Intermediate 2 English 2006 Critical Essay

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Context

In your essay you need to give a context. This means you to need to explain what is happening at that part of the text.

Do not give too much plot, but give enough in order to help your examiner establish what is happening.

For example:

"Poet Douglas, in stanza 1, looks around the battlefield that is now completely barren and clearly describes this ominous place. As the poet travels through the old battlefield a sense of desolation and fear is present and he labels the area."

This outlines what is happening and explains what the poet is actually writing about.

Evidence

No essay can pass in Intermediate 2 English without evidence.

Just like a lawyer needs evidence in court to win a case, you need evidence for your arguments to pass Intermediate 2 English. Quotes provide this evidence.

You need to have a range of quotes that back up your main points. Quotes must be relevant to the question and back up any comments or thoughts that you make. For example, adding the topic sentence, context and quote together would look like this:

Topic sentence: The eerie atmosphere is firmly established from the outset, Douglas’ sombre tone and vivid imagery give the reader a clear insight into the discomfortort of the place.

Context: Poet Douglas, in stanza 1, looks around the battlefield that is now completely barren and clearly describes this ominous place. As the poet travels through the old battlefield a sense of desolation and fear is present and he labels the area:

Quote: “nightmare ground”

The quote backs up what already has been said, yet can also now be analysed fully.

Analysis

In analysis you need to look at your quote.

Ask yourself, what can I say about...?

  • A particular word
  • An image - simile, metaphor, personification
  • Tone
  • Symbol
  • Repetition
  • Sentence structure

Imagine you have a rope. Throw the rope into the quote and pull specific features that stand out to you and make sense.

For example:

“nightmare ground”

  • What does this suggest?
  • What figure of speech is here?
  • What does this description make you envision?

Sample analysis: This metaphor implies the carnage of the event and of how it is indelibly printed in Douglas’ mind. The suggestion of “nightmare” illustrates his strong desire to escape from this war ground which is almost comparable to hell. He is so terrified that the place haunts his subconscious. It is clear that horrific events have occurred here and there is a lingering eerie atmostphere.

This is a brilliant piece of analysis with reference to the metaphor and connotations of "nightmare" which is relevant to the question.

Evaluation

The final element of a paragraph within an essay is evaluation.

Better candidates will evaluate continually in an essay - but what does this really mean?

Evaluation is asking yourself:

  • How effective has the poet/author/writer been?
  • Have they achieved their aim?
  • What techniques have they used?
  • How do I feel?
  • What have I learned on a wider scale?

Example:

We can clearly see how Douglas has been affected mentally by the war and that he is confined within a never ending nightmare that he cannot escape from. The reader begins to feel sympathy for the poet as we now know the anguish and distress he is going through and of how this place holds bad memories for him. The poet uses vivid imagery to convey how terrible war is and that it impacts profoundly on an individual. He is immersed in this eerie atmosphere and we are forced to think about the effects of war even after the battle has transpired.

Here are the critical essay questions taken from the Intermediate 2 past papers from the last few years. This will hopefully make essay practice a little bit easier as they are all collected in one place.

Remember: when writing your introduction identify all the parts of the question where you can put in your own information about your chosen text. i.e. a question reading

Choose a scene or sequence from a film or TV drama which provides a climax to the action. Briefly describe the events leading up to the climax, and then explain how the techniques used by the film or programme makers create a heightened sense of importance in this scene or sequence.

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Constantine directed by Francis Lawrence has a climatic sequence in which the lead character, Constantine, chooses to sacrifice himself in order to save the heroine, Angela. Prior to this Constantine had been attempting to reset the balance between good and evil on earth.  Lawrence has used various techniques in this climatic scene to create a heightened sense of the importance of Constantine’s actions at this point.

Remember: for your main paragraphs it is important to structure your essay properly. Try and stick to the PEEL system. In the first sentence state your main point or supporting argument. In the next sentence support this with some evidence from the text. Explain this evidence to the reader by making clear exactly how your evidence supports the point you have just made. Finally, link this back to the main argument.

POETRY QUESTIONS

1. Choose a poem which could be considered as having a powerful message. Show how the poet effectively conveys this message through his or her use of poetic techniques.

2. Choose a poem in which the poet creates a particular mood or atmosphere. Show how the poet creates this mood or atmosphere by his or her choice of subject matter and use of poetic techniques.

3. Choose a poem which portrays an interesting character. Show how the poet uses poetic techniques to make the character interesting.

4. Choose a poem which deals with an important issue such as war, crime, poverty or racism. Explain how the poet deepens your understanding of the issue by the choice of content and the skilful use of poetic techniques.

5. Choose a poem which describes an animal or a place or an event in an effective way. Briefly state what is being described and go on to show how the techniques used in the poem make the description effective.

6. Choose a poem written in a specific form such as ballad, sonnet, elegy, monologue, ode . . . Explain how the distinctive features of this form contribute to your appreciation of the text.

7. Choose a poem which describes a person’s experience. Explain how the poetic techniques used to describe the experience make the poem more interesting.

8. Choose a poem which arouses strong emotion in you. Describe how you feel about the poem, and explain how the poet leads you to feel this way.

9. Choose a poem in which the poet creates a particular mood or atmosphere. Show how the poet creates this mood or atmosphere by his or her choice of subject matter and use of poetic techniques.

10. Choose a poem which describes a place or an incident. Briefly state where or what is being described, and go on to explain how the techniques used in the poem make the description memorable.

11.Choose a poem which takes a particular form, such as sonnet, ode, ballad, elegy, monologue … Explain how the distinctive features of this form contribute to your appreciation of the poem.

12. Choose a poem which has an ending which you found surprising or interesting or satisfying or inspiring. Consider the whole poem, and by reference to the poet’s use of content and poetic techniques explain why you think the ending is particularly effective.

MEDIA QUESTIONS

1. Choose a film or TV drama* which deals with issues which mainly affect young people. Explain how the film or TV drama* deals with such issues, stating whether or not you find the portrayal of these issues realistic.

2. Choose a scene or sequence from a film which provides a climax to the action. Briefly describe the events leading up to the climax, and then explain how the techniques used by the film makers create a heightened sense of importance in this scene or sequence.

3.  Choose a film which you think is typical of its genre, for example: action, romance, comedy, horror . . . Explain how the film makers have used the features of the genre to create a successful film.

4. Choose a film or TV drama* which has a character who could be described as a hero or as a villain. Explain how the character is introduced and then developed throughout the film.

5. Choose a film or TV drama* in which setting is an important feature. Explain how the setting is established and go on to show how the setting contributes to the effectiveness of the film or TV drama as a whole.

6. Choose a scene or sequence from a film or TV drama* in which an atmosphere of mystery, or horror, or suspense is created. Describe what happens in the scene or sequence, explaining how the techniques used by the film or programme makers create this atmosphere.

7. Choose a film or TV drama* in which the main character is an individual for whom we feel sympathy. Show how media techniques are used to portray the character in such a way that we feel sympathy.

8. Choose a scene or sequence from a film or TV drama* which is particularly dramatic. Describe what happens in the scene or sequence, explaining how the film or programme makers effectively use techniques to create drama.

9. Choose a film or TV drama* in which there is a character who poses a threat to the main character. Show how media techniques are used to portray the character in such a way that the audience reacts against him/her and sees the threat which he/she poses.

10.Choose a film or TV drama* where conflict between characters is central to the plot. Explain the reasons for the conflict and show how media techniques intensify audience involvement at particular scenes.

11. Choose a film which is an example of a specific genre such as horror, romance, action or comedy. Explain how the film makers have used the features of the genre to create a successful film.

12. Choose a film or TV drama* which highlights a particular moral or political or social or environmental issue. Identify the issue and show how media techniques are used to persuade us to adopt a particular view or to explore the issue more fully.

PROSE QUESTIONS

1. Choose a novel which gives you an insight into an aspect of human nature or behaviour. State what the aspect is, and show how the characters’ actions and relationships lead you to a deeper understanding of human nature or behaviour.

2. Choose a novel with an ending which you find satisfactory. By looking at the novel or short story as a whole, explain why you find the ending satisfactory in bringing to a conclusion the main concerns of the text.

3. Choose a prose work in which setting is an important feature. Explain how the writer creates the setting, and then go on to show how this feature contributes to your understanding of the text as a whole.

4. Choose a novel in which you feel there is an incident of great importance to the story as a whole. Describe the incident and go on to show its importance to the development of the characters and the central concerns of the text.

5. Choose a novel which has a character who affects you emotionally. Describe how you feel about the character, and show how the writer leads you to feel this way.

6. Choose a prose work in which the writer uses a memorable style/voice/narrative technique. Explain in detail how features of the writing style/voice/narrative technique contribute to the effectiveness of the text.

7. Choose a novel where there is an incident which is a turning point crucial to the fate of the main character. Briefly describe what happens at this point and go on to explain why this is crucial to the fate of a main character.

8. Choose a novel in which setting in place and/or time is an important feature. Briefly describe the setting(s) and explain the importance of this feature to the story.

9. Choose a novel or a short story or a non-fiction text or group of texts which deals with an important human issue (such as the abuse of power, conflict between good and evil, loss of freedom or hatred between individuals or groups). Show how the author reveals the issue through the portrayal of people and events throughout the text, and show how your understanding of the issue has deepened.

10. Choose a novel in which there is conflict between two characters. Examine the nature of the conflict and explain to what extent it is resolved.

11. Choose a novel with a message which is still relevant today. Show how the author’s portrayal of events and character(s) highlight the author’s message.

12. Choose a novel which made a strong impact on you. Explain how the writer’s use of language creates this impact.

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