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A+ Student Essay: The Role of Storytelling in Things Fall Apart
Within the complex oral culture of the Igbo, elaborate storytelling is a prized art form as well as a crucial social tool. Children learn their families’ history through their mothers’ fireside tales, and clan members absorb communal values through stories told over and over again at clan gatherings. Stories bind the Igbo people as a community, but in the hands of other, alien tellers, stories are the very things that destroy the clan and its beliefs.
Read more about the art of storytelling in Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey .
For the Igbo, the storytellers that attract you and the stories that resonate for you indicate your values. Nwoye, for example, prefers to listen to his mother’s stories rather than his father’s, setting him apart from the other Igbo men. Later, Nwoye’s love of the Christians’ hymns and simple stories compel him to reject his own clan and convert, one of the first incidents of the clan’s disintegration. Nwoye is lured away from Igbo culture and toward Christianity by the affecting quality of the missionaries’ songs and tales, which speak to him more powerfully than the stories he grew up with. By choosing new stories to believe in, Nwoye in effect chooses a new society to belong to.
The falling apart of the Igbo community can be traced to the fact that the Igbo consider the white people to be mere “fairy-tales.” Rather than appreciating accounts of the Europeans’ approach as factual reports, the news of their own imminent colonization strikes the Igbo as an incredible story. As the clan elders of Mbanta confer, one claims that, though they heard “stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas, no one thought the stories were true.” Uchendu, Okonkwo’s thoughtful uncle, responds, “There is no story that is not true.”
The Igbo tell stories to order their world and to ascribe meaning to certain events. But the story of the white people is not a story they have woven, whose meanings they can control. Most of the Igbo people cannot incorporate the fantastical tale of the Europeans into their worldview because it lies so far outside their frame of reference. But by failing to appreciate Uchendu’s philosophy that every story contains some truth, the Igbo fail to realize that their authority to write their own stories—in essence, to control their own destinies—has become threatened by the colonizers.
The final downfall of the Igbo people is heralded by another story—a story about them, but one that is narrated by an outsider. At the close of the novel, the Commissioner decides that he will record his own story of the Igbo. However, he declares that he must be “firm in leaving out superfluous details.” There is no room for artful, Igbo-like rhetoric in his tale of conquest. The narrative the Commissioner envisions is one that would make for “interesting reading,” that is, a written rather than oral story, which entertains rather than communicates values and customs. The Commissioner’s writing sounds the death knell for the Igbo culture, its rejection of the Igbo’s prized oral narration and elaborate rhetoric symbolizing the European conquering of Africa and subsequent uprooting of its traditions.
The Commissioner’s decision to become a writer reflects Achebe’s ambiguous relationship to the events and culture he describes in Things Fall Apart . With this novel, the Nigerian Achebe straddles the two opposing modes of storytelling he depicts within the plot, employing both the looping, repetitive style of the Igbo’s oral culture as well as the written English of the Europeans. Just as the Commissioner’s decision to write down the Igbo story signals the conclusion of that story, Achebe’s Westernized version of the Igbo history signifies the end of their traditional culture.
Things Fall Apart SparkNotes Literature Guide
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Things Fall Apart Essays
Things Fall Apart
interesting and help explain the theme and plot. Without a strong list of characters a book becomes dull. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart the characters help explain the lost Ibo culture, from strong to lazy, to women and a sacrifice to prevent war. The main character sets up the plot of a book, through their life and point of view the story is told. The main character in Things Fall Apart is a strong and culture hearted man named Okonkwo. He can be described as a tragic hero from his journey and life
Okonkwo is a tragic hero in "Things Fall Apart" Question ( 2 ): Discuss Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe 's “Things Fall Apart” is a tragic hero. Answer: In Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart” Okonkwo is a tragic hero. Aristotle’s Poetics defines a Tragic Hero as a good man of high status who displays a tragic flaw ‘hamartia’ and experiences a dramatic reversal ‘peripeteia’, as well as an intense moment of recognition ‘anagnorisis’. Okonkwo is a leader and hardworking member of the Igbo community
differently by two different readers? Things Fall Apart Language and Literature Things fall apart is a novel written by Chinua Achebe. It is set during the late 19th, early 20th century in a small village named Umuofia situated in Nigeria. This time period is important because it was a period in colonial history when the British were increasing their influence economic, cultural, and political influence in Africa. The novel deals with the rise and fall of Okonkwo, a man from the village of
Based off the book Things Fall Apart, the videos we watched in class, and the poem “The White Man’s Burden”, the white man’s burden of spreading Christianity was more harmful than helpful. In both the book and the film the African Tribes were already fully functional as a whole. They had systems in place such as forms of government, art, social systems, and economic systems. After the whites came to convert them, things started to fall apart and become chaotic. As we saw in the videos, there were
The author of “The Women of Things Fall Apart, Speaking from a Different Perspective: Chimamanda Adichie’s Headstrong Storytellers,” Anene Ejikeme, claims that Chinua Achebe successfully introduces Ibo culture to a Western audience; however, even Achebe would agree that there cannot just be one story to represent such a complex society, and Ejikeme argues that Things Fall Apart is too centered upon the male’s reaction to English powers. Therefore, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Headstrong Historians”
moment it opens with W.B. Yeats’s haunting poem, pieces are being chipped away and fall silently to the dust. However, things do not truly fall apart until the final act and freezing conclusion. Although the storytelling and plot is very straightforward, (usually erring on the blunt side of the rhetorical spectrum) the true genius of the book lies in its subtleties. By the end of the story things have fallen apart for Okonkwo and his people, but it's not until that ending that the reader can put
Things fall apart
Reflection on the novel Things Fall Apart The Idea of Culture in Things Fall Apart The novel Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe is a story about personal beliefs, customs and also about conflict. There is struggle between family and within culture and it also deals with the concept of culture and the notion of the values and traditions within a culture. The word culture is Latin and means to cultivate. To cultivate has several meanings; it can mean to plow, fertilize, raise and plant, to
Society (Things Fall Apart) Women are often thought of as the weaker, more vulnerable of the two sexes. Thus, women’s roles in literature are often subdued and subordinate. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, women are repressed by an entrenched structure of the social repression. Women suffer great losses in this novel but, also in certain circumstances, hold tremendous power. Achebe provides progressively changing attitudes towards women’s role. At first glance, the women in Things Fall Apart may
English oral presentation Cultural strengths of the Ibo society before the invasion of the colons. The novel "Things fall apart" by Chinua Achebe describes the social and cultural traits of a culture based on the principles of labor and masculinity, conformity and kinship and finally on solid juridical system. The worth of a man was measured by his strength and the amount of work he could accomplish and how efficiently feed his family, the concepts of masculinity is strictly related with
Around the late 1800s, African communities resisted against the attempts to colonize their countries and force foreign domination . In Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, colonizers come to the villages of Umuofia and Mbanta. The title is a reflection of the effect of colonialism on the novel’s protagonist, Okonkwo. He fights to stop the colonizers from taking control of his village. Throughout the novel, he struggles to not become lazy, like his father, and works desperately to keep his the
Okonkwo Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a novel about a man in West Africa. It tells about his triumphs and trial ultimately leading to his demise. It explains how the “white man” came into his country and took over. It show you how the “white man” mad things fall apart. Okonkwo was a very large and tall man. He had big bushy eyebrows and a huge nose. As stated in Things Fall Apart, “He was tall and huge, and his bushy eyebrows and wide nose gave him a very severe look (3-4).” He was extremely
which have gradually faded away over time. In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, an African society is introduced to Western culture and faces a strong clash between those who want to keep the tribe’s tradition and those who want to change to adapt to the new customs. If this text would have been written in a different time of place, there would be a significant amount of changes in the way the plot unravels. If Things Fall Apart had been written in the 1490s with Native American tribes
Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe, highlights the fight between colonialism and traditional societies. The protagonist Okonkwo is a man of high status throughout the nine villages and even beyond due to his many achievements, such as gaining fame as a young person when he defeated the undefeatable, a wrestler nicknamed “the cat”. He is strong and hard-working, unlike his father, Unoka, who has a tainted legacy of being effeminate and cowardly. Unoka died and left many unpaid debts, so
someones personality and life. I wouldn’t say they define us but they shift and mold who we are going to be when we grow up. If you strip away the core of traditions or activities that were considered normal, it could really affect someone. In Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo is a perfect example of this theory. He was torn that Missionaries came into Umofia while he was gone and changed everything. Okonkwo felt betrayed by how much change took toll in Umofia. He isn’t used to the new rules and regulars given
Culture plays an important role in society, it is what makes a people unique. In the book Things Fall Apart, author Chinua Achebe wrote the book using proverbs and traditions of the Ibo to reveal the uniqueness and wisdom of the culture, which ends up getting interfered with another culture. Throughout the book, proverbs are used to illustrate the wisdom of the Ibo people. On page 19, a man says, “We shall all live. We shall pray for life, children, a good harvest and happiness... let the kite
Book Report Things Fall Apart, the first book of the African Trilogy, is written by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. The classic narrative depicts Africa’s interactions with Europe as Europe begins to have an influence on the country (culture, religion, etc.) Throughout the story the reader will peruse about Okonkwo’s, the protagonist, fictional encounters. Okonkwo is the beloved leader of the Igbo community of Umuofia in eastern Nigeria. Throughout the book there is a reoccuring theme that Okonkwo
Things Fall Apart, written by Chinua Achebe was set in pre-colonial Nigeria during the constant battle against the way the country was run. The main character Okonkwo, was very famous in the surrounding village for being a wrestling champion. In the story, Okonkwo was portrayed as a hard-working, and strived to show no weakness like his father, Unoka. His father, has tainted Okonkwo’s family as being effeminate. The bad reputation of Okonkwo’s family caused him to be diligent in building his wealth
In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe tells a story set during the British colonialism of Nigeria in the late 19th century. Of the descriptions that Achebe makes, one of the most significant is the British District Court officers and the egwugwu. There are several superficial similarities between the District Court officers and the egwugwu. These similarities include their relationship with the people of the culture. The egwugwu are masqueraders who impersonate the gods of the Igbo
The word hero means a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. In the book “Things Fall Apart “ by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is a hard-working leader in the village of Umuofia during the time of British colonialism of Nigeria. He is portrayed as a tragic hero because he allows inner and outside forces to contribute to his downfall and gains the sympathy from the reader. Okonkwo allowed his inner and outside forces to contribute to his downfall
A novel extremely fascinating yet exceptionally ambiguous. Things Fall Apart is a novel by Chinua Achebe that takes place in Nigeria, Africa where the story is mainly about how the main character’s life is falling apart. Therefore, if there were two different readers are someone from the African Culture and someone from the American culture reading it in modern time they would interpret the novel differently. In the novel the text could be interpreted differently by two different readers through
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Things Fall Apart Essays
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Cultural tension has always been around, whether people like it or not. The strain might be caused by race, religion or economics, but in the end it always leads to things falling apart. Cultural tensions arise in Chinua Achebe’s novel, when the European missionaries start settling into Africa in hopes to convert the Ibo people to Christianity. In Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart the cultural tension between the Ibo people and new European settlers causes abounding problems for Okonkwo our main character witch include family disputes and internal inquiring’s. As missionaries came to settle were Okonkwo lives and spread their religion, Okonkwo is faced to realize that his eldest son Nwoye is not like him. Seeking to be accepted Nwoye converts to Christinaity and moves back to Umuofia where his father has been exiled for seven years. While Okonkwo may seem like he does not care that his son has left him we later learn that Okonkwo did care enough to feel sorrow for his departure, but not enough to keep it for long. As Okonkwo’s story continued he says he has, “overcome his sorrow. He had five other sons and he would bring them up in the way of the clan” (161). This shows that although Okonkwo may feel some discomfort in the idea of losing his son to the…
Chinua Achebe’s View on a Patriarchal Society Chinua Achebe's novel, Things Fall Apart shows feminism from the male perspective. In the Igbo society, women typically take on the role of a housewife, which involves, cooking, cleaning, and anything that will benefit the man in the house. This was the standard way of life for a while in many places throughout the world, including in America. While Chinua Achebe illustrates the secondary role for women in a patriarchal society, nevertheless he…
What To Do When ‘Things Fall Apart’ Just as the title of the novel suggests Okonkwo's downfall is caused by his inability to follow the morals of his culture and to adapt to colonization. Things Fall Apart , a historical fiction novel by Chinua Achebe, takes place in Nigeria around the turn of the 19th century which is extremely important; it means Okonkwo’s life is in both, the pre- and post-European era. This allows Achebe to give Okonkwo a more complex, old fashioned, and unique…
In the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe the role of women is mostly portrayed as a negative one because in the novel the women do not get treated the same way as men, the women get beat, and the women in the book are seen as property and not as human beings, which is what they are. The women in things fall apart play a major role in the novel because without the women the men would never be anything because in order to be a fascinating leader you need to have many wives, (although that…
opposite of his lazy father, Unoka. Okonkwo is revealed to have a great work ethic and a short temper. Agbala, the goddess of the earth, Nwoye, Okonkwo’s son, and Ikemefuna, Okonkwo’s ill-fated tribute son are all introduced in the beginning of Things Fall Apart. The Week of Peace is celebrated every year in Umuofia. The harming of a tribe member by another is forbidden during the Week of Peace. Okonkwo disobeys this rule by beating his wife which brings about the wrath of Chielo, the priestess…
Why are traditions so important to a culture? Do the traditions of any society do more harm than good or vice versa? Things Fall Apart is a fiction novel written by Chinua Achebe in 1965. He writes about Okonkwo a wealthy and respected warrior who sees his biological son Nwoye just like his failure of a father Unoka. He soon takes in Ikemefuna a 15-year-old boy and sees in the son who will not disappoint him. When a time comes that Ikemefuna must die because of the oracles Okonkwo makes the boy…
In the novel Things Fall Apart we’re presented with the character of Unoka, who lived in a lower Nigerian tribe that is part of a nine-section connected village, Iguedo. Unoka can be described as a free spirit someone who lived their life listening to the wind and being one with nature a trait that to many seemed weak. Unoka was a man who could not stand the sight of blood making him an awful warrior, a very much respected role in his community. He was inconsistent borrowing and losing money,…
Alyssa Kondash Things fall apart 11/15/15 Things fall apart, is the story of an Ibo village called Umuofia, it takes place around the late 1800’s in Africa. The story was written with eastern views in mind, some of our western views are considered shameful to them. Okonkwo, the main character was one of the most well known and respected men in the village of Umuofia known for his strength and valor. Also being well known for having many titles, the more titles you have the more successful and…
In his insightful critique, “The Plight of a Hero in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,” Patrick Nnoromele reevaluates the demise of protagonist Okonkwo, widely perceived as a repercussion of his tragic flaw: the abiding fear of resembling his effeminate and disreputable father. However, Nnoromele alternatively suggests that Okonkwo’s suicide was not the manifestation of weakness and defeat, but rather a gallant act according to the Igbo ideals. To justify this claim, the critic characterizes a hero in…
How can an author use a fictional character to make a cultural statement? Chinua Achebe in his novel Things Fall Apart answers this question by telling a story of British colonization through an African point of view. In this work of historical fiction, Okonkwo wants the people of Umuofia to fight against the British, but instead many of the people of Umuofia follow the new ideas the British bring such as Christianity. Then Okonkwo loses hope that his people, so then Okonkwo commits suicide by…
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Essays on Things Fall Apart
Things fall apart: change vs tradition, the portrayal of women in things fall apart, repression and tragedy in achebe’s things fall apart, how okonkwo’s outward conformity hides his personal questioning in things fall apart, the main aims of the author in "things fall apart", okonkwo's polarized concepts of femininity and masculinity in things fall apart, the importance of adapting to changes in "things fall apart" by chinua achebe, the use of proverbs in things fall apart by chinua achebe, achebe's goal to increase global comprehension of african culture through things fall apart, critique of the effect of western imperialism on the third world in things fall apart, the effects of colonialism on igbo society in things fall apart and the joys of motherhood, the allegory of the title things fall apart, triumph and tragedy: the exploration of a tragic hero and the consequences of others that contribute to the overall tragic vision of the peace "things fall apart", things fall apart and purple hibiscus: female sabotage in an african setting, the use of proverbs in chinua achebe’s novel, language as a bridge to understanding in things fall apart, a novel by chinua achebe, how chinua achebe uses settings in his "things fall apart", impacts of post-colonialism in things fall apart, surfacing, and fire on the mountain, things fall apart: sexism in the igbo culture, the importance of family in white teeth, disgrace and things fall apart, theme of parental conflict in purple hibiscus and things fall apart, evaluation of the role of okonkwo as illustrated in achebe's things fall apart, analysis of okonkwo as a tragic hero, comparison of "heart of darkness" and "things fall apart", the portrayals of imperialism in "things fall apart" and "heart of darkness", the use of ethos, logos and pathos in the book "things fall apart" by chinua achebe, comparative analysis of "heart of darkness" versus "things fall apart", chinua achebe and joseph boyden on the colonialism process, nigeria vs western capitalist society as potrayed in things fall apart and the joys of motherhood, one hundred years of solitude and things fall apart: a comparative literary study, feeling stressed about your essay.
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1958, Chinua Achebe
Novel; Allegorical, historical fiction
Ezinma, Nwoye, Ikemefuna, Okonkwo, Mr. Brown
The European invasion and earlier colonial accounts of African history.
Colonialism, culture, family, friendship, life, struggle, politics, a cultural clash, Igbo society
While the African culture is often ignored, this particular book speaks directly about life in the Igbo society. It also tells an insider story of the African experience that becomes clear for those people who are not directly involved. It tells about the spiritual history of African people and makes a cultural aspect that is often ignored even through the lens of colonial background.
This complex, yet profound novel tells us a story of Okonkwo, a wrestling champion belonging to the Igbo community. The novel takes place among the fictional clan where we learn about family life, history of the main character, custom, society, and the usual challenges. The third part of the book deals with the Christian missionaries and the European colonialism.
The title of the book has been taken from a poem called "The Second Coming", which has been penned by W.B. Yeats. Achebe's goal has been to let the readers learn more about the African society that has been dynamic and vivid, yet completely different from the Western society. The book shows Africa as a modern and well-developed society. The "Things Fall Apart" manuscript has been lost for months until it has finally been found for publishing. Achebe has been influenced by the style of Charles Dickens. The book has given a start for the African literature all over the world. Achebe's work has helped to break down numerous stereotypes about the African society and the tribes.
“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.” “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.” “If you don't like my story, write your own” “Then listen to me,' he said and cleared his throat. 'It's true that a child belongs to its father. But when a father beats his child, it seeks sympathy in its mother's hut. A man belongs to his fatherland when things are good and life is sweet. But when there is sorrow and bitterness he finds refuge in his motherland. Your mother is there to protect you. She is buried there. And that is why we say that mother is supreme. Is it right that you, Okonkwo, should bring your mother a heavy face and refuse to be comforted? Be careful or you may displease the dead. Your duty is to comfort your wives and children and take them back to your fatherland after seven years. But if you allow sorrow to weigh you down and kill you, they will all die in exile.” “Age was respected among his people, but achievement was revered. As the elders said, if a child washed his hands he could eat with kings.”
The most important lesson that this book brings and a reason why it is essential for us is the socio-cultural clash that takes place as the colonial times arrive. We are given an opportunity to compare the things that were usual for Igbo community and the changes that immediately took place, mostly against a person's will.
It is an important topic that helps us to write about the culture, society, our background, history, and the changes that we have to endure when the new changes come. The book is a great example of how the old friendships and tradition vs change instantly become broken when the cultural pressure comes up. It is also a great novel that tells us about our faith and the rule of power.
Okonkwo is an element or a symbol of peripeteia or a dramatic reversal. We can follow Okonkwo's path from being a man of respect to becoming an outcast in his tribe (clan). The tragedy of his death (suicide) is what represents the downfall.
1. Rhoads, D. A. (1993). Culture in Chinua Achebe's Things fall apart. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/african-studies-review/article/abs/culture-in-chinua-achebes-things-fall-apart/D123B160B650B9BE84E6E85ACF032B9A African Studies Review, 36(2), 61-72. 2. Caldwell, R. (2005). Things fall apart? Discourses on agency and change in organizations. Human relations, 58(1), 83-114. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0018726705050937?journalCode=huma) 3. Ikuenobe, P. (2006). The idea of personhood in Chinua Achebe’s Things fall apart. Philosophia Africana, 9(2), 117-131. (https://www.pdcnet.org/philafricana/content/philafricana_2006_0009_0002_0117_0131) 4. Parmentier, M. A., & Fischer, E. (2015). Things fall apart: The dynamics of brand audience dissipation. Journal of Consumer Research, 41(5), 1228-1251. (https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article/41/5/1228/2962093) 5. Nnoromele, P. C. (2000). The Plight of a Hero in Achebe s" Things Fall Apart". College Literature, 27(2), 146-156. (https://www.jstor.org/stable/25112519) 6. Shiner, M., Scourfield, J., Fincham, B., & Langer, S. (2009). When things fall apart: Gender and suicide across the life-course. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953609003670 Social Science & Medicine, 69(5), 738-746. 7. Ten Kortenaar, N. (1991). How the centre is made to hold in Things Fall Apart. ESC: English Studies in Canada, 17(3), 319-336. (https://muse.jhu.edu/article/694908) 8. McCormick, G. H., Horton, S. B., & Harrison, L. A. (2007). Things Fall Apart: the endgame dynamics of internal wars. Third World Quarterly, 28(2), 321-367. (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436590601153721)
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4. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown
Things Fall Apart 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 .
Things Fall Apart is set in a fictional group of Igbo villages called Umuofia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The first half of the novel is dedicated to an almost anthropological depiction of Igbo village life and culture through following the life of the protagonist Okonkwo . Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive in the nine villages and beyond. He has dedicated his life to achieving status and proving his strength to avoid becoming like his father Unoka – a lazy, improvident, but gentle man. Weakness is Okonkwo’s greatest fear. After men in another village kill a woman from Umuofia, a boy named Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as compensation and lives in Okonkwo’s compound until the Gods decide his fate. Ikemefuna quickly becomes part of Okonkwo’s family; he is like a brother to Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and is secretly loved by Okonkwo as well. Over the next three years, the novel follows Okonkwo’s family through harvest seasons, religious festivals, cultural rituals, and domestic disputes. Okonkwo is shown to be more aggressive than other Igbo men and is continually criticized and rebuked by the village for his violence and temper . When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decides that Ikemefuna must be killed, Okonkwo is warned by a respected elder to have no hand in the boy’s death because Ikemefuna calls him ‘father’. However, afraid of being thought weak, when Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo in hope of protection, Okonkwo delivers the fatal blow. Ikemefuna’s brutal death deeply distresses Nwoye who becomes afraid of his father.
At the end of Part One, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman at a funeral after his faulty gun explodes and is exiled to his motherland, Mbanta. During his exile, British missionaries arrive in Mbanta and establish a church. Nwoye, disillusioned with his own culture and Gods after Ikemefuna’s death, is attracted to Christianity and is an early convert . This is a heartbreaking disappointment to Okonkwo. When Okonkwo and his family return from exile after seven years they find that the missionaries and colonial governors have established Umuofia as the center of their new colonial government . Clashes of culture and morality occur, and as the British make the Igbo more dependent on them through introducing trade and formal education, the Igbo way of life is continually undermined . When a Christian convert unmasks an egwugwu during a tribal ritual, a sin amounting to the death of an ancestral spirit, the egwugwu burn down the village church. The men who destroyed the church are arrested and humiliated by the District Commissioner, and Okonkwo beheads a court messenger at a village council in rebellion. When none of his clansmen rise with him against the British, Okonkwo realizes his culture and way of life is lost and commits suicide in despair. Suicide is a crime against the Earth Goddess, Ani , so Okonkwo is left to rot above ground in the Evil Forest, like his father Unoka – a shameful fate he spent his life desperate to avoid. The final paragraph, written from the perspective of the District Commissioner, reduces Okonkwo’s life to a single sentence about his death in his planned book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of The Lower Niger . Achebe has filled an entire novel with evidence of the complexity and sophistication of Okonkwo’s individual and social life and the District Commissioner’s casual dismissal and belittling of him causes us to flinch with horror and dismay. This is a metaphor for the reduction of Igbo culture in the eyes of its colonizers.
The title gives away the plot of the novel and anticipates the collapse of Okonkwo and his society. Things Fall Apart is about the connection between the tragic downfall of Okonkwo , who fate and temperamental weakness combine to destroy, and the destruction of his culture and society as the Igbo way of life is assailed by forces they do not understand and are unprepared to face .
A Full and Fair Representation of Ibo Traditional Life
The first part of the novel presents the traditional world of the Ibo with specificity and vibrancy . The imbedded descriptions of the patterns of interaction, daily routines and seasonal rituals of Ibo life creates an overwhelming impression of community and shared culture. We see the established system of values which regulates collective life and how closely related this is to natural cycles and environments. The Ibo’s moral values are contained in sayings and stories, rituals and festivals. Achebe depicts a comprehensive and sustaining social, spiritual, economic, agricultural, and legal order. (Chapters to consider: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 19)
While Ibo society is marked by the internal coherence of its organization and the poetry of its rituals, this coherence is partially formed by the repression of the individual and the inflexibility of social norms. Achebe shows the violence, dehumanization, and discrimination vulnerable groups experience in Umuofia due to the rigid adherence to tradition and superstition. This includes the customary abandonment of newborn twins, the sacrificial murder of Ikemefuna in the name of justice, and the discriminatory caste structure that denies inclusion to the osu (Chapters 7, 18).
Obierika’s questioning of the stern logic of some customs suggests that many laws are enacted from a sense of duty and inevitability rather than from a firm conviction in their justice or efficacy (Chapter 13). The cultural demand for conformity places a huge moral and psychological burden on individuals who must reckon with the sometimes heartless will of the gods . This internal tension is epitomized in the character of Okonkwo, discussed below.
Clash of Cultures
When the Ibo are confronted with rival institutions a mirror is held up to their society. Fall Apart honestly considers and reflects on Ibo practices, customs, values, and beliefs. The novel is a frank articulation of the nature of the African past and its relevance to the present and future . Achebe wants to illuminate Ibo culture to dispense with lingering colonial prejudices, but he is not sentimental or nostalgic for the past. Instead he is shifting through it to identify the valuable aspects of Ibo culture to bring into the future and help define Nigeria’s post-independence identity .
Achebe recognises that the colonial encounter which led, swiftly and seemingly inevitably, to the disintegration of Ibo culture revealed its profound weaknesses. Achebe suggests that with the arrival and contrast against another culture, a cultural reckoning was inevitable for the Ibo. However, cultural reckoning and revaluation is not the same thing as destruction and erasure . The British colonialists were a hostile force seeking cultural domination. By pointing out some of the weaknesses of the Ibo tradition, Achebe in no way excuses or justifies colonial domination or diminishes the pain and tragedy of the cultural erasure that occurred.
The anti-colonial position and purpose of the novel is powerfully clear. Achebe depicts the process of colonial initial establishment and the resultant cultural suspension of Ibo society. The British colonizers believed in their inherent cultural superiority and arrived in Umuofia with the intention to “bring civilization” (p.151) to Africa. They wanted to achieve full control by supplanting Ibo religion and culture with their own.
The British arrived quietly and non-confrontationally with their religion and the clans allow them to stay, misinterpreting their silence as peaceability . An Ibo proverb warns that there is danger in silence and nothing to fear from someone who reveals their motivations (Chapter 15). Obierika recognizes how the white man’s strategy disguised their intentions and gave them the freedom to grow and fortify. He explains the political consequences for the clan, now divided by the new religion, they can no longer act as one (Chapter 20). Without strength in unity, the Ibo are vulnerable to further encroachment of British control in their other institutions .
As only a small number of Ibo initially converted to Christianity, the church was only able to establish itself firmly in the villages because of the Ibo’s religious tolerance (Chapter 2, 22). Mr Brown learns about Ibo religion and his willful blindness to its complexity shows how the colonizers justified their colonial rule and imposition through labelling their subjects ‘primitive’ . Mr Brown understands that Christianity held no appeal for people well integrated in Ibo society, concluding that “a frontal attack on it would not succeed” (p.132) and thus introduces education as a new method of cultural displacement and erasure . Additionally, trade also increased the Ibo’s dependence on the introduced economy (Chapter 21).
From the very first introduction of the colonizers we understand that violence and fear were tools of oppression and dominance , forcing the Ibo to submit and keeping them unresisting (Chapter 15, 20, 23). Not only do the British impose foreign rule on the Ibo and judge them by standards they do not recognize, the District Commissioner’s personal brand of ‘justice’ is corrupt and hypocritical. When the elders are arbitrarily and falsely imprisoned, he tells them that what they have done “must not happen in the dominion of our queen” (p.141), combining personal corruption with a state apparatus of paternalism, hegemony, and occupation (Chapter 20, 23).
Dogmatic zealot, Reverend Smith, encourages fanaticism in his converts, motivating them to insult and humiliate the clan (Chapter 22). Under Reverend Smith’s wrathful guidance, the colonial agenda becomes transparently aggressive . The grief and pathos of the Ibo’s situation and collective trauma is displayed evocatively in the final episodes as Achebe depicts this painful moment of acute crisis (Chapter 22, 23, 24, 25).
A recurring thematic question in Things Fall Apart is to what degree the collapse of the Ibo and the downfall of Okonkwo are due to their own internal weaknesses or the whims of a pernicious fate .
The Ibo understand fate to be in a dynamic and somewhat ambiguous relationship with personal agency . This is evident in their proverb “when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (p.20) which acknowledges and privileges the role of an individual’s choices in shaping their destiny (Chapter 4). The saying “as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him” (p.135) also relates this idea – fate is a response to one’s behaviour. Okonkwo is warned that killing Ikemefuna, his surrogate son, is the “kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families” (p.49).This demonstrates the clan’s belief that the goddess’s (or fate’s) punishments are not arbitrary but the result of individual action (Chapter 8).
Although there is an element of chance in Okonkwo’s gun accidentally exploding and killing someone, his exile carries the suggestion of just comeuppance in its echo of the guns failure to shoot when purposely aimed at Ekwefi (Chapter 5, 13). Likewise, although the arrival of the Christians was unexpected and chanced, Nwoye’s rejection of his father is traceable directly to Okonkwo’s choice to kill Ikemefuna (Chapter 7). The desertion of people injured by Ibo traditions is a blow to the clan that feels equally earned (Chapters 16, 17, 18).
After his exile, Okonkwo believes his chi has turned against him (Chapter 14). He renunciates the wisdom of his elders by denying the active role he had in directing the course of events. His refusal to reflect on the connection between his actions and punishment reflect his fatal flaws: hubris and willful lack of self-knowledge. By refusing to self-analyze and self-correct, Okonkwo loses the opportunity of redemption. Comparably, the Ibo, despite believing in a relationship between action and fate, do not reflect on the cause of their kinsmen’s desertion to Christianity. Achebe provides numerous examples of the clan’s dogma and brutal traditions denying people such as Ikemefuna or twins control over their lives (Chapter 2, 7). It was the shortcomings of the Ibo social and religious order that made members susceptible to the attraction of a competing value system with a more articulated concept of individuality. The Ibo’s cultural lack of self-apprehension meant they could not adjust their traditions to save themselves .
However, just as Achebe shows how individuals in the clan are at the mercy of rigid overarching authority, he shows how the fateful forces of history constrain human agency . The British’s hostile intention to erase and supplant the Ibo way of life is a punishment greater than the Ibo deserve and a force stronger than they can rise to. In his description of the grief and trauma of colonial imposition, Achebe demonstrates his compassion and sorrow for the Ibo as they faced the sweeping and unforgiving forces of change in their moment of historical crisis .
Sample Essay Topics
1. "Things Fall Apart demonstrates how the values and customs of a society help us to deal with the familiar but not with change." Discuss.
2. "Traditional ideas of honour dominate Okonkwo's life and finally they destroy him." Discuss.
3. "Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories his mother used to tell." How does Achebe explore masculinity in Things Fall Apart ?
Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Things Fall Apart Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!
A+ Essay Topic Breakdown
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 .
Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:
Step 1: A nalyse
Step 2: B rainstorm
Step 3: C reate a Plan
Let's look at an essay prompt in this video below:
In Things Fall Apart , women suffer the most and are victimised by men. Discuss.
Whenever you are breaking a prompt down. Ask yourself...
- What are the key words/ ideas that you need to address?
- Which theme is the prompt referring to?
- Do you agree with prompt? Or do you disagree with it?
The keywords of this prompt would be women, suffer,, victimised and men. The prompt requires us to address the role of women in the text and the ways in which they suffer in a society that is pervaded by patriarchal values. It also asks us, ‘Who is to blame?’ Are men solely responsible for the maltreatment or are there other causes to their suffering? The word ‘most’ in this prompt is actually there to give us a bit of room for discussion. Yes, women do suffer, but do they suffer the most? Or do men suffer as well?
Now that we’ve thought about the prompt, we can move on to the second step of the THINK part of the THINK and EXECUTE technique. To find out more about this unique strategy, I’d recommend downloading a free sample of our How to Write a Killer Text Response eBook!
Now, before we write our ideas in beautiful topic sentences, it’s often easier to simplify everything first. One way to do this is to work out whether the paragraph agrees or disagrees with the prompt at hand. We could follow this structure…
Yes, the prompt is true because X Yes, another reason it is true is X While it is true, it is limited by X
By elucidating the ways in which women are seen as inferior to their male counterparts, the writer establishes his critique on a society that victimises and oppresses women. From the outset of the book, Okonkwo is characterised as a violent man who ‘rules his household with a heavy hand’, placing his wives in perpetual fear. The frequent beating and violence fortifies the portrayal of him as a man who is governed by his hatred of ‘gentility and idleness’, further showing the terror that his wives are forced to be living in.
"Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"
He also sees his wife’s mere act of questioning as disrespect, as evidenced through the ways in which he implies that she is overstepping her role.
“There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders"
This simile also shows how women are often marginalised and treated as outcasts, underlining the overarching yearning for social justice throughout the text. This pitiful image of women looking ‘on from the fringe’ also helps Achebe relay his criticism of gender double standards and the unfairness that Igbo women are forced to live with. Achebe’s sympathy for women’s suffering and condemnation of men’s mistreatment towards are also evident through his depiction of a society that normalises misogyny.
‘His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops… Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crops’
The personification of the crops, in particular, the men’s crops, the ‘yam’, being the ‘king of crops’ establishes this gender hierarchy in yet another way. More specifically, the position of men in the social hierarchy is highlighted and the negative connotation attached to the ‘women’s crops’ undermine their hard work, rendering it in significant. While women are the main victims of Igbo gendered prejudice, Achebe does not disregard the undue burden that societal expectations impose on men.
‘He was afraid of being thought weak.’
Achebe explores the burdens of unrealistic expectations that are placed on both men and women. This quote exemplifies societal expectations on men to be strong, powerful and fearless leaders who never show emotions. Achebe’s sympathies regarding these expectations show us that this is an important critique in Things Fall Apart that we can analyse.
If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Things Fall Apart: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.
The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response
How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide
How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss
How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+
5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion
With contributions from Lindsey Dang.
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The Erratics 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 .
Setting is a literary element that refers to the context of where a story takes place, usually alluding to the time and location. Your expectations of a story that takes place in Victorian England would differ greatly from a story set in late 2000s Australia, showing us that the historical, social and geographical aspects of the setting shape the meaning of the text.
In the memoir The Erratics, the setting plays a vital role in Vicki Laveau-Harvie's storytelling. From the beginning of the novel, Laveau-Harvie uses both the title and prologue to foreground the importance of the Okotoks Erratic (a geographical phenomenon in Alberta, Canada) to establish the role that place and belonging have played in her life. Further reinforcing the importance of the setting, the memoir’s narrative follows Laveau-Harvie’s experience flying back to Alberta, Canada (her hometown), after having moved to and started a new life in Australia.
Why Focus on Setting When Writing a Text Response?
The setting can be useful evidence to have in your repertoire as it helps you show that you not only have an understanding of the ideas of the text but also how those ideas are constructed . When looking at the criteria you will be marked against in the end-of-year exam you will see that to score a 7 and above in Section A you need to consider the ‘construction’ of the text ( read more here ). Construction refers to your ability to discuss the parts that make up a text through the use of metalanguage as evidence to support your views. The setting is just one of the ways you can address construction in The Erratics, but, as a text so focused on physical environments, it’s a good type of metalanguage to start with.
Famous for producing Justin Bieber and maple syrup, Canada has a similar history to Australia. Canada has an Indigenous population who inhabited the land for thousands of years before British and French expeditions came and colonised the land. In the 1700s, due to various conflicts, France ceded most of its North American colonies while the United Kingdom stayed. Over time the country gained greater autonomy and, like Australia, it is now a constitutional monarchy with a prime minister but recognises the British royal family as its sovereign. Further mirroring Australia, Canada also has a colonial past that it is still reckoning with as recent headlines about the human remains of hundreds of Indigenous people at a residential school reminds us.
Vicki is specifically from Alberta, and the majority of the novel is about her experiences returning there after having moved to Australia (at the start of the memoir she had been estranged from her parents for 18 years). Known for its natural beauty and its nature reserves, Alberta is a part of Western Canada. Alberta is one of only two landlocked provinces in Canada which is interesting considering that Vicki leaves it for a country famous for its beaches and coastal cities.
When annotating the text , highlight the descriptions of the setting. You’ll notice that when Laveau-Harvie describes Alberta or Canada as a whole she presents the country as being dangerous and hostile. An example of this is the blunt statement that the ‘cold will kill you. Nothing personal’. However, Laveau-Harvie does find some solace in the landscape, observing the beauty of the ‘opalescent’ peaks and the comfort in predictable seasons.
Vicki’s Parent’s Home
The first description Laveau-Harvie gives us of her family home is to call it ‘Paradise, [with] twenty acres with a ranch house on a rise, nothing between you and the sky and the distant mountains.’ The idyllic image foregrounds the natural landscape but is then immediately juxtaposed with the description of the home as a ‘time-capsule house sealed against the outside world for a decade’. This description heightens Vicki’s mother and father’s isolation from the outside world and alludes to the hostility of the home that is reaffirmed with the doors that ‘open to no one’. The family home becomes an extended metaphor for Vicki’s parents themselves, with the description of it as a ‘no-go zone’, hinting at the sisters’ estrangement from their parents who have shut them out.
Moreover, the land the house sits on does not produce any crops despite it being such a large expanse of land, heightening the home’s disconnect from the natural world. This detachment from the natural world is furthered by her labelling her parents as ‘transplants from the city’ and contrasting them to locals who ‘still make preserves in the summer’. Vicki’s mother in particular is at odds with nature due to materialism, such as her wardrobes being full of fur coats.
The Erratics + Napi
In the prologue we are introduced to the Okotoks Erratic as being situated in ‘a landscape of uncommon beauty’ with the Erratic itself being something that ‘dominates the landscape, roped off and isolated, the danger it presents to anyone trespassing palpable’. The memoir then immediately shifts to Vicki’s experience in the hospital trying to convince the staff that she is her mother’s daughter, drawing a parallel between the dominating and dangerous landscape to the dominating and dangerous mother. In the memoir, the Erratic is an extended metaphor for the mother with both the land and the mother being described as ‘unsafe’, ‘dominat[ing]’ and a ‘danger’. Moreover, the structural choice of opening the novel with the Erratic makes its presence felt throughout the novel even though it is not mentioned again until the end of the text.
In contrast to the prologue, the epilogue has a feeling of peace and reconciliation as the mother and what she has represented to her family is reconciled with the landscape. This is particularly pertinent as the geographical and spiritual origins of the rock revealed in the epilogue is a story of stability after a rupture. This alludes to the ability of Vicki’s family to heal after the trauma inflicted on them by the mother. The epilogue could also be understood as a reminder of humanity's insignificance in the face of nature and larger forces, as represented by Napi.
While Laveau-Harvie does not directly address Canada's colonial past in her memoir outside of the inclusion of Napi, the colonial presence is felt throughout the memoir through the setting of both Australia and Canada. These settings allude to how living on stolen land means that while individuals - particularly middle-class, white individuals - may not always recognise and address the colonial history of the land they live on, the fact that land was never ceded is still felt.
As discussed before, Canada and Australia are similar as they are both former British colonies that are now constitutional monarchies, so why would Vicki want to move to a place that is similar to where she already lived and experienced trauma?
There are a few potential answers, the first being the geographical distance. There are over 1300kms between Sydney and Alberta and, considering the trauma Vicki and her sister have experienced, it stands to reason that she would want to put distance between her childhood home and her adult life. This leads to the second reason, travelling to ‘Far flung places’ as a method to deal with trauma. While in Canada, Vicki reminisces about the ‘boozed-up Brits on Bondi’ that embodies her life in Australia. The evocative, alliterative image creates a stark contrast between warm and carefree Australia and cold and emotionally taxing Canada, reinforcing how travelling provides individuals with a means to survive their traumatic childhoods and create new lives for themselves.
When writing about setting you do not need to be an expert in geography. As this blog post has shown, to understand Laveau-Harvie’s use of setting in The Erratics you only need to know about two countries, so next time you write a text response, consider using your understanding of setting to show your teacher or examiners that you’ve thought about the text’s construction.
1. Summary 2. Themes 3. Symbols and Analysis 4. Quotes 5. Sample Essay Topics 6. Essay Topic Breakdown
Alice Munro is a Canadian Nobel-Prize-winning author of short stories , and Runaway , first published in 2004, is a collection of eight such stories (though kind of actually only six, because three of them are sequential). These stories examine the lives of Canadian women throughout the last century, but not all of them are necessarily realistic to what daily life actually looks like. Rather, Munro uses borderline-supernatural events (which some critics say feel staged or contrived) to shed light on the tensions and challenge s of gender in modern life.
This can mean that some of the stories are quite hard to follow; they go through all these twists and turns, and the lines between stories start blurring after a while. Let’s go through each in a bit more detail before jumping into our analysis.
2. Story-by-Story Characters and Summary
The titular story is about a woman Carla , her husband Clark , their goat Flora , and their elderly neighbour Sylvia Jamieson . There are many runaways in the story: Carla ran away from her middle-class home to marry Clark, Flora the goat literally runs away, a scandalous lie about Sylvia’s late husband gets a bit out of hand, and now Sylvia is helping Carla run away once again, this time from Clark. Few of these runaways are really very successful: this story is really interrogating why and how.
The next three stories are sequential, and revolve around Juliet , a well-educated classicist who is working as a teacher in the first story, ‘Chance’ - it is set in 1965 and she is 21. In this story, she meets her lover Eric Porteous on a train, then finds him again six months later. Eric is sleeping around with a few women in light of his wife’s declining health and eventual passing, but by ‘Soon’ he and Juliet have settled down and had a baby together - Penelope .
‘Soon’ focuses more on the relationship between Juliet and her parents, in particular her mother Sara . Juliet feels a bit out of place now at home, and feels guilty about not being more present for Sara. In turn, ‘Silence’ depicts her own daughter running away from her. Juliet returns to her studies and only hears about Penelope’s life through a chance encounter with a friend who reveals that Penelope is now a mother herself.
The next story is about Grace , an older woman revising the family home of her husband Maury Travers . Their marriage never had a lot of passion in it really - Grace was always more interested in Maury’s family - but both of them were just doing what was expected of them. The contrast comes from Maury’s brother Neil , a doctor who accompanies Grace on a hospital trip when she cuts her foot. This trip becomes longer and more sensual, feeling adulterous even though very little actually transpires between them - the story raises questions around what counts as cheating, and what marriages should entail.
‘Trespasses’ is slightly deliberately disorienting from the start (which is actually the end of the story). We go on a flashback in the middle to learn about a father, Harry , and his daughter Lauren . One day when moving house, Lauren finds a cardboard box - Harry explains that it contains the ashes of a dead baby who he and his wife Eileen (Lauren’s mother) had had before Lauren. This leads to Lauren questioning if she was adopted, which is further complicated by Delphine , a worker at a hotel who seems to think Lauren is her biological daughter. The ending (which was teased at the beginning) is the evening of confrontation between the four characters where the truth is finally revealed.
Conversely, ‘Tricks’ has a more linear plot to follow. Robin is a carer for her asthmatic sister Joanne , but she’s taken to watching Shakespeare plays in the next town once a year. One year, she meets a European clockmaker Danilo who plans to meet her next year when she is back in town - but this doesn’t go to plan at all. It’s only 40 years later that Robin finds out Danilo had a twin brother, which is why the plan had gone downhill.
The last story in the collection is arguably the most complex, and it’s broken into 5 parts to reflect that complexity. It follows Nancy as she ages from a fresh high school graduate to an old woman by the end of the sequence, including her marriage to the town doctor Wilf . Importantly, the stories also cover her friendship with Tessa , who has the supernatural powers mentioned in the title. However, by the third story, Tessa has been abandoned in a mental hospital and she has lost her powers. Throughout the stories, we also see Ollie , Wilf’s cousin (or a figment of Nancy’s imagination according to this analysis), who seems to be responsible for Tessa’s demise.
Let’s start tracing some of the common themes between the stories.
A key theme explored throughout many of the stories is marriage and domesticity . There’s a strong sense that it’s an underwhelming experience : it doesn’t live up to expectations and it particularly dampens the lives of the women involved. Nancy’s marriage to Wilf in ‘Powers’ only happens because she feels guilty - 'I could hardly [turn him down] without landing us both in…embarrassment' - but, as a result, she loses her fun, intellectual streak as he tells her to put down her book, 'give Dante a rest'. A similar fate befalls Juliet, who gives up her study in the process of becoming married.
Marriage is also sometimes explored as a deliberate choice , even if it might have unintended consequences - for example, Carla’s marriage to Clark is described as a life that she 'chose'. This interpretation is more unclear though, and is contradicted in other stories like Passion, where Grace’s marriage is described as 'acquiescence ', acceptance without protest. It’s even contradicted to some extent in the same story: Munro compares Carla’s marriage to a 'captive' situation, where she might’ve chosen to enter the marriage, but after that has little say in how it goes.
This sounds a bit trite, but the title is a key theme as well - just not necessarily in the physical sense . Consider all of these different definitions and how they pop up in the stories. In ‘Runaway’, Carla and the goat run away, but also the lie Carla tells Clark about Leon, a runaway lie that taints his relationship with Sylvia completely. Some runaways are described as accidents - 'she – Flora – slipped through' - while others are much more deliberate. The question here is how much control we actually have over our own lives . Not a lot, it would seem.
The other side of runaway/s is to think about who the victim in each runaway is. Does somebody run away because they are 'in a bad situation, the way it happens', a victim of circumstance , or do they run away because they feel guilty , or because they’re abandoning someone else, the true victim of being left behind? Carla does seem like more of a victim of circumstance with good reason to run away, but think about Nancy leaving Tessa behind in ‘Powers’: ‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’
This question about who the real victim is might be the hardest to answer for ‘Silence’. Juliet’s daughter abandons her, but it’s not like there’s a strong history of positive mother-daughter relationships in their family: Juliet wasn’t able to give Sara what she needed ( 'she had not protected Sara') and in turn isn’t able to quite give Penelope what she needs either (Penelope having a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home '). At the same time, Penelope’s abandonment does feel quite callous and inexplicable , even if Juliet feels like it’s what she deserves; Munro suggests at the end of the story that a reunion would be an 'undeserved blessing'. The intertextuality with Aethiopica reveals Juliet’s good intentions, her similarity to the 'great-hearted queen of Ethiopia', but it doesn’t quite give us the satisfaction of a neat resolution either.
Ethics and Morality
Finally, Munro’s stories also raise questions around morality . Besides what we’ve already covered - adultery, runaways - there are further questions raised around parenthood , particularly in ‘Trespasses’. Harry seems to share a bit too much information with his child, who really doesn’t need to know about the dead baby just yet. Lauren is 'not short of information', and it’s worth questioning where that boundary should be for a child of her age.
But not all ethical questions have simple answers : as in ‘Tricks’ they can sometimes just have 'outrageous', cruel punchlines that don’t reveal themselves for decades. Munro doesn’t necessarily have all the answers on this one. She brings up complex moral situations but does not pass judgment on any.
4. Symbols & Analysis
Throughout the stories, Munro brings in a few elements of Greek mythology or literature . The intertextuality in ‘Silence’ is one example, drawing on the classical text Aethiopica , but there are a few more scattered throughout the stories: the constellations of Orion and Cassiopeia in ‘Chance’ and an oracle-like figure in Tessa, a main character in ‘Powers’. All of these elements have some significance:
- Cassiopeia is known for her arrogance and vanity, which parallels with the way Juliet detaches herself from her life ('she had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' - despite her very real vulnerabilities)
- Orion is known for his forbidden romance with the virgin goddess Artemis, which parallels with Eric’s romance with Juliet (Juliet being relatively inexperienced with men herself, with all of her experiences being 'fantasy')
- Oracles in mythology are like mouthpieces of the gods who can prophesy about the future. They were often women, so oracles were unusually influential in their male-dominated societies. The question is whether this parallels with Tessa at all: even though she has these supernatural powers, are there other forms of power she might lack instead?
In general, intertextuality is a way to enrich a text by drawing parallels and linking characters to existing stories or archetypes. Here, Munro uses classical texts to add dimension to her characters in a way that is almost-but-not-quite commentary. Pre-existing Greek myths are a way for us to see what’s really going on .
(Rail)Roads and Transit
The other symbol that comes up a few times in the stories is roads or railroads - basically places where runaways might happen . ‘Chance’ is set in the middle of a train journey, ‘Tricks’ involves a couple of train journeys, ‘Runaway’ maps the roads leading in and out of Carla’s home, and almost all of ‘Passion’ takes place on the road. If we broaden ‘places where runaways might happen’ to include planes as well, then we can add ‘Powers’ and ‘Silence’ to the list.
All of these spaces are what might be called liminal - they’re ‘in-between’ spaces with an air of suspense about what can happen. It’s probably most prominent in ‘Passion’, where Grace describes the events of that road trip as a 'passage” in her life, both physically and metaphorically. In general though, they’re the settings where the wildest and most significant events tend to happen.
- 'She—Flora—slipped through.'
- 'She (referring to Carla) chose this life with Clark.'
- 'She is just in a bad situation, the way it happens.'
- 'She saw him as the architect of the life ahead of them, herself as the captive, her submission both proper and exquisite.'
- 'She might be free.' - this is the second last line in the story. Note the ambiguity here (and through all these quotes, to be honest) about which ‘she’ is being referred to (Carla, Flora or even Sylvia)
- 'Juliet was twenty-one years old and already the possessor of a B.A. and an M.A. in classics.'
- 'The problem was that she was a girl. If she got married—which might happen…—she would waste all her hard work.'
- 'She had made herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer.'
- '…the two of them (referring to Sara and Juliet) intertwined. And then abruptly, Juliet hadn’t wanted any more of it.'
- 'But she had not protected Sara. When Sara had said, soon I’ll see Juliet , Juliet had found no reply. Could it not have been managed?…She had put everything away.'
- Penelope supposedly had a 'hunger for the things that were not available to her in her home.'
- 'Penelope does not have a use for me.'
- 'She hopes as people who know better hope for undeserved blessings, spontaneous remissions, things of that sort.'
- Grace, watching a movie with Maury, felt 'rage…because that was what girls were supposed to be like. That’s what men - people, everybody - thought they should be like. Beautiful, treasured, spoiled, selfish, pea-brained. That was what a girl should be, to be fallen in love with.'
- 'It was not in her nature, of course, to be so openly dumbfounded, so worshipful, as he was.'
- 'Describing this passage, this change in her life, later on, Grace might say - she did say - that it was as if a gate had clanged shut behind her. But at the time there was no clang - acquiescence simply rippled through her.'
- Lauren 'had been brought up to believe that children and adults could be on equal terms with each other.'
- 'How could she be sure that they had not got her as a replacement? If there was one big thing she hadn’t known about, why could there not be another?'
- 'Forgive us our trespasses' - note the ambiguity of ‘trespasses’ (does it mean sins as in the prayer, or overstepping boundaries, or both?)
- 'Some of the best-looking, best-turned-out women in town are those who did not marry.'
- 'A means to an end, those tricks are supposed to be.'
- 'I couldn’t stand for the poor man (referring to Wilf) to have had two girls turn him down’
- 'I used to have a feeling something really unusual would occur in my life, and it would be important to have recorded everything. Was that just a feeling?'
- 'She could be upset to see you leave without her. So I’ll give you an opportunity just to slip away.'
- 'He has nearly forgotten that he ever believed in her powers, he is now only anxious for her and for himself, that their counterfeit should work well.'
Having great quotes is one thing, but you also want to make sure you know How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss !
6. Sample Essay Topics
- What does Runaway teach us about romance?
- Carla, Grace and Tessa are more similar than different in terms of their relationships with the men in their lives. Do you agree?
- How does Munro contrast younger and older women in Runaway ?
- What does the setting contribute to the overall effect of Runaway ?
- 'Forgive us our trespasses.' What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway ?
7. Essay Topic Breakdown
Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will give you a brief glimpse on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .
‘Forgive us our trespasses.’ What types of boundaries are created and overstepped in Runaway ?
Step 1: Analyse
This quote is from ‘Trespasses’ and captures the double meaning of the word as both overstepping physical boundaries and sinning in the moral or religious sense . It’s likely we’ll want to talk about both interpretations - physically trespassing but also encroaching on boundaries in immoral ways. Note that the prompt also includes the action words ‘created’ and ‘overstepped’, meaning that there’ll be a pretty diverse range of examples that we’ll need to use to answer this prompt comprehensively.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Let’s start with physical boundaries : Carla’s marriage and the fences on her property and the US-Canada border in ‘Powers’ come to mind. Then, we’ve got non-physical boundaries: emotionally as in ‘Chance’ and ethically as in ‘Trespasses’. This is where we start getting into whether these boundaries are created or overstepped .
Clark creates boundaries for Carla and her attempts to break free from them are unsuccessful. The border in ‘Powers’ is more of an excuse for Nancy to neglect Tessa, a boundary she creates and never makes the effort to overstep. Finally, the ethical boundaries in ‘Trespasses’ are overstepped from the get-go. How can we synthesise these ideas into one essay?
Step 3: Create a Plan
I think the trick with questions like this is not to just allocate different types of boundaries and/or different action words to each paragraph. Try to think of creative ways to string these ideas together that also build towards a bigger picture or overall contention about the text as a whole. This example plan explores physical and emotional boundaries but makes a bigger argument that they are often associated with regret in Munro’s stories.
Paragraph 1 : Physical boundaries are both the most intentional and the most difficult to overstep.
- Carla’s farmstead is isolated and bordered by roads; her marriage to Clark and her life on this farmstead is likened to a 'captive' situation, with Clark being the 'architect' of it all
- Munro ends Runaway on a pessimistic note about Carla’s ability to leave this boundary: 'She might be free'
- International borders also constitute physical barriers, and these are used by Nancy in ‘Powers’ to avoid responsibility; because this is an active decision (‘“I’ll write to you”, she said…she never did.’), it’s a barrier that never really gets broken. Similar to Penelope in ‘Silence’
Paragraph 2 : Munro’s stories, however, focus more on emotional boundaries , and the way these are applied varies greatly. This variation underscores their complexity .
- Emotional boundaries when created can prevent intimacy: Juliet 'ma[kes] herself into a rather superior, invulnerable observer' so as to avoid commitment. These boundaries come back to bite when she has a daughter
- Conversely, they cause a great deal of harm when overstepped: for example, ‘Trespasses’ sees 'crazy and dangerous' adults toy with the life of a child, constantly assuming that she 'can take it' when in fact this is not the case
Paragraph 3 : Regardless, Munro’s characters often come to regret the boundaries they erect or overstep.
- Carla’s ambivalence about her marriage is tinged with regret either way: when she’s there, she wants to escape, and when she escapes, she questions if she has 'anything left in [her]'
- Juliet reflects on the boundaries she puts up between herself and Penelope and realises that 'spontaneous remissions' between them are undeserved and impossible
- In ‘Powers’, Nancy struggles with the guilt of abandoning Tessa: many years later, she still wants to 'open [the past] up' and understand her motives. However, it is too late, and the boundaries are already there
- Munro does not suggest that boundaries are inherently good or bad, but her stories show how they can be sources of regret when treated improperly
Runaway is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Creative Response. Check out Audrey's blog on how to approach Runaway as a Creative Response for more.
For a detailed guide on Creative Response as a whole, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Creative Writing .
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
- Robinson Crusoe
- '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?
If you'd like to see how to break down an essay topic, you might like to check out our After Darkness Essay Topic Breakdown blog post!
- 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 .
We've all been there. You're moments away from having to deliver your 5-6 minute long oral to all of your classmates and your teacher, and you're still trying to memorise that one bit that you just can't seem to get down pat. It sucks.
For many VCE English students, the oral presentation is the scariest part of the course; it’s often also the first.
Doing a speech can indeed be daunting— you’re marked in real time, you can’t go back and edit mistakes, and the writing part itself is only half the battle. Nonetheless, the oral SAC can also be one of the more dynamic and engaging tasks you complete in VCE English, and there’s plenty of ways to make it more interesting and also more manageable for yourself.
We’ll break the whole process down into three parts (don’t worry, one of these will be the delivery itself) and have a look at ways to tackle each; hopefully, you’ll feel more empowered to give it a go on your own terms. Don't forget to also check out Our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for everything you need to know for Oral Presentations.
Part One: Choosing a good topic
(in this section—researching events & issues, topic ideas).
For a bit of a head start on this step, be sure to check out our blog post filled with Oral Presentation Topics for 2020 . It's one of our best kept secrets!
In the study design, the description that’s given for the Oral Presentation is:
“A point of view presented in oral form using sound argument and persuasive language . The point of view should relate to an issue that has appeared in the media since 1 September of the previous year.”
Besides this restriction on how current/recent your issue is, the expectations themselves for this task are pretty standard (and therefore pretty broad): you
- select a topic or point of view
- research arguments and supporting evidence; and
- position the audience accordingly in your speech
Getting started on this first part can be tricky though, especially if you want to choose something a bit more original or fresh.
In any case, the first thing you need is an event . As a reminder, an event in the VCE English context is anything that happens which also generates opinionated media coverage —so, it’s not just an event but it has to be an event that people have published opinions about, and they have to have been published since September 1.
You might wonder why we don’t go to the issue straight away. Here’s a hypothetical to illustrate: if you asked me to name an issue, the best I could probably come up with off the top of my head is climate change. However, if you asked me to name an event, I’d pretty easily recall the bushfires—something much more concrete which a) has generated specific and passionate opinions in the media; and b) can easily be linked to a wider issue such as climate change.
So where do you find an event? If you can’t think of a particularly interesting one right away, you could always try Wikipedia. Seriously, Wikipedia very helpfully has pages of things that happened in specific years in specific countries, so “2019 in Australia” might well be a starting point. The ABC news archive is also really helpful since you can pick dates or periods of time and see a good mix of news events from then.
I wouldn’t underestimate your own memory here either. Maybe you attended the School Strike for Climate and/or you feel vaguely disappointed in the government. Maybe there was something else happening in the news you remember (even though it is often about the environment these days). It doesn’t have to be from the news though—maybe there was a movie or TV show you watched recently that you have thoughts about. You could really do a speech on any of these, as long as you suspect there might be recent, opinionated media coverage .
Only once you have an event should you look for an issue . This will be a specific debate that comes out of the event, and can usually be framed as a “whether-or-not” question. The bushfires, for example, might generate debate around whether or not the Australian government is doing enough to combat climate change, whether or not Scott Morrison has fulfilled his duties as Prime Minister, whether or not it’s appropriate to discuss policy already when people are still grieving. All of these issues are going to be more current and more focused than just ‘climate change’, so pick one that resonates for your speech. For a list of 2019-20 issue-debate breakdowns (i.e. topic ideas!), give this a read!
From there, you might delve a little deeper into viewpoints around your chosen issue, and you’d do this mostly by reading opinion or analysis articles (rather than hard news reports). Opinion is great to see what other people are thinking, and could help you bolster or reinforce your own arguments, whereas analysis is good to get a little deeper into the implications of and evidence behind the issue. The actual contention itself comes last—even though you might already have an idea what you think about the issue, you’ll be best prepared to articulate it after doing the research first.
Part Two: Writing a good speech
(in this section—register/tone selection, personas, openings, how formal you need to be, drafting & rehearsing).
For this part of the task, I’d keep in mind a specific snippet of its description: the need to use sound argument and persuasive language .
To be fair, persuasive language mightn’t necessarily be something you actively think about when you write persuasively—you wouldn’t ever really be like “hey, this is a great spot to include an appeal to compassion.” However, while you don’t need to start now, it’s good to have in mind a general register for your speech before you start. It’s one of the first things you might analyse in a written essay for good reason—it’s broad and it sets the tone for your argument/s.
With the bushfires for instance, you might contend that even though grief is a strong emotion, it should also be a trigger for resolute, permanent policy reform. But will you come from a frustrated, this-is-what-we’ve-been-saying-for-years register, or a compassionate look-at-the-damage-caused register, or an assertive, we-need-to-bring-the-community-together-first register?
Maybe you can incorporate a bit of each, or maybe (probably) there are more options, but in any case, making this decision first will help with stringing together arguments and incorporating more persuasive language techniques (PLTs). Note that most PLTs can be used across a number of registers, but there are some that might work more effectively with some of these.
These are things you’ll have to think about for your written explanations, and might also help you shape future research if you need to shore up the speech a little more. Something you may consider as well is adopting a persona , that is a character and a context for your speech. You don’t have to, but it may help you get started. It can be hard to just write a speech from scratch, but if you’re the mayor of a township affected by the fires and you’re outlining a course of action, it’ll help with your register and outlook.
Openings in general can be tricky though. Try to avoid stating your event, issue and contention outright—the audience doesn’t need to know that “recently, Australia experienced a horrific bushfire season and I’m going to talk about why now is the time to act on climate change.” They’ll figure it out. Instead, try to start with something that clearly communicates your register and/or persona (if you have one). If you’re a frustrated climate activist, start by illustrating the historical patterns of bushfires getting worse and worse. If you’re a compassionate community-builder, start with anecdotes of the damage. If you’re an assertive leader, explain who you are, what your experience is and how you want to create change. Don’t worry if you feel like the issue won’t be clear enough—again, they’ll figure it out! The opening also sets the bar for formality in your speech, and it’s honestly up to you how formal you’ll want to be. As a rule of thumb, don’t be so formal that you can’t use contractions (such as “you’ll” and “can’t”)—avoid those in essays for sure, but they’re a natural part of speaking and it’ll feel strange if you don’t use them.
I’d also recommend you draft and rehearse in front of others, highlighting areas where you think are the weakest and asking them for specific advice on those sections at the end. Having specific questions to ask, such as “should I include more data/quantitative evidence in x section?” or “is this specific appeal to x obvious enough?”, also means you get better feedback (since these are much easier to answer than “Was that fine?”).
Part Three: Delivering an engaging presentation
(in this section—body language, eye contact, rehearse rehearse rehearse, tone variation).
Most of you probably find this the most daunting part of the SAC—honestly, me too—but this is the part with the most tried-and-tested tips for success.
With regard to body language , stand with your feet shoulder width apart and, more importantly don’t move your legs . Especially if you’re nervous, swaying or shuffling will be noticeable and make you appear more nervous—when you practise, pay attention to the lower half of your body and train it to stay still if possible. That being said, do use your arms for gestures. Those are more natural and will help engage the audience, though don’t overdo it either—usually, holding cue cards in one hand frees up the other but also stops you from going overboard.
And cue cards brig us up to another important consideration— eye contact . Hold cue cards in one hand as high as you can without it feeling uncomfortable. This means you don’t have to take your eyes away from the audience for too long or too noticeably to check your notes.
Of course, knowing your speech better means having to check your notes less frequently. When I did my speech, I’d read it out aloud to myself 3-5 times a day for a week or two in advance, which made me feel like I was going insane but also meant that my speech was basically memorised . The cue cards were there in case of emergency, but I really didn’t need them at all. Absolutely make sure to rehearse your speech. Further, when you rehearse, try to pretend that you’re actually delivering the speech. This means:
- looking up ahead
- holding the cue cards in the right spot; and
- not just reading the words but speaking as if to an audience.
This last point is really important— tone variation might come naturally to some but not to others. I always found that building it into rehearsal helped with getting it consistent and natural. Tone variation involves things like emphasising certain words, using pauses or slowing down for effect, or modifying volume . Incorporating some of these elements—even writing them into your notes by bolding/italicising/underlining—will help you break out of monotony and make the speech more engaging as well. Be sure to emphasise things like emotive language and any evidence you might use to illustrate your arguments. And one last thing— don’t speak too quickly ! Easier said than done, but often the icing on the cake for a speech that is memorable for the right reasons.
Wondering where to go from here? Well, luckily, my eBook, How To Write A Killer Oral Presentation, details my exact step-by-step process so you can get that A+ in your SAC this year.
- Access a step-by-step guide on how to write your Oral Presentation with simple, easy-to-follow advice
- Read and analyse sample A+ Oral Presentations with EVERY speech annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY students achieved A+ so you reach your goal
- Learn how to stand out from other students with advice on your speech delivery
Sounds like something that'd help you? I think so too! Access the full eBook by clicking here !
This blog was updated on 05/10/2020.
4. Literary Devices
5. Important Quotes
7. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown
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.
- Elizabeth Bennet
- Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
- Jane Bennet
- Mr. Charles Bingley
- Mrs. Bennet
- George Wickham
- Lydia Bennet
- Mr. Collins
- Miss Bingley
- Lady Catherine De Bourgh
- Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner
- Charlotte Lucas
- Georgiana Darcy
- Mary Bennet
- Catherine Bennet
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
- Writing style
- 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.
For more sample essay topics, head over to our Pride and Prejudice Study Guid e to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!
Essay Topic Breakdown
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.
Step 3: C reate 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.
The following comes essay topic breakdown comes from our Pride and Prejudice Study Guide:
Step 1: Analyse
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?
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 ."
For a detailed guide on Language Analysis, what you're expected to cover, how to prepare for your SAC and Exam and more, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .
[Modified Video Transcription]
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 T echnique, E xample and the intended E ffect 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?'
We talk about this 'zoom in' and 'zoom out' technique in How To Write A Killer Text Response .
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 a fully 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.
1. What do Year 10s Learn in English?
2. year 10 english curriculum breakdown, 3. year 10 english texts, 4. how to get good marks in year 10 english.
Year 10 English is when the Pre-VCE year kicks in. Most schools will treat it as an opportunity to expose you to the VCE curriculum, but with Year 10 level texts. This means they’ll cover the same assessment tasks and begin teaching you the skills you need to have by the time you get to VCE.
Other schools will use this year to prepare students for the different English subjects that are offered at the VCE level, so they can decide by the end of the year. These may include VCE English/EAL, VCE Literature and VCE English Language.
For this blog, we’ll focus on the current Victorian Year 10 Curriculum (this will be updated as they change).
Similar to the VCE years (Year 11-12), most Year 10’s will be expected to complete the following assessment tasks:
- Comparative text response
- Creative (with a written explanation)
Under each area of study, there will be key skills that you will need to learn to nail the accompanying assessment tasks.
Considering what you would have learnt in Year 9, Year 10 builds on those skills a bit further. Fundamentally, you would need to provide more detail whenever you’re expected to analyse evidence or provide an explanation and there will be specific essay structures your teacher will want you to follow. This may vary depending on your school.
Check out ' What should Year 9 students expect when they enter Year 10 ' for a more in depth breakdown of the Year 9 to 10 transition!
Let’s break down each assessment task you’re expected to complete as mentioned above.
Watch our video What kind of assessments can you expect at a Year 10 level!
Many Year 10 students will be introduced to the world of annotations when going through the text response unit. This is because the text will need to be understood inside out for you to score highly on the essay.
When you begin annotating your text, look for the following:
- Key ideas explored by the author
- Characterisation and character transformation
- Social/Historical/Cultural/Political context
- Stylistic features used by the author, such as symbolism, motifs, etc.
- Words you don’t understand (and then define them)
To help you have a better understanding of your text, teachers will usually assign you comprehension questions about your text and that will be their way of easing you into writing analytical body paragraphs.
Examples of prompts you may receive for text response include:
- ‘Night paints a vivid picture of a broken society in a broken place.’ Discuss.
- ‘Holden’s critique of phonies in The Catcher in the Rye is his way of critiquing society.’ Do you agree?
As important as the keywords are in the prompt, you need to be able to identify the type of prompt you have chosen to answer. Similarly, you must take some time to familiarise yourself with the task words that commonly pop up in prompts.
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Text Response to get a more specific idea of HOW you can smash out this essay.
Comparative Text Response
This is oftentimes deemed to be the most difficult area of study students will complete in English. Instead of just interpreting and analysing one text, you’re now presented with two texts you will need to find common ideas and themes to discuss.
To get in the high-scoring range you will need to do the following to help you stand out from the rest of your classmates:
- Constantly form links between the texts and the prompt you’re answering
- Consistent and detailed comparison throughout the essay between the two texts
- Be able to demonstrate a depth understanding of the texts
- Refer back to the writer’s views and values (their intention/message to the reader)
- Explore the different ideas expressed by the author
- Examine HOW the author has created certain effects on the reader , taking into consideration their use of narrative and stylistic choices
- Use relevant metalanguage
We also have The Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative to help you break down HOW you can best prepare for this assessment task.
If you would like to know the pros and cons of the different comparative essay structures you can follow, check out this blog .
This particular assessment will generally be based on the text you have studied with your class. It may be a collection of short stories, a novel, poems, etc. The majority of the time, teachers will expect you to pick one of the characters from the text and write an alternate plot for them while also mirroring the style of the original text .
Sometimes, teachers will allow you to pick the story and character you get to focus on, other times, they’ll provide you with a list you can choose from. If you’re given free rein for this task, check out our creative ideas you can adopt.
A written explanation usually accompanies this assessment task as well. This is where you break down your creative task for your teacher, sharing with them your purpose for writing it the way you have. You will address your language choices, themes, literary devices used, intended audience, etc. This tends to be around 200 words in length. Here’s a blog that explains HOW you can write the best written explanation.
Some more creative writing resources to help you out with this assessment:
- How To Achieve A+ In Creative Writing
- How YOU Can Be A Better Creative Writer! For ANY Student
- 11 Mistakes High School Students Make In Creative Writing
Mimicking the analysing argument essay you will need to complete in both Year 11 and Year 12, you will be expected to:
- Demonstrate your understanding and knowledge of both written and visual features of persuasion in your analysis (this is where the intended effect of the writer comes into play)
- Be able to identify and explain your assumptions with sophistication
- Show insightful knowledge of both explicit and implicit meaning within the texts
- Prove that you know HOW language choices can influence the audience
- Use relevant metalanguage (this may include persuasive devices, language or visual techniques)
Some schools like to pick a specific issue to focus on, for instance, social media. All of the articles and tasks they assign their students to analyse will then be focused on this issue. Other schools will expose their students to a variety of different issues. Either way, you will be exposed to a variety of persuasive material and forms, including opinion pieces, speech transcripts, editorials, cartoons , etc. This is elaborated on in The Ultimate Guide to VCE Language Analysis .
Different schools will teach different analysis techniques. One of the most common ones includes the WHAT-HOW-WHY method . This will be applicable when you move into Year 11 and 12 English too.
Introductions for this particular essay are just as straightforward and can be quite formulaic. Check out our YouTube video on how to write an A+ language analysis introduction to learn the elements you need in an argument analysis introduction. If you’re curious about the writing process for the entire essay, then check out this video .
A lot of the time in Year 10, you will also be unpacking media advertisements. This will tie into the argument analysis area of study.
Here, you may be analysing HOW and WHY advertisements are created the way they are and the choices made by the creator to influence the specific target audience. Sometimes, you will also have the opportunity to create your own! If this is the case, you will also most likely write up a written explanation of around 200-300 words explaining the choices you have made.
As you would have read in The Ultimate Guide to Year 9 English, reading is one of the most important skills that need to be maintained as you progress through high school.
Here is a list of 10 texts many students at a Year 10 level may have read:
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
- The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
How many of these texts can you tick off the list?
a) Knowing Where to Start
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge your strengths in English; however, to improve upon your marks and do even better, you will also need to fine-tune your weaknesses . Merely relying on strengths won’t be enough anymore.
Identify the skills you need to improve and be specific!
For example, ‘I need to make my introductions shorter and simpler’ or ‘I will plan my essay more extensively so I will know which pieces of evidence will be relevant for each body paragraph.’
If this is the case, writing a million essays won’t get you to where you want to be. It would be inefficient and a waste of everyone’s time. Hone down your focus to one or two things , instead of every skill that falls under essay writing.
Referring back to the above example, if you want to make your introductions shorter and simpler, read through a few sample high-scoring introductions and test them you can adopt for an introduction and know which one will work best for you. Or if your pain point is the planning process, compile different essay planning templates and use them in your essay planning so you can narrow down your options for different types of prompts.
This way, starting small will help you improve without overwhelming you so much. Check out How I Went From Average To A+ In High School English to get that boost of motivation and confidence before you embark on this learning journey.
As you do this, don’t forget to keep in mind the 7 Deadly (English Writing) Sins you should always avoid!
b) Work With Your Teacher
As we’ve explained in our Instagram post on the feedback loop , getting feedback for your essay or paragraph from your teacher and tutors will also help you improve much faster !
If you’re not familiar with the essay writing feedback loop process, it goes:
- Step 1: Write a paragraph(s) or essay
- Step 2: Get input on what works and fix what doesn’t (this input can come from your teacher and/or tutor)
- Step 3: Redraft or write a new one to test your skills
- Step 4: Repeat
Whether it’s just a plan, an introduction, a body paragraph or even a complete essay, taking the initiative to seek help from your teacher will provide you with clarity on what it is you need to be working on. This is crucial if you want to jump from a C grade to an A+.
Each time you write a practise essay or paragraph, you should have a goal in mind so you know what you’re trying to improve upon. This way, you can cut down your workload and reduce study time !
I would recommend you do this as many times as necessary until you get that 10/10 essay so you can use it as a template or model essay in the future!
c) Write Under Timed Conditions
Even though a lot of the time in Year 10, teachers will be a bit more lenient so they’ll permit you to bring in a cheat sheet into the exam or assessment. However, that doesn’t always mean you’ll be able to finish on time, so it’ll serve you best to do some additional practise essays under timed conditions.
Some things to look out for when you do practise writing timed essays or paragraphs:
- Ensuring that your handwriting is legible
- Trial and error different types of planning methods to find which suits you best
- Know the essay structure you want to adopt for the particular essay
- Avoid ‘fluff’ (unnecessary details) and get straight to the core idea and analysis since that is where you’ll get the marks
- Practise makes perfect!
Here’s a YouTube video that details how you can go about writing 3 essays in 3 hours which you’ll eventually need to do!
At LSG, we have the most qualified tutors who have received the marks you’re after who can walk you through your high school English journey with you.
What will we offer you?
- Regular English advice and support (whether that is homework help, essay feedback or if you just want to go the extra mile and get ahead with your English studies)
- A specialised LSG Signature Program that can cater to your goals and help you develop the knowledge and get all the consistent writing practise you need
- Guidance as we work through the necessary writing skills and strategies that will get you the A+ you desire
- Access to exclusive LSG resources that will save you time creating your own notes (planning and writing templates, sample high-scoring essays, and so much more!)
If you want more information on why you should pick us, check out our tutoring page . Otherwise, click here to express your interest today!
- Plot Summaries
- Textual Features Analysis
- Themes (Convergent and Divergent Strategy)
- LSG’s Bubble Tea (BBT) Strategy for Unique Strategies
- Sample Essay Questions
For a detailed guide on Comparative, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.
1. Plot Summaries
In Stasiland , Anna Funder, the author and first-person narrator , meets and listens to the ordinary people of East Germany : those who resisted the GDR dictatorship, those who were crushed by it, and those who diligently and remorselessly worked for it as Stasi informants or officers. As Anna speaks with those whose lives have been traumatised by the Stasi, she reflects on how the reunified Germany has dealt with (or ignored) its citizens' trauma and whether memory can be reconciled . Anna is an Australian working for a television station in Berlin in 1996. As an outsider Anna is uniquely positioned to ask East Germans about their experiences , as they do not have to battle with prior knowledge and experience to share their stories. She is interested in the former German Democratic Republic and what has happened to the East German people since the country reunified with West Germany. She became curious after learning that there are people putting together documents that were shredded by the Stasi.
Anna travels to Leipzig and visits the former headquarters of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, which is now a museum. The Stasi were the East German secret police and internal surveillance and defense force . Headed by Erich Mielke, they conducted surveillance on the East German population, aided by a vast number of civilian informants. While in Leipzig, Anna meets with a woman called Miriam Weber, who attempted to sneak out of East Germany when she was just a teenager. Miriam, sleep deprived and tortured, lied about receiving help from an organisation to cross the Wall and was sentenced to jail time. Her husband Charlie was also imprisoned by the Stasi and died while in custody. Miriam was told he committed suicide by hanging, but she suspects he was killed after the Stasi refused to show her his body and went to great lengths to hide Charlie during the funeral.
Returning to the apartment she rents in Berlin, Anna puts an advertisement in the paper calling for former Stasi agents and informers to share their stories with her. She meets with several ex-Stasi men, including Herr Winz, Herr Christian, Herr Bohnsack and Hagen Koch. She also visits and speaks to Karl-Eduard von Schitzler, a hateful man who hosted a propaganda-filled television program that criticised West Germany and gave false information about Communist success. In their discussions the former Stasi agents are concerned with justifying their involvement with the Stasi, although many also remain committed to communist ideals and await with anticipation the next revolution and restoration of the communist government.
Anna rents her apartment from an unpredictable and evasive young woman called Julia. Over time, Julia comes to trust Anna and shares her story of the Stasi cruelly interfering with her life. Anna also speaks with her rock musician friend Klaus Renft – East Germany’s Mick Jagger, and a woman named Frau Paul who was separated overnight from her sick infant son when the Berlin Wall went up and was later imprisoned for inflated charges of assisting people to escape East Germany.
After Anna’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she goes home to Australia for 3 years, returning to Berlin to meet with some of the people she spoke with during her earlier stay, including Hagen Koch and Miriam. She also finally visits the ‘puzzlers’ in Nuremberg, whose story first sparked her interest in investigating the lives of East Germans affected by the Stasi. Anna is disappointed in the puzzlers, realising that their work is futile and there is no real effort put towards uncovering the lost information.
Almost all East Germans were left reeling at the sudden collapse of their government. For many, the collapse of the GDR took with it ideological security and made them nostalgic for the past. For others, being confronted with the level of the Stasi’s intrusion into their lives was deeply traumatic, as people realised they had been grievously betrayed by their fellow citizens, neighbours and even family members. The nostalgia for the regime that Funder witnesses shows how people cling to certainty and position and sometimes struggle with new freedoms. However, having spoken with so many individuals whose lives were ruined by the Stasi, Anna feels that the old regime was oppressive and authoritarian, and that the East Germans are better off with the challenges of their freedom, rather than stuck with the certainties of their oppression.
Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopian alternative reality in England in the 1990s. The narrator, Kathy H, is a thirty-one-year-old 'carer' – a clone who looks after other clones who are donating their organs. Kathy is about to retire after a long career as a carer to become a donor herself, meaning she will soon 'complete' ( a euphemism for dying ). However, this premise is not immediately apparent to the reader . At the start of the novel, Kathy informs us she will be leaving her role as carer in a few months and has started to write down memories of her life, sorting through her time as a 'student' at Hailsham. However, at the start of the novel the reader is not aware that Kathy is a clone, although she appears to be addressing an insider from her world.
In the first third of the novel Kathy reflects on her childhood and teenage years at Hailsham . Hailsham is an institution where clones are looked after by 'guardians' and referred to as 'students', and which at first appears to be a private boarding school with a heavy focus on the arts and creativity. Their best works of painting, pottery, drawing or poetry were selected and taken away by a woman known as 'Madame', for what the students presume, and what is later confirmed to be, a gallery. The students know they are different from their guardians and the people who live outside Hailsham, referred to as 'normals', but the truth of what the clones are and their certain fate is not fully articulated until the characters are adults.
Kathy is close friends with a confident and controlling girl called Ruth and a boy named Tommy, whose work is never selected for the Gallery – an acknowledgement that defines status at the school. Tommy, teased and excluded, struggles to control his temper and often explodes into furies of rage. The students collect items and other students’ artwork for their own memory boxes , bought or traded at the school’s Exchanges and Sales. Kathy buys a cassette tape by a woman named Judy Bridgewater that contains a song called ‘Never Let Me Go’. This song makes Kathy emotional, and one day she is caught dancing to it by Madame, who Kathy is surprised to see is in tears watching her. Kathy presumes Madame is upset because she knows Kathy can never have children.
Ruth and Tommy start dating and Part Two sees the three friends reach early adulthood and move to a place known as the Cottages, to live with other clones from around the country and experience some freedom before beginning their donations or training to become a carer. When Rodney, another Cottage resident, believes he saw Ruth’s 'possible' – an original that one of the clones was modelled off – the three friends along with Rodney and his girlfriend Chrissie, take a trip to Norfolk to find her. Norfolk exists in the imagination of the Hailsham students as a 'lost corner', where things they have lost will be found. While the 'possible' is not Ruth’s original, Kathy and Tommy find a copy of the Judy Bridgewater tape that Kathy had lost. Ruth was secretly desperate to find her possible and hoped to find her working in an office. Ruth dreams of working in an office and her wish that her possible will be an office worker is one of the only suggestions we have that the clones secretly long for more from their lives and view their possibles as versions of them and what they are capable of. Back at the Cottages, Ruth continues to be manipulative and self-promoting, leading to a falling out with Kathy where she decides to leave early to begin training as a carer and falls out of contact with Ruth and Tommy.
Part Three encompasses Kathy’s time as a carer. Years after the time at the Cottages, Kathy organises to be Ruth’s carer and Ruth reconnects Kathy and Tommy, admitting she knew they loved each other and deliberately kept them apart. She hopes they will attempt to get a deferral from Madame. After Ruth 'completes', Kathy and Tommy finally become a couple. They visit Madame to ask for a deferral, who informs them there is no such thing. They learn from Madame that Hailsham was an attempt to reform the treatment of clones in their youth by proving they had souls . In most centers, clones are reared in deplorable, abusive conditions. They also learn that Hailsham had to be shut down. The normals became too uncomfortable with the reality of the clones’ souls but were not prepared to lose their organ supply. Never Let Me Go is a story about injustice and social stratification, where one group is made to suffer for the benefit of another. The 'normals' can deny their mortality while forcing the clones to confront their death sooner than their natural life span , and by shutting down schools like Hailsham, they do not need to think about the ethics of their choices.
Tommy dies and Kathy resigns herself to her fate as a donor. At the end of the novel, Kathy misses Tommy and Ruth, but consoles herself that she will always have her memories with her . Ishiguro explores the extent to which people accept their predetermined fate and how they can find meaning and love within those often-cruel limitations.
2. Textual Features Analysis
A textual feature is a component of the text used by authors to give meaning to their work. It is necessary to engage with the actual construction of the texts and to discuss textual features using metalanguage (terms that describe and analyse language). To write a thorough and thoughtful essay, you need to understand the textual features and how they are connected to overall thematic ideas. Structural features and metalanguage can be used as evidence of authorial intent and deepen our understanding of how writers use literary techniques to develop ideas and create meaning. Let’s take a look at Genre .
Stasiland is an example of creative nonfiction, meaning it tells a story of factual events and real people using literary and poetic techniques. The word ‘creative’ doesn’t give authors permission to exaggerate or dramatise the truth, instead this genre is one of factually accurate prose about real people and events that is told in a vivid and compelling way.
The reason Stasiland is classified as creative nonfiction and not under the genre of memoir is because although the events follow Anna Funder’s experiences in Berlin, they are not predominantly about her. A memoir is the writer’s own personal journey and life, whereas creative nonfiction generally has more public relevance and commentary. In Stasiland , Funder’s experiences in Berlin structure the chronology of the narrative but take a thematic backseat to the stories of the East Germans she meets and the historical events she relays .
Never Let Me Go has elements of multiple genres: dystopian fiction, speculative historical fiction, science fiction and bildungsroman.
‘Dystopia’ means the opposite of ‘utopia’, but you’ll notice that most dystopian novels are set in societies where the ruling classes believe they are in a utopia. This is true of Never Let Me Go , as the clones pay with their lives and freedom for the utopian elimination of disease and extended life spans of the 'normals '. However, while clearly set in a horrific dystopian world, Never Let Me Go notably differs from other novels in the dystopian genre, as the oppressed clones never once consider rebelling against the status quo – the most Kathy and Tommy hope for is an extension before beginning their donations and 'completing'. Ishiguro has stated in multiple interviews that he was most interested in exploring why oppressed persons never consider rebelling against their fate – what leads them to passive acceptance of their position in society?
In his exploration of this question, Ishiguro explores the development and growing up of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, trying to understand why they all submit without protest to their fate . In this sense the novel is a bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a genre concerned with the psychological and moral development of a protagonist from childhood to adulthood, focusing on a person’s formation or coming of age. Never Let Me Go follows Kathy, Ruth and Tommy throughout their childhood and adolescence at Hailsham, their experience of limited freedom at the Cottages as young adults, and finally the reality of their short adult life as organ donors.
Of course, Never Let Me Go also fits into the category of speculative historical fiction and science fiction. The novel is set in an alternate historical reality where genetic science rapidly advanced after World War Two (significantly outstripping the real-world) and clones have been used to extend life in the UK for decades. However, Ishiguro does not give much narrative weight to describing the political reality of his fictional world , and neither does he offer much scientific explanation for the existence of clones. As we’ve already discussed, Ishiguro was vastly more interested in using these scientific and political circumstances to create conditions within which to explore characters and, by extension, human nature, so Never Let Me Go fits uneasily in these genres.
3. Themes (Convergent and Divergent Strategy)
Now that we’ve looked closely at both Stasiland and Never Let Me Go , it’s time to discuss in depth the key themes and ideas. Themes are the big ideas about human experience that a text explores, and form part of the message the author is hoping to communicate. A sound knowledge of key themes is essential for developing a thoughtful essay. All essay topics will ask you to explore thematic ideas in one way or another. If you have a strong understanding of both texts’ themes and how they are communicated, you will be able to generate arguments for any essay topic with confidence.
I’ll be adhering to the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy. This guide doesn’t go into too much detail about using LSG’s CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy, so perhaps familiarise yourself with it by reading How to Write a Killer Comparative .
Convergent Idea: The Importance of the Act of Remembering
Both Stasiland and Never Let Me Go illustrate the importance of remembering through the very construction of the text: in the narrative voice and narrative structure. Both narrators are looking into the past to try to make sense of history. For Kathy, this is a personal history whereas for Funder it is an act of witnessing a nation’s past and elevating the voices of the victims.
Stasiland is a compilation of the stories of all kinds of people involved and impacted by the GDR , including those who rebelled against the system, those who supported it and those crushed by it. Thus, ‘both sides’ of history are represented. Funder said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald after the publication of Stasiland that, 'When [Germans] read my book, people in the East are not proud of themselves. They'd rather not be reminded that other people were braver than they were. So there is a huge force to pretend that the Stasi regime was not as bad as it was.' This desire to forget the past so as to ignore confronting the terrible and terrifying truths contained within it is what Funder is working against by writing Stasiland . At one point in the text, she explicitly states what she’s doing:
'I’m making portraits of people, East Germans, of whom there will be none left in a generation. And I’m painting a picture of a city on the old fault-line of east and west. This is working against forgetting, and against time' ( Stasiland , 147).
Julia explains the importance of these portraits, telling Anna 'For anyone to understand a regime like the GDR, the stories of ordinary people must be told. …You have to look at how normal people manage with such things in their pasts' (144). These 'things in their pasts' are not just trauma and hardship, but the knowledge that people just like them – their spouses, children, friends and neighbours – were capable of such cowardice, betrayal, self-interest and cruelty. It is this knowledge that Funder wants to preserve – that ordinary people are capable of both extraordinary courage and extraordinary cowardice .
Anna comes across a sobbing man 'I don’t want to be German anymore!...We are terrible…They are terrible. The Germans are terrible' ( Stasiland , 253-4). Anna reflects that East Germans were 'long used to thinking the bad Germans were on the other side of the Wall' and now he is forced to ask 'were his people, now broke or drunk, shamed or fled or imprisoned or dead, any good at all?' ( Stasiland , 254).
Although Kathy’s narration is entirely from her perspective , her act of remembering is also in many ways a political statement that forces us to consider the inhumanity people are capable of .
Kathy recollects and structures her memories of her childhood and relationships to understand them as a unified whole, essentially establishing her identity . More importantly, it is evident in phrases such as 'I don’t know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham…' ( NLMG , 13) and 'I’m sure you’ve heard it said plenty more' ( NLMG , 4) that Kathy is positing a reader for her writing. Assuming a reader places her autobiography in a social framework with the purpose of communicating her life , which turns it into a historical account that exists beyond the limit of her death. Kathy’s attempt to leave a legacy by writing down her experiences and structuring her identity is an act of protest against a society that believes she is sub-human , without feelings or motivations, and that her life meant nothing.
Divergent Idea: The Role and Value of Nostalgia
The way memory can be distorted is particularly clear in relation to the idea of nostalgia for a brutal past. This idea is explored differently in Stasiland and Never Let Me Go , with Funder condemning nostalgia as blinding people to the horrors of the past, and Ishiguro illustrating how drawing comfort from the past can help people through difficult times .
In Stasiland , many disaffected former East Germans tell Anna that things were 'so much better before' ( Stasiland , 251) the country’s reunification. Anna reflects:
'I don’t doubt this genuine nostalgia, but I think it has coloured a cheap and nasty world golden; a world where they was nothing to buy, nowhere to go and anyone who wanted to do anything with their lives other than serve the Party risked persecution, or worse' ( Stasiland , 251-2).
Similarly, while working at the radio station on Ostalgie parties ( Ostalgie is nostalgia for life in Communist East Germany), Miriam observes 'a crazy nostalgia for the GDR – as if it had been a harmless welfare state that looked after people’s needs. Most of the people at these parties are too young to remember the GDR anyway. They are just looking for something to yearn for' ( Stasiland , 275). Funder is critical of nostalgia because it minimises past injustice .
Conversely, in Never Let Me Go , nostalgia and false memories are shown to be consolatory and even useful. Before Kathy begins to recount her childhood, she mentions a donor who was once under her care who 'knew he was close to completing' ( NLMG , 5). He asks Kathy to share memories of her childhood and 'What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. …so the line would blur between what were my memories and his' ( NLMG , 5). Although this man is falsifying his memories, he is not editing and revising history like some people in east Berlin , he is replacing them entirely to suppress the trauma of his own past. He is not yearning for a return to an idealised past the way some people in Stasiland do. For Kathy, nostalgia for her childhood helps her reconnect with her friends, creating a sense of belonging and identity. Her attachment to Hailsham strengthens her worldview, her relational bonds and gives meaning to her life. Nostalgic memory in Never Let Me Go brings comfort, although you could argue that it also fosters passivity and acceptance in the face of oppression .
4. LSG’s Bubble Tea (BBT) Strategy for Unique Strategies
Why is an interpretation important.
Your interpretation is what English is all about; it’s about getting you to think critically about the essay topic at hand, to formulate a contention (agree, disagree, or sit on the fence) and argue each of your points with the best pieces of evidence you can find - and it’s something you might already be starting to do naturally.
In this section, we aim to help you develop your own interpretation of the text, rather than relying on your teacher, tutor or even a study guide (including this one) author’s interpretation. By developing your own interpretation, you become a better English student by:
- Writing with meaning. For a text to be interpreted, you need a text and an interpreter (i.e. you!). Whenever we read a new text, our interpretation of a text is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, knowledge and expectations. This should be reassuring because it means that you can leverage your own life experiences in developing a unique interpretation of the text! We’ll show you how this works in the next point.
- Remembering evidence (quotes or literary devices) more easily. If you know you admire a character for example (which is in itself an interpretation 😉), you can probably remember why you admire them. Perhaps the character’s selflessness reminds you of your Dad (see how you’re using real life experiences mentioned in Point 1 to develop an interpretation of the text?). You will then more easily recall something the character said or did in the text (i.e. evidence) that made you admire them.
- Having an analysis ready to use alongside the evidence. As a result of Point 2 , you’ll be able to write a few sentences based on your own interpretation. Rather than memorising entire essays ( we’ve talked about this before ) and regurgitating information from teachers, tutors, study guides and other resources - which can be labour intensive and actually detract from the originality of your essay - you’re approaching the essay with your own thoughts and opinions (which you can reuse over and over again across different essay topics).
Let’s look on the flip side. What happens when you don’t have your own interpretation?
When you don’t take the time to actively think for yourself - i.e. to think through your own interpretations (we’ve talked about the importance of THINK in the THINK and EXECUTE strategy here ) - when it finally comes to writing an essay, you may find it difficult:
a) to get started - formulating a contention in response to the essay topic is challenging because you have no strong opinion about the text ,
b) complete the essay - writing up arguments and using evidence in paragraphs becomes challenging because you have no strong opinion about the text ,
c) to score higher marks - ultimately, you end up regurgitating other people’s ideas (your teacher’s, tutor’s or from study guides) because you have (you guessed it) no strong opinion on the text .
Having your own interpretation means that you’ll eliminate issues a, b and c from above. Overall, you’ll have opinions (and therefore contentions) ready for any prompt when you go into your SACs or exams, which means it’ll be easier not only to write a full essay, but an original and insightful one as well.
To overcome the issues above, you need to be confident with your own interpretation of the text. This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of students, and it makes sense why. After all, so many subjects reward specific answers (2 + 2 = 4), whereas English is tricky because there’s so much more flexibility in what constitutes a ‘correct answer’. It’s scary treading the sea of different possible interpretations because you’ll ask yourself questions like:
- How do I know if my interpretation is correct?
- How do I know if my evidence actually backs up what I’m arguing?
- What if I disagree with my teacher, and they mark me down for a differing opinion?
- Or worse - I’m not smart enough to come up with my own interpretation!
Let me say that you are absolutely smart enough to develop your own interpretation, and I’ll show you how to do so in A Killer Comparative Guide: Stasiland & Never Let Me Go with LSG’s unique strategy - the BUBBLE TEA (BBT) strategy . By following our step-by-step framework, you can be confident that your interpretation is valid, that it backs up your argument, and that most importantly, you won’t lose marks for it!
5. Sample Essay Questions
1. ‘To conform is to be safe and to survive.’ Compare how this idea is examined in both texts.
2. 'The earlier years…blur into each other as a kind of golden time' ( Never Let Me Go ) 'I don’t doubt this genuine nostalgia, but I think it has coloured a cheap and nasty world golden.' ( Stasiland ) Compare what the two texts say about the dangers of willful ignorance.
3. 'For Miriam, the past stopped when Charlie died.' ( Stasiland ) '…I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call…and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing…I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.' ( Never Let Me Go ) What role do love and relationships play in helping people withstand persecution?
4. ‘It is impossible to be free when you are unaware of your confines.’ Compare how the two texts explore freedom and confinement.
4. ‘The past is always harder to access than we think’. Compare the ways in which Stasiland and Never Let Me Go depict the difficulties in uncovering the past.
As with all our essay topic breakdowns, we'll follow LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy , as taught in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide. The LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy follows three steps in the THINK phase - A nalyse, B rainstorm, and C reate a Plan. Learn more about this technique in this video:
'To remember or forget? Which is healthier? To demolish it or fence it off? To dig it up, or leave it to lie in the ground?' ( Stasiland ). 'What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood' ( Never Let Me Go ). How does memory inform identity in Stasiland and Never Let Me Go ?
This quote-based prompt is constructed a bit like a theme-based prompt as it directs us to talk about memory’s role in forming identity. However, the quotes act as an additional hint in terms of what else we’re supposed to discuss. We need to identify where these quotes come from in the texts and why they might be significant. The Stasiland quote (from p. 52) comes from the question of what the nation should do with Hitler’s bunker. In the end the only decision was indecision, the mayor buried the bunker and hoped that people in 50 years might know what to do with it. Thus, this quote points to the difficulty countries have in creating a national identity when there is horror and trauma in their history. The Never Let Me Go quote (from p. 5) points towards an ill donor’s recreation of his identity using someone else’s memories. Therefore, this quote points to how memories, even false ones, can reconstruct individual identity.
Because of the direction of the two quotes, I am going to explore memory’s role in forming individual and group identity.
- Kathy and Julia develop greater self-insight through sharing their memories in a structured, logical narrative.
- Kathy and Herr Koch fear that the loss of the physical presence of Hailsham and the Berlin Wall will undermine the significance of their memories of these places, which form a substantial part of their pasts and identities. They therefore pay much more attention to preserving their memories of these places to affirm their identity.
- East Germany’s rewriting and erasure of history meant that they no longer identified as the same Germans responsible for Hitler’s regime.
- The episode in which a distressed man sobs 'I don’t want to be German anymore!' reveals how difficult memories can generate confusion and internal conflict over an individual’s perception of their national identity.
- In NLMG , the country’s determined forgetting of the circumstances of the clones allows them to preserve their own interests and maintain an uncomplicated, guilt-free, but false, innocent national identity.
P1: Both texts show that the degree to which one’s memories have been investigated and illuminated impacts how well they understand their identity.
- Compare Kathy and Julia and the way they reconstruct their understanding of their identity by reflecting on their memories with the new information offered by hindsight.
- Conversely, the ill donor that Kathy cares for at the beginning of the novel sought to purposefully suppress his own identity by replacing his memories. This speaks to the same idea that memories can evolve and shape identity but shows how that can be misaligned with reality and truth (note: this discussion of the donor is your opportunity to use the quote from the prompt, which is a requirement of a quote-based topic).
P2: Sometimes people hold on tightly to particular memories as a way to affirm their identity as losing those memories is akin to erasing or denying the legitimacy of their experiences.
- Compare Hagen Koch’s obsession with the Berlin Wall and Kathy’s preoccupation with Hailsham.
P3: Choosing what gets remembered or forgotten in a nation’s ‘official history’ drastically impacts how their national identity is perceived and how well that identity aligns with reality.
- 'History was so quickly remade, and so successfully, that it can truly be said that the easterners did not feel then, and do not feel now, that they were the same Germans as those responsible for Hitler’s regime'
- 'I don’t want to be German anymore!'
- 'To remember or forget? Which is healthier?'
- 'The world didn’t want to be reminded how the donation program really worked.'
- 'They preferred to believe these organs appeared from nowhere.'
If you'd like to see the sample A+ essay we wrote up for this essay topic, then you might want to check out our A Killer Comparative Guide: Stasiland & Never Let Me Go study guide !
Finding out that your school has selected to study a Shakespeare play as your section A text can be a pretty daunting prospect. If I’m honest, I wasn’t all too thrilled upon discovering this either...it seemed as though I now not only had to worry about analysing my text, but also understanding what Shakespeare was saying through all of his old-fashioned words.
However, let’s not fret - in this post, I’ll share with you some Measure for Measure specific advice and tactics, alongside excerpts of an essay of mine as a reference.
Before you start reading, How To Approach Shakespeare: A Guide To Studying Shakespeare is a must read for any student studying Shakespeare.
Having a basic understanding of the historical context of the play is an integral part of developing your understanding of Measure for Measure (and is explored further in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare ). For example, for prompts that open with “What does Shakespeare suggest about…?” or “How does Measure for Measure reflect Shakespeare’s ideas about…?” it can be really helpful to understand Shakespeare’s own position in society and how that influenced his writing.
There’s no need to memorise certain parts of Shakespeare’s history - as that would serve no purpose - just try to gauge an understanding of what life was like in his time. Through understanding Shakespeare’s position in society, we are able to infer his stances on various characters/ideologies in the play.
- Measure for Measure is often regarded as an anti-Puritan satire. Although Shakespeare’s religion has been a subject of much debate and research, with many theories about his faith being brought forward, many believe that he was a secret Catholic. He is believed to be a ‘ secret’ Catholic, as he lived during the rise of the Puritans - those who wished to reform the Church of England and create more of a focus on Protestant teachings, as opposed to Catholic teachings. It was often difficult for Catholics to practice their faith at this time.
- Angelo and Isabella - particularly Angelo, are believed to embody puritanism, as shown through their excessive piety. By revealing Angelo to be “yet a devil,” though “angel on the outward side,” Shakespeare critiques Puritans, perhaps branding them as hypocritical or even unhuman; those “not born of man and woman.” Thus, we can assume that Shakespeare would take a similar stance to most of us - that Angelo wasn’t the greatest guy and that his excessive, unnatural and puritanical nature was more of a flaw than a virtue.
Tips for Moving Past the Generic Examples/Evidence Found in the Play
It’s important to try and stand out with your examples in your body paragraphs. If you’re writing the same, simple ideas as everyone else, it will be hard for VCAA assessors to reward you for that. Your ideas are the most important part of your essay because they show how well you’ve understood and analysed the text - which is what they are asking from you, it’s called an ‘analytical interpretation of a text,’ not ‘how many big words can you write in this essay.’ You can stand out in Measure for Measure by:
1. Taking Note of Stage Directions and Structure of Speech
Many students tend to simply focus on the dialogue in the play, but stage directions can tell you so much about what Shakespeare was really trying to illustrate in his characters.
- For example, in his monologue, I would often reference how Angelo is alone on stage, appearing at his most uninhibited, with his self-interrogation revealing his internal struggle over his newfound lust for Isabella. I would also reference how Shakespeare’s choice of syntax and structure of speech reveal Angelo’s moral turmoil as he repetitively asks himself “what’s this?” indicating his confusion and disgust for his feelings which “unshapes” him.
- Isabella is shown to “[kneel]” by Mariana at the conclusion of the play, in order to ask for Angelo’s forgiveness. This detail is one that is easily missed, but it is an important one, as it is an obvious reference to Christianity, and symbolises Isabella’s return to her “gentle and fair” and “saint” like nature.
2. Drawing Connections Between Characters - Analyse Their Similarities and Differences.
Drawing these connections can be a useful way to incorporate other characters not necessarily mentioned in your prompt. For example, in my own English exam last year, I chose the prompt “ ...Power corrupts both Angelo and the Duke. Do you agree? ” and tried to pair Angelo and Isabella, in order to incorporate another character into my essay (so that my entire essay wasn’t just about two characters).
- A favourite pair of mine to analyse together was Angelo and Isabella. Although at first glance they seem quite different, when you read into the text a little deeper you can find many similarities. For example, while Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, “nun,” Isabella, wishes to join the nuns of Saint Clare where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” Shakespeare’s depiction of the two, stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” plaguing Vienna. What’s important about this point is that you can alter your wording of it to fit various points that you may make. For example, you could use this example to prove to your assessor how Isabella’s alignment with Angelo signals Shakespeare’s condemnation of her excessive puritanical nature (as I did in my body paragraph below) or, you could use these same points to argue how Angelo was once indeed a virtuous man who was similar to the “saint” Isabella, and that it was the power that corrupted him (as you could argue in the 2019 prompt).
- Another great pair is the Duke and Angelo. Although they certainly are different in many ways, an interesting argument that I used frequently, was that they both were selfish characters who abused their power as men and as leaders in a patriarchal society. It is obvious where Angelo did this - through his cruel bribery of Isabella to “lay down the treasures of [her] body,” however the Duke’s behaviour is more subtle. The Duke’s proposal to Isabella at the conclusion of the play, as he asks her to “give [him her] hand,” in marriage, coincides with the revelation that Claudio is indeed alive. It appears that the Duke has orchestrated the timing of his proposal to most forcefully secure Isabella and in this sense, his abuse of power can be likened to Angelo’s “devilish” bribery. This is as, through Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella, it is evident that she has little interest in marriage; she simply wishes to join a convent where she “must not speak with men,” as she lives a life of “strict restraint.” The Duke is aware of this, yet he demands Isabella to “be [his]”- wishing to take her from her true desire and Shakespeare is able to elucidate Isabella’s distaste through her response to this: silence. By contrasting Isabella’s once powerful voice - her “speechless dialect” that can “move men” - with her silence in response to the Duke’s proposal, Shakespeare is able to convey the depth of the Duke’s selfishness and thus his similarity to Angelo.
We've got a character list for you in Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare (just scroll down to the Character section).
What’s important to realise about these bits of evidence is that you can use them in so many different prompts, provided that you tailor your wording to best answer the topic. For example, you could try fitting at least one of the above examples in these prompts:
- ‘Give me your hand and say you will be mine…’ The characters in ‘ Measure for Measure’ are more interested in taking than giving. Discuss.
- ‘More than our brother is our chastity.' Explore how Shakespeare presents Isabella's attitude to chastity throughout Measure for Measure .
- ‘I have seen corruption boil …' To what extent does Shakespeare explore corruption in Measure for Measure , and by what means?
- ‘Measure or Measure presents a society in which women are denied power.’ Discuss.
How To Kick Start Your Essay with a Smashing Introduction
There’s no set way on how to write an introduction. Lots of people write them in many different ways and these can all do well! This is the best part about English - you don’t have to be writing like the person sitting next to you in order to get a good mark. I personally preferred writing short and sweet introductions, just because they were quick to write and easy to understand.
For example, for the prompt...
“...women are frail too.”
To what extent does ‘Measure for Measure’ examine the flaws of Isabella?
...my topic sentences were...
- Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo.
- Shakespeare explores the hypocrisy and corruption of Isabella as a flaw, as she deviates from her initially “gentle and fair” nature.
- Despite exploring Isabella’s flaws to a large degree, Shakespeare does indeed present her redemption at the denouement of the play.
...and my introduction was:
William Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure’ depicts a seventeenth century Viennese society in which disease, misconduct and licentiousness are rife. It is upon a backdrop of such ordeals that Shakespeare presents the character of Isabella, who is initially depicted as of stark contrast to the libertine populate of Vienna. To a considerable extent, ‘Measure for Measure’ does indeed examine the flaws of the “gentle and fair” Isabella, but Shakespeare suggests that perhaps she is not “saint” nor “devil,” rather that she is a human with her own flaws and with her own redeeming qualities.
Instead of rewording my topic sentences, I touched on them more vaguely, because I knew that I wouldn’t get any ‘extra’ points for repeating them twice, essentially. However, if you feel more confident in touching on your topic sentences more specifically - go ahead!! There are so many different ways to write an introduction! Do what works for you!
This body paragraph included my pairing between Angelo and Isabella. My advice would be to continue to incorporate the language used in the prompt. In this paragraph, you can see me use the word “flaw” quite a bit, just in order to ensure that I’m actually answering the prompt , not a prompt that I have studied before.
Isabella is depicted as a moral, virtuous and pious woman, but it is this aspect of her nature that paradoxically aligns her with the “tyrannous” Angelo. Where Angelo is “of ample grace and honour,” Isabella is “gentle and fair.” Where Angelo believes in “stricture and firm abstinence,” Isabella too believes that “most desire should meet the full blow of justice.” This similarity is enhanced by their seclusion from the lecherous society in which they reside. Angelo lives alone in his garden, “succumbed by brick,” requiring “two keys” to enter, whilst Isabella desires the life of a nun where she “must not speak with men” or “show [her] face.” This depiction of both Angelo and Isabella stresses their seclusion, piety and restriction from the “vice” that the libertine populate is drunk from. However, Shakespeare’s revelation that Angelo is “yet a devil” though “angel on the outward side,” is perhaps Shakespeare’s commentary on absolute stricture being yet a facade, a flaw even. Shakespeare presents Isabella’s chastity and piety as synonymous with her identity, which ultimately leaves her unable to differentiate between the two, as she states that she would “throw down [her] life,” for Claudio, yet maintains that “more than our brother is our chastity.” Though virtuous in a sense, she is cruel in another. Although at first glance, Shakespeare’s depiction of Isabella’s excessive puritanical nature appears to be her virtue, by aligning her with the “devil” that is Angelo, it appears that this is indeed her flaw.
Conclude Your Essay by Dazzling Your Assessor!
My main tip for a conclusion is to finish it off with a confident commentary of the entire piece and what you think that the author was trying to convey through their words (in relation to the topic). For example, in pretty much all of my essays, I would conclude with a sentence that referenced the entire play - for example, how it appeared to be such a polarising play, with largely exaggerated, polarising characters/settings (eg. Angelo and the Duke, or the brothels that stood tall next to the monastery):
Ultimately, Shakespeare’s play ‘Measure for Measure,’ depicts Isabella as a multifaceted character. She is not simply one thing - not simply good nor bad - her character’s depiction continues to oscillate between the polar ends of the spectrum. Although yes, she does have flaws, so too does she have redeeming qualities. Though at times deceitful and hypocritical, she too is forgiving and gentle. Thus, as Shakespeare’s play, ‘Measure for Measure,’ does centre on polarising characters in a polarising setting, perhaps through his exploration of Isabella’s flaws alongside her virtues, he suggests that both the good and the bad inhabit us.
Measure for Measure 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 .
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Things Fall Apart Essays
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Essay About Things Fall Apart ‘Things Fall Apart’ is a very well-written novel written by Chinua Achebe which took place during the nineteenth century. The setting of the story was Igboland. Throughout this essay, I am going to explain how the protagonist had a life before his world “falls apart” (hence the title), how the outside forces change his life, how he responds to the situation. I will also include how the poem “The Second Coming’ by William Butler Yeats sets the tone and inspiration for the novel Things Fall Apart. The story begins with Okonkwo, who at a very young age, strived to be perfect which is contrary to his father. His father was lazy, to say the least. He built his home and reputation as a hardworking farmer and wrestler. His hard work paid off as he became wealthy. He had a natural son, Nwoye, and an adoptive son, Ikemefuna, who he loved more than his real son. Things changed when he has to kill his adoptive son as to what his tribe has decided. Okonkwo showed no emotion as he wants to be seen as the image of masculinity although inside, he was guilty, hurt, and regretful. During the funeral, he accidentally shot and killed a boy which caused him to be exiled in Mbanta, his mother’s homeland. During his stay in Manta, news came to him that the White Missionaries has arrived in his tribe. These White Missionaries bring Christianity with them and has convinced a lot of Igbo people to be converted to Christianity. Just when Okonkwo was allowed to go back home, his son converted to Christianity which made him disown his own son. The Igbo people tried to make peace with the missionaries but the latter captured the leaders of the Igbo people and was only freed when the Igbo people had enough ransom money with them. They wanted revenge, thus they held a war council. But in the midst of the council, the missionaries’ court messenger arrived and ordered them to stop the meeting. It dawned to Okonkwo that they can never go against the white, and as proud as himself, he hung himself to death. Things Fall Apart is a story of a culture on the verge of change. It talks about how the different characters have responded to the call of change. More often than not, the strain of whether the change is more important than tradition entails personal status questions. For example, Okonkwo is against the new religious and political order. This is because he believed that accepting the new religious and political order means that they are not man enough. In addition, this is also due to his fear that he might lose his social status once he accepts and joins them. For him, his self-worth depends on the traditional standards of society. But these traditional standards of self-evaluation has caused a lot of outcasts to embrace Christianity where they enjoyed a higher status. Generally speaking, the villagers are in between choosing or resisting change. They are wrapped with fear as to what these changes will bring them and how will they adapt to such changes in as much as they are also excited with the new opportunities and techniques that come with it. However, the White Missionaries wanted to eliminate the need to master the traditional ways of cooking, farming, harvesting, and building which were crucial for survival to the Igbo people. In the entire novel, Achebe showed how these traditions are slowly being changed and forgotten. The novel does not have a direct antagonist, but the entire world seems to be against Okonkwo. His own family can’t live up with his expectation and his fellow villagers did the same by embracing change rather than protecting and preserving their culture and tradition. In addition to the internal antagonists found inside their village, the presence of the Europeans is also considered as an external antagonist. The novel is also symbolic. The two symbols that were used in the story is fire and locusts. The fire symbolizes Okonkwo’s personality – fierce and destructive. On the other hand, the locusts symbolize the white colonials whom the Igbos thought are good but actually have a different intention. It is worth noting that Things Fall Apart’ is written in English. This is because Achebe wanted the people of the West to read and understand it. He wanted to critique and amend what other writers of the colonial period have painted about the image of Africa. In order to achieve his goal, the need to use the language of these colonials is necessary. Geography plays a pivotal role in the novel as time does. The novel dates back in the 1890s, the time when the British colonials have reached Igboland. The story happened just when British imperialism started in the region, which started not with guns but with Bibles.
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Free Things Fall Apart Essays and Papers
Things Fall Apart
the novel Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. The main character, Okonkwo faces many challenges on his journey throughout his life some that were even out of his control. These events literally make his life fall apart, and eventually brought him to his death. Which had to end the way it did, at the time it did. When Okonkwo's life goes downhill, it literally fell apart. Hence the title of the novel, Things Fall Apart. The first event in his life that represented his life falling apart was when his
Kevin Mead Conflict in Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe African culture is often chronically misunderstood. Beginning in the 1600s, European colonists attempted to infiltrate their ancient way of life and replace it with their own, systematically sending their District Commissioners to each populated area they had gained control of, effectively washing the region of its identity. In the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, he attempts to break down a wall of ignorance and misinformation that
things fall apart
Chinua Achebe is the author of Things Fall Apart. The author was born in Nigeria in 1930 and had to grow up during a time of traditional culture clashing with Christian beliefs. He was a very intellectually gifted child, which gave him the ability to study at many different universities when he became older. Many parts of his life became included in Things Fall Apart, but the story is not an autobiography. The story has been translated into many different languages and is renowned all across the
Things Fall Apart The relationship of Okonkwo to his Igbo society in Achebe's Things Fall Apart was one of pure being. Okonkwo displayed the finest examples of human qualities of what it took to be an Igbo man. Okonkwo strives to be strong, masculine, industrious, respected, and wealthy. This was Okonkwo's inner struggle to be as different from his father as possible, who he believed to have been weak, effeminate, lazy, shameful, disgraceful, and poor. Okonkwo achieves great social and financial
In the novel Things Fall Apart the Igbo society is dominated by gender roles. For example, a Husband can beat his wives for bringing food to them late. Women are discriminated against by society. The main character in Things Fall Apart, is Okonkwo who, has trouble balancing the feminine and masculine side in his life. Okonkwo is a rich, well known, and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan, a lower Nigerian tribe that is a big part of nine connected villages. He believes that only masculinity can
“He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart” (Achebe 172). This is the reaction of Oberike, a respected man who lives in Umuofia recalling his hand to hand experience with the Europeans. The Europeans demanded for more resources and the desire to change Africa’s economic and political expansion. The age of imperialism began around 1700 when modern nations (Europeans) want to take over less designated areas in Africa to colonize them or to influence them with
create characters with an obvious moral standing not only to make their novel more applicable to the reader, but also to make the characters more complex and dynamic. Chinua Achebe uses this technique to develop the characters in his novel, Things Fall Apart. The main character, and protagonist in the novel, Okonkwo, is very morally dynamic showing some sensitivity to his family and friends, but in an attempting to rebel against his father, Okonkwo also exhibits the tendency to lash out violently
The book “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe is a fictional look at the social and cultural life of an African tribe of the lower Niger River region. It depicts the every day life of the tribe and its members. It also shows the culture and customs of the tribe. The book focuses on one of the tribe members, Okonkwo. He is a well respected member of the tribe. Okonkwo is a good example of a respected member of the tribe who also has great renown. He is known as a great wrestler and warrior of the
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe?s Things Fall Apart is a narrative story that follows the life of an African man called Okonkwo. The setting of the book is in eastern Nigeria, on the eve of British colonialism in Africa. The novel illustrates Okonkwo?s struggles, triumphs, and his eventual downfall, all of which basically coincide with the Igbo?s society?s struggle with the Christian religion and British government. In this essay I will give a biographical account of Okonwo, which will serve to
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earth, the victim could not be buried in their bowels. 2 We also see many examples of practices that take place in the Igbo such as the sharing... ... middle of paper ... ...longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart. 12 The motivation that drove Europeans to make free use of terminology such as “barbarians” or “savages” was for religious reasons itself. Although I personally do not support nor condemn the actions and practices that take
many parts to them. The most important is the sole. When walking in someone else’s shoes, it’s like taking a look into their soul. You get to see what they are enduring and can get a better understanding of their life. Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart is a great example. When the white missionaries invaded the clan, they didn’t take the time to dig deep into the lives of the Ibo. This created havoc in the Ibo society. In history, there are many other instances where understanding someone
In Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart the life of a man named Okonkwo and the tribe of Umuofia is depicted in three chapters which each represent a significant era in the tribe. In the first chapter, Achebe describes the life of the native African tribe before the coming of the white man. This chapter enables the reader to understand and respect the life of the Igbo. The second chapter describes the beginnings of colonialism and introduction of the white man. Suddenly, the Igbo way is questioned
Things Fall Apart is a story written by Chinua Achebe based on a culture on the verge of change. Okonkwo is a well-respected, wealthy leader in the Umuofia tribe of the Igbo people. Okonkwo feared of being like his father who is well known for his laziness also cowardice. In such early age he brought honor to his village, he built his home, was a precocious wrestler and a hard-working farmer. Okonkwo was nothing like his father Unkoka who feared the sight of blood, borrowed and lost money leaving
Things Fall Apart In James Joyce’s Dubliners, a compellation of short stories, that portrays the hardships of everyday life in Ireland during the late 1800’s. Throughout many of these stories, Joyce shows the significance of an individual’s influence on society through examples of drinking, bonding with friends, shared memories/reminiscing, anger/envy, and sexual desire. Many of Joyce’s characters use these common themes to escape the troubles they may face in their everyday responsibilities
Things Fall Apart Opposites do not Attract In Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, Mr. Brown, the first missionary in Umuofia, was a kind and respectful man. Not to say that Reverend James Smith was not, but his degree of kindness and respect were present in a whole different level. They both wanted to convert the lost, all those in Umuofia that were not in the church. Mr. Brown made friends with the clan and “trod softly on his faith,” (pg.178) while Mr. Smith told them how things were
Things Fall Apart And Things Fall Apart By Chinua Achebe
to be in South America. I had never really given it much though. I had never really given much thought to the life and beliefs of the different African villages. The only familiarity I have with that topic is the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Similarly, Things Fall Apart has a coming of age tale; something that I am starting to believe is very important to different African villages. In the U.S. there isn’t a set age where we become a man. We grow facial hair, finish school, get a job
A novel which is set roughly at the turn of the century, Things Fall Apart proposes the idea that the Igbo culture possessed civility prior to it’s colonization by the British. Okonkwo, a character comparable to a Greek tragic hero is a man of very little compassion for anyone, including himself. The cultural standards, his own inability to handle the changes being made in his culture, and stressed family life are all conflicts created by his society that lead to his tragic downfall. The emphasis
Things Fall Apart Things fall apart is a novel about a man by the name of Okonkwo a man that just trying to be the best he can be. He wants to be successful and not end up like his father with nothing but himself. Okonkwo is a wealthy and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan, a lower Nigerian tribe that is part of the nine connected villages, including Okonkwo’s village Iguedo. Okonkwo father Unoka was a man who feared the sight of blood and always asked for things he was never successful with
not long after they are released. Why? Isn't freedom a better alternative than imprisonment? The answer to both these questions is the same: CHANGE. Even if the change is for the better, a good number of people can't handle it. In the novel Things fall Apart, the main character Okonkwo is driven to suicide by change he can't handle. The book is written by Cinua Achebe, a twentieth century author. Born in Nigeria, Achebe grew up in a transitional culture much like the one described in the book. He
Things Fall Apart is by the widely acclaimed African author Chinua Achebe. The story told is a tragic one of a person by the name of Okonkwo who's own stubborn views about what it is to be a man leads to his own demise. Okonkwo is often compared by people to the tragic hero like those in Greek tragedies. This is probably the primary way in which the text is interpreted but I feel Achebe is trying to make another point as well through the story. Achebe received inspiration to write the novel from
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In the novel, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, structured gender roles are depicted as a fundamental part of Igbo life. All life in the culture is gender specific from who can tend to which crops, to how punishments are dealt out. The novel’s protagonist, Okonkwo, primarily focuses on exaggerating male stereotypical behavior and devaluing anything that is feminine. The novel brings to the surface the balance that lies between masculinity and femininity. African Literature researchers such as Kwadwo Osei-Nyame, Christopher Anyokwu, and Biodun Jeyifo analyze just how the strained relationship between age-old traditions and gender play out in the Igbo culture.
While the reader is given some insight into who Okonkwo’s father is and how much he resents his father. It is noted that his mother is only briefly mentioned once throughout the whole novel, the lack of mention is significant in understanding his misogynistic character. The assumed lack of nurture is consistent with the relationship he [Okonkwo] has with his father and later his son Nwoye. In Jeyifo’s article Okonkwo and His Mother: Things Fall Apart and Issues of Gender in the Constitution of African Postcolonial Discourse, the author argues that the under-textualization of his mother led to his extensive issues of overcompensating “…[T]he single mention of Okonkwo’s mother is extraordinarily suggestive for reading Okonkwo’s particular brand of misogyny and neurotic masculinist personality and for analyzing larger questions of the author’s construction of male subjectivity and identity in the novel” (848). Growing up as the child of a man who was deemed no good by their village, Okonkwo reinvented himself to be the opposite of who his father was. Jefiyo believes that Okonkwo deliberately writes his mother off as a fundamental piece in the formation of his development as a person. He represses the memory of his mother and her stories, as well as the hold it has on his spirits. While asleep Okonkwo is bitten by a mosquito, the mosquito bites seemed to remind him of a story his mother once told. It is important to note that once he recalls the story of the mosquito and the ear he succumbs to his sleepiness. “Okonkwo’s mother is assimilated into the neutral, abstract function of ‘mothers’ in general. For him [Okonkwo], his mother’s stories and their significations evaporate into the generalized phallogocentric rubric of the “silliness” of motherlode” (Jefiyo 849). The most interesting detail coming from the story is the reversal in the structure between the female and male personas. Since this story belongs to the genre of folklore, it makes it clear why the rejection of Mosquito converts such a deep fear of female power as the downfall of male vigor and life force. The thought of a dominant female brings forth fear because they have been given the impression that the female is inferior to the male. Kwadwo Osei-Nyame argues that due to the nature of society, in no way does Okonkwo’s behavior have anything to do with his mother, but everything to do with the way those around him were conditioned.
The issue of gender roles in the story can be explained by the direct relationship of man and the Igbo culture. “Masculine traditions operate as forms of consciousness that act foremostly to legitimize specific ideals and values and to distribute and restrict authority within Umofia, one of the most powerful of Igbo communities” (150). As one of the strongest Igbo villages, Umofia is a society where all celebrated figures of male. The fragility of the male ego is the sole purpose in why this specific clan falls apart towards the end of the novel. Much of this clan’s pride is embedded in Okonkwo and his representation of the masculine ideology. Due to the clan’s negative views of his father, Okonkwo became obsessed with championing his masculinity. As he aged, he began to use his masculinity as a defensive resource and it began to overtake his world. “By constructing his identity and embedding his actions in a perverse sense in rebelliousness against everything that his father Unoka represents, Okonkwo apprehends his world pessimistically” (151). To steer clear of being branded as an agbada, the Igbo word referring to weak and lazy men, Okonkwo would assert his masculinity whenever he deemed it fit. Umofia and its inhabitants acknowledge all of Okonkwo’s feats would often align to the marginalization of their women. “[T]he selective tradition of a dominant culture when we trace the modes by which Okonkwo’s adherence to certain values and ideals and Umuofia’s validations of these values converge to generate the masculine nationalist tradition represented by Things Fall Apart” (152). It is fair to claim that the origin and nature of the culture established a selective tradition in which does who exude masculinity are superior. The perception of the issues surrounding gender has triggered tensions between the sexes in society.
Gender stereotyping leaves females in a perilous position, the stringent gender differentiation encourages the repression of the female sex. “And what makes one person “male” and the other ‘female’?” (Anyokwu 17). What truly draws the line of gender identification, biology or cultural definition? If a biologically defined female holds the supposed values of manliness that is decided by the patriarchy, do they qualify to be called a male? In defining gender, there are many blanks where the decision is based purely on one’s interpretation. Along the way, the term male began to imply masculinity and female began to imply pacifism. Okonkwo embodies the Igbo nation’s ideology of masculinity, the ideal alpha male. “Stretched logically, Okonkwo’s multiple selves/personalities comprehend and subsume other less-iconic figures such as his confidant-friend, Obierika. This is more so because Okonkwo is portrayed as almost entirely ‘male’” (Anyokwu 19). To be considered a male in the eyes of Igbo tradition you must possess the drive to conquer any impediments. Any suspected violation of the unspoken standards of the fragile, social structure would lead to never-ending gender misclassification. In the Igbo culture gendering of inanimate objects such as harvest and crops further pushed the narrative of males being superior. The yams have become embedded into the age-old narrative. In the novel Things Fall Apart Achebe states that, “…[The] [y]am stood for manliness, and he who could feed his family on yams from one harvest to another was a very great man indeed” (24). Cultivating the yam gave precedence to the open demonstration of strength. Only with a certain amount of physical strength can a man harness the resources needed to harvest yams successfully. Okonkwo’s hyper-masculinity and overwhelming strength was his greatest weakness. His refusal to think rationally instead of with his emotions leads to his people betraying him. Subjectively, characters like Okonkwo can be feminized if given more exposure to feminine desires. Essentially to gain and or maintain social relevancy one must be physically fit and in tune with their selves, these characteristics are proven to be gender-neutral.
In the novel, gender is a prominent theme and much of the novel focuses on the unstable balance between feminine and masculine forces. Igbo traditions focused on masculinity and all that can be achieved with a masculine nature. African Literature researchers analyzed the intricate balance that lies in between femininity and masculinity. The distinction between what makes a man and what makes a woman is discussed in detail. Through the readings, a greater knowledge of the Igbo culture and why gender is crucial is acquired.
- Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1958.
- Anyokwu, Christopher. “Re-Imagining Gender in Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart.’” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, vol. 12, no. 2, 2011, pp. 16–31. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41210316
- Jeyifo, Biodun. “Okonkwo and His Mother: Things Fall Apart and Issues of Gender in the Constitution of African Postcolonial Discourse.” Callaloo, vol. 16, no. 4, 1993, pp. 847–858. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2932213.
- Osei-Nyame, Kwadwo. “Chinua Achebe Writing Culture: Representations of Gender and Tradition in ‘Things Fall Apart.’” Research in African Literatures, vol. 30, no. 2, 1999, pp. 148–164. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3820564.
Erich Fromm's Ideas About Personality In Things Fall Apart
The tragic hero in chinua achebe’s things fall apart, is okonkwo a tragic hero in things fall apart, literary devices in chinua achebe's things fall apart, community values in things fall apart.
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Igbo Society In Things Fall Apart
Pride and anger in the novel things fall apart, the role of reputation in the things fall apart, system of colonialism things fall apart, internal and external conflict in things fall apart, impact of the christian missionaries on the igbo society in things fall apart, things fall apart: gender and ibo culture, things fall apart: the importance of pride, the western society in things fall apart, things fall apart: is suicide a choice, positive and negative aspects of traditional igbo life in heart of darkness and things fall apart, theme of social conflict in chinua achebe’s things fall apart and chimamanda ngozi adichie’s half of a yellow sun, the impact of change on cultures and characters in the novels things fall apart and the kite runner, patriarchy in things fall apart: a study of gender discrimination, the handling of gender in jane eyre and things fall apart, how women are presented in chinua achebe's things fall apart, the similarities and differences in oedipus rex and things fall apart, gender roles in things fall apart, the human condition in things fall apart, comparing women from things fall apart with women of today, tragedy and tragic hero in things fall apart, the importance of organized story-telling in things fall apart, the use of proverbs in 'things fall apart' by chinua achebe, things fall apart': the importance of adapting to changes in a book by chinua achebe, theme of the dead by james joyce and things fall apart by chinua: comparative analysis, top similar topics.
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The falling apart of the Igbo community can be traced to the fact that the Igbo consider the white people to be mere “fairy-tales.” Rather than appreciating
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