The following exam questions have been lifted from the old Higher papers. It would be worth your while to take a look at these and practice your critical writing. Remember you must have a clear introduction that sets out what you are going to be looking at, each main paragraph must have a point which is then back up with evidence from the text (preferably a quote). You then need to analyse this evidence, how is it supporting your point? And finally how does this link back to the main argument?
>Choose a novel in which the fate of the main character is important in conveying the writer’s theme. Explain what you consider the main theme to be and discuss how effectively the fate of the character conveys it.
>Choose a novel which has one of the following as its theme: sacrifice; unrequited love; isolation. Discuss the techniques by which the novelist establishes one of these themes and go on to show how, in the end, he or she achieves a satisfactory resolution.
>Choose a novel in which the writer’s method of narration (such as first person narrative, diary form, journal…) plays a significant part. Explain briefly the method of narration and discuss its importance to your appreciation of the text.
>Choose a novel where the method of narration makes an important contribution to the success of the text. Briefly explain the method of narration used by the author and then show in more detail the ways in which it contributes to the overall theme.
>Choose a novel which seems to be bleak and pessimistic. Show how the pessimism is established and go on to discuss the extent to which the pessimism contributes to the overall theme.
>Choose a novel with dark uncertain undertones. Explain the means by which the writer has created the undertones and, in more detail, discuss their contribution to the themes as a whole.
>Choose a novel in which the novelist makes use of more than one location. Discuss how the use of different locations allows the novelist to develop the central concern(s) of the text.
>Choose a novel where characters are affected by certain external forces over which they have little control. Discuss the writer’s use of such forces – social, political, supernatural – and show the extent to which the characters have difficulty in dealing with them.
>Choose a novel in which the novelist makes use of symbols. Describe briefly what they represent and discuss how the use of these symbols helps develop the central concern(s) of the text.
>Choose a novel in which the story’s emotional twists ensure that your interest is held until the end. Briefly explain how these twists involve you in the story and then discuss how they lead to a deeper appreciation of the text as a whole.
>Choose a novel which has a theme of friendship or family relationships. Show how the novelist explores your chosen theme and discuss how this treatment enhances your appreciation of the novel as a whole.
>Choose a novel in which a character experiences a moment of revelation. Describe briefly what is revealed and discuss its significance to your understanding of the theme/s.
>Choose a novel in which a minor character plays an important part. Show how the minor character’s role is established and go on to discuss how that character contributes to either the fate of the main character or to the overall theme of the novel.
>Choose a novel which slowly reveals the strengths of the main character. Show how the writer achieves the revelation and go on to demonstrate how it contributes to the overall theme of the text.
>Choose a novel with a central character you consider to be heroic. Show how the heroic qualities are revealed and discuss how this portrayal of the character enhances your understanding of the text as a whole.
>Choose a novel where the story, interesting for its own sake, nevertheless also comments more generally on human behaviour. Show how the story itself interests you but go on to discuss how the story also has a much more universal appeal.
>Choose a novel where the ending raises more questions than answers. Explain how the novelist prepares us for the ending and go on to discuss its contribution to the novel as a whole.
>Choose a novel in which one character’s loyalty or disloyalty to another proves to be decisive. Explain how this arises and go on to discuss why you think it is important to the text as a whole.