`A Picture of Zoe` Sample Essay

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‘A Picture of Zoe’
Sample Essay
Essay question
• Choose a story which has more than one theme.
• Show how the writer presents two of these themes to
the reader and explore how they are linked in the
story.
You should refer closely to the text and to at least two of:
narrative style, plot, setting, characterisation,
structure, language and style.
Step 1: Identify the key words
Step 2: Writing an introduction
You need to use the key words of the question to help you
to write your introduction.
Essay Question:
• Choose a story which has more than one theme.
• Show how the writer presents two of these themes to
the reader and explore how they are linked in the story.
How to start your introduction:
a) refer to the key words of the first part of the essay
question and give the title of the text and the name of
the author
Start of Intro:
A story which has more than one theme is ‘A Picture of Zoe’
written by Liam Stewart.
b) At this point you can refer to the text’s theme(s) and
give a brief summary.
However, as the question asks about the story’s themes,
these can be included in part c) for this introduction.
c) refer to the key words of the second part of the question
and outline what you are going to write about, referring to
the techniques which you are going to analyse:
Second part of the question:
Show how the writer presents two of these themes to the
reader and explore how they are linked in the story.
Final part of the intro:
The short story explores the key themes of relationships and
prejudice through the use of a number of techniques such
as narrative style, structure and setting, and thereby builds
up to a dramatic ending which shows the damage that can
be done by judging people of presupposed ideas.
Writing your introduction - Summary
a) refer to the key words of the first part of the essay
question and give the title of the text and the name of
the author;
b) briefly summarise the text and refer to its theme(s);
c) refer to the key words of the second part of the
question and outline what you are going to write about,
referring to the techniques which you are going to
analyse.
The whole introduction
A story which has more than
one theme is ‘A Picture of Zoe’
written by Liam Stewart. The
short story explores the key
themes of relationships and
prejudice through the use of a
number of techniques such as
narrative style, structure and
setting, and thereby builds up to
a dramatic ending which shows
the damage that can be done by
judging people of presupposed
ideas.
refer to the key words of
the first part of the essay
question and give the title
of the text and the name of
the author
briefly summarise the text
and refer to its theme(s)
refer to the key words of
the second part of the
question and outline what
you are going to write
about, referring to the
techniques which you are
going to analyse.
The body of your essay
The paragraphs in the main part of all critical
essays should follow the same structure:
• Topic sentence – the first sentence of each
paragraph should introduce the subject of the
paragraph;
• Make a point;
• Back it up with evidence (a quotation or paraphrase);
• Make a comment which analyses the effect of this
evidence.
How to use quotations
Using a quote is like building a good
burger!
2 The quote is
the meat in the
middle of the
sandwich. It might
be yummy but it
tastes better
between two bits
of bread!
• Without the two pieces of
bread (the point and
comment) your burger will
fall apart.
• Without the quote your
burger will be tasteless.
1 The point to
introduce your quote is
like the top of the
burger bun. Make your
point, and give some
context for the quote.
The comment
analyses the
techniques used in the
text – without it you are
just retelling the story.
3 The bottom of the bun is
like your comment on the
quote: Why is it interesting?
What does it reveal about
character / language / plot
etc?
Stewart effectively uses the narrative
viewpoint of Gerry to tell the story in the first
person. In my opinion, this is a crucial
feature as it allows the reader to see events,
and the relationship, through Gerry’s eyes
only and therefore we share Gerry’s twisted,
one-sided notion of Zoe’s character. This
means that we are, along with Gerry,
shocked by the turnaround at the end of the
story. Gerry informs the reader directly when
he says
‘for me, it was a bit of a laugh at first
going out with somebody who talked like
Zoe’
This immediately demonstrates Gerry’s
opinion of his relationship with Zoe and also
conveys that he sees her as a ‘pure snob’,
who regards him as someone ‘from another
species’.
Topic sentence /
point
Evidence
Comment / analysis
Evaluative
comment
Gerry’s prejudices are further reinforced
when he takes Zoe out and he feels nothing
is up to her standard.
‘I can see she’s ill at ease in such
shabby surroundings’
This alliteration cleverly indicates that Gerry
is analysing everything around him and he is
constantly checking for Zoe’s reaction,
assuming that she isn’t satisfied with where
he takes her, and this therefore increases
the stereotype he has of her.
Point
Evidence
Comment / analysis
Evaluative
comment
PEC
Stewart also uses setting to enhance the degree of Gerry’s
prejudice throughout his relationship with Zoe. The story revolves
around Glasgow city centre and mentioning actual places such as
Lauders, the South Pacific, Dumbarton Road, Bearsden, and the
Odeon, gives a greater sense of reality, as do the dialect words
used, such as “he’s now ofsky to England” and “His patter’s
terrible”. The events in the story also add to this sense of realism,
demonstrating the typical world of dating to the reader. Gerry feels
that what he can offer is not enough for someone like Zoe:
‘It had to be buses and walking in the city streets, and
going to much lower-class places than it seemed she
was used to.’
As Zoe comes from Bearsden, Gerry believes she is always
‘looking down her nose’ at him and his world and that she has a
better quality of life back home, compared to where he lives. Gerry
does not consider that perhaps Zoe is happy with just being with
him.
The structure of the story is also effective in showing PEC
the result that prejudice can have. Stewart creates a climax
towards the end of the story, which takes place outside the
Odeon cinema and this is when Gerry finally realises the truth
about Zoe. He goes to meet Zoe drunk and gets aggressive
towards her:
‘ “Just the same as the rest, just another tramp
you’re taking an interest in, a donation to Oxfam,
a night out with Gerry. Does it all go in the diary
at night? Good works done among the lower
orders today.” ’
This clearly exaggerates how inferior Gerry feels having a
relationship with Zoe and also emphasises his misjudgment of
Zoe and people of her class.
PEC
When Zoe can finally speak the reader is shocked to
discover that the story is not in fact about Zoe looking down
on Gerry but is actually based on the prejudices that Gerry
has about her:
‘ “I never invited you out to my house because
I felt absolutely certain you wouldn’t want to
come.” ’
Throughout the couple’s relationship, they did not go out to
Bearsden, but the reader learns that this was not down to the
fact that Zoe didn’t want him to go but that she was quite
happy going wherever Gerry wanted to go and didn’t want
him to feel uncomfortable. However, Gerry believed that Zoe
was too ashamed to take him to her house and that she was
treating him like a charity case, but he soon realises that his
judgement was entirely wrong and is left regretting what he
has done.
PEC
The title of the story itself refers both to the actual picture of
Zoe (which she takes from her bag at the end of the story and
which symbolises the poor judgement Gerry had of her) and
the metaphorical and highly incorrect picture of Zoe which
exists in Gerry’s mind.
The ending of the story convincingly sums up the result of
Gerry’s actions. The fact that he is in the South Pacific a year
on creates a cyclical structure, which reflects that he cannot
move on. The fact that Gerry is watching the artist sketching a
man who treats him with disdain further reminds Gerry of his
mistake and how he has ‘thrown away a pearl’.
In conclusion, ‘A Picture of Zoe’ is extremely effective in
exploring the key themes of relationships and prejudice
through the use of a number of techniques. The author
cleverly leaves the reader surprised by the revelation of
exactly who has misjudged who in the relationship.
Your conclusion should sum
up what you have written
about in your essay, refer to
the key words of the question
and give a personal response.
Now it’s your turn!
Look at the essay questions on the last page of your
booklet.
You are going to choose one of these to write your
own critical essay on the story.
Remember:
• follow the correct structure;
• analyse the author’s techniques rather than just
retell the plot;
• answer the question.
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