The tag with 'the character ko…[with] its loop of yellowed string...The knot at the end had left an impression on the page behind it: a small indentation, like a scar.'
'Felt like hell on earth'
'The hollow trunks of dead trees haunted its edges like lost people' - Can also link to the landscape narrative convention
'The scene was like a photograph, preserving the strangeness of the moment.'
Description of the hospital atmosphere where the patient next to Hayashi laid
'Only the windows were missing, leaving dark holes like the eyes of an empty soul'
'The photos reached me first. I leafed through the black and white images: swollen fingers, blistered toes, blackened faces, and grotesque, rotting flesh that shrivelled and puckered to reveal bone. The final photo depicted a child’s chubby hands, the tips of the fingers all black.' - Also foreshadowing death of his and Kayoko’s child
'That afternoon, the sky darkened, and the wind picked up…making the world outside opaque.'
Middlemarch (book) which symbolises Ibaraki and Sister Bernice’s friendship as Bernice was left behind
'Being able to conduct research in this way has delivered unparalleled knowledge, which we’ve already passed on to the army to minimise further loss of life.'
'You haafu fools don’t deserve the Japanese blood in you!'
'You bloody racist!'
'You fucking Emperor-worshipping pig...!'
'Haafu' - Derogatory, racism term used to define those who are biracial (half Japanese):
An interpretation of the language use throughout the text could be Piper’s way of humanising the Japanese people to her readers and notifying them that they also have their own culture and form of communication
Another interpretation of the language use is to show that both the Australians and Japanese are just as cruel as each other because they show no respect to one another and use language in such a brutal way
Ibaraki represents that divide where he can speak both languages, yet still, cannot voice his own opinion or stand up for himself (link to theme of silence)
'The void seemed to have a force of its own, drawing the meaning of the words into it.'
'The engine coughed into life.'
'snow was falling as I walked home from the station – the first snow of the season.' - Foreshadowing the storm about to come in his life
'A black silhouette against the fallen snow.' - Foreshadowing Kayoko’s death
5. Sample Paragraphs
'But as soon as you show a part of yourself, almost at once you hide it away.' Ibaraki’s deepest flaw in After Darkness is his failure to reveal himself. Do you agree?
Christine Piper’s historical fiction, After Darkness explores the consequences that an individual will be forced to endure when they choose to conceal the truth from their loved ones. Piper reveals that when a person fails to reveal themselves, it can eventually become a great obstacle which keeps them from creating meaningful and successful relationships. Additionally, Piper asserts that it can be difficult for an individual to confront their past and move completely forward with their present, especially if they believed their actions were morally wrong. Furthermore, Piper highlights the importance of allowing people into one’s life as a means to eliminate the build-up the feelings of shame and guilt.
Piper acknowledges that some people will find it difficult to open up to others about their past due to them accumulating a large amount of regret and guilt over time. This is the case for Ibaraki as he was involved with the ‘experiments’ when he was working in the ‘Epidemic Prevention Laboratory', in which Major Kimura sternly told him to practise ‘discretion and not talk ‘about [his] work to anybody'. The inability to confide in his wife or mother after performing illegal and mentally disturbing actions causes him to possess a brusque conduct towards others, afraid that they will discover his truth and ‘not be able to look at [him] at all'. His failure to confess his past wrongdoings shapes the majority of his life, ruining his marriage and making him feel the need ‘to escape’ from his losses and ‘start afresh'. He eventually lies to his mother by making her believe that he ‘had gone to Kayoko’s parents’ house’ for the break, avoiding any questions from being raised about his job. As a consequence, he fails to tell his family about his horrid past suggesting that he has accepted that ‘[his] life had become one that others whispered about'. Juxtaposed to Ibaraki’s stress relieving methods, Kayoko confides in her mother after she receives news of her miscarriage, highlighting that when one willingly shares their pain with loved ones, it can release the burden as well as provide them with some assistance. In contrast to this, Ibaraki’s guilty conscience indicates that he will take ‘the secret to his grave', making it extremely difficult for people he encounters to understand him and form a meaningful connection with him. Nonetheless, Piper does not place blame on Ibaraki as he was ordered to keep the ‘specimen’ business hidden from society, thereby inviting her readers to keep in mind that some individuals are forced by others to not reveal their true colours for fear of ruining a specific reputation.
Throughout the journey in After Darkness, Piper engendered that remaining silent about one’s past events that shapes their future is one of the deepest flaws. She notes that for people to understand and form bonds with one another, it is extremely important to reveal their identity as masking it only arises suspicions. Piper postulates that for some, memories are nostalgic; whereas, for others it carries an unrelenting burden of guilt, forcing them to hide themselves which ultimately becomes the reason as to why they feel alone in their life.
6. Additional Essay Prompts and Analysis Questions to Consider
Analyse the role of silence in After Darkness. Compare the ways in which the characters in the text utilise or handle silence. What is Piper suggesting about the notion of silence?
Discuss the importance of friendship in the text. What is it about friends that make the characters appear more human? How can friendship bolster development in one’s character?
Racism and nationalism are prominent themes in the text. How are the two interlinked? Explore the ways they are shown throughout the text and by different characters. Is Piper indicating that the two always lead to negative consequences?
Analyse some of the narrative conventions (imagery, simile, metaphor, symbols, motifs, landscapes, language, etc.) in the novel and what they mean to certain characters and to the readers.
Explore the ways in which the text emphasises that personal conscience can oftentimes hold people back from revealing their true thoughts and feelings.
Character transformation (bildungsroman) is prevalent throughout the text. What is Piper suggesting through Ibaraki’s character in terms of the friendships and acquaintances he has formed and how have they impacted him? How have these relationships shaped him as a person in the past and present? Were such traits he developed over time beneficial for himself and those around him or have they caused the destruction of once healthy relationships?
Be sure to read as many academic articles as you can find in relation to the text in order to assist you with in-depth analysis when writing your essays. This will help you to stand out from the crowd and place you in a higher standing compared to your classmates as your ideas will appear much more sophisticated and thought-out.
Being clear and concise with the language choices is such a crucial factor. Don’t over complicate the ideas you are trying to get across to your examiners by incorporating ‘big words’ you believe will make your writing appear of higher quality, because in most cases, it does the exact opposite (see Why Using Big Words in VCE Essays Can Make You Look Dumber). Be careful! If it's a choice between using simpler language that your examiners will understand vs. using more complex vocabulary where it becomes difficult for the examiners to understand what you're trying to say, the first option is best! Ideally though, you want to find a balance between the two - a clearly written, easy to understand essay with more complex vocabulary and language woven into it.
If there is a quote in the prompt, be sure to embed the quote into the analysis, rather than making the quote its own sentence. You only need to mention this quote once in the entire essay. How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss has everything you need to know for this!
If you'd like to see sample A+ essays complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+, then you'll definitely want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide! In it, we also cover advanced discussions on topics like structural features and context, completely broken down into easy-to-understand concepts so you can smash your next SAC or exam! Check it out here.
Most people aren’t particularly confident in giving orals or public speaking in general. I began year 7 as a shy girl scoring a lousy 50% in her first English oral. It wasn’t until later on that I realised; even though I can write an amazing piece, it was my delivery and nerves that failed me. In year 9, I entered my first public speaking competition, and have been participating in such competitions ever since. I may not have won those, but it got me comfortable standing in front of people without shaking like someone with hypothermia. Now, I am achieving A+ on my oral assessments and am even on the SRC as Student Action Captain due to a great captaincy speech. Don't forget to also check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for everything you need to know for Oral Presentations.
A few tips on writing your speech:
Have a CAPTIVATING introduction sentence; use a short, clear and powerful sentence.
RELATE to your audience so that it keeps them interested so they actually WANT to listen.
If you are taking on a persona, firstly study and UNDERSTAND your character.
Don’t forget your persuasive techniques. I usually use repetition in conjunction with the ‘rule of three’.
Remember that you are writing a SPEECH, not an essay. Instill your oral with emotion, varied tone and and sentence lengths.
In fact, I've talked about a few of these in a 'Must Dos and Don'ts' video. If you haven't seen it yet, watch before you read on:
A few tips on your performance:
Memorise your speech
Always remember that practice makes perfect. Practise as much as possible; in front of anyone and everyone including yourself (use a mirror). Keep practising until you can recite it.
As for cue cards, use dot points. Don’t just copy and paste whole sentences onto cue cards or else you’ll rely on them too much. Not to mention that it’ll be hard finding out where you are in the middle of your speech. Use “trigger words” so that if you forget your next point, you have something there.
But most importantly, if you mess up, keep going. Even if you screw up a word or suddenly forget your next point, just take a breath, correct yourself, and keep going. Do not giggle. If your friends make you laugh, don’t look at them.
Control your voice
Do not be monotone. Give it some energy; be pumped but not “I-just-downed-5-cans-of-V” pumped. Give it as much energy as it is appropriate for your speech. As you transition through various intense emotions such as anger, happiness and shock, your performance should reflect it. This is achieved in both your tone and your body language (moving around).
Speak as if you believe in your contention – with passion. Even if it’s just full of crap, if you sound confident, then your audience think, ‘wow, they sure know what they’re talking about’. Remember, confidence is key.
Don’t rush through your speech and speak at a million kilometres an hour – or even worse; skipping half of your speech because you just want to get the hell out of there. And also, speak so that the teacher can actually hear you. More likely than not, they’ll be sitting somewhere near the back of the room. After countless “too quiet” comments on my orals, I have finally mastered the art/power of projecting my voice. And it actually does make a huge difference.
Be aware of your actions
Don’t just stand like a statue in one spot. Think about real life – do you know anyone that stands completely and utterly still when talking to you? Make sure you look around the room; you’re addressing everyone, not just one person. Don’t stare at your teacher; it freaks them out. You don’t even have to look at a specific place. I usually just start off looking at the back wall… then as I go through the speech, I naturally turn from one back corner of the room to the other. Also, try not to look down. Don’t try to look at your cue cards while they’re right up next to your body. Move it out when you need to have a GLANCE at them then go back to the audience.
I’ve seen some people pace. This seems alright (though I’ve never done it myself); but always make sure that you face the audience. If you’re doing a monologue (for text response), you can sit down… just don’t sit for your entire piece.
And some natural hand gestures don’t hurt either!
I’ve also heard of some people running around or on the spot about 15mins before a speech. This serves to help with your heart rate by using up all that ‘energy’. Personally, I close my eyes and concentrate on my breathing (so that my heart isn’t jumping out of my chest). Take some long, deep breaths and tell yourself that you can do it!
Let’s get real - nobody likes pancakes without any toppings, or a hamburger without the bun. Well, it’s the exact same for Text Response essays. For that deeply-desired ‘A+’ written on your SAC, you’ll need a holistic interpretation of your text; including some ingredients that are so commonly pushed to the periphery. There are several components that assist in making your essay ‘stand out’ against fellow students, and each should be addressed to convey comprehensive knowledge of your text. Along with the points below, don't forget to also read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Collaborating with friends
Practice writing essays
Gather your resources; it’s time for a background check! Researching the context of your text is imperative for understanding its nuances. This is particularly necessary when investigating the author’s life, and the social, cultural and historical influences of the text. This may also answer those burning questions that you can never quite understand by just reading the text. Borrowing a book from a library, talking to your teacher, looking up queries on Google - is all it takes to have that deeper understanding to bolster your confidence … and potentially your grades!
Ever been stuck in the middle of your essay, just trying to remember what quote it was you wanted to write? It’s scientifically proven that how you memorise your material impacts its retrieval rate! Remembering items that are similar to each other improves the likelihood of recall in the long term and means that you won’t have to waste any time during your SAC with the sensation of knowing the quote, but not being able to retrieve it from memory. Therefore, organising your quotes in terms of themes, locations, settings or characters (and memorising them in the order of their category) can improve your ability to remember the information!
I think we’ve all had that ‘Oh my God’ moment when you read someone’s essay and see a frightening number of long and complex words appearing in each sentence. Well, you can rest easy in knowing your sophistication and vocabulary isn’t the only indicator of a SAC’s worth. In fact, consider your vocabulary as sprinkles on a cupcake - too much is overload, but you do need to include some to compete with other students. If vocabulary is a particularly weak point for you, take your time once a day to look up a new word in the dictionary, or better yet, subscribe to an online dictionary to be emailed one new word’s definition per day.
The best tip to doing well in English is passion! You may be thinking ‘well yeah, but I have none…” and this is something that is easily adaptable. The predecessor to passion is always interest! Creating a study group with friends, or even just talking to classmates before, during and after class to open discussion can provide you with a broader outlook on the text and get you asking questions such as ‘how?’ and ‘why?’. Everyone has different opinions, and so by hearing others it encourages you to share your viewpoint.
The final step to any revision is practice, practice, practice! Just remember, writing essays should never be the first thing you do after studying your text, but should be the product of weeks of hard work. At this stage of the process you should have ideas shared from your friends, vocabulary relevant to the text, multiple quotes to embed and background knowledge! It makes the learning process so much simpler and easier to learn - relieving you from a tonne of stress as you approach your SAC date!
The Crucible and Year of Wonders 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.
The events of The Crucible begin with a group of young girls from Salem being discovered dancing and playing at witchcraft with Tituba, the slave of the town’s religious leader Reverend Parris. When his daughter Betty falls ill as a result, they and others seek to deflect blame away from themselves and simultaneously exact revenge against those they feel have wronged them. To do this, they are led by Parris’ niece Abigail Williams to begin a spree of accusations of witchcraft which result in the hangings of many of the other townspeople, including John Proctor, with whom Abigail once had an affair. For a full detailed guide on The Crucible as a solo text, head over to our The Crucible Study Guide.
Plague strikes a small, isolated Derbyshire village called Eyam in 1666 when it is brought there by a tailor carrying a bolt of infected cloth from London. The village’s population is decimated as a result, and in the resulting Year of Wonders shows her burgeoning strength as a healer and ultimately her escape at the conclusion of the novel to a new life.
3. Character analysis
Year of Wonders
4. Sample paragraphs
Prompt: How do The Crucible and Year of Wonders explore the role of Christianity in their respective communities?
In both The Crucible and Year of Wonders, the Christian faith is a central tenet of the lives of all characters, as both texts tell the story of strongly religious communities. It also acts as a strong driver of the conflict which occurs in both cases, but in quite distinct ways, and propels the action and development of many characters.
While it is not the root of the troubles that develop throughout the courses of the texts, religion and the need to adhere to a belief system are central to their propagation and ultimate resolution. In Year of Wonders, the cause of the plague is as simple as the arrival of a disease carrier in Eyam, but is framed as a ‘trial’ sent by God for the villagers to face. Likewise the scourge of accusations of witchcraft that befalls Salem is simply a result of people straying outside the bounds of good behaviour dictated by their community, but is instead seen as an outbreak of witchcraft and consorting with Satan. As such religion becomes the lens through which both crises are viewed, and is used to try to explain and resolve them. Before the advent of more modern scientific practices, one of the only ways that inexplicable events such as outbreaks of infectious disease or mass hysteria could be understood and tamed was to paint them as either benign or malignant spiritual acts. This allowed people to lay the blame not at their own doors, but at that of something beyond them; for the people of Eyam, something which in truth was a chance epidemiologic event could be seen as ‘an opportunity that He offers to very few upon this Earth’. Because in both Eyam and Salem faith was already a familiar, stalwart part of everyday life, framing their respective disasters as acts of God or the Devil took away some of their fear, as they chose to see a terrible thing as part of something they had known since infancy.
Religion is far more than part of the everyday life and prayer of the common people of Year of Wonders and The Crucible; it is the foundation of their moral code and their way of explaining events which are frightening and make no sense. It also acts as a driving force within individuals as well as communities, deciding one way or another their actions and ultimately their characters.
Both texts are rich narratives on their own, but they are also strongly grounded in historical events that you may not have studied in great depth and which significantly influence the plot and characters’ actions – this is especially relevant when discussing the religion portrayed in the texts. You may miss many of the authors’ intended messages if you’re not aware of the full context of the books. Here are some ideas in this area that you might want to research:
The Crucible also has a very interesting place in modern history as Arthur Miller’s comment on the rampant McCarthyism of 1950s America. Do some research on Miller’s life and views (the introduction or foreword of your novel might have some useful hints).
Also note that The Crucible is a play whereas Year of Wonders is a novel; how does each format uphold or reveal the author’s thoughts and ideas? How does the format of the text affect its other features (narrative, characters, voice etc.)?
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