Arctic Tern

  Chris Hawkes

  The English Department
  GCSE Students' Work - Literature

There are two literature-based essays here: a level 8 response (44/54) on Much Ado About Nothing by Tom, and an essay to show the difference between levels 8/9 and levels 6/7 on A View from the Bridge by Rebecca.

But first: let’s answer your REAL question. How do you write a good English response to Literature?

You have to remember two abbreviations: 1PPP and MPD.

IPPP? 1 Point Per Paragraph. A paragraph is a group of sentences on one clear topic. More than one topic – more than one paragraph.

MPD? Make; Prove; Develop. This should be the framework of each paragraph. The first thing to do is to write the point you wish to make. Then you will need to prove that point by reference to the text, or (if possible) by quotation. And finally, and CRUCIALLY, DEVELOP the point. This means exploring why your point is important – effective – interesting.

All three of these areas are important. However, generally the answer to how students can improve grades from 5 to 6/7, from 7 to 8/9 lies in the D section. Here’s why!

To gain a grade 5, you need to show that you have CLEAR COMMENT on the points you raise. That means a good M (the basic point); clear evidence – the P; and then D - a clear statement about why your point is important. To gain grade 7, you need the above M and P, but the D section must be DETAILED and EVALUATIVE. In other words, you need to find more reasons why the point is effective/interesting. And for levels 8 and 9? Your D needs to be ANALYTICAL: more lengthy discussion about why you have focused on this point; why it is effective; what is interesting about it. We’ll come back to this later.

So now let us consider what MAKING A POINT – M – actually is. If you start by describing what has happened in the text, you have Done a Bad Thing (and will get no biscuit.) If you have referred to the text, you are P-ing, not M-ing!

So, what SHOULD you do? Your first sentence in a paragraph (or section) should start with a general statement about what the writer is doing. Here is an example:

Title: What does Dickens have to say about social inequity in the first two chapters of Oliver Twist?

Dickens criticises the way society looks down on unmarried mothers. For example, in Chapter 1, Dickens describes the lack of concern the Doctor has at the death of Oliver’s mother, because she is not married and therefore can be of no real importance.

Another paragraph beginning? Perhaps

Another area of criticism Dickens addresses is the way workhouse orphans are starved to save money. We see this when Oliver is punished for daring to ask for more gruel.

Look at the two paragraph beginnings. Note how the M sentence – the first one – does not refer to the text, but clearly looks at what Dickens is actually doing. The second sentence in both is, of course, the P section: reference to the text to prove the point made in the M.

Obviously these are lacking their D sections. How could we develop this? Perhaps

Another area of criticism Dickens addresses is the way workhouse orphans are starved to save money. We see this when Oliver is punished for daring to ask for more gruel. This is effective, as it makes the reader sympathise with Oliver, and therefore with the plight of all workhouse orphans. (A CLEAR paragraph: Grade 5?)

Or,

Another area of criticism Dickens addresses is the way workhouse orphans are starved to save money. We see this when Oliver is punished for daring to ask for more gruel. This is effective, as it makes the reader sympathise with Oliver, and therefore with the plight of all workhouse orphans. By showing Oliver so unjustly treated simply for saying “'Please, sir, … I want some more.'” Dickens makes clear that the orphans are not regarded as worthy to express human needs. (A DEVELOPED and EVALUATIVE paragraph: Grade 7?)

Or,

Another area of criticism Dickens addresses is the way workhouse orphans are starved to save money. We see this when Oliver is punished for daring to ask for more gruel. This is effective, as it makes the reader sympathise with Oliver, and therefore with the plight of all workhouse orphans. By showing Oliver so unjustly treated simply for saying “'Please, sir, … I want some more.'” Dickens makes clear that the orphans are not regarded as worthy to express human needs. This dehumanising of the orphans in the novel is balanced by the fact that, by focusing his novel on one particular example, Oliver Twist, Dickens is forcing us, the readers, to see that these unfortunate creatures are human beings, something he believes society has forgotten. (An ANALYTICAL paragraph: Grade 8 or 9?)

So, we have mastered 1PPP and MPD. All that is left is for us to PLAN the essay.

A PLAN is a list of the points – 4 or 5, usually – that you would like to raise in the essay in the order you would like to raise them. So – a plan is a list of Ms. For our Oliver Twist essay, you might have this:

Title: What does Dickens have to say about social inequity in the first two chapters of Oliver Twist?

  1. Dickens uses his novel for a social purpose – to criticise his society as well as to entertain his readers.

  2. Dickens criticises the way unmarried mothers are unfairly judged.

  3. Dickens attacks the hypocrisy of those charged with the care of the workhouses.

  4. Dickens feels that society refuses to spend enough money on the workhouse inhabitants.

  5. Dickens shows that the poor are not regarded as human (the naming of Oliver).

  6. Dickens uses Oliver to represent the way all the poor are treated in society.

  7. The success of the novel can be seen by the raising of awareness of social issues in Victorian society.

All these points (except for the first – INTRODUCTION – and the last – CONCLUSION) need P and D added.

And, remember, the essay is ONE essay, not a number of essaylets! So you need to think of discursive markers to link sections: words or phrases like “secondly”; “Another criticism Dickens makes…”; “Similarly”…

SO, FINALLY: a self assessment.

Look over an essay you have written. Here is a good check process.

  1. How often have you used the name of the writer, or a word like “writer”, “author”, “playwright”, “poet”? Every point you make should have this in the first sentence – or you are not making a point about writing technique. If your first sentence refers to the text, then you are a Bad Dog and Do Not Deserve a Biscuit!

  2. If you have passed the first test, does your second sentence contain a quotation, or textual reference?

  3. Finally, how long is the “D” section? Here’s a rough guide: short paragraphs usually mean lack of Development – and that means the maximum grade is likely to be 5.

I hope this guide has been of use. Good luck – and if you have worked through this entire page, I am sure you will gain the grades you crave!

And if you need more advice, try the A-Level essay writing guide: Writing an Essay - Tips



Discuss the Effectiveness of the use of Order and Chaos in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing

Thomas

“Comedy is the movement from chaos to order”. William Shakespeare uses this statement as the theme behind the plot in Much Ado About Nothing. He has used the elements of chaos and order very effectively to entertain the audience in this play.

There are two types of chaos in the play – comedic chaos and tragic chaos. Comedic chaos is the chaos that entertains the audience, but does not threaten the element of order in any way (usually). For example, the character Dogberry is a source of comedic chaos. His malapropisms make the audience laugh - he says one thing and means the opposite. Evidence from the text is this – he says ‘comprehend’ and means ‘apprehend’. This will entertain the audience, because they find funny not only Dogberry’s pathetic mistakes, but also the other characters’ reaction to them. More examples of comedic chaos are the masked ball, and Beatrice and Benedick each finding out that they love each other. Shakespeare uses confusion as the key here. Well referenced, and well discussed. You analyse the differences effectively.

The other type of chaos is tragic chaos – chaos that threatens the ordered elements of the play. This type of chaos differs from comedic chaos, as it is not amusing for the audience, it is emotionally absorbing. Evidence of this type of chaos in the text is Don John – the creator of all mayhem. In a short soliloquy to the audience, he describes himself as a true villain – that he wants disorder; it is like medicine to him. I think he is like ‘Puck’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the three witches in Macbeth (also bring about chaos).Interesting cross-text reference (although I feel Puck is more comedic.) In Much Ado About Nothing, Don John has two plots. The first one is weak and fails, but the second one is strong and is carried on for the rest of the play. This results in the climax of the tragic chaos – the shaming of Hero at the wedding.

These two types of chaos are very different. However, there is a lot of tension between them in Much Ado About Nothing. As these two types of disorder are so conflicting, suspense grows between them. The comedic chaos, although funny, tends to cause tragic chaos later in the play. For example, the masked ball – although everyone is wearing masks and it is laughable for the audience, this particular confusion leads to two examples of mild tragic chaos – Don John’s first plot to spoil Claudio’s happiness, and everyone thinking that Don Pedro wants to marry Hero (not Claudio). Shakespeare also uses this tension to prevent order prevailing too early – if Dogberry was sensible and serious about the plot, he would have been able to get the point through clearly to Leonato and prevented the peak of chaos in the play from happening. So, Dogberry is a good example of comedic chaos; he brings about tragic chaos in his own way. Well argued: this is interesting and original in response.

Much Ado About Nothing nearly becomes a tragedy in the end, like Othello. I think these two plays are very alike, although they are separated into two completely different types of play. Firstly, the chaos starts by one of the characters’ minds being misled by the villainous character - told that his lover is being unfaithful to him. This leads to jealousy, which leads to death - in Othello. However, in Much Ado About Nothing, order prevails – death nearly comes about, which leads to repentance, which leads to eventual order. Therefore, Shakespeare has made both of these plays similar, but one little contrast and they are categorised differently in terms of theme. Again, cross-text comparison.

At the end of Much Ado About Nothing, order prevails, and it cannot be stopped. From the evidence given in the text, I believe that Shakespeare’s view on order and chaos is this - order is the natural state of the universe. There will be chaos, but it will end eventually; order will resume naturally. From the evidence given, I can assume that there is an optimistic view of order in Shakespeare’s world. In the text, Shakespeare proves the resolution of order in two ways: the two couples - Beatrice and Benedick, and Hero and Claudio, are together at last. This, on its own shows the audience that order has triumphed, because love is the ultimate means of displaying order. To develop this, the creator of chaos, Don John, has been captured. This portrays to the audience that the essential opposition to this natural order has been stopped - so no more chaos can be achieved. Very interesting and wide-ranging analysis.

Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses visual and audio representations of order and chaos. These are obvious ways of showing the audience that the elements of order and chaos are present. For example, singing and dancing play a vast part in this. At the masked ball, there is singing, dancing and rejoicing everywhere. This clearly exhibits that there is order in this scene. So in this instance, Shakespeare has used dancing as a sign of happiness. However, in other places, Shakespeare has used singing as a sign of sorrow. For example, near the end of the play, Balthasar sings a song of mourning, and the characters in the scene are wearing black, Not in the text, but in the version you watched, perhaps which expresses to the audience that this is not a scene of happiness and joy, but of grief and misery. Play as performance text: well argued.

The form of the text itself also plays a part in the displaying of order and chaos to the audience. Most of the play is just prose, but iambic pentameter is used in the special cases where order is present. An example of this is act five, scene three – a comparatively small scene where Don Pedro and Claudio are mourning at Hero’s tomb. They speak in iambic pentameter between them to quote on what a lovely person Hero was, and that they are sorry for her departure. This will be emotionally stirring for the audience because the rhyme and rhythm of iambic pentameter is effective at showing either happiness or sadness. So, these visual and audio representations are repeated effectively throughout the play to help show the audience the elements of order and chaos. Interesting analysis of language/form.

Shakespeare has used the elements of order and chaos effectively to entertain the audience in the comedy Much Ado About Nothing. He has introduced chaos and gradually converted it to order using visual and audio representations successfully to emphasise this to the audience. This play demonstrates that human beings have such a strong influence on each other, and that there will be chaos in the world, but order will always be restored. I like your conclusion.

You write cogently, and this is well structured. There is much analysis here, and I enjoyed your sensitive and often original response.

So, how to push up from 8 to 9? You have clear analysis; however, this could be developed further. For example, why is the concept of harmony so important for Shakespeare? What might Shakespeare be suggesting by the way, as you argue, that he brings order out of comedic chaos? Essentially, it is focus on the D section of MPD that gets you the top marks. In your head, you need a section in eachpart of the essay that begins "This is interesting, because it suggests..."

And try to avoid using dashes so much! A colon is more elegant.






Discuss the effectiveness of staging and stage devices in Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’.

Rebecca

We read Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’ and the following assignment was set: Discuss the effectiveness of staging and stage devices in this play.

In Arthur Miller’s ‘A View from the Bridge’ , the main characters are Eddie, Beatrice, Catherine, Rodolfo and Marco. Eddie, his wife Beatrice and their niece Catherine are American citizens whose ancestors immigrated to the United States from Italy. Eddie works on the docks in New York loading and unloading the cargo of the ships, they live in a simple tenement building in the suburbs nearby. Marco and Rodolfo are Beatrice’s cousins who at the beginning of the play are transported illegally from Italy, the live with Eddie and his family during the play. Marco has a family back in Italy who he sends his wages back to, as Italy is very poor and it is hard for the people to earn money, and intends to go back home. Rodolfo is a young blonde haired man, who does not intend to go back to Italy but to become an American citizen by marriage. This paragraph is irrelevant. Your essay starts here! Always focus on the title of the essay.

The playwright Arthur Miller, at the beginning of the play describes in great detail the set that he wishes to be used. He states that Eddie’s apartment should be in a central position on the stage, with Alfieri’s Office to the right of the stage, a telephone booth to the left and a street to the front and sides of the apartment. Miller goes into great detail about the set as he also goes into detail about how thing should be furnished and their appearance to the audience. Eddie’s apartment should be simply furnished and appear homely, this is effective staging as, the audience can see that the people who live in this apartment are not wealthy, although they take care and pride in what they do have. We see an example of this in the 1st scene when Eddie comes home from work and Beatrice is busy tiding the house. Clear description

The rest of the stage is separated from Eddie’s apartment, where the main part of the play happens. The ‘street’ on both sides of the apartment breaks up the stage into sections. This is effective staging by the playwright as it gives the audience a clear definition of different places in the play. It shows us that the chair table that represent Alfieri’s office is another set on the stage, that it is not part of Eddie’s apartment; that it is somewhere else in the city. The playwright has given us this set as this is the set that he thought was the most effective for his play and will put across the meaning to the audience in the best way. It does this as the audience can see what is happening before the characters, as the set is broke up into sections. An example of this is when the immigration officers come after Eddie calls them. We as an audience can see that Eddie is regretting what he has done, but we can see that everything that he is doing is all been done in vain, as the they have already arrived and are outside. This gives a sense of destiny and tradedy to the play, as no matter what Eddie does now, he can not change the past, and he has to pay for his actions. Good – description linked to the text of the play.

The set given to us by the playwright is an effective one, although recently I went to view a performance of the play. The Production Company had changed the set, even though they had only made slight adjustments they were noticed. The changes they made from the original made it harder to follow the play, as we didn’t always know where the action was taking place. They didn’t have a separate area on the set for Alfieri’s office, this was the table and chair located in the middle of Eddie’s apartment. This made it hard as a member of the audience to figure out weather it was being used as Alfieri’s office or Eddie’s apartment, although it would have been clear if they had used the one designed by the playwright. The telephone booth was not featured either in this production, instead when it was to be used, sounds of thunder and lightening could be heard and flashing of lights. The character playing Eddie moved to the back of the stage in the centre and a pre-recorded piece of the scene was played. I think that this was effective, as it made the piece more dramatic than Miller does, as the sounds and lighting techniques tell the audience that this is a main part in the play. That the rest of the play is what happened as a result of what Eddie is doing here. The sounds of thunder and lighting being used is effective as these are sounds that we associate with danger, showing the audience what Eddie is doing is a dangerous thing, that there will be dangerous consequences from his actions. You have an interesting section here. It is important to consider the play as a performance text.

Another staging device used by the Miller, is the use of sound. This is only used a few times throughout the play. The first time it is used is at the beginning before we meet any of the characters, when we can only see the set. The sound used is that of a foghorn, this tells the audience that we are near to a shipping yard in the suburbs of a large city. That the characters in the play are probably people who work on the docks, and are therefore not very wealthy, and probably immigrants. We as an audience have been told all this information from one sound given to us, whilst the set is still empty and we have met no characters. I think that Miller chose to give the sound then as the audience can see the set clearly, and so can see what type of background the characters they will meet come from, and from where.

The playwright uses lighting as a stage device, this is used throughout the play. It is used to show the audience where the action is during the play, by highlighting certain parts of the stage. When the light is shone more prominently on a certain area of the stage, the audience’s eyes are drawn to this part of the stage. This is effective, as things happening at other parts on the stage will not distract the audience, as it will be in darkness. This means that we can focus on the acting that is happening on the stage so we can follow what is happening. An example of this is when Eddie and Alfieri are in his office, at the right of the stage, the rest of the stage is in darkness, the audience know that this is where the action is as it is highlighted so draws their eyes here. A good example of an MPD paragraph: you make a point, prove it by reference, and then discuss its importance.

Lighting can also be used in another way, to show what a character is thinking or feeling, instead of the use of dialogue. This is an effective use of stage devices by the playwright as, it is more interesting for the audience to watch, than to listen to the character say a long piece. The playwright used lighting instead as he could have felt that using lighting was an easy way of getting the point across to the audience. An example of this is when Eddie decides to call the immigration office to report Rodolfo and Marco. At this point the telephone box at the edge of the stage lights up. This shows the audience what is going to happen but it also shocks them, as they are not expecting this and Eddie does not mention it the lighting merely tells them what is about to happen. It gives the sense of destiny and tragedy that was bestowed to us at the beginning of the play by Alfieri. Good. You could also push the idea of “destiny and tragedy – this would allow you to move from “evaluation” to “analysis” – from a B grade to an A.

Another use of staging that is used in the play are stage directions, we as an audience only see these being used by the actors. As the playwright in the script writes them down, they tell the actor what emotion the lines should be delivered with, or how they should do a certain action. Without these the play would have no emotion with everything being spoke in a monotone manner. We as an audience would find it very hard to follow the play as we would not know how a character felt about a certain situation, and might get the wrong impression about certain things. An example of this is when Eddie is teaching Rodolfo how to box. It all starts of friendly but then turns sinister when Eddie punches Rodolfo. Marco who is watching sees that it is getting a bit more than just a lesson, and demonstrates to Eddie that he is stronger than he is. He is warning Eddie though his actions that he is aware what he is doing (trying to intimidate Rodolfo), and that he should pick on someone his own size. He grabs a nearby chair and challenges Eddie to lift it with one hand, Eddie struggles unable to do it. Marco then shows Eddie who is the stronger male, by lifting it up with ease. All of the action is done through directions given to the actor by the playwright, as either character through this speaks no dialogue. This is effective use of stage devices as the playwright, Arthur Miller is using a variety of ways to show important scenes, and keep the audience interested. As he has used sound, lighting and stage directions so far in the play to get the meaning of certain parts of the play across to the audience in the both the easiest and interesting ways. A good idea. This technique is called “subtext”.

The playwright includes the character of Alfieri in the play in two roles, firstly as the narrator and secondly as the lawyer that Eddie goes to for advice and help. He is not a main character in either of his roles, he does not effect the outcome of the play. Alfieri is the first character we meet in his role as the narrator, he tell us that what we are about to watch has already happened, as he speaks in the past tense, ‘was’. He gives us the sense of destiny that this was all foretold thousands of years ago then theme of destiny and tragedy, that this has already happened nothing can be changed. In this role he is rather like that audience, he can only sit back and watch what happens, he is powerless he cannot change or influence the actions of the characters. We are also told that this story is timeless that it can be related to any day and age. I think that the playwright included this role for Alfieri as he includes the audience, he establishes a link between us. He does this in this role as the narrator by talking to us at the beginning and during the play. He uses the 1st person this builds up a link with the audience, as it is personal it is what we use when we talk about ourselves. Well argued: this is analysis – an A grade skill. You need a quotatin to nail this firmly.

In his second role, as the lawyer, he is again not in a role where he can change or have any effect on what is happening. He can only give help and advice to Eddie, when he comes and asks him for it. He can tell them what to do or make their decisions for them, he can only advise on what to do. He fears for Eddie’s actions, as he can see his fate, he has seen this case before. He knows that the wheels have already been set in motion. He can not do anything about it now, nor can Eddie. In this role he reminds the audience of the underlying theme of the play, that of destiny and tragedy. That this is not going to have a happy ending. He reminds us that no one even Eddie can change what is to happen, it was laid down in stone many years before. Miller includes Alfieri in this role because of this, to remind that audience that this has been destined to happen for many years. Good – more complex issues. Again, however, you need quotation.

Overall, I think that the staging at stage devices used by Arthur Miller in a View from the Bridge, are very effective. They make the play interesting and involve the audience through Alfieri in his roles. Without the playwright including devices such as stage directions we would not know how characters feel toward actions by other characters. Miller used each device effectively as the play when acted out is very exciting to watch and the audience always knows what is happening and why.

Well done, Becky. This is a good example of an essay based on the Make, Prove, Develop structure (MPD). What is especially good is your focus in each section on Miller: you are discussing HOW, and not WHAT.

To improve, you need more analysis, especially in the first half. Remember, Clear Comment=grade 5; Evaluation and Developed comment=grade 7; Analysis=grade 9. At the moment, as the mark shows, you are moving from Developed comment to Analysis.

Remember too the importance of quotation.

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