Tag Archives: critical essay

Scary Revision Time 2019 (Don Paterson and Great Expectations)

Hello darling Higher students. It’s that time of year again, where you all start panicking and stressing out. Fear not, the revision materials are here to help you remain calm and make sure all those lovely quotes and pieces of analysis are secure in your head.

First up, RUAE. You will find past papers on the SQA website. Go check it out now!

Secondly you need to know your quotes for the Critical Reading paper:
revision quotes

Thirdly, some practice questions focused on your Critical Reading:
Don Paterson Practice Questions
Higher essay questions

And lastly, here’s some sample essays for you to think about:
Estella complex character

GE important incident Havisham and Estella

Havisham attitude

Havisham mental health theme

havisham side-by-side

Pip mixed feelings

Pip moral significance

Pip side by side

Great Expectations Complex character essay on Estella

colour-coded PEEL Estella essay

Below is the Estella essay without the colour-coding. The word document option will help you see the structure more clearly.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens features the character Estella whose complexity lies in the fact that she is Miss Havisham’s adopted puppet, created to break men’s hearts as revenge for her mother yet we feel sympathy for her as she does not understand how to behave in any other way. The novel follows Pip as he falls in love with Estella, rises from poverty to riches at the hand of a mysterious benefactor before finding himself and his purpose in life as a young man. We can discuss how Estella’s complexity helps us understand Dicken’s wider point of being a good person in life.

We first meet Estella at Satis House when Pip goes there to ‘play’ with her at Miss Havisham’s invitation – really he is Estella’s first toy to test her emotional manipulation abilities and show us how she influences Pip’s personality. She flexes these manipulation muscles in her first meeting with Pip where he tells us, “her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.” Here the word choice of ‘contempt’ shows that Estella truly hates Pip. The metaphor of it becoming ‘infectious’ eloquently shows that Pip’s own feelings towards himself change. Estella’s actions cause Pip to dislike himself as a person. He ‘catches’ the ‘contempt’ for himself and starts to judge himself and his background cruelly. Estella does this because she has been brought up to think less of those around her. Estella’s meanness to Pip is the trigger for him to change from a pleasant boy into a snob who criticises himself, she is the trigger for Pip to stop being a good person.

This change in Pip’ s personality continues at their next meeting when Pip fights a boy outside Satis House and catches Estella watching. Pip again tells us, “there was a bright flush upon her face, as though something had happened to delight her”. Estella’s reaction here is disturbing as she seems to be excited by the physical violence, the ‘flush’ hints at a sexual excitement too, she is being trained to delight in others pain – a sadist. This is the first clear sign that Estella thrives on seeing others hurt. She is even seen to reward Pip for fighting by granting him a kiss. This shows her manipulating him, by encouraging his affections for her and suggesting that she needs physical protection in some way. This scene adds a complexity to Estella’s character as it shows she is capable of enjoying things rather than keeping herself neutral to everything. It also adds to the whole story as the event further deepens Pip’s feelings for Estella leading him further into a personality that does not always display positive traits.

We start to feel sorry for Estella when it becomes clear that she is a broken person and Pip still tries desperately to make her love him. She tells Pip, “I have a heart to be stabbed or shot in, I have no doubt, and, of course, if it ceased to beat, I would cease to be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no – sympathy – sentiment – nonsense.” Her words here shows she acknowledges her physical heart as something that can hurt or harmed, and she uses alliteration and plosive words to highlight this hurt – ‘stabbed’ and ‘shot’. They add aggression to her tone and make it sound like she is spitting her words at Pip. But then she disregards being able to feel emotions. She refers to these as ‘softness’ suggesting she thinks emotions are something that make you vulnerable. She shows further disdain for them with her list of words ‘sympathy’, ‘sentiment’ and then the final blow, ‘nonsense’. With that word she dismisses Pip’s feelings for her as trivial. In the same speech she also talks of never ‘bestowing her tenderness anywhere’ as she has never had tenderness. With such a statement Estella again refutes any warmth in her personality. There is an irony here though, as in telling Pip such things she is showing him a kindness in trying to warn him away. At this point we feel sorry for Estella, she is a cold-hearted being, because that is what Miss Havisham made her and she attempts to save Pip from her but he will not listen. He is still desperately set on believing the fairytale that Miss Havisham is his secret benefactor and that he is destined for Estella.

As Estella grows into an adult she actually goes against her maker Miss Havisham, much to the old lady’s shock and horror. Miss Havisham is appalled at Estella’s attitude when discussing her engagement to Drummel and Estella responds with “I am what you designed me to be. I am your blade. You cannot now complain if you also feel the hurt.” There is a continued theme here of violence that surrounds Estella. She compares herself to a knife here as both are sharp and can be used to hurt people – a knife physically, Estella emotionally. What Estella exemplifies at this point is how dangerous it is to interfere with people and shape them. She can commit Miss Havisham’s wishes but in doing so she is also hurting Miss Havisham. She does no good for anyone her, not for herself, not for Drummel, not for Pip and certainly not for Miss Havisham. In trying to achieve revenge, Miss Havisham has only hurt herself by cutting short Estella’s love for her.

There is some hope for Estella though, and even she, arguably the most broken character in the book finds redemption. Estella meets Pip at Satis House and reveals Drummel, her abusive husband is dead and she is free to remarry, she tells him, “I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape”. Her word choice here is actually quite sad, although she is speaking metaphorically here about her change of character and says that she is a better person now she is also referencing that part of this change took place as a result of Drummel’s fists – ‘bent’ and ‘broken’. The words are also alliterative and plosive as if mimicking the sound of his raining blows. It is also plausible that Estella actually finds a happy ending after finding herself as we are told by Pip, “I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and… I saw no shadow of another parting from her.” The word choice of ‘ruined’ suggests that both characters accept the imperfections of their past but are prepared to move on from it, the holding of hands shows them finally in partnership and the lack of ‘shadow of another parting’ suggests they intend to be together. This ending shows us our protagonist achieving his happy ending, but it also shows that Estella, as a result of her changes to her life also receiving her happy ending with a man who will care for her and love her properly.

In conclusion, Estella is an immensely complicated character as a result of her upbringing at the hand of Miss Havisham who intends her to be a manipulative heart-breaker. Estella can quickly see that she is inhuman in certain aspects and thrives and gets excited from being able to control the men around her. She feels sorry for Pip though and attempts to protect him from her. This makes us sympathetic towards her as she attempts to protect our protagonist. We also know that her behaviour is not entirely her fault. She exemplifies Dicken’s theme of being a good person as she, like Pip, only gets her happy ending when she changes herself for the better.

Critical Essay Writing

I know you guys think this is hard, and you think I’m mad when I say this is easy – but it really is! You do need to know all your quotes though, and it is SUPER important that you remember you essay structure. You are making an argument in your critical essay, a critical one, where you investigate and analyse the text. You should be making a clear POINT at the start of each paragraph, backing it up with clear EVIDENCE from the text, EXPLAINING how these quotes develop your point and finally LINKing it back to the main question.

This gives a minimum of four sentences in each paragraph of the essay. If you are sitting Higher, you should be putting in A LOT more analysis on your quotes. You should also be using more than one quote in some of your paragraphs. This will give you a PEEEEL structure in some of your paragraphs.

This sounds like a lot of work, but if you have selected your quotes carefully, then they are actually going to do most of the work for you.

Let’s take a closer look. We’re going to take The Kite Runner as our sample text. The 2018 Higher class have been studying this and they have chosen the following quotes:
1. ‘it was the look of the lamb’

2. ‘Coward! Coward!’
3. ‘in thin, raspy voice: ‘Yes.”

4. ‘There is a way to be good again’

5. ‘My body was broken… but I was healed. I laughed.’

6. ‘You will not refer to him as that Hazara boy in my presence again. He has a name and it is Sohrab.’
7. ‘It was only a smile, nothing more, but I’ll take it.’
8. ‘For you a thousand times over.’

That’s the quotes sorted out. Now we need to think about setting up an essay. Your introduction is important because it sets the scene. Take a look at these questions from the 2015 Higher paper:

4. Choose a novel or short story in which the method of narration is important. Outline briefly the writer’s method of narration and explain why you feel this method makes such a major contribution to your understanding of the text as a whole.

5. Choose a novel or short story in which there is a moment of significance for one of the characters. Explain briefly what the significant moment is and discuss, with reference to appropriate techniques, its significance to the text as a whole.

6. Choose a novel or short story which has a satisfying ending. Discuss to what extent the ending provides a successful conclusion to the text as a whole.

The first question is answerable but it’s not something we’ve focused on in class. Question 5 and 6 however are perfect for us. Take a look at the sample intro’s below. I’ve put them side by side so you can see how similar they are, and that we are simply tailoring our response to suit the actual question. Note how they use the same idea but tweak it to fit the question:

Now on to the first paragraph. We need to make clear our line of thought here, utilise our evidence and tie it back to the main argument of the text. Take a look at these two:

See how they use the exact same evidence and analysis? The POINT is more or less the same, but worded to suit the intent of the question, the same thing has happened with the link back to tie it in to the question.

Let’s take a look at the rest of both essays and see how the conclusion would work:

And that’s it!

(And yes, I am aware there are some grammatical and spelling errors in the above, but I think we can live with them for just now in the name of having Prelim revision materials!)

Essaying the Kite Runner

Now we’re going to try and write an essay. We’re going to take a look at question 1 again:

1. Choose a novel or short story in which there is a character who experiences rejection or isolation. With reference to appropriate techniques, explain the rejection or isolation, and discuss how this aspect adds to your appreciation of the text as a whole.

If this was your question and you’ve started off your essay by giving this intro:
In The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini there is a character Amir, who experiences isolation when he isolates himself because he experiences guilt at letting Hassan get raped. In the story Amir must make up for letting his best friend Hassan get raped by rescuing his nephew Sohrab from the Taliban. We can look at how Amir‘s isolation is important to our appreciation of the text as a whole by helping us understand that it is important to redeem yourself even if it is a hard thing to do.

Then we need to focus on Amir isolating himself and how this plays into the bigger theme of redemption. To begin with we’re going to note the POINTs when Amir isolates himself – the rape scene. Our next comment should be on how Amir goes on to isolate himself from Hassan, and then unwittingly from his father Baba. We can then begin to talk about how he comes back from this self-isolation by returning to Afghanistan at Rahim Khan’s request and rescuing his nephew. Then there is the sense of redemption at the end as he has finally managed to resolve things with Hassan’s memory. Our five points then would be something like:

1. Amir witnesses the rape and becomes guilty at Hassan’s sacrifice
2. He cannot deal with the rape and pushes Hassan away, attempting to fight him and eventually framing him
3. Rahim Khan explains that there is a way to be good again and he doesn’t need to be guilty anymore.
4. He gets Sohrab back and experiences a catharsis at finally confronting Assef.
5. He becomes the good man Baba wanted him to be and there is hope for Sohrab’s future.

Now, obviously that alone isn’t enough to write your whole essay. We will need to flesh this out with EVIDENCE from the text. What would we note down for these different sections? For each piece of EVIDENCE we need to explain how it is doing what it is doing. For a Higher essay some of our POINTs may have more than one piece of EVIDENCE which we will put in the same paragraph, or series of paragraphs. When we round off a paragraph we need to refer back to the question to show how that POINT is relevant. This is your LINK BACK. We’re going to put this plan together now:

P: Amir witnesses the rape and becomes guilty at Hassan’s sacrifice
E: “It was the look of the lamb”
Metaphor and alliteration to draw attention to what he is saying. The lamb is a symbol for Hassan. The lamb is sacrificed just like Hassan sacrifices himself for Amir and the kite trophy.
L: This event and the trauma of letting it happen is what causes Amir to isolate himself from those around him, especially Hassan who he feels he cannot face.

P: He cannot deal with the rape and pushes Hassan away, attempting to fight him and eventually framing him.
E: “Coward! Coward!”
E: Speech that is shouted hence the exclamations. Amir calls Hassan a coward but really he is talking about himself. As he does this he throws pomegranates at Hassan. Pomegranates = friendship. Friendship is dead.
E: “Hassan’s reply was a single word, delivered in a thin, raspy voice: Yes”
E: Word choice thin raspy = Hassan’s low state. Yes = Hassan covering for Amir to get away from him.
L: Amir is incapable of processing or dealing with his guilt at what he has allowed to happen to Hassan and so he pushes him as far away as possible. This is what he will have to redeem in the future – the hurt he causes his best friend (and brother).

P: Rahim Khan explains that there is a way to be good again and he doesn’t need to be guilty anymore.
E: “There is a way to be good again”
E: instruction and challenge set by Rahim Khan. Idea that Amir was once a good person.
L: This phone call gives Amir the push he needs to leave his self-isolation and make things good.

P: He gets Sohrab back and experiences a catharsis at finally confronting Assef.
E: “My body was broken…but I felt healed. I laughed.”
E: Alliteration on ‘b’ and the plosiveness matches the sound of his bones breaking and so adds to the violence of the scene. The ellipses is to make us pause as he contrasts with his physical pain by telling us he was mentally relieved. He was ‘healed’ word choice tells us he was whole again. The ‘laughing’ shows us his relief.
L: Amir’s isolation was caused because he didn’t do the right thing the first time around. Now he does the right thing by preventing a rape and taking the beating he should have had in the first place.

P: He becomes the good man Baba wanted him to be and there is hope for Sohrab’s future showing complete redemption and becoming a good person.
E: You will not refer to him as ‘that Hazara boy’ in front of me again. He has a name and it is Sohrab
E: standing up to Soraya’s father. The words are words once used against Hassan. Amir is finally learning to be a good person.
E: For you a thousand times over
E: he can finally speak the words Hassan once said to him and mean them. That he is willing to do anything for someone else.
E: It was only a smile, nothing more… but I’ll take it.
E: The smile shows hope for Sohrab’s future, and their future as a family unit.
L: Amir has made things right and no longer has to feel isolated.

The isolation was caused by Amir because he couldn’t handle his guilt. This lead to him having to redeem himself, something that Hosseini wanted us to think about. Amir eventually came out of his isolation at the request of Rahim Khan and he made things right by rescuing Sohrab.

Now attempt to write an essay using this plan.

Lord of the Flies – Charcater essay on Ralph

Choose a novel with a character who you find interesting. With reference to the text show how the writer made the character interesting.

In The Lord of the Flies by William Golding Ralph is a very interesting character. In the novel a group of boys become stranded on a desert island and must fight to survive. Ralph is a compelling character because he is the one who fights to keep civility alive amongst the boys and tries to stop them becoming savages. We can track how he does this throughout the novel.

The first way Ralph proves to be interesting is when he establishes a sense of order on the island. He finds a large conch and gathers the boys together and tells them “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak, they won’t be interrupted”. We can see clearly here that there is a sense of democracy, any boy who wishes to speak will be given the chance to do so. The idea that they won’t be ‘interrupted’ shows that Ralph expects the boys to listen to each other and give each other respect even if they don’t agree with one another. Ralph is also clearly the leader here as he is the one in charge of where the conch goes. This makes Ralph interesting as he is clearly the authority figure and he is clearly in charge at this point.

Ralph continues to exert his authority over the boys. The younger boys begin to slack off from their work and the older boys don’t pay attention to the fire and so Ralph shouts “I’m calling an assembly” and the boys immediately gather at the point. This shows that Ralph is still the boss at this point and it shows the boys still have a sense of civility as they conform to Ralph’s instructions. This is interesting because it shows Ralph is still able to control the boys at this point and there is still a sense of a functioning society.

Ralph sees that the boys are starting to move away from their civility as time passes and he tries to remind the boys of who they are. The older boys let the fire go out and Ralph, furious at them asks “Are we savages or what?” The tone of this is angry and he is trying to tell the boys that they need to behave better. The loss of fire is a loss of hope of rescue. Letting the fire go out suggests that some of the older boys aren’t actually fussed about getting off the island. This scene is interesting because it shows Ralph is starting to feel exhausted from being the only authority figure and he is getting frazzled at trying to get so many boys to conform to rules that will ultimately save them.

Ralph starts to lose his authority when Jack begins to openly challenge him. Jack punches Piggy and steals his glasses in order to restart the signal fire, Ralph calls him out on it saying “That was a dirty trick” and we are told “Ralph felt his lip twitch”. Ralph is openly identifying Jack’s deviant actions whereas in the past he would have let Jack away with it. He is trying to control Jack here. His lip twitching is an involuntary action but it betrays Ralph’s dislike for Jack. This scene is interesting as the group of boys can now see the split between Jack and Ralph and will be forced to take sides, and Ralph here actually looks weaker because he is not using brute strength.

Finally Ralph loses control of the boys completely but refuses to join them as he still clings to civility over savagery. When Simon is mistaken for the Beast and murdered Ralph is the only one who will admit “that was Simon, that was murder” and when they are finally rescued and the naval officer asks jokingly had they killed anyone Ralph responds “Only two” and Golding reveals “The officer knew when people were telling the truth. He whistled softly.” Ralph’s first statement is just that, a clear acknowledgement that the boys’ savage behaviour has led them to kill someone. Ralph’s response to the naval officer implies that the boys could have ended up killing more boys if rescue hadn’t occurred. Ralph is not scared of the truth. Ralph is interesting because he is the one boy on the island who has matured and grown a strong moral centre prizing civility over savagery.

In conclusion, Golding makes Ralph an interesting character by showing him grow as a leader and then remain the only boy who will not succumb to savagery by joining Jack’s group. Ralph is there to show us what could happen when savagery takes over from civility.

Lord of the Flies – Character essay on Jack

Choose a novel with a character who you find fascinating. With reference to the text show how the writer made the character fascinating.

William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies is a novel in which Jack is a fascinating character. In the book a group of boys are stranded on a desert island and must work out how to survive. Golding makes Jack a fascinating character as he makes him change from a darling little boy into a terrifying and reckless young man. We can explore how this change takes place.

At the start of the book Jack is clearly still confined by society’s rules and still wants to be seen as good. We know this as in the scene where he catches a pig he struggles to kill it and we’re told ““he hadn’t because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh”. Here, the word choice of ‘enormity’ tells us that Jack finds killing the pig a big deal, he struggles to murder a living thing as he’s never done this before. The description of the knife ‘descending’ reinforces this as even though the knife is traveling a short distance to Jack it feels like an eternity as he tries to commit a big act of killing. The words ‘living flesh’ shows Jack still empathises with the pig and doesn’t want to kill it. At this point it is clear Jack still wants to follow normal rules and thinks that hurting things is wrong.

Jack begins to change slowly and develops a crazy and violent side. We see this when his hunting job starts to take over his mind and we are told Jack had a “compulsion to track down and kill things that was swallowing him up”. The word ‘compulsion’ suggests that this feeling is not something Jack has any control over; it is almost instinctive for him or a crazy addiction. This is reinforced by the idea that this feeling was ‘swallowing’ him up, it was a feeling or thought that was taking over his life and killing a pig became the only thing he could think about. There’s a possibility that Jack became so fixated as he felt like a failure and less masculine for failing to kill the pig in the first place and now wants to kill one to prove he is a man. This makes Jack fascinating as it is difficult to understand how someone could want to kill something, or be so fixated on that, unless they were going crazy in some way.

Jack does finally manage to kill a pig but all this seems to do is make him madder and badder. He leads a group of boys after they kill the pig and starts a war dance around the carcass chanting “Kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”. This is quite a disturbing scene, the boys appear far too young for such ferocious actions. The chant shows how savage they have become under Jack’s instructions. The words ‘cut’ and ‘spill’ are quite visceral and forceful and the boys are acting far more maturely and savagely than we’d expect them to. This makes Jack seem fascinating as he is now convincing the other boys to become savages too.

Jack’s behaviour develops again when he begins to challenge Ralph’s authority on the island. When the boys are discussing who will go up the mountain and find the beast Jack says he will go and yells at Ralph “coming?” This is clearly asked in a challenging and mocking tone. Jack doesn’t believe Ralph will go up the mountain because he is too scared and Jack will be able to prove to the boys that he should be their brave new leader. This is fascinating because we see Jack try to manipulate the situation so he can wrestle control from Ralph and lead the group.

Jack finally gets what he wants and becomes the chief of all the boys. However his control of them is through fear rather than love and we are told he was “the boy who controlled them” which is best seen when he interacts with Roger – “Jack had [Rodger] by the hair and was brandishing a knife”. The word ‘controlled’ suggests that Jack is a massive dictator but the ‘boy’ suggests that his leadership is immature. The scene with Roger is worrying as it shows Jack dominating the other boys through force and threat. This is fascinating as we see Jack reach the worst version of himself all caused by being on an island without rules.

In conclusion, Golding creates a fascinating character in Jack by making his personality develop from a reasonably pleasant boy to one who begins to challenge authority and eventually become the authority on the island. He is a brute force who has been included to show what happens if the rules are taken away. Jack is the little savage in all of us.

2016-7 Quote Bank for Lord of the Flies

“We was attacked”
“This is our island”
“there aren’t any grown-ups, we’ll have to look after ourselves”
“He says the beastie came in the dark”
“battle fought at a ten mile height, but a sign came down from the world of the grown-ups”
“All at once thunder struck. Instead of a dull boom there was a point of impact in the explosion””

Theme & Symbolism
“I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak, they won’t be interrupted”
“he hadn’t because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh”
“snake thing” becomes “Lord of the Flies”
“Kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”
“piggy cried out in terror “my specs!””
“the tearing of teeth and claws”
“that was Simon, that was murder”
“the boy who controlled them”

Character- Ralph
“I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak, they won’t be interrupted”
“I’m calling an assembly”
“Are we savages or what?”
“That was a dirty trick” “Ralph felt his lip twitch”
“that was Simon, that was murder”
“Only two” “The officer knew when people were telling the truth. He whistled softly.”

Character – Jack
“he hadn’t because of the enormity of the knife descending and cutting into living flesh”
“compulsion to track down and kill things that was swallowing him up”
“Kill the pig, cut her throat, spill the blood”
“coming?” – challenges Ralph
“Jack had [Rodger] by the hair and was brandishing a knife”
“the boy who controlled them”