Critical Essays - Higher

T - Introduce title of text
A - Author and brief statement about the main
issues of the text.
R - Refer to essay task
and reason for writing
the essay.
T – Techniques you
will mention.
Q. Choose a novel or short story which is set during a period of social
or political change .
Discuss how important the writer’s evocation of the period is to your
appreciation of the text as a whole
Good! 
In the novel ‘The remains of the day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro, the setting of
Post war Britain the 1920’s and ‘30’s is explored. Both these times
were of great social, economic and political upheaval and this
setting is essential in conveying many of the writer’s themes, such
as loss, loyalty and dignity. The writer uses the setting and
symbolism to develop these themes.
1) Choose a novel in which a character seeks to escape from the constraints of
his or her environment or situation.
Explain why the character feels the need to escape and show how his or her
response to the situation illuminates a central concern of the text.
2)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.
3) Choose a novel or short story where the method of narration makes an
important contribution to the success of the text.
Explain briefly the method of narration used by the author and then show in
more detail the ways in which it contributes to the overall theme.
Are the introductions structured as effectively as
they could be?
1. Highlight the elements of TART used.
• How could they be better?
2. Rewrite the introductions, including the elements of
TART that they are lacking.
Key Features of a Good Summary
 Relevance of text. (Historical context, a note
on the author etc)
 Identify and explain the main theme(s) and
how it/they are conveyed.
 No more than 4 sentences to explain
beginning, middle and end of the plot.
Write an introduction and summary for the
following question.
Choose a novel which explores the nature of evil.
Show how the author’s exploration of the theme
enhanced your understanding of evil.
Remember to read the question carefully, ensure
you know what it is asking and decide beforehand
what techniques you would explore in your answer
before mentioning them in your intro.
“Jekyll and Hyde” – set in Victorian London during a
time of great scientific and religious upheaval –
focuses on the strange events that surround the life of
Dr Henry Jekyll and his mysterious protégé, Edward
Hyde. Jekyll’s friend, the eminent lawyer Mr Utterson,
takes the reader through a series of seemingly
coincidental events that ultimately lead to the
shocking revelation of the nature of Dr Jekyll’s work.
The novel, the most famous of Stevenson’s
publications, brings to light the hypocrisy of the
Victorian society in which it was set. Stevenson
questions the very foundations on which this
extremely Christian society had built itself.
Step one – Introductions
 Use TART to include write an effective one.
 What does TART stand for?
Step two – summary
 Relevance of the text
 Identify and explain main themes
 No more than 4 lines summing up what
happens in the text.
 This is where you really get down
answering the question! This is also
where you realise that Close Reading
and Textual Analysis are actually
valuable because you must show
understanding as well as analyse and
evaluate points.
You should aim for 4 sections, spending around 5-10
minutes on each.
Topic sentence.
A point fully made in context (understanding)
Some evidence – a quotation to support this, indented
from the margin.
 An explanation which fully analyses this textual evidence.
 Response, containing personal opinion on what you have
 Closing sentence (including key words from the essay
 Topic sentence – what your paragraph will be about in
relation to the task.
Point – say something about the text.
Example – quotation which has been introduced letting
the reader know where in the text it came from.
Explanation – technique + explanation of why it is
effective in this instance.
Response – Personal engagement with the text and a
link back to the task.
Just as Shakespeare influences our feelings towards Shylock
through his characterisation of Antonio and the Christians in
Venetian society, he also forces us to reappraise our opinion of the
Jewish moneylender as we learn of the treatment he suffers at the
hands of Launcelot, his Christian servant, and Jessica, his daughter.
Launcelot, in a soliloquoy delivered in Act 2, Scene 2, reveals his
contempt for his master:
“Certainly my conscience will serve me to run from this
Jew my master’’
Shakespeare’s use of inversion subtly reveals Launcelot’s disdain
and lack of respect for Shylock as he identifies him firstly as a Jew
before his ‘master’. This lack of respect for Shylock compounds our
feelings of sympathy towards him as even someone with the social
standing of Launcelot, who Shylock clothes and feeds, looks down
on him as a result of his beliefs.
Choose a novel in which the use of setting in time
and/or place has a significant part to play in your
appreciation of the text as a whole.
Give the relevant details of the setting and then
discuss fully why it has such significance.
Relevant features/techniques
for prose:
Characterisation, key incidents,
setting, symbolism, structure,
language, mood/atmosphere,
method of narration…
Relevant features/techniques
for poetry:
Imagery: metaphor, simile,
personification etc. Word
choice. Tone/mood. Structure…
The back door to Jekyll’s house relates to the elusive Mr Hyde to whom
reactions are the polar opposite to that of Jekyll. Stevenson describes
the back entrance which Hyde is seen to go through:
‘The door was blistered and distained, the marks of prolonged and
sordid negligence’
This illustrates a horrible image of something totally disregarded. The
word choice of ‘blistered’ and ‘sordid’ give the impression of the door
decaying. The word ‘blistered’ is particularly effective as it has
connotations of illness and infection. This relates directly to the
character of Hyde as the evil connected to him spreads and affects the
other characters in the story like a disease. The description instantly
tells the reader that there is something wrong linked to the rear of the
house. The word ‘sordid’ links directly with Hyde as it implies
something disgusting and squalid. Stevenson uses setting here to link
with characterisation and helps the reader to gain a fuller
understanding of the hidden and deformed Mr Hyde.
You should have:
 An introduction using TART
 A brief and effective summary
You now need:
 To plan each section by finding quotations for each
 To get writing!
Try to add sophistication by at times
incorporating quotations into your sentence, i.e:
 When Hyde acts with, ‘ape-like fury’ the contrast
of the composed Jekyll and animalistic Hyde is
ever more clear.
As opposed to:
 Hyde is described like an animal, the writer
describes his actions as:
‘ape-like fury’.
Use this space to give an overall answer to
the question.
Sum up the points you have made.
Use the words of the task again.
Give an overall personal response to the text.
In conclusion, Duffy’s ‘Havisham’ presents us, in the
titular character, with a persona who is driven by
particularly feelings of hatred. This hatred intensifies
over the course of the text, ending in threats of
violence not only towards her once fiancé but indeed
all men. It is this undiscriminating sense of
detestation that paints the character, ultimately, in an
unsympathetic light. From close study of this text I
have learned that some emotions, if not carefully
managed, can be highly destructive – not least of all
one’s own mental health, much like Miss Havisham
who does not even know, “her, myself, who did this /
to me?”
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