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English & EAL

The Five Types of Text Response Prompts

June 4, 2012

different types of essay prompts

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Planning is an essential part of any successful text response essay. It helps you ensure that you’re answering the prompt, utilising enough quotes and writing the most unique and perceptive analysis possible! The hard part of this is that you only have about FIVE MINUTES to plan each essay in the Year 12 English exam… (more info on the best way to tackle that challenge in this video !)

So, I developed the FIVE TYPES of essay prompts to help students streamline their planning process and maximise every minute of their SACs and exams.

By identifying the type of prompt you’re being challenged with immediately, a number of parameters or guidelines are already set in place. For a specific type of prompt, you have specific criteria to meet – for example, in a metalanguage-based prompt , you immediately know that any evidence you brainstorm in your planning stage should be based around the literary techniques used in your given text.

If you’d like the full picture on our best FREE advice on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response here .

1. Theme-Based Prompt

‘Ambition in the play Macbeth leads to success.’ Discuss. ( Macbeth )

When you’re presented with a theme-based prompt, you can automatically shift your brainstorming and planning towards the themes mentioned in the prompt along with any others that you can link to the core theme in some way.

In regard to this Macbeth prompt, for example, you could explore the different ways the theme of ambition is presented in the text. Additionally, the themes of guilt and power are intimately related to ambition in the text, so you can use those other ideas to aid your brainstorming and get you a step ahead of the rest of the state come exam day.

2. Character-Based Prompt

‘Frankenstein’s hubris is what punishes him.’ Discuss. ( Frankenstein )

These prompts are pretty easy to spot – if you see a character’s name in the prompt, there you have it; you have a character-based prompt on your hands.

Once you know this, you can assume that each example you brainstorm has to be relevant to the specific character named in the prompt in some way. Also, you can explore how the actions of characters don’t occur in isolation – they’re almost always interrelated. Remember, however, that the actions of characters are always connected to the themes and ideas the author is trying to convey.

This type of prompt also grants you some freedoms that other types don’t give. For example, unlike a Theme-based prompt, a character-based prompt means that it’s perfectly fine to write about characters in the topic sentences of your body paragraphs.

3. How-Based Prompt

‘How does Grenville showcase Rooke’s inner conflict in The Lieutenant ?’ ( The Lieutenant )

Unlike other prompts, the ‘How’ positions you to focus more on the author’s writing intentions. This can be achieved by discussing metalanguage – language that describes language (read my blog post about it here ). These prompts tell you immediately that you need to be thinking about the literary techniques explored in the text and explain how they affect the narrative.

Rather than using specific techniques to frame your specific arguments, it’s best to use them as evidence to support arguments that attack the main themes/ideas mentioned in the prompt.

4. Metalanguage or Film-Technique-Based Prompt

‘Hitchcock’s use of film techniques offers an unnerving viewing experience’. Discuss. ( Rear Window )

This type of prompt is very similar to How-based prompts, specifically in the fact that the discussion of literary techniques is essential.

For this type of prompt specifically, however, the actual techniques used can form more of a basis for your arguments, unlike in How-based prompts .

5. Quote-Based Prompt

“Out, damned spot!” How does Shakespeare explore the burden of a guilty conscience in Macbeth ? ( Macbeth )

Countless students ask me every year, “What do I do when there’s a quote in the prompt?!” My reply to these questions is actually fairly straightforward!

There are two main things that you should do when presented with this type of prompt. Firstly, contextualise the quote in your essay and try to use it in your analysis in some way. Secondly, interpret the themes and issues addressed in the quote and implement these into your discussion. The best place to do both of these is in a body paragraph – it weaves in seamlessly and allows for a good amount of analysis, among other reasons!

When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into? To learn more about brainstorming, planning, essay structures for Text Response, read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

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Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

different types of essay prompts

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different types of essay prompts

Updated on 25/12/2020

Being one of the few texts that was added to the text list this year, Euripides’ play Women of Troy is definitely a daunting task for English and EAL students to tackle due to the lack of resources and essay prompts available. In fact, the only materials that can be found on the internet are those analysing the older translation of the play (titled The Trojan Women ). That is why we are here to help you as much as we can by offering you a mini-guide for Women of Tro y, in the hope that you can get a head start with this play.

Women of Troy is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Historical Context

  • Literary Devices
  • LSG-Curated Essay Topics

A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

  • Extra Resources

Women of Troy is a tragedy which takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Trojan war, critiquing the atrocities committed by the Greeks to both people of Melos and Troy. By constructing a play in which women are able to dominate the stage and exude their genuine despair in response to their impending enslavement, Euripides shifts the perspectives from epic tales of Greek and Trojan male heroes to the conversely affected women who suffered at the hands of the heroes, while simultaneously providing both the contemporary and modern audience with a unique insight into the true cost of war. This is especially significant because the society was pervaded by patriarchal values, where women were subordinated to their male counterparts. Euripides’ proto-feminist works were not well received by his peers at the time of writing as women’s personal thoughts and pain were not commonly discussed in the Hellenic repertoire.

2. Historical Context

The Trojan war occurred as a result of the conflict between Greece and Troy and was said to last for over 10 years. According to a tale, during a festival on the Olympus, Athena, Aphrodite and Hera were fighting over a golden apple. They chose a random mortal, which was Paris who would then be the Prince of Troy, to decide who the most beautiful goddess of the three was. As a reward for picking her, Aphrodite promised Paris that he would be married to the most beautiful woman in the world, which was Helen – wife of Menelaus, the Spartan prince. Aphrodite had her son Eros (a cupid) enchant Helen and Paris so that they would fall endlessly in love with each other. Helen then escaped from Menelaus’ palace to be with Paris, starting the war between Greece and Troy. Menelaus was enraged and he convinced his brother Agamemnon to lead an expedition to retrieve Helen. The Greek army was commanded to attack the Trojans. The siege lasted for more than 10 years until the Greeks came up with a strategy to abduct Helen from the palace. The Greek soldiers build a giant wooden horse and hid in there to get in the citadel of Troy, attacking them in the middle of the night and winning the war. After the war, the Greek heroes slowly made their way home, however, the journey home was not easy. Odysseus took 10 years to make the arduous journey home to Ithaca because Poseidon agreed to punish the Greeks for the atrocities committed before and after their victory.

Love and Lust

Euripides’ works often warn the audience of the detrimental effects brought on by excessive passion, asserting that it is best to moderate emotions and exhibit sophrosyne (the power of self-control over one’s emotions) . He often criticises the goddess of love, Aphrodite, for enchanting mortals and leading them into a life governed by love and lust. In this play, he purports that it is inherently Aphrodite’s fault that the Trojans are fighting against the Greeks, as it is Aphrodite who makes Paris and Helen endlessly fall in love with each other.

Potential Textual Evidence:

In Women of Troy , Euripides presents a particularly acerbic critique on Menelaus’ 'uncontrollable lust' in 'sen[ding] a hunting party to track down Helen' as he juxtaposes the cost of the Trojan war being and the prize that they receive.

  • 'tens of thousands dead'  
  • 'giving up the pleasure of his family and children'
  • 'these Greeks [beginning] to die'

→ All that in exchange for one woman - Helen

His chastisement is further bolstered by Cassandra’s rhetorical question asking 'they kept on dying, for what reason'. This manoeuvres the audience into acknowledging the pointlessness of the Trojan war as it is not worth risking so many lives over Helen or any minor military conflict. In doing so, Euripides once again lambastes the actions of those vindictive and bloodthirsty Greeks.

Cost of War

The play primarily focuses on the loss and pain of the Trojan civilians that survived the war, are sieged in the city after the war and are eventually either killed or enslaved after the fall of Troy. While the Trojan war is the setting of many famous classical works being examined by various different angles, not many focus on the consequences suffered by women. This enables Euripides to raise the question of whether or not such victory is worth fighting for while simultaneously inviting the audience to emulate the playwright’s disapprobation of such a violent and brutal resolution of conflict.

You can also use the evidence from the above to justify your arguments on the cost of war. They all aim to magnify the extent to which the Trojan people, as well as the Greeks, have to suffer as result of this pointless war.

We can also discuss how wars affect beliefs and their people’s faith. In the Hellenic society, gods have always been a significant part of their life as it is believed that mortals’ lives are always under the influence of divine intervention. This is evidenced through the ways in which Hellenic people build temples and make sacrifices to the gods, thanking the gods for allowing them to live prosperous lives and begging for their forgiveness whenever they wrong others. This is why it is significant when Hecuba referred to the gods as 'betrayers' in her lamentation, implying that there is a change in attitude in time of tragedy. Events such as this make people question their fate and belief, galvanising them to wonder 'what good [gods] were to [them].

Integrity and Sense of Duty

Some characters in Women of Troy are also fundamentally driven by their sense of duty and integrity, and act according to their moral code regardless of what the circumstances may be. Hecuba, for instance, sympathises with the Chorus of Troy and acts as a leader even when she loses her title and her home. She is held responsible for her actions but is still governed by her honesty and integrity as Helen makes her plea. Talthybius is also governed by both his sense of duty and integrity. Despite his understanding of Hecuba’s circumstances, he still follows his order and ensures that the Trojan women are allocated to their Greek households. However, he does not disregard her sense of morality and treats Hecuba with understanding and sensitivity.

Helen, on the other hand, does not demonstrate the same degree of moral uprightness. In time of tragedy, she chooses to lie and shift the blame to others to escape her execution. She prioritises her own benefits over everyone else’s and allows thousands of others to suffer from the impacts of her treachery in eloping with Paris.

The prologue of the play opens with a conversation between Poseidon and Athena, foreshadowing their divine retribution against the Greeks. Witnessing the immediate aftermath of the Trojan war, they curse the war which they ironically themselves initiated, thus condemning the horrific injustice of the conflict and the actions of its vengeful and blood thirsty so-called heroes. This is evidenced through the ways in which they punished Odysseus by creating obstacles on his journey home.

However, it can also be argued that the gods in Women of Troy themselves act as a symbol of injustice in a way. From the feminist view, the fall of Troy and the enslavement of Trojan women demonstrate the gods’ lack of care as they disregard the monstrosities that occur to women after the Greeks’ victory. The divine intervention which is promised in the beginning casts the following injustices cursed upon the women of Troy in a different light as it can be argued that the gods caused the war. While their retribution against the Greeks can be seen as a means to punish the heroes, it is evident that that they are more concerned about the sacrilege committed and the disrespect they receive after the Trojan war than the injustices suffered by women. This thereby humanises the gods and fortifies the notion that they also have personal flaws and are governed by their ego and hubris.

The idea that there are forces beyond human control is enhanced, and Poseidon and Athena’s pride proves that humans are just innocent bystanders at the mercy of the gods. It can be argued that the chain of unfortunate events are unpredictable as they are determined by gods, whose emotions and prejudices still control the way they act. On the other hand, the characters in the play do at times make choices that would lead to their downfall and tragic consequences. For instance, it is Menelaus who decided to go after the Trojans just because of one woman and he was not enchanted or under any influence of divine intervention.

Gender Roles

Euripides centres his play on Trojan women, enabling the discussion on the cause and effect of war. Given that females' points of view were not commonly expressed in plays or any forms of art works, Euripides’ decision to have his play focus on women allows the Athenian audience, comprised of mainly male Athenians, to observe a part of the military conflict that was not seen before.

The protagonist Hecuba, for example, is portrayed as the archetypal mother. While this image is presented during the aftermath of the Trojan war, Euripides also uses Hecuba as a representative of contemporary Hellenic women as this archetype is universal for all circumstances. It is evident that Euripides’ play mainly focuses on Hecuba’s grief, with her lamentation dominating the prologue. This implies that the protagonist, in this instance, also acts as a diatribe against the patriarchal society which allows women to suffer greatly as a result of war and military conflict. However, this play differs from other plays written by Euripides in that he also explores a woman’s burden and responsibility as a leader, allowing the audience to understand the difficulties of being a woman of power in time of crisis.

4. Characters

Mother of troy.

  • In employing the simile comparing herself to 'a mother bird at her plundered nest', Hecuba reminds the audience of her endless love for the city of Troy, implying that the devastation of her own home also further deepens her pain. In this scene, Hecuba is portrayed as a female leader who rules with her passion and love.  
  • The image her (Hecuba) as an empathetic Queen is also exemplified through the ways in which she 'weep[s] for [her] burning home'. As the term 'home' invokes connotations of warmth and affection, Hecuba’s endearment for the city she governs is established, accentuating the portrayal of Hecuba as a leader with a passion for her duties.
  • This in turn propels the audience to be more inclined to feel commiseration for her when she is held responsible for her city’s destruction. As the representative of Troy’s leadership that enables such brutality to occur leading to the wars, Hecuba bears the guilt and responsibility for '[giving] birth to all the trouble by giving birth to Paris' and consequently, for the cataclysmic consequences that ramified from Paris’ involvement with Helen (although she is simply an innocent bystander) → Social accountability for war

Mother of Her Children

  • From the outset of the play, the former queen of Troy is portrayed as a miserable mother suffering from the loss of her own children and 'howl[ing] for her children dead' (echoed by the Chorus, referred to as 'howl of agony'). By employing animalistic language in describing Hecuba’s act of mourning over Hector’s death, Euripides intensifies the magnitude of her emotional turmoil as it is likened to a loud and doleful cry usually uttered by animals → It is almost not humanly possible to endure so much pain.
  • This notion is bolstered by the image of Hecuba drowning in 'her threnody of tears' as it engages the pathos of the audience, establishing her as a victim of war and emphasising the poignant story that is to be unveiled.
  • The simile comparing herself to a woman 'dragged as a slave' in her lamentation further fortifies Hecuba’s portrayal as a victim of a play. Here, the juxtaposition between her former title 'by birth [as] Troy’s...Queen' and her current state magnifies the drastic change in life and the loss she suffered, compelling the audience to better sympathise with Hecuba. → Powers can be ephemeral in times of crisis.

Talthybius is sympathetic towards women, establishing himself as a complicated figure with a strong sense of integrity. This is epitomised through the ways in which he employs euphemistic language when announcing the dreadful news to Hecuba. He tries his best to be sensitive and mitigate the impacts of Hecuba’s daughter death to her, announcing that Polyxena 'is to serve Achilles at his tomb' and that 'her fate is settled', 'all her troubles are over'. He was being sensitive and subtle instead of abruptly delivering the news. While he represents an enemy state, he shows that men can also be compassionate, contradicting the Phallocentric belief that men should only be governed by cool logic.

Chorus of Trojan Women

It can be argued that Hecuba acts as the paradigm of the Trojan women as her pain (i.e. the deaths of her children, slavery, the devastation of her city), in a way, represents the suffering of the majority of Hellenic women in times of war, which enhances Euripides’ condemnation of a society where military conflicts can easily be facilitated. The Chorus of the play often echoes her deepest pain, establishing a sense of camaraderie between female characters of the play.

In this play, the Chorus acts as the voice of the 'wretched women of Troy', representing the views of the unspoken who are objectified and mistreated by their male counterparts. After Troy lost the war, women were seen as conquests and were traded as slaves, exposing the unfair ethos of a society that was seen as the cradle of civilisation. By allowing the Trojan women to express their indignation and enmity as a response to their impending slavery, Euripides is able to present a critique on the ways in which women were oppressed in Ancient Greece.

5. Literary Devices

  • Simile (e.g. dragged as a slave)
  • Euphemism (e.g. serve Achilles at his tomb – euphemism for death)
  • Symbolism (e.g. Hector’s shield or Troy’s citadel)
  • Animal imagery (e.g. howl of agony)
  • Rhetorical question (e.g. for what reason)

Why are these important? Watch how we integrated literary devices as pieces of evidence in this essay topic breakdown:

[Modified Video Transcription]

TIP: See section ' 7. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown' (below) for an explanation of our ABC approach so that you understand how we've actually tackled this essay prompt.

Staged in a patriarchal society, Women of Troy was set during the immediate aftermath of the Trojan war – a war between the Greeks and the Trojans. Hecuba is the former queen of Troy, who suffered so much loss as the mother of her children as well as the mother of Troy. She lost her son Hector and her husband in the Trojan war, her daughter Polyxena also died and Cassandra was raped. After the Greeks won, women were allocated to Greek households and forced into slavery, including the queen of Troy.  She was also the mother of Paris, the prince of Troy. It was purported that Paris and Helen were responsible for initiating the war as Helen was governed by her lust for Paris and left Menelaus, the Spartan prince, for this young prince of Troy. Consequently, Menelaus was enraged by this elopement and declared that he wanted Helen dead as a punishment for her disloyalty. Helen defended herself and lied that it was against her will, crying that she was kidnapped and blamed Hecuba for the fall of Troy and for the conflict between the two sides. However, Menelaus did not believe what Helen had to say and decided to bring her back to her home on a separate ship.

The play ended with the Greek ships leaving Troy, which was then on fire. The Trojan were singing a sad song together as they left to prepare for their new lives as slaves living in Greek households.

The play’s main focus is on the suffering of women, as exemplified by the way Euripides chose to portray Hecuba’s loss and Cassandra’s helplessness.

So, our essay prompt for today is

'How does Euripides use the structure of the play to explore the role of women and their suffering in time of war? '

This is indeed one of the more challenging prompts that VCAA wouldn’t probably give, the reason being that it is a language/structure-based prompt. It requires you to have a much more profound knowledge of the text, and it is not always easy to spot language features, especially in a poetic sounding play like Women of Troy . There is just so much going on in the text! While it is not super likely that you will get this prompt for the exam, I have seen a lot of schools give language/structure-based prompts to students for SACs as it gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves and look for textual evidence that will distinguish them from their peers. These types of evidence are definitely worth looking for because they can also be used as evidence to back up your arguments for theme-based or character-based prompts (learn more about the different types of prompts in How To Write A Killer Text Response ).

Now let’s get started.

Step 1: Analyse

The first thing I always do is to look for keywords. The key words in this prompt are 'structure, 'role of women' and 'suffering'.

With the structure of the play, we can potentially talk about:

  • Character-related evidence (e.g. strong female character base)
  • Language-related features (metalanguage/literacy devices)
  • Plot-related features (order of events) – irony, foreshadowing

Step 2: Brainstorm

In a male-dominated, patriarchal society, women are oftentimes oppressed and seen as inferior. Their roles in the society were limited, they were only seen as domestic housewives and mothers. It is important to look for evidence that either supports or contradicts this statement. Ask yourself:

  • Is Euripides trying to support the statement and agree that women are simply creatures of emotions who should only stick with domestic duties?
  • Or is he trying to criticise this belief by showing that women are so much more than just those being governed by their emotions?

Since this play primarily focuses on the cost of war and how women, as innocent bystanders, have to suffer as a result of the Trojan war, it should not be difficult finding evidence related to women’s suffering. It might include:

  • Hecuba’s loss (she lost her home and children)
  • Hecuba’s pain (being blamed for Troy’s ruin)
  • Cassandra’s helplessness despite knowing her fate, surrendering and accepting her future
  • Andromache’s 'bitter' fate having to give up her child
  • The Chorus voicing their opinion – slavery

Once a prompt is carefully broken down, it is no longer that scary because all we have to do now is organise our thoughts and write our topic sentences.

Step 3: Create a Plan

P1: Euripides constructs a strong female character base to contradict the prevailing views of the period that women are inferior to their male counterparts.

It is significant that Euripides chose to have a strong female protagonist, as the character herself acts as a diatribe against the patriarchal society, contradicting any engrained beliefs that pervaded the society at the time. An example of evidence that can support this statement is the way in which Hecuba dominates the stage while giving her opening lamentation. The lengthy nature of the monologue itself enables Euripides to present his proto-feminist ideas and go against the Hellenic gendered prejudice.

We can also talk about Hecuba’s leadership and her interaction with the Chorus of Trojan women. She refers to them as 'my children' and employs the simile 'a mother at her plundered nest'. The way the Greek playwright constructs the relationship between characters is worth mentioning as Hecuba in this play is portrayed as a compassionate and empathetic leader, showing that women are also capable of leading others in a way that engenders a sense of camaraderie between them.

Another good thinking point is to talk about how Helen acts as a paradigm of a group of women who had to turn to deception and go against their integrity to survive in time of tragedy.

P2: Euripides’ selective use of language and literacy devices in portraying women’s pain and suffering further enables him to portray the ways in which women, as innocent bystanders, are oppressed in time of war.

An example of a metalanguage used in this play is the animal imagery the Chorus used to depict Hecuba’s pain. By referring to her pain as a 'howl of agony', they intensify the magnitude of Hecuba’s pain as the term 'howl' is usually used to describe a loud cry usually uttered by animals like wolves. This implies that Hecuba, who acts as representative of Hellenic women, has to suffer from an emotional turmoil that is far beyond bearable, which in turn further fortifies the audience’s sympathy for her, as well as the Trojan women.

Another piece of evidence that I would talk about is the simile 'dragged as a slave'. It was used to describe Hecuba, the former queen of Troy. By likening someone who used to be at a position of power to 'a slave', Euripides underscores the drastic change in circumstances that occurred as a result of the Trojan war, magnifying the tremendous amount of loss Hecuba experienced. Furthermore, the image of the protagonist’s devastated physical state enhances the dramatist’s condemnation of war as it allows him to elucidate the detrimental impacts such violence and dreadfulness impose on innocent bystanders.

There is, of course, plenty of other evidence out there such as the way in which Cassandra is portrayed as a 'poor mad child', her helplessness in surrendering to her 'wretched' fate with Agamemnon who wanted her for himself. We can also talk about the inclusive language positing, 'our misery', 'our home', used by the Chorus in echoing Hecuba’s pain, etc.

The use of symbolism can also be discussed. For instance, the citadel in the city of Troy in the epilogue acts as a metonym for Hecuba’s resistance before entering slavery. The image of it crumbling exemplifies women’s helplessness and enhances the notion that they are still in positions of explicit subjugation.

P3: While Euripides primarily focuses on portraying women’s pain and suffering, he does not completely vilify men or victimise women, maintaining an unbiased view so as to underscore the importance of integrity through his characterisation of both male and female character.

The last body paragraph of our essays is often the one used to challenge the prompt, showing the assessors our wealth of ideas and depth of knowledge. Basically, what we are saying is 'while our playwright is obviously pro-women, he definitely does not condone everything women do and criticise everything men do'.  In this way, we have the opportunity to explore the ways characters are constructed and the ways they are used in the play to convey its meaning.

If I were to write an essay on this, I would talk about Talthybius and Helen, mainly because they are both complex characters that the audience cannot fully love or hate.

Talthybius is surprisingly sympathetic towards women, establishing himself as a complicated figure. This is epitomised by the ways in which he employs euphemistic language when announcing the dreadful news to Hecuba. He tries his best to be sensitive and mitigate the impacts of Hecuba’s daughter's death to her, announcing that Polyxena 'is to serve Achilles at his tomb', that 'her fate is settled' and 'all her troubles are over'. He was being sensitive and subtle instead of abruptly delivering the news. While he represents an enemy state, he shows that men can also be compassionate, contradicting the Phallocentric belief that men should only be governed by cool logic.

Similar to Talthybius, Helen is also a complicated figure as she is both a victim of fate and a selfish character. It is possible for the audience to sympathise with her as she is merely a victim of fortune in that she was bewitched by Aphrodite and governed by her love for Paris, the prince of Troy. However, the ways in which she shifts the blame to Hecuba and makes her pleas preclude the audience from completely sympathising with her they, in a way, render her as a self-absorbed and repugnant character. This notion is further fortified by the fact that she cared so little for the 'tens of thousands' lives taken on her behalf as the phrase quantifies and magnifies the cataclysmic consequences of her lust for Paris.

6. LSG-Curated Women of Troy Essay Topics

  • Euripides’ play Women of Troy mainly focuses on the true cost of war. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
  • Women of Troy demonstrates that there is no real winner in war. Discuss.
  • In the Trojan wars, the Trojans suffered great losses while the Greeks did not suffer. Do you agree?
  • How does Euripides use language to portray the loss and suffering of Hellenic women in Women of Troy ?
  • Characters in Women of Troy are all driven and motivated by their sense of duty and obligation. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
  • Hecuba’s greatest pain stems from the deaths of her children. Discuss the statement.
  • While Helen’s selfishness should be condemned, the audience can still condone her actions due to the circumstances she is in. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
  • Women of Troy is a tragedy, rather than a war-play. Do you agree?
  • Euripides argues that fate and fortunes are not preordained, and tragedies do not incriminate. To what extent do you agree with the statement?
  • It is impossible to sympathise with Helen because she is the most mischievous character of the play. Do you agree?
  • Women of Troy explores the ways in which a character’s true self might emerge in times of tragedy. Discuss.
  • In Women of Troy , The Chorus’ only role is to act as the representative of Hellenic women. Do you agree?
  • In the end, the gods are not responsible for the tragedies caused by the Trojan war as it happened as a result of poor choices. Do you agree?
  • Hecuba is the victim of fate. Discuss.
  • Love is a dangerous passion that can lead to tragic consequences. Does Women of Troy support this statement?
  • Hecuba is a tragic hero. Discuss.
  • How is the structure of Women of Troy used to convey its meaning?
  • It is possible for the audience to sympathise with Helen because of her love for Paris. Do you agree?
  • There is no villain in Women of Troy because everyone in the play suffers. Do you agree with the statement?
  • Discuss the role of dishonesty in Euripides’ Women of Troy .

If you'd like to see A+ essays based off some of the essay topics above (written by Mark Yin - our LSG content guru and 50 English study score achiever), complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+ so that you can emulate this same success, then you'll definitely want to check out our A Killer Text Guide: Women of Troy ebook. In it, we also cover themes, characters, views and values, metalanguage and have 5 sample A+ essays completely annotated so that you can smash your next SAC or exam!

7. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse

Step 2: B rainstorm

Step 3: C reate a Plan

Quote-Based Prompt:

'Who can forget these sufferings? Time will bring no relief.' There is no villain in Women of Troy because everyone in the play suffers. Do you agree with the statement?

The following comes essay topic breakdown comes from our A Killer Text Guide: Women of Troy ebook:

The quote mentions long-lasting sufferings , and the prompt seems to ask who suffers, and who is responsible. If you’ve been reading this guide in order, a lot of similar ideas from the last four essays might jump out here - I think that’s okay, because ideally you do get to a point where you can ‘recycle’ some of your quotes and ideas between essays (and the examiner won’t have to read all your practice essays anyway!).

While I’ll be doing a little bit of recycling here, I want the main take-away point from this essay to be around framing. Even if you’re using similar ideas that you’ve already seen, the trick is to explain and frame your analysis in a way that answers every prompt specifically. This is best done through how you thread your arguments together, and how you make those links. We’ll get into this as we plan.

For now, let’s recap these ideas of suffering and responsibility. Hecuba and the Trojan women suffer, and they argue Helen is responsible - but Helen also suffers, and she argues that the gods are responsible. The gods, as we know, are insulated from suffering because of their divine and superhuman status. So, are they the villains?

This is a similar progression of ideas that we have seen before, but I want to ground them in this cycle of suffering-responsibility.

P1: The eponymous women of Troy certainly suffer, and in many of their eyes, Helen is a villain.

P2: However, Helen does not see herself that way - and she is not incorrect. She too seems to suffer, and she sees the gods as the main villains who are responsible.

P3: Euripides may see the gods as careless and negligent beings, but he doesn’t necessarily depict them as cruel; rather, the excessively passionate war itself is depicted as the true enemy, and villains are those who revel in its cruelty.

As you might notice, parts of this plan are recognisable: we’ve started a few of these essays with a first paragraph about the Trojan women’s suffering, developed that in paragraph two by contrasting with Helen, and ending our analysis with the gods. But when reusing some of those ideas, it’s important to make sure they answer the specific question by modifying and adding new ideas as needed - this way, you don’t rewrite essays for new prompts and risk losing relevance, but you do reuse ideas and tailor them to new prompts every time.

The contention for this one will be: the Trojan War undoubtedly has its winners and losers, and few of these characters agree on who the responsible villains are, with some blaming Helen (P1) while she herself blames the gods (P2). However, the gods only form a part of the picture - rather, Euripides depicts war itself as the villain, lambasting those who take pride in inflicting cruelty in the midst of war (P3).

If you'd like to see an A+ essay on the essay topic above check out our A Killer Text Guide: Women of Troy ebook.

8. Extra Resources

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

How To Write A Killer Text Response (ebook)

How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss

How To Turn Text Response Essays From Average to A+

5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion

‍ With contributions from Mark Yin - 50 study score achiever, and author of our A Killer Text Guide: Women of Troy ebook.

Text Response can be difficult because there are many different aspects of the text you need to discuss in an intellectual and sophisticated manner. The key points you need to include are stated in the VCAA Text Response criteria as shown below:

  • the ideas, characters and themes constructed by the author/director and presented in the selected text
  • the way the author/director uses structures, features and conventions to construct meaning
  • the ways in which authors/directors express or imply a point of view and values
  • the ways in which readers’ interpretations of text differ and why.

We have explored some of the different criterion points in past blog posts, but this time we’ll be focusing on number 3,

the ways in which authors/directors express or imply a point of view and values.

Views: How the author  sees  something

  • Perspective
  • Way of thinking
  • Observation

Values: How the author  thinks  about something

In VCE, simply exploring themes and character development is not enough to score yourself a higher-graded essay. This is where discussion on ‘views and values’ comes in. Essentially this criterion urges you to ask yourself, ‘what are the author’s beliefs or opinion on this particular idea/issue?’ All novels/films are written to represent their author’s views and values and, as a reader it is your job to interpret what you think the author is trying to say or what they’re trying to teach us. And it’s not as hard as it seems either. You’ve instinctively done this when reading other books or watching movies without even realising it. For example, you’ve probably walked out of the cinemas after thoroughly enjoying a film because the ideas explored sat well with you, ‘I’m glad in  Hunger Games  they’re taking action and rebelling against a totalitarian society’ or, ‘that was a great film because it gave insight on how women can be just as powerful as men!’ Therefore, it is possible in this case that the author of this series favours the disintegration of tyrannical societies and promotes female empowerment.

Views and values are also based on ideas and attitudes of when it was written and where it was set – this brings both social and cultural context into consideration as well. Issues commonly explored include gender roles, racial inequality, class hierarchy, and more. For example, Margaret Atwood’s  Cat’s Eye , is set during the 20th century and explores feminism through women’s roles during World War II while Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights  depicts the divide between social classes and challenges the strict Victorian values of how society condemns cross-class relationships, in particular between Catherine and Heathcliffe.

Questions to ask yourself when exploring views and values:

  • Is the author supporting or condeming/critising this idea?
  • Through which literary devices are they supporting or condemning/critising the idea?
  • Which characters represent society’s values? Which ones oppose them? Do we as readers favour those that represent or oppose society’s values?
  • Does the author encourage us to support the morals and opinions displayed by the characters or those supported in that setting/time?

Here’s a sample discussion on the author’s views and values:

‘…Dickens characterises Scrooge as being allegorically representative of the industrial age in which he lived. Scrooge describes the poor as ‘surplus population’, revealing his cruel nature as he would rather they die than having to donate money to them. Dickens critiques the industrial revolution whereby wealth lead to ignorance towards poor as the upperclassmen would easily dismiss underclassmen, feeling no responsibility to help them as they believed they were of no use to society. ‘ ( A Christmas Carol,  Charles Dickens)

Here’s a list of some sample essay prompts you may get in regards to exploring ‘views and values’:

  • ‘Cat’s Eye shows us that society’s expectations are damaging to women.’ To what extent do you agree? ( Cat’s Eye , Margaret Atwood)
  • ‘Bronte criticises the social class conventions of her time as she demonstrates that those in the lower classes can succeed.’ ( Wuthering Heights,  Emily Bronte)
  • ‘Social criticism plays a major role in A Christmas Carol.’ ( A Christmas Carol,  Charles Dickens)
  • ‘Hamid shows that it is difficult to find our identity in modern society, with the ever-changing social and politics surrounding us.’ ( The Reluctant Fundamentalist , Mohsin Hamid)
  • ‘In  Ransom  Malouf depicts war as the experience of grief, loss and destructive waste. The event of war lacks any heroic dimension. Discuss.’ ( Ransom,  David Malouf)

“Once upon a time…”

The fairy tale of Cinderella is a well-known, well-loved and well-ingrained story that was always told to me as a bedtime story. Who could forget the mean-spirited stepsisters who punished and ruined Cinderella’s life to no end? According to the dark Brothers Grimm version, the stepsisters mutilated their feet by cutting off their heels and toes to fit into the infamous shoe, and their eyes were pecked away by birds until they were blinded! It’s definitely one way to send a message to children… don’t be bullies or you’ll be punished. Which is exactly what the Brothers Grimm’s views and values were. Their construction of their fairy tale to send a message of what they viewed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is simplistically shown through the writers’ choice in determining the characters’ fate. The evil stepsisters are punished, while Cinderella receives happiness and riches because she remained kind and pure. A clear and very simple example of how texts reflect the beliefs, world views and ethics of the author, which is essentially the author’s views and values!

What are the views and values of a text?

Writers use literature to criticise or endorse social conditions, expressing their own opinions and viewpoints of the world they live in. It is important to remember that each piece of literature is a deliberate construction. Every decision a writer makes reflects their views and values about their culture, morality, politics, gender, class, history or religion. This is implicit within the style and content of the text, rather than in overt statements. This means that the writer’s views and values are always open to interpretation, and possibly even controversial. This is what you (as an astute literature student) must do – interpret the relationship between your text and the ideas it explores and examines, endorses or challenges in the writer’s society.

How do I start?

Consider the following tips:

  • What does the writer question and critique with their own society? What does this say about the writer’s own views and the values that uphold?
  • For example,  “Jane Austen in Persuasion recognises the binding social conventions of the 19th century as superficial, where they value wealth and status of the utmost priority. She satirises such frivolous values through the microcosmic analysis of the Elliot family.”
  • The writer’s affirming or critical treatment of individual characters can be a significant clue to what values they approve or disapprove of. What fate do the characters have? Who does the writer punish or reward by the end of the text?
  • Which characters challenge and critique the social conventions of the day?
  • Look at the writer’s use of language:
  • Characterisation
  • Plot structure
  • Description
  • In other words …what are the possible meanings generated by the writer’s choices?
  • Recognition and use of metalanguage for literary techniques is crucial because you are responding to a work of literature. Within literature ideas, views and values and issues do not exist in a vacuum. They arise out of the writer’s style and create  meaning .
  • How do the writer’s choices make meaning?
  • How are the writer’s choices intended to affect the reader’s perception of social values?
  • Weave views and values throughout your close analysis essays, rather than superficially adding a few lines at the conclusion of the essay to indicate the writer’s concerns.
  • Using the writer’s name frequently will also assist in creating a mindset of analysing the writer’s commentary on society.

Below are some examples from an examiner report of successful and  insightful  responses reflecting the views and values of the writer:

(Another tip is to go through examiner’s reports and take note of high quality responses, even if they are not the text you’re studying)

When contrasted with the stark, blunt tone of Caesar throughout the play ‘You may see, Lepidus, and henceforth know...’ the richness of Shakespeare’s poetry with regard to his ‘couple so famous’  denotes how the playwright himself ultimately values the heroic age  to which his protagonists belong over the machinations of the rising imperial Rome.

It is the word ‘natural’ here through which Mansfield crafts a sharp irony that invites us to rate Edna’s obsession with her own performance.... It is this satiric impulse that also leaps to the fore through the image of Edna, ‘clasping the black book in her fingers as though it were a missal’...the  poignant economy of Mansfield’s characteristic style explores her views on the fragility of the human condition .   

‘In Cold Blood’ provides a challenging exploration of the value placed on human life. The seemingly pointless murders undermine every concept of morality that reigns in Middle America, the ‘Bible Belt’, as well as the wider community.  Capote insinuates his personal abhorrence of the death penalty and the disregard of mental illness in the justice system .

Why are views and values important in literature, and especially for close analysis?

Every year, the examiner reports emphasise how the best close analysis responses were ones that “showed how the text endorsed and reflected the views and values of the writer and were able to weave an understanding of these through the essay” (2013 VCAA Lit examiner report). By analysing HOW the text critiques, challenges or endorses the accepted values of the society in the text, you are demonstrating an understanding of the social and cultural context of the text, thus acknowledging the multifaceted layers that exist within literature. You are identifying the writer’s commentary of humanity through your own interpretation. Bring some insight into your essays!

We've curated essay prompts based off our The Crucible and Year of Wonders Study Guide which explores themes, characters, and quotes.

  • Compare how the conflict between illusion and reality is explored in these texts. ‍
  • 'Uncertainty breeds fear, and fear breeds further uncertainty.' Compare how this idea is demonstrated in The Crucible and Year of Wonders . ‍
  • Compare how secrets and superstition affect the characters in both texts. ‍
  • Compare how The Crucible and Year of Wonders explore issues of human fallibility and deception. ‍
  • Compare the ways these texts examine the preservation of morality amidst accusation and condemnation. ‍
  • 'Humans are ultimately inclined towards evil rather than good.' Compare how the two texts explore this inclination. ‍
  • Compare how The Crucible and Year of Wonders examines the strength of one's faith during hardship and conflict. ‍
  • “How little we know, I thought, of the people we live amongst.” ( Year of Wonders ) Compare what the two texts say about community and one's understanding of reality. ‍
  • "Here we are, alive, and you and I will have to make it what we can.” ( Year of Wonders) 'It is only possible to discover what it means to live when faced with death.' Compare the ways these texts explore this possibility. ‍
  • “It is the essence of power that it accrues to those with the ability to determine the nature of the real.” ( The Crucible ) Compare the ways the two texts demonstrate the connection between power and controlling the truth. ‍
  • Compare how truths and falsehoods shape the lives and societies in The Crucible and Year of Wonders . ‍
  • Compare how The Crucible and Year of Wonders shows that conflict can cause both regression and strengthening of integrity and humanity. ‍
  • Compare how women are perceived in both The Crucible and Year of Wonders . ‍
  • Compare the ways morality is examined and determined in these texts. ‍
  • "Man, remember, until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in heaven?" ( The Crucible ) Compare how the two texts explore the repercussions of disillusionment.

The Crucible and Year of Wonders is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing). For a detailed guide on Comparative , check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

Montana 1948 is narrated by David Hayden, now a middle-aged history teacher, reflecting on the summer of 1948 that changed his entire life.

It begins with David noticing that his Native American babysitter, Marie Little Soldier is unwell. Gail and Wesley, David’s parents, attempt to enlist the help of Wesley’s brother Frank, a well-respected doctor in the community. However, Marie reacts to this idea with fear, anxiety and resistance. Gail concludes that something sinister must be happening for her to have such a reaction and she presses Marie for why she is so afraid. Marie then reveals to Gail that she has heard that Dr Frank has been sexually abusing many of his female Native American patients. Gail immediately confides in Wesley who is both the Sheriff of their town and Frank’s brother. This becomes the central source of tension, as Wes must decide between his duty as the Sheriff and his loyalty to his family.

This is all told from the perspective of David, our protagonist, who has to watch his father confront his Uncle Frank about these taboo accusations. Eventually, it seems they reach an agreement with Frank to stop the abuse.

Marie is discovered dead the next day in her bed when Gail goes to check up on her. Later that night, David admits to his parents that he saw Frank go into their home in the afternoon and immediately, Wesley concludes that Frank “is guilty as sin” for murdering Marie. As the Sheriff of the town, Wesley is obligated to arrest Frank, but in order to spare Frank the embarrassment, he keeps Frank in their basement instead of sending him to jail.  

Upon hearing this news, David’s grandfather, Julian, orders Wesley to release Frank. Julian accuses Wesley of arresting him out of jealousy and he threatens to use his power within the community to set Frank free. At this point, Wesley realises that the power of his father would only be matched by the law, and he decides that he must officially prosecute his brother.

That next day, David, Wes and Gail wake up to find Frank dead, having used broken glass to slit his wrists and commit suicide. Young David believes that this was the right action and hopes that everything would go back to normal. But as the story goes, this is not the case.

Prejudice, discrimination and the abuse of power

Another key theme is prejudice, discrimination and the abuse of power. Frank’s abuse of the Native American women is both an abuse of his power and responsibilities as a Doctor and a way to take advantage of his personal belief in White “racial superiority.” Julian and Frank embody the toxic, violent and bigoted mentality prevalent during that time period, which Watson deplores as reprimandable and unacceptable. Even at the novel’s close, Frank’s death is symbolic in two ways. Firstly, it means that Frank managed to escape persecution, public denouncement and jail time. But more importantly, he is still revered in the community as a “respected man” and a “war hero. '' Therefore, while he physically passes away, his ‘legacy’ and façade of heroism remains alive.

Law vs Justice

One of the central themes of ‘Montana 1948’ is the conflict between abiding by the law and doing what is just. Due to the institutionalised racism that existed in the 1940’s, Frank’s actions were not considered technically illegal, however, by intuitive standards of morality , his rape of Natives in his practice and his subsequent murder of Marie clearly warrant punishment. Thus, Watson touches on the failures of the judicial system to consistently hand out judgements that are morally fair and instead reveals the flaws within the legal system of the time that reflect widespread and corrupt social attitudes .

Loyalty vs Morality

Watson also touches on the conflict between loyalty and morality. This, as we know, forms the crux of narrative’s tension . Should Wes arrest and prosecute his brother Frank or not? Should he stay loyal to his family or uphold the moral values that he must stand by as the towns Sheriff? Gail, David’s mother, embodies all the virtues of morality that we all stand by and she is appalled by Frank’s behaviour and demands that he be persecuted regardless of his relationship with Wes. In sharp contrast, Julian believes that Frank can be excused for his actions because the victims were merely “red meat ” Native American women who he views as subhuman.


Gail is David’s mother and Wesley’s wife. She is a compassionate, idealistic and courageous woman. This can also be seen as she stands up for Marie, despite the prejudices in the society at the time. She also spends a ‘good deal of energy’ protecting herself and her family.  She also doesn’t take part in Wesley’s racist jokes. For example, when Wesley makes a joke about Marie, ‘never been to anyone but the tribal medicine man’, David responds with ‘my mother didn’t laugh.’

David is Wesley and Gail’s son and is the narrator of the text. He doesn’t share Wesley’s beliefs surrounding race and forms his own moral perspective. This is demonstrated when he makes a fuss about wanting to wear moccasins (which Gail sides with him on) while his father says will make him ‘as flat-footed and lazy as an Indian.’ 

Unlike his father, we don’t see David conflicted with his loyalties and he is particularly critical of his father. This is best demonstrated when he ‘was beginning to already think of Uncle Frank as a criminal’ upon hearing sexual assault accusations against Frank. When Wesley spares Gail the details of his investigation into Frank, David believes it could be because he is ‘trying to protect his brother and keeping the number of witnesses to the accounts of his crime to a minimum’. After Wesley arrests Frank and takes him to the basement for imprisonment, David assumes his father killed Frank despite Wesley not being depicted as a particularly violent person in the novel.  All it takes is an indistinct noise from the basement for David to conjure up ways his father could have killed his Uncle Frank.

Frank is Wesley’s brother and is described as a ‘witty and charming’ doctor, and war hero who is widely loved by the community -particularly by his dad, Julian. In reality, Frank is a criminal who abuses his power - both a white man and a doctor to sexually assault Indian women - which he believes he can get away with.  This is compounded when he states, “I am not concerned about social progress.” Through Frank, Watson demonstrates how some individuals can abuse their positions of power and privilege, and to not lose any sleep over it (‘at smiling ease with his life and everything it’).

Wesley is Julian’s son, Gail’s husband, and David’s father and the sheriff of Mercer county. He dislikes Native Americans and frequently makes jokes about them and stereotypes them. He even uses the fact that Marie Little Soldiers is a Native American to belittle and doubt the credibility of her experience. 

Wesley’s conflicting loyalties become more complex and difficult once you consider the prejudices at the time, his job as an officer of the law, Frank’s station in the family and community, Gail’s strong opinions and his constant need to seek validation from his father. An instance that mirrors Wesley’s conflicting loyalties is when he tells Gail, “I wish you wouldn’t have told the sheriff.” When she told informed him of Marie’s sexual assault allegations against Frank. However, in Wesley’s eyes, Frank’s murder of Marie Little Soldier, is where the latter crosses the line. The magnitude of his brother’s crime is too large for him to let his previous conflicting loyalties as a sheriff and a brother hold him back from arresting Frank. After convicting Frank and having to argue about it with his father, we learned ‘for the first time how this experience with his brother was ruining him physically.’ 

Julian is a bigoted racist man who has an unconditional love for his son Frank and unfairly favours him over his son Wesley. When he learns of Franks charges he exclaims, “What kind of bullshit is this?” He belittles the sexual assaults as Frank just ‘feeling them up’ and ‘assaulting an Indian’. At this point, Julian taking Frank’s side exposes how irrationally loyal he is to his son and suggests that even if the women were not Indian, he may still stand by Frank's actions. He protests that the only reason Wesley convicted Frank was that ‘ever since the war, ever since Frank came home in uniform and he [Wesley] stayed here [home],’ he’s ‘been jealous’. However, this comment seems to say more about Julian’s feelings than Wesley’s - perhaps, this is why Julain felt this inclination towards Frank. After this argument, we see Wesley’s feeling of defeat and heartbreak - that despite Frank being a murderer and a rapist, his father still seemed to pick his side over Wesley’s. 

Quotes on Prejudices, Discrimination and the Abuse of Power

  • “He wears those and soon he'll be as flat-footed and lazy as an Indian" - Discrimination is evident in Montana 1948 where Wesley uses stereotypes of Indians to imply they are inferior to them, and that David shouldn’t be like them.
  • "She's an Indian- Why would she tell the truth?”  
  • “Your mother and I thought we’d have more to show than just one grandchild … and white- we want them we want them white”
  • “Screwing an Indian. Or feeling her up or whatever. You don’t lock up a man for that.”
  • “You know Frank’s always been partial to red meat.”  
  • “Well if Sheriff Hayden says it's so, it must be so.”
  • “Wesley, your brother is raping these women. These girls. These Indian girls.”

Quotes on Law vs Justice

  • “Why did my grandfather first run for sheriff? … He wanted, he needed power. He was a dominating man who drew sustenance and strength from controlling others.” This quote shows that many people in society at the time held positions of power such as lawyers or sheriff but didn’t enforce the law or worry about the morality of their actions. Thus creating an unjust legal system that would allow these people to shape how the law is enforced with their own prejudices.
  • “You know what your Grandad said it means to be a peace officer in Montana? He said it means knowing when to look and when to look away.”  
  • “I think the problem has been taken care of. Frank said he’s going to cut it out”

Quotes on Loyalty vs Morality

  • "David, I believe that in this world people must pay for their crimes. It doesn't matter who you are or who your relations are; if you do wrong, you pay. I believe that. I have to."
  • “I wish you wouldn’t have told the sheriff.” 
  • “You don’t lock up your brother. A respected man. A war hero.” “This is a legal matter.” “Bull sh*t. ” “Then why have you got him locked up here and not over at the jail? This is your brother here. My son! ”

Quotes on Destruction of Innocence

  • 'I had gone back into the house -to the kitchen, to my room, out the backdoor, I had left the porch and followed frank's steps down the front walk - I never would have heard the conversation between my father and mother, and perhaps I would have lived my life with an illusion about my family and perhaps the human community’ - page 33
  • “The shock of hearing this about Uncle Frank was doubled because my mother was saying these words. Rape. Breasts. Penis. These were words I never heard my mother use-ever- and I’m sure her stammer was not only from emotion but also from the strain on her vocabulary.”
  • “But I was on a trail that would lead me out of my childhood.”

With contributions from Fae Saberi.

This blog was updated on 21/10/2020.

4. Character Analysis

6. Symbolism

7. Essay Topics

8. Essay Topic Breakdown

Così is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Lewis is faced with a seemingly impossible task – to bring order to the chaotic world of the asylum – yet in the process of doing so, he develops hugely as a person. Although, it’s important not to take Lewis’ development at face value. His growth is used to highlight many of Nowra’s values on issues surrounding love, fidelity, madness and reality, just to name a few. It’s also important to look at the development (or lack of development) of other characters and think about why Nowra might have included them in the play. Luckily for you, Così is quite a short play and doesn’t have a huge cast of characters. However, this means that it’s even more important to get a great understanding of each character – they’re all there for a reason! 

To fully understand this text, you’ll need to move beyond analysing characters and dialogue and consider Nowra’s main messages. Così is essentially a social commentary, packed full of criticisms of conventional perspectives and values. Also, Così is full of symbols and imagery, which can help you score highly on your essays if you integrate them into your work. Lastly, it's vital to remember that Così is a play, not a book, and on top of that, it is a play within a play. This means that setting, structure and stage directions are all crucial, and make for a high-scoring essay.

Melbourne Mental Institution, Australia during the 1970s.

All of the action takes place inside a burnt-out, derelict theatre. This serves to create an atmosphere of confinement for the audience, encouraging them to reflect on the stifling experience of the patients.

Così is divided into two acts and nine scenes. The play is dominated by Lewis’ development . Act 1 highlights his uncertainty and distance from the world of the asylum. Whereas by Act 2, we see Lewis become more invested in the patients and the asylum, as his relationships with the other characters grow. Lewis’ development is symbolised through the changing imagery throughout the play, specifically fire and water.

Così also is a piece of metatheatre , which Nowra achieves through structuring it as a ‘play within a play’. Metatheatre means that the play draws attention to its distance from reality. This makes sense in relation to Così , as Nowra is continually encouraging his audience to accept their own reality instead of falling into escapism. Including Così Fan Tutte in Così also serves to highlight the difference in popular opinion between Mozart’s era and the 1970s, while emphasising the continuity of love. This contrast also helps Lewis to come to terms with his valuation of love over war, which is at odds with the common opinions of his society.

The line between reality and illusion is explored through the characters who are labelled as ‘insane’ as well as those considered ‘normal.’ Nowra demonstrates that reality is unique for each person, and often people may slip into illusions in order to avoid the truth. It is suggested that although they may not have been completely ‘normal’, those considered to be ‘insane’ still possess great insight that ‘normal’ people may overlook. Additionally, Così reminds the reader of the absurdities of a mental asylum shunned by society, which would only have added to patients’ instabilities, especially as families dealt with the matter secretly. Furthermore, the issue of love and fidelity that was valued so highly in Mozart’s era, is proven to still be relevant in our modern times. Ultimately, Così is a play that criticises traditional structures and views of society – whether they be asylums, university education or harsh stigma. Nowra encourages his audience to accept both the complexity of people and of life, which begins with accepting your own reality.

Character Analysis

The protagonist of Così , Lewis is a new university graduate who has agreed to direct a play cast with patients from a mental institution because he needs money. At first, Lewis shares the same values as his friends Nick and Lucy -  that love is ‘not so important’ in the days of politics and war. During the time he spends with the patients, however, Lewis experiences a turning point in his understanding and perception of people. By the end of the play, Lewis learns to value love and friendship over war and politics, even stating that ‘without love, the world wouldn’t mean as much’. In emphasising the development of Lewis’ values away from the social norm, Nowra highlights the confining nature of society and the danger of its limited focus, which fails to recognise the value of love and companionship. 

Additionally, Nowra blurs the lines between insanity and sanity by portraying Lewis as a bridge between the ‘real’ world and that of the asylum. At the beginning of the play, Lewis states that his grandmother was in an asylum. However, despite knowing that ‘she had gone mad’, he reflects that ‘she was still [his] grandmother.’ This, alongside his passion for Julie, enables Lewis to see the patients as people, not their illnesses. Therefore, he subconsciously allows himself to be influenced by them, just as he influences them. This contradicts the traditional views surrounding the unproductivity of the mentally ill and instead highlights their value and worth. Therefore, Nowra warns against dismissing individuals who are mentally ill, instead highlighting their capacity to garner change and therefore be productive and valuable members of society.

Moreover, not only is Lewis involved in directing Così Fan Tutte, but he also finds himself playing the part of Fernando. This again further reinforces his role as a bridge between society and the asylum (and his connection to its patients), and he ends up embodying the role. Like Fernando, Lewis is unfaithful to his partner. While still in a relationship with his girlfriend Lucy, Lewis becomes intimate with a patient, Julie. Nowra uses his unfaithfulness as evidence of the indiscriminate nature of infidelity – it is not restricted only to women.

Finally, Così explores how Lewis deals with a hardship that he essentially created for himself – he signed up to direct the play. This links to Nowra’s view of the senselessness of war , which he views as a problem that mankind has created for themselves.

Girlfriend and roommate of Lewis, Lucy cannot understand why Lewis is directing a play about love when thousands are dying in the war. She has an affair with Nick, who shares similar beliefs – that politics and the Vietnam War protest are more important than anything else. The flippant nature with which she regards her affair with Nick as purely sexual is also reflective of her lack of value towards love. Thus, Nowra portrays Lucy as a personification of the societal norms of the 1970s – she is political, into free love and challenges traditional notions of femininity.

Furthermore, it is ironic that Lucy and Lewis have similar names. At the start of the play, Lewis allows himself to be influenced by Lucy’s values rather than his own, but by the end, Lewis’ true views prove to be very different from hers. 

Lucy also acts as a catalyst for Lewis’ change and development . She pushes him to ‘make a choice’ between the world of insanity and fidelity that represents truth for Lewis, or the world of sanity, free love and politics that Lewis comes to view as restrictive and stifling.

An experienced student director, roommate and friend of Lewis who is heavily involved in the moratorium (a protest against the Vietnam War). He promises to help Lewis direct Così Fan Tutte , however he quickly breaks this vow in order to spend time furthering his political career with Lucy. Lewis later discovers that Lucy and Nick are having an affair. Unlike Lewis, however, Nick views his relationship with Lucy as ‘only sex’, therefore suggesting his superficiality and lack of compassion . 

This superficiality is further shown through his obsession with the moratorium and his disinterest in Lewis’ Così Fan Tutte. He criticises Lewis for prioritising theatre over politics, stating that ‘only mad people in this day and age would do a work about love and infidelity.’ This suggests that what drives Nick is a desire to be seen doing the ‘normal’ and ‘right’ things, rather than an intrinsic belief that what he is doing is good. He views life as a series of transactions and values activities based on the immediate benefit that they bring him. For example, he admitted to helping Lewis with his direction only ‘so [Lewis would] help [him] on the moratorium committee’.  

Overall, Nick lives up to his label of being an ‘egotistical pig’ who ‘likes the sound of his own voice’. He is used by Nowra as a benchmark with which Lewis’ development is compared (i.e. we can see how much Lewis has developed by comparing him to Nick). For example, at the start of the play Lewis shares similar superficial values to Nick, admitting to only take the directing job for a bit of money; however, by the end of Così, he holds vastly different views than Nick.

By the way, to download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use, click here !

Fidelity & Infidelity

According to Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, fidelity is depicted as an ideal that is never achieved. Since ‘women are like that’ – the interpretation of ‘ Così fan tutte’ , Mozart supported the belief that men should simply accept that women will inevitably be disloyal in relationships. Nowra echoes this view of women through Lewis and Lucy’s relationship. While Lucy is ‘sleeping’ with Lewis, she is also triflingly ‘having sex’ with Nick. When Lewis discovers Lucy’s betrayal, she waves aside his shock, defending herself, ‘it is not as if we’re married.’ The revelation thus does prove Mozart right, that ‘woman’s constancy is like the Arabian Phoenix. Everyone swears it exists, but no one has seen it.’

Although the women in both Così Fan Tutte and Così are shown to be unfaithful, so are the men. While the men in Così Fan Tutte do not actively participate in adultery, they do fabricate their departure to the war and also disguise themselves as ‘Albanians.’ Their deception is also a betrayal to their wives. Meanwhile, Don Alfonso manipulates everyone. As seen in Così , Lewis is unfaithful to Lucy as he kisses Julie during rehearsals. Julie later reveals that she has a girlfriend who she would prefer to be with, confirming that both men and women are unfaithful in relationships, despite whatever values they may claim to have.

Nowra considers many perspectives of love and fidelity, without offering a definitive opinion. Instead, he explores the progression (or stagnation) of characters’ opinions on love and contrasts them to those of other characters, in the hope of highlighting its complexity . Nick and Lucy both view love as an indulgence that is incompatible with politics and secondary to life’s basic needs. Whereas Lewis claims, ‘without love, the world wouldn’t mean that much’. These differences between Nick and Lucy’s view on love and Lewis’, are major contributors to the deterioration of their relationships. Therefore, Nowra shows that communication and truthfulness are needed for healthy, and reciprocal, relationships.

Overall, while Così Fan Tutte presents love and fidelity as wavering, Nowra provides a more practical view of love. Nowra suggests that love is complex and cannot be fully understood or tamed , instead portraying it as akin to madness . As love is universal, this view ties in nicely with his non-judgmental perspective on madness and insanity.

Sanity & Insanity

The line between sanity and insanity is explored through the juxtaposition of the patients and society. In the 1970s, those who behaved abnormally were declared to be ‘insane’ and placed in mental institutions that were shunned by society. As scientific developments have now informed us, these environments often failed to assist their patients. The use of electric shock therapy, for example, frequently led to severe, long-term negative effects upon patients.

While the patients were viewed as ‘madmen’ by outsiders, Lewis soon discovers that they are, in many ways, ordinary people. Although each patient has a mental flaw, all possess interesting opinions and beliefs on different matters. Additionally, Nowra encourages his readers to view insanity as more complex than a diagnosis or something that can be fixed with a ‘coat of paint’. Instead, he suggests that insanity is imposed on people through the judgment of others .

Nowra also attempts to blur the lines between sanity and insanity to emphasize the indiscriminate nature of madness. This is seen through Lewis’ character, who consistently bridges the gap between madness and normalcy. For example, despite his ‘sane’ status, he is mistaken for a patient by Justin, joins Roy in imitating electric shock therapy, replaces Doug in the play, and stands with the patients against Justin.

Overall, Nowra portrays insanity as a matter of perspective , rather than an objective diagnosis. He refuses to define madness, instead depicting it as somewhere on the spectrum of human behaviour. In doing so, he critisises traditional perspectives of sanity and insanity and instead encourages his audiences to consider the complexity of madness. 

Reality & Illusion

The question of what is real or an illusion is weaved through the patients’ state of mentality. As shown through Ruth who struggles to pretend like she is having real coffee on stage, it is difficult for some to distinguish reality from illusion , even if it is clear to everyone else. For others, they may willingly refuse the truth and succumb to an illusion. Lewis deluded himself into believing that Lucy was faithful, when all signs (such as Nick residing in the same home and Nick and Lucy spending time together) indicated that Lucy was, in fact, blatantly disloyal. Much like Lewis’ protective delusion, Roy uses illusions of a happy childhood to shield him from facing his reality. This builds upon his tendencies to blame others for his behaviour – he is inherently unable to face the truth of his ‘insanity’ and so manipulates his reality to make it more bearable. 

Throughout Così, Nowra also explores the relativity of reality . For the patients of the asylum, pretending to give electric shock therapy to others ‘seems realer’ than ‘kissing and stuff’, whereas the opposite would be true in ‘ordinary’ society. However, Così also suggests that imagination has the capacity to empower . Through participating in the play, which is an illusory form of reality, the patients are able to explore their views on love and commitment.

Ultimately, the behaviour of characters such as Roy and Ruth encourages us to consider the reliability (or unreliability) of our own perceptions . Alongside this, Nowra stresses the importance of being able to accept your own reality , as he shows that characters who fail to do so, also fail to experience personal growth (e.g. Roy, Julie).

Burnt-Out Theatre

The setting of a burnt-out theatre depicts the miserable environment in which the patients of mental institutions are forced to live. As they are ostracised by the community, a lack of care and support is shown through the rejected and deteriorating theatre. The patients’ considerable enthusiasm highlights their unfortunate circumstances, since even a chance to spend their time in an old building performing a play causes much excitement.

Although we see the theatre being touched up with new lights and a ‘coat of paint’, it still remains derelict and run-down. Nowra uses this to symbolise the futility of surface-level treatments (such as medication and isolation) of mental illnesses, and how we should instead focus on seeing the person behind the illness.

However, Nowra also uses the theatre as a symbol of hope. Despite its desolation, it is in the theatre that Lewis feels safe to grow and develop . Additionally, Julie and Lewis’ kiss takes place on the theatre’s stage. The kiss itself represents Lewis becoming more comfortable with himself and his increasingly counter-cultural views.

Arabian Phoenix

The women in both Così Fan Tutte and Così are compared with the Arabian Phoenix. The mythical creature is a representation of women, beautiful and enchanting, capturing men such as the god Apollo with its voice. This reflects the power of women to attract men. Nevertheless, its rarity, as often commented on in Così , is linked with the seemingly infrequent loyalty demonstrated by women .

The frequent reference to the Arabian Phoenix throughout Così continually reinforces the play’s misogynistic undertone . Its rarity is likened to the absence of women’s fidelity, yet never male fidelity. Similarly, Nowra invites his audience to condemn Lucy’s unfaithfulness towards Lewis, yet we are not encouraged to feel the same way about Lewis’ unfaithfulness to Lucy.  

Light and Dark

The lights in Act 1, Scene 1 highlight Lewis’ entrance into a new world , where he befriends patients who will ultimately help him to learn and develop. At first Lewis, much like Lucy and Nick, possesses a ‘pitch black’ perspective of the world. This is a representation of their modern beliefs that circulate around politics and war. When the lights are turned on, Roy is present, demonstrating that the patients of the mental institutions are the source for Lewis’ changing perspective throughout the play. Nowra also uses the lights to represent the hope for change that Lewis brings to the patients, and vice versa.

Light is also used to directly juxtapose the chaos and desperation that darkness brings. Before Lewis entered the theatre, it was dark and derelict, symbolising the abandonment and hopelessness of the asylum’s patients. This desperation is viewed in another light during Julie and Lewis’ kiss (which takes place in the dark). In this instance, their desire for each other and the chaos that ensues is liberating for Lewis, as it enables him to come to terms with what he truly values.

However, Julie notes that the wards are ‘never really dark’ as ‘there’s always a light on in the corridor.’ In this sense, darkness symbolises autonomy and freedom , whereas light represents the constant monitoring and scrutinising that the patients are subjected to.

Essay Topics

1. Così contends that some things are more important than politics.

2. In Così, the ‘insane’ characters are quite normal.

3. The line between reality and illusion is often blurred.

4. Ironically, it is through the ‘madmen’ that Lewis learns what is truly important.

5. Nick and Lucy’s ‘modern’ value of free love is depicted to be a backwards belief. Discuss.

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Così Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!

Essay Topic Breakdown

Character-based prompt: it is not only lewis who develops in così , but other characters as well. discuss..

Simply spot a character’s name and there you have it, it’s a character-based prompt. However, it’s important to recognise that your essay does not need to revolve around only the character(s) in the prompt but should also incorporate discussion of other major and minor characters as well. 

In this topic, it is important to incorporate other characters, such as the patients, into your essay, because they are crucial to Lewis’ development. To ensure that you stay on topic, it is best to include a paragraph (or paragraphs) that explore characters other than Lewis and their development. Also try and focus on different areas/types of development (i.e. not just Lewis’ changing values). 

Highlight Key Words :

It is not only Lewis who develops in Così , but other characters as well. 

Find Synonyms:

  • Develops: learns, grows, changes, flourishes, progresses, matures 
  • Così explores the development/growth of multiple characters, including Lewis. 
  • Lewis is the central catalyst that enables other character’s development to be seen (such as Ruth’s and Zac’s) 
  • However, we also see characters who fail to develop. This is either because they fail to accept their own reality (Roy) or they fail to accept the errors in their thinking (Lucy, Nick) 
  • Nowra also uses Lewis as the benchmark against which the development of other characters is measured. For example, Nick’s lack of development is highlighted through comparing his stagnation/unchanging ways to Lewis’ growth. 
  • Lewis’ development is facilitated by the patients. Nowra uses this to suggest the productivity of the mentally ill and challenge traditional stereotypes that label them as incapable. 
  • Through Lewis’ development, Nowra highlights the falsity in societal stereotypes of the mentally ill (i.e. Lewis’s views change from being discriminatory and stereotypical to more compassionate, and well founded.) 
  • Imagery and symbolism are used to represent development and growth (fire and water) as well as Lewis’ catalytic nature (light and dark). 

Step 3: Create a Plan 

Contention: Nowra encourages his audience to reconsider their perspective on the mentally ill by highlighting their capacity to not only change themselves, but enact change in others.

Topic Sentence 1: Through his exploration of Lewis’ changing ideals during Così , Nowra attempts to highlight the value of companionship and productivity of the mentally ill, which act to increase Lewis’ confidence when faced with adversity.

Examples: Lewis’ changing ideas on love and fidelity, Lewis’ changing levels of subservience to Lucy and Nick 


"Not so important."
"Without love, the world wouldn’t mean as much."
"They are coming to take me away, ha, ha."
"Not sing that."
"I said, don’t sing that song."

Linking Sentence(s): In contrasting Lewis’ meekness to his boldness, Nowra alludes to the personal benefits that personal growth can have. Additionally, he ultimately encourages his audience to view Lewis’ learning as evidence against the common notion of the unproductivity of the mentally ill, as we see Lewis’ development flourish during his time at the asylum.

Topic Sentence 2: Moreover, throughout Così we see Lewis develop a greater understanding of the complexity of madness due to his partnership with the patients. 

Examples: Lewis’ changing perspective of the patients, Lewis’ involvement with the patients beyond his role as director, fire and water imagery 

"Will go bezerk without their medication."
"Unable to believe he has found himself caught up in [directing]."
"Water drip[ping] though the hole in the roof."

Linking Sentence: Ultimately, through highlighting the development of Lewis’ views towards insanity, Nowra positions his audience to reflect on the complexity of madness and thus warns of the danger of stereotypes.

Topic Sentence 3: Furthermore, as an outsider, Lewis assists the patients in their development, acting as their connection to the real world and ultimately providing a space for them to grow and flourish. 

Examples: Juxtaposition of light and dark, Ruth’s development. 

"Chink of light."
"Burnt out theatre."
"Real coffee."
"Real cappuccino machine."
"Wasn’t [her], it was the character."
"Time and motion expert."

Linking Sentence: Ultimately, Nowra explores the learning and growth of characters in Così to not only highlight the necessity of a humanistic approach to treating mental illness, but also to illustrate the nature of mental health as a continuum, on which no one person needs to be stationary forever. ‍

If you find this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our Così Study Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.

Download a PDF version of this blog for printing or offline use

How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide

How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion ‍

  • What is a Written Explanation?
  • Creative Response-Based Written Explanations
  • Oral Presentation-Based Written Explanations

1. What is a Written Explanation?

Written Explanation (also known as Statement of Intention, SOE, and various other names throughout different schools) is a short introductory piece to your essay. The Written Explanation is intended to explore the reasons behind why you made particular writing decisions. This is done via FLAPC:

F orm,  L anguage,  A udience,  P urpose,  C ontext

2. Creative Response-Based Written Explanations

The following is taken from the VCAA study design for Creative Response-Based Written Explanations:

'a written explanation of creative decisions and how these demonstrate understanding of the text.'

Most assessors are quite lenient with how you want to approach the Written Explanation – there is no rigid structure that you need to abide by. As we will discuss below, this allows you to consider which aspects of form, language, audience, purpose and context you wish to include. Each of the points should establish why you have written your piece. They are considered as part of your SAC and thus, are marked accordingly. They are not  examinable during the English exam. 

There are traditionally three forms of writing accepted in assessments: expository, creative or persuasive essay. 

‘I chose to write in an expository style, employing conventions of format and style of a traditional essay. This allows me to express my ideas in a logical order while adopting a sophisticated tone.’

When writing, you choose particular words and phrases to illustrate your ideas. Think about what type of language have you used and why. Perhaps your piece is formal or informal, sophisticated or simple, or from a first or third person perspective. All these factors are important in shaping your Context piece. Also consider language techniques you may have incorporated such as repetition, rhetorical questions, metaphors, symbolism and more.

‘I have chosen to write from a first person perspective to shed light on the inner workings of Gardiner from  The Lieutenant .'

You must select a targeted audience for your essay. Your choice can be adults to young children, or even to your future self. Make sure your target audience is suitable for your essay – select a group that would realistically be interested in your work.

‘My piece is to be published in an anthology for those who have had difficulty assimilating into a new group or culture. As they have familiarity with the concepts I discuss, I intend for readers to depart with a greater understanding and appreciation of the ideas in my written piece.’

The purpose section is where you discuss the message you would like to send to your audience. Here you discuss your contention or arguments; whether you completely agree, disagree or a bit of both in regards to your prompt.

‘The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that there can be different outcomes from encountering conflict: firstly, that conflicts can change many people through growth in understanding or a sense of self-development and secondly, that there are times when people remain unaffected by conflict and thus, unchanged.’

Since your essay is based on your studied text, you should provide a brief discussion of the basic ideas behind the Context . You can do this prior to your  Purpose  section since it is a good lead-in.

‘In this essay, I explored the idea that ‘Conflict inevitably changes people’; a concept heavily explored in  The Lieutenant . Every person encounters conflict. It drives individuals to challenge themselves, and deal with new experiences.'

Different schools will set different word limits for Written Explanations. These can range from 300 – 350 words based on the VCAA study design. With such a small word limit, be succinct and choose wisely what you will discuss in order to score the maximum marks allocated to Written Explanations.

3. Oral Presentation-Based Written Explanations

The VCAA study design requests students write:

'a written statement of intention to accompany the student’s own oral presentation, articulating the intention of decisions made in the planning process, and how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language.'

Using the topic,  'Why we need to stop crying "cultural appropriation" when  cultural exchange  is far more important ', let's see how this can be done with FLAPC with some examples below (if you need help selecting a topic, check out our 2020 Oral Presentation topics to get those brain juices flowing ):

‘I chose to adopt the conventions of a persuasive speech, where I use a structure of presenting my main ideas by rebutting arguments made by the opposition. Throughout my speech, I embed persuasive tactics in an effort to firstly, encourage engagement from the audience and secondly, sway them to readily accept my point of view.

‘Since I am an Asian-Australian, I have purposefully forgone the opportunity to adopt a persona and instead, have chosen to write from a first person perspective as I can uniquely shed light on my own experiences towards cultural exchange and how that has directly impacted me. My speech heavily focuses on delivering tangible examples, such as anecdotes and social media usage, as I aim to heighten the topic’s relevancy and relatability for my audience. Moreover, as my focus is to reinforce positive attitudes towards cultural exchange, I have adopted a light-hearted approach with humour through the first portion of my speech, then moving into an urgent tone towards the end to highlight the importance of this issue.'

'I have opted to target young Australian adults since we are the generation of the future, and have a major role to play in positively shaping the Australian society’s views and attitudes towards cultural exchange.

'I aim to convince my audience that it is too easy to cry 'cultural appropriation' by being overly sensitive, and instead, we need to consider the benefits of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange itself, has shaped the world as we know it today – it has an important role in globalisation, understanding foreign cultures and the development of Australian society.'

'Australia is known to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. However, recent media has drawn attention to cries of 'cultural appropriation' towards Indigenous Australians and other cultures, claiming that we fail to appreciate and respect cultural values when we take others' culture for our own (whether it be fashion, music, food or otherwise).'

‍ Sample FLAPC compiled and rearranged for flow and fluency:

Australia is known to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world. However, recent media has drawn attention to cries of 'cultural appropriation' towards Indigenous Australians and other cultures, claiming that we fail to appreciate and respect cultural values when we take others' culture for our own (whether it be fashion, music, food or otherwise). I aim to convince my audience that it is too easy to cry 'cultural appropriation' by being overly sensitive, and instead, we need to consider the benefits of cultural exchange. Cultural exchange itself, has shaped the world as we know it today – it has an important role in globalisation, understanding foreign cultures and the development of Australian society. I chose to adopt the conventions of a persuasive speech, where I use a structure of presenting my main ideas by rebutting arguments made by the opposition. Throughout my speech, I embed persuasive tactics in an effort to firstly, encourage engagement from the audience and secondly, sway them to readily accept my point of view. Since I am an Asian-Australian, I have purposefully forgone the opportunity to adopt a persona and instead, have chosen to write from a first person perspective as I can uniquely shed light on my own experiences towards cultural exchange and how that has directly impacted me. This also has an additional persuasive effect as I invite my audience to relate to my opinions through their own similar experiences as young Australian adults. I have opted to target this audience since we are the generation of the future, and have a major role to play in positively shaping the Australian society’s views and attitudes towards cultural exchange. My speech heavily focuses on delivering tangible examples, such as anecdotes and social media usage, as I aim to heighten the topic’s relevance and relatability for my audience. Moreover, as my focus is to reinforce positive attitudes towards cultural exchange, I have adopted a light-hearted approach with humour through the first portion of my speech, then moving into an urgent tone towards the end to highlight the importance of this issue.

Need more help with your Creative Response? Check out How To Achieve A+ in Creative Writing (Reading and Creating)!

See how Lisa achieved full marks in her SAC in her Advice for A+ Oral Presentations guide.

3. Main Characters

4. Minor Characters

5. Dissecting an A+ Essay using 'The Golden Age'

6. Creative Essay Topic Brainstorm

The Golden Age is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our VCE Text Response Study Guide.

Even though this hasn’t been one of the more popular choices on the VCE text list, Joan London’s The Golden Age is a personal favourite of mine for a number of reasons. This is a novel about the experiences of children recovering from polio inside a convalescent home in Perth. With a sympathetic and warm approach, London tells the tragic yet brave stories of these children, as well as the stories of their parents and carers.

The novel essentially revolves around Frank Gold, a Hungarian Jew and a war refugee, and London blends his mature voice with the innocence of a coming-of-age narrative, all set against the backdrop of World War II.

As you’re reading the book, watch out for her literary or poetic language, and keep track of the story’s overall mood. These will be important considerations for text study, particularly if you are to write a creative response on this text for your SAC. With this in mind, I’ve included writing exercises throughout this blog post for you to practise writing creatively on this text.

If you are writing analytically on this text, either for your SAC or for your exam, you may still complete the exercises—each one should still be insightful for your writing in some way. Also, feel free to check the video below; it breaks down an analytical prompt for this text.

This novel is set in Perth during the early 1940s, which gives rise to a couple of interesting historical elements all intersecting in the book.

Crucially, the events of the novel take place for the most part while World War II is raging in Europe. This is important for understanding the backstory of the Gold family: they are Hungarian Jews who have escaped their war-torn home of Budapest to seek safety in Australia. In particular, we know that at some stage, Meyer had been taken away to a labour camp, and that Frank had had to hide himself in an attic.

Their Hungarian heritage, however, is something that distances them from other Australians, and they never really get a good chance to settle in, always feeling like they just weren’t on the same wavelength as the locals. In many ways, the story of the Golds is underpinned by tragedy—not only are they war refugees, but young Frank then contracts poliomyelitis (known to us just as polio), which forces the family to reassess all the plans they had for him to settle into an ordinary, Australian life.

However, Frank was far from the only victim of polio at the time—the entire nation was rocked by a wave of polio , with major outbreaks during the 1930s-40s. This was quite a nerve-wracking, and causing great fear for our country and its active, outdoors-y culture. The prospects of death, paralysis and permanent disability were understandably terrifying. About 70,000 people were affected, and almost half of them eventually died as a result. Almost every Australian at the time knew or knew of someone who had polio.

Task: You are Ida, composing a letter to Julia Marai after Frank’s diagnosis. Convey succinctly (in 250 words or less) what you think and how you feel. ‍

Key themes & implications.

I like to think that a lot of the themes in this book exist in diametric or opposing pairs. For instance, London gives Frank a voice that is wise beyond his years, yet uses it to tell a tender story of first love. She also plays on the paradox that while some characters have become isolated due to the unfortunate events that have befallen them, these very events end up becoming the thing that unite them.

Essentially, London plays with a lot of these thematic tensions, showing us that life isn’t really ever black and white, but there are whole lot of grey areas in every day life.

Central to the novel are ideas of innocence or childhood . These ideas are really explored in the friendship between Frank and Elsa, who are both on the cusp of adolescence. While they are set up as young lovers in the eyes of readers, we know that they are far too young to truly have romantic feelings for each other. In actual fact, their interactions are permeated by a sense of innocence.

However, these interactions are also punctuated by a sense of maturity , a desire for more. This is evident to the extent where nurses are getting hesitant about leaving them alone with each other (even though their parents still trust them entirely). In actual fact, these parents serve as an important point of contrast. Some manage to recapture the magic of youth even as adults—consider Ida reigniting her love for the piano, or Meyer jumping on opportunities to start anew. In this sense, innocence and maturity are a pair of themes that are interestingly not always found where one might expect.

Another key thematic element of the novel is tragedy or adversity , which are relevant to a far wider gamut of characters. Considering the story’s geographical and historical setting, it seems evident that these ideas will play a major role in the story. A particularly poignant example lies in Sullivan, who contracts polio right on the cusp of adulthood, and readers can’t help but feel a sense of loss for what might have been.

However, on the other end of this spectrum is the strength required to cope with their suffering. While Sullivan had his indefatigable sense of humour, other characters have developed different mechanisms to stay strong in the face of adversity. In some cases, you might say that they’ve transcended or risen above their tragedies, and become stronger for it.

Finally, London also tackles the idea of isolation , which can be seen as a consequence of tragedy—characters become isolated because they lose their ability to relate to others, and others feel unable to relate to them. Symbolically, the Golden Age hospital is surrounded by four roads and therefore cut off from the world, almost as if quarantined. However, the solidarity and unity of patients inside becomes a great source of strength—I’ll leave it to you to think about what London was trying to say with this!

Task: Selecting one of the above themes, write a poem from the POV of an imaginary spectator in the novel, outlining how you perceive/experience these themes in other characters. Use all five senses(how you see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch/feel it)

Major characters.

I haven’t written too extensively about characters for a range of reasons: on one hand, it’s important for you to form your own interpretations about what they’re like and why they do the things they do, but on the other hand, I wanted to leave you with some key points to consider and/or some essential points about their characters to incorporate into your writing. This will allow you to hopefully feel like you’re capturing them accurately when writing your creatives, but without feeling restricted by an extensive set of traits that you have to invoke.

  • the central character, he is cerebral, intelligent and mature (which we can tell from his narrative voice, or how he ‘sounds’)
  • he is, however, still very young, wide-eyed, inquisitive in spite of the tragedies which have befallen him (consider how he sees his relationship with Elsa)
  • also significant is the motif of his poetry; not only does it highlight his maturity, but it also acts as a way for him to voice or articulate his feelings and experiences in the hospital—you could try incorporating some poetry in your writing (either original poems or quoted from the novel)

Elsa Briggs

  • another central character who becomes quite attached to Frank (they are the two eldest children in the Golden Age)
  • she is warm, caring and selfless, demonstrating an emotional maturity beyond her years (because of having to bear the metaphorical albatross of polio)
  • a lot of what we know about Elsa comes from Frank’s perspective (though we do get some insight from her own, and some from her mother’s)—how does this shape the way we see her? Consider London’s use of imagery, portraying her as an angelic figure.

Ida & Meyer

  • Frank’s parents, Hungarian Jews, and war refugees who come to Australia to cleanse them of their pasts and to have a fresh start; some of this is purely by circumstance, but there are parts of their past that they willingly and actively eschew e.g. Ida’s piano
  • note that Hungary is a landlocked country in the midst of European hustle and bustle with easy access to other nations/cultures/peoples, but Australia is an island on the other side of the world—consider how this affects their sense of isolation
  • on the other hand, they do form new connections with people here and in their own individual ways; Ida by reclaiming her pianist talents and Meyer by taking up a new job

Task: You are Elsa, Ida, or Meyer and you’ve just discovered Frank’s poem book. What are your thoughts and feelings towards his writing? Consider the context of your chosen character’s own experiences

Minor characters.

I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, but any piece of text-based writing (creative or analytical) can be strengthened by diversifying the range of characters that you write about. Even though you’ve already differentiated yourself from most VCE students by even doing this text at all (very few people choose it, so props to you!), some inclusion of more minor characters might help to distinguish yourself further. I’ve picked some that I think are interesting to talk about, but feel free to experiment with others as well!

  • a young man who contracts a severe strand of polio right on the cusp of adulthood, thereby exemplifying the theme of tragedy—however, his sense of humour remains active in spite of his immobility, so perhaps he not only exemplifies this theme but subverts it as well
  • London poses the complex question of whether or not he’s actually unhappy or defeated as a result of polio; there’s no clear answer, since there’s many ways to interpret his humour (is it a sign of strength or is it a front for inner turmoils expressed through poetry?)
  • in addition to his humour and poetry, his relationship with his family could also be an interesting point of discussion to address some of these questions
  • a young girl in the hospital who is quite close to Elsa (almost in a sisterly way)—how have they developed this relationship, and how does this relate to the theme of unity/companionship/human connection?
  • notably, she wanted to rehabilitate herself after polio took away her ability to feed the brumbies in her desert town—think about how this might represent strength as well

Julia Marai & Hedwiga

  • Ida’s former piano teacher and her flatmate/partner who live at the top of an apartment block in Budapest; they shelter Frank in their attic under no obligation whatsoever, but purely out of the kindness and selflessness of their hearts
  • again, there’s this subversion of what it means to be isolated: on one hand, their apartment is so cut off from the rest of the world below, and they lead a largely self-sufficient life together, but on the other hand, the fact that they’re together means that they’re not entirely isolated consider the power of human connection in this context as well

Task: Pick a minor character from this list and a character from the above list of major characters, and write about them meeting each other for the first time. Pick two that do not already interact closely within the novel e.g. Elsa meeting Sullivan

I hope this gives you some ideas or starting points about writing creatively on this text!

Download the PDF version of The Golden Age study guide   here .

Dissecting an A+ Essay using 'The Golden Age'

Picture this: you’re sitting down at your desk, fumbling your fingers, inspecting the new stationary that you convinced yourself you needed for year 12, resisting the urge to check your phone. Your text response SAC is in two weeks. You’re freaking out because you want, no, need an A+. You decide to write a practice essay for your English teacher. Practice makes perfect, right? You stay up for hours, pouring your heart and soul into this essay. The result? B+. Where did I go wrong?

That’s where I come in! Writing an A+ essay can be really tough without examples and specific advice. Before reading on, make sure you've read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response so you are up to scratch.

I will be explaining some basic dos and don’ts of writing an essay on The Golden Age , providing a model essay as an example.

The following prompt will be referenced throughout the post;

‘The Golden Age’ shows that everyone needs love and recognition. Discuss.

Planning: the silent killer of A+ essays

I’m sure your teachers have emphasised the importance of planning. In case they haven’t, allow me to reiterate that great planning is compulsory for a great essay . However, flimsy arguments aren’t going to get you an A+. The examiners are looking for complex arguments , providing a variety of perspectives of the themes at hand. From the above prompt, the key word is, ‘discuss’. This means that you should be discussing the prompt, not blindly agreeing with it . Make sure you don’t write anything that wouldn’t sit right with London. ‍

Don’t plan out basic arguments that are one-dimensional. This may give you a pass in English, but won’t distinguish you as a top-scoring student.

For example:

  • Paragraph 1: The children at TGA need love and recognition.
  • Paragraph 2: Ida and Meyer need love and recognition
  • Paragraph 3: Sister Penny needs love and recognition.

The above paragraphs merely agree with the statement, but don’t delve into the many aspects of the novel that could contribute to a sophisticated essay.

Do create complex arguments, or paragraphs with a twist! If you can justify your argument and it makes sense, include it in your essay. There are many ways that you could answer this question, but my plan looks like this:

  • Paragraph 1: Frank Gold yearns for mature, adult love, not recognition from onlookers or outsiders
  • Paragraph 2: Ida Gold does not seek recognition from Australia, but love and validation from herself
  • Paragraph 3: Albert requires love from a specific kind of relationship – family, and Sullivan may view love from his father as pity which he rebukes

See the difference?

The introduction: how to start your essay off with a BANG!

Personally, I always struggled with starting an introduction. The examiners will be reading and marking thousands of essays, so if possible, starting your introduction with something other than Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’… is a great way to make you stand out from the crowd. Having a strong start is essential to pave the way for a clear and concise essay. You could start with a quote/scene from the text! This is not essential, but it’s a great way to mix things up. This is my start:

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life.  There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Remember, there are many other ways you could start your essay.

The body paragraphs: To TEEL or not to TEEL?

I’m sure you’ve heard of TEEL countless times since year 7. Topic sentence, evidence, explanation, link. The truth is that these elements are all very important in a body paragraph. However, following a rigid structure will render your essay bland and repetitive. It is also extremely important to note that you should be using evidence from multiple points in the text , and you should be making sure that your paragraphs are directly answering the question . Write what feels natural to you, and most importantly, don’t abuse a thesaurus . If you can’t read your essay without rummaging for a dictionary every second sentence, you should rewrite it.  If vocabulary isn’t your strong point (it definitely isn’t mine!), focus on clean sentence structure and solid arguments. There’s nothing worse than you using a fancy word incorrectly.

Don’t overuse your thesaurus in an attempt to sound sophisticated, and don’t use the same structure for every sentence. For example:

Prematurely in the paperback London makes an allusion to Norm White, the denizen horticulturalist of The Golden Age Convalescent Home…

That was an exaggerated example generated by searching for synonyms. As you can see, it sounds silly, and some of the words don’t even make sense. I mean, “denizen horticulturalist”…really?

Do mix up your paragraph structure! If vocabulary is your weak point, focus on clean language.

Here’s mine:

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, “as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace”. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; “his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain”. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; “we Jews have to be on the lookout”. Elsa sees “a look in his eyes that she recognised”, thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

To learn more about using the right vocabulary, read 'Why using big words in VCE essays can make you look dumber'.

The conclusion: closing the deal

I firmly believe in short and sharp conclusions. Your body paragraphs should be thoroughly explaining your paragraphs, so don’t include any new information here. A few sentences is enough. Once again, write what feels natural, and what flows well.

Don’t drag out your conclusion. Short and concise is the key to finishing well.

Do write a sharp finish! Sentence starters such as, “Ultimately…” or “Thus, London…” are great.

Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.

‍ To learn more about A+ essays, you should also have a read of 10 easy English points you're missing out on .

I'll finish off by giving you an exercise: brainstorm and write up a plan for the essay topic shown in the video below. I'd recommend you do this before watching Lisa's brainstorm and plan. That way, you can see which of your ideas overlapped, but also potentially see which ideas you may have missed out on. Good luck!

The Golden Age Essay Topic Brainstorm

[Video Transcript]

The takeaway message for this video will be to utilise minor characters here and there to deepen your argument. London has really developed all her characters to feel three-dimensional and real, so it’s important not to just write about Frank and Elsa when there are so many others worth touching on.

Let's head straight into background information:

Joan London’sThe Golden Age is a novel about children recovering from polio in a convalescent home in Perth. She tells the stories of these various children, their families, and their caretakers, focusing on FrankGold and Elsa Briggs, the young protagonists who are just starting to develop romantic feelings for each other. Though they, and many of the other children, have faced much hardship and misfortune, London tells a story of hope and human connection in times of misery.

On that note, today’s essay topic is:

The Golden Age  is primarily a tragic tale of isolation. Discuss.

Let’s break this prompt down and define some keywords. The keywords we’ll be looking at first are isolation and tragic. We’ll be defining them quite briefly, but be sure to think about these in terms of how they relate to the novel. In particular, see if any scenes, passages or characters jump to mind.

Isolation is a state of being alone or away from others and can be associated with a sense of powerlessness or insignificance. Tragic can simply just mean sad, depressing and loaded with sorrow or ‘pathos’, but there are also literary implications to this word: you might’ve done a tragic Shakespeare play and learned this before, but in general, a tragic story centres on a hero who encounters misfortune, and treats their demise in a serious or solemn way. Note that a good essay will discuss both these terms, and will address not only isolation but also the question of whether or not it is treated tragically.

The other important word is ‘primarily’. This word in the prompt suggests that The Golden Age is  for the most part  about these ideas - for you, that means you should ask yourself how central you think they are, and make a call on whether they are the  most  central.

Well, it’s definitely true that elements of isolation and separation do exist in The Golden Age, but these themes are not primarily tragic ideas in the novel -London explores the way in which hope can shine through in times of hardship. In fact, the novel overall has a message of kinship and hope, and this would be the primary thematic focus, as well as the main treatment of otherwise tragic ideas. So how might this look in paragraphs?

Paragraph 1: Let’s concede that the novel does evoke sadness through its frequently sombre tone and treatment of isolation

We see this through characters such as Ida and Meyer, who have been cut off from the world in their escape from their war-torn home, and forced to transition from their landlocked Hungary to an island on the other side of the globe. Their struggle to adjust is evoked through symbols - for instance, black cockatoos, which represent a “homely, comforting” omen to locals, sound “melancholy [and] harsh” to Ida. In particular, London’s solemn characterisation of Ida as constantly “frowning”, and as having a “bitter little mouth that usually gripped a cigarette ”works to emphasise her ennui or her dissatisfaction with being cut off from the world. Their homesickness is evoked through this constant longing for home, though sometimes much more literally: Meyer feels that “never again on this earth…would, he feel at home as he once had.”

Similarly, the story of Sullivan Backhouse, confined in an “iron lung” and physically isolated from outside contact, is also primarily tragic. London develops this character and gives him a backstory - he has “just turned eighteen” and had been the “prefect [and] captain of the rowing team.” This gives readers an idea of the life he might have had if not for the tragedy of his condition. Even in spite of his “good-humoured nature”, his poetry belies the pessimism within - his book, morbidly entitled “on my last day on earth”, closes with the line “in the end, we are all orphans.” We can thus see how lonely he must have felt when he tragically passed away.

In this paragraph, we’ve considered three different characters, whereas a lot of people writing on this text might just do a character per paragraph, so this is a good way to really show the examiners that you’ve considered the full extent of what the book offers. Let’s continue this as we move onto…

Paragraph 2: We disagree, however, since the novel includes various other moods and thematic material - in particular, London explores notions of resolve and hope in times of hardship 

Now, the first character that comes to mind would have to be Elsa - London uses particularly powerful imagery, such as her “translucent”, “golden wave” of hair or even her “profile, outlined in light”, to portray her as angelic or elysian. For the children, Elsa evidently represents hope - even in her state of isolation, her “graceful and dignified” demeanour and her quiet acceptance that polio “was part of her” is courageous and worthy of admiration.

Moving onto a minor character who was perhaps inspired by Elsa - the young Ann Lee, who was quite close to Elsa, also has a story which is more inspiring than tragic. When polio first crippled her, she found herself unable to give water to the brumbies in her desert town. As a result, she perseveres, “step after painstaking step” so as to be able to return home and “give a drink to thirsty creatures.” Her compassion and determination to work against her isolation become the focus of her tale.

Paragraph 3: In fact, the  novel ’s focus is on hope rather than tragedy

A range of other characters demonstrate the power of love and human connection in the face of adversity, and London seems to be focusing on these ideas instead. Plus, it’s not just the children who are brave in the face of tragedy, but ordinary people prove themselves to have the potential for strength and courage. Take Julia Marai and Hedwiga, who hide Frank in their attic during the Nazi invasion of Hungary. Even though their apartment is “on the top” of the block, and isolated in its height, suspended from the world, they become “provider[s]” for Frank. London writes that in difficult times, “kindness and unselfishness were as unexpected, as exhilarating, as genius,” and it’s easy to see how these qualities form a counterpoint to the tragedies that permeate the novel, allowing hope to shine through. 

And that’s the end of the essay! Being able to explore minor characters like we did here is a really good way to show examiners that you have a deeper understanding of a text, that you’ve considered it beyond just the main characters on the surface. The Golden Age is a really great one for this because London has done so much with her cast.

Essay topics

1. “Being close made them stronger.” In The Golden Age , adversities are tempered by camaraderie. Do you agree?

2. Despite the grim context, The Golden Age highlights and celebrates the potential of life. Discuss.

3. Memories of past successes and failures have significant lingering effects on characters in The Golden Age . Is this an accurate assessment?

4. “[I would be] a fox, following a Palomino.” How do animals such as these contribute symbolically to The Golden Age ?

5. It is largely loneliness which defines the struggles of the children in The Golden Age . Discuss.

6. In what ways is The Golden Age a novel of displacement?

7. Fear of the unknown is something which permeates The Golden Age . Is this true?

8. What is the role of family in Joan London’s The Golden Age ?

9. Isolation in The Golden Age exists in many oppressive forms. Discuss.

10. Throughout The Golden Age , London draws attention to beauty rather than to suffering. Discuss.

11. In spite of their youth, it is the children of The Golden Age who understand best what it means to be an individual in the world. Do you agree?

12. How do characters from The Golden Age learn, grow and mature as the novel takes its course?

13. Due to the range of different onset stories, each of the children and their families in The Golden Age face a different struggle with their identity. Discuss.

14. “Home. She hadn’t called Hungary that for years.” In spite of all their struggle, the Golds never truly feel any sense of belonging in Australia. To what extent do you agree?

15. Explore the factors which drive Joan London’s characters to persevere.

The Ultimate guide to VCE Text Response

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion

Photograph 51 & The Penelopiad are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of our most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative .

We've explored themes, characters and literary devices amongst other things over on our Comparing The Penelopiad and Photograph 51 blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text pair, I highly recommend checking it out!

Here, we’ll be breaking down a Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad comparative essay topic using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, you can learn about it in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

The Prompt:

‘You heard what you wanted to hear.’ ( Photograph 51 ) 

‘Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.’ ( The Penelopiad ) 

Compare the ways in which both texts suggest there is power in storytelling. 

The first step is to deduce what type(s) the essay question is (for a refresher on the 5 types of essay prompts, check out this blog ). I usually find that a process of elimination is the easiest way to determine this. The prompt doesn’t explicitly include the keyword ‘How’, so it isn’t how-based. There are also no characters mentioned in the prompt, so we can rule out character-based. There’s no metalanguage included, so it isn’t metalanguage-based either. However, the prompt does mention the themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’, so yes, it is theme-based. There are also two quotes (one from each text) included as part of the prompt, so it’s also quote-based.

Now that we’ve determined what types of essay prompt are relevant here, the next step is to identify its keywords: ‘the ways’ , ‘both texts ’, ‘power ’ and ‘storytelling’ . 

The inclusion of ‘the ways’ tells us that we must consider different examples from ‘both texts’ where Ziegler and Atwood show us there is ‘power in storytelling’ . The thematic words ‘power ’ and ‘storytelling’ are especially important in your selection of evidence and also your three distinct paragraph ideas, as singling out the thematic keywords will make sure you do not go off-topic. 

Let’s look at the common themes of ‘power’ and ‘storytelling’ that are central to the essay topic, and more specifically, how there is power WITHIN storytelling. In the case of Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad , a common representation of storytelling that is present in both texts is that truthful storytelling is subjective. This means that both Atwood and Ziegler posit that those in power throughout history have been afforded the ability to shape the historical narrative to best fit their interests. Both texts are also set within patriarchal societies - 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece. Therefore, our overall contention in response to this topic can be: 

Both texts suggest that the ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout history .

This opening line addresses ‘power in storytelling’ in a specific way that brings in the contexts of both texts. Each of your paragraphs should fall somewhere under this umbrella of thought - exploring the dynamics of the patriarchal systems within both texts in relation to storytelling. Who tells the story? How does it benefit them? Why not others? 

It is now time to develop the three main ideas that will form your essay structure. It is important to remember that each paragraph should include a discussion of converging and diverging ideas. Try to only use one or two examples from each text in a paragraph, as this way, you will have more time and space in your paragraphs to analyse your literary techniques and quotes. As the old saying goes, show don’t tell! 

P1: Both texts give women a voice through the retelling of their stories from a different perspective. 

Convergent Ideas: 

  • Photograph 51 serves as a correction to the history of the discovery of the helix structure. 
  • The Penelopiad inserts the female perspective into the famous myth of The Odyssey , giving reasoning and depth to the female voice.

Divergent Ideas: 

  • Rosalind’s story is primarily told by the male scientists as the play retells the events, injected with commentary from the male scientists.
  • The Penelopiad is a first-person recount from Penelope herself, therefore she is given more agency and control of the narrative.

P2: However, women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their subjective truth and perspective is often undermined.

Convergent Ideas:

  • Predominantly, the narration is told from the male perspective as male scientists narrate Rosalind’s life. Her story is still subject to male opinion.
  • The Maids interrupt Penelope’s first-person narrative through the 10 interludes from the maids’ perspective. In doing so, they cast doubt on Penelope’s retelling of the narrative and offer a more truthful perspective.
  • Rosalind’s story is often interrupted by other male scientists, therefore more directly illustrating that men have more control over the subjective truth. Despite Rosalind’s story being central to the novel, Ziegler still demonstrates the difficulty women face in being believed and accredited for their contribution to history.
  • Penelope’s story is not interrupted by men like Rosalind’s is. Therefore, there is a lack of male dominance in this aspect of the tale. However, the theme of patriarchal dominance is instead illustrated through the lack of authority that the maids have. Despite their account of the events in the tale being the most accurate, their low social status limits the power of their voice in a patriarchal society.

P3: In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately control their own narrative and how they are remembered, amplifying their own greatness by omitting the potential blemishes on their character.

  • The male scientists deflect the blame for discrediting Rosalind by instead blaming her cold personality instead of their own deception and inability to cooperate with a woman.
  • The execution of the maids is dismissed in the trial of Odysseus as Odysseus’ actions are justified in the patriarchal society of Ancient Greece.

Divergent Ideas:

  • The male scientists’ reputations remain untarnished at the conclusion of the narrative, aside from personal guilt and shame. They achieved the scientific success they set out to achieve and were remembered as heroes.
  • Unlike the untarnished reputation of the male scientists, the maids curse Odysseus at the conclusion of the narrative.

The ability to control the subjective nature of storytelling is a power that has predominantly been afforded to men throughout the retelling of history (1) . This is a result of the dominance of patriarchal systems, which inherently give men more agency in society to dictate the narrative for the next generations to remember (2) . Both Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Ziegler’s Photograph 51 criticise this power imbalance in historical storytelling and deliver the female perspective in two different eras of history. Each text recognises that the lack of voice women are granted in society undermines and suppresses their contribution to history (3) . Ultimately, both authors question the objectivity of the legacies that men have left behind, casting doubt on the narratives that they have shaped by introducing the underrepresented female perspective (4).

Annotations (1) A ‘universal truth’ or broad thematic statement is a great way to start an essay. This is your overall contention that does not mention the specifics of the texts - it purely deals with the themes of the topic. 

(2) As seen here, your second sentence can be used to back up the universal truth in a way that is more specific to the texts and the ideas you’re going to discuss. In my second sentence, I’ve included more information about the societal power structures that are present within the texts and how men have more power to dictate historical narratives. 

(3) Then, you signpost the three ideas that you’re going to discuss within your essay in a clear, precise and summarised way. Here is where you can mention textual details such as the titles, authors, forms and setting (i.e. 1950s Britain and Ancient Greece).

(4) I have finished off my introduction with an ‘Ultimately’ sentence that discusses the authorial intent of both authors. This offers a broader in-depth look at the topic as a whole, as it acknowledges the author’s intentional decisions about the text. 

By writing narratives that focus on the female perspective in history, both texts afford the female protagonists power through the representation of their voice. Atwood and Ziegler address the imbalance of female input in history and aim to rectify that through representing the contributions women made in both narratives. Photograph 51 , through the form of a play that retrospectively reenacts the events leading up to the discovery of the helix structure, cements Rosalind Franklin as the true genius behind the 'secret of life'. This honour has been credited to Watson and Crick solely throughout history, with them being given recognition of the 'Nobel' and having their names 'in textbooks'. Ziegler firmly details how the key to their success is the 'photograph she took of B', which Watson exploits to eventually win the race to construct the model. Similarly, The Penelopiad is also a societal correction to the lack of female representation in the narratives presented (4) . Written as a first-person narration, Penelope’s aim as a narrator is to be given the opportunity 'to do a little story-making' in this retrospective novel, inserting her perspective into the well-known myth of Odysseus and The Odyssey (5) . The characterisation of Penelope is subverted in Penelope’s retelling, as the generalisation of her character being only recognised for her 'smart[s]', '[her] weaving', and '[her] devotion to [her] husband' is challenged. Atwood contends that Penelope is also determined, self-sufficient and tactile through the narrative voice she grants Penelope as the main protagonist of the text. Rosalind in Photograph 51 is not the narrator of her story, which limits her agency in the telling of her truth in comparison to Penelope, who is able to shape her story the way she wishes (6). Underpinning both of these texts is Atwood and Ziegler’s authorial intention to contend that there is an underrepresentation of female contribution to history, and therefore utilise their texts to give power to female characters in patriarchal systems (7) .

Annotations (4) The transitional sentence between texts can be less jarring and clunky if you introduce your example from Text B in a similar vein to the discussion of Text A. As seen here, I have used my discussion of how Ziegler represents Rosalind in a manner that is seen as a historical correction to then transition into how Penelope also serves the same purpose.

(5) The explicit stating of the first-person narration style in The Penelopiad directly addresses the keywords of 'the ways' from the essay question. By incorporating different textual examples like narration and characterisation (as seen in the following sentence), I’m able to analyse multiple ways that the authors suggest there is power in storytelling.

(6) It makes it easier to discuss your divergent idea if it is directly linked to the converging ideas you’ve already mentioned, just as I have here in pointing out the difference in protagonists and narration. This means you don’t have to waste time re-explaining things from the texts!

(7) I conclude with a more broad statement that references the authors’ intentions in order to finish with a more in-depth exploration, just like the end of the introduction.

Women still lack authority in the shaping of their own narratives as their version of the truth is often undermined. Despite the main motivator for the texts being to empower the women by giving them a voice, both texts also recognise the limitations of a patriarchal society by illustrating the challenges the protagonists face in having their voices heard. By viewing the past through a retrospective lens in The Penelopiad , Penelope is finally able to deliver her perspective, encapsulated in the opening line of 'now that I’m dead I know everything'. (8) The notion that Penelope had to be dead and free of the restraints placed on her voice whilst she was alive in patriarchal Ancient Greece demonstrates the complete lack of authority the voices of women have in establishing themselves in history. This is echoed in the same retrospective retelling of Rosalind’s story in Photograph 51 , as the play begins with Rosalind stating that 'this is what it was like', establishing that the events that follow this initial line are a snapshot into the limitations she had to face as a woman in the male-dominated scientific field. It also references that the interjections of the male scientists as they commentate on her life were 'what it was like', as male opinion majorly shaped the suppression of Rosalind’s success throughout the play. On the contrary, (9) Penelope’s recount of the story is less interrupted by interjections of other characters, specifically those from men. However, the maids deliver ten interludes throughout The Penelopiad . These interludes are another example of female voice being represented in the text, but often being dismissed due to their crudeness or sarcastic nature in their casting of doubt over both Penelope and Odysseus, as they taunt Penelope’s decision to 'blame it on the [...] poxy little sluts!' and blemish Odysseus’ name by characterising him as the 'artfullest dodger' or 'blithe lodger', in reference to his infidelity. Despite the maids being the most authoritative in terms of true Greek theatre, (10) as they deliver the truest and most objective judgement of events, they are 'forgotten' and are not served true justice as a result of their low social status and gender that limits their voice in a patriarchal society. The female perspectives in the texts are truer representations of history in both contexts, yet because of limitations regarding their gender in the two patriarchal systems, they are overshadowed by the male recounts of history.

Annotations (8) To strengthen your essay, it is important to also use evidence that is not strictly dialogue or themes from inside the text. In this line, I use a literary device - retrospective storytelling - to back up the analysis I am talking about.

(9) Starting your discussion of the divergent ideas is easy with the use of phrases such as ‘on the contrary’, ‘unlike this…’ and ‘however’. You don’t want to spend unnecessary time on filler sentences. Be efficient!

(10) By further strengthening my analysis with a range of examples (e.g. mentioning the historical importance of genre, such as Greek theatre in this instance), I’m able to demonstrate a deeper knowledge of not only the texts and their context . 

In patriarchal societies, the men ultimately have more control over their own narratives and shape them for their own personal glorification of character. The omission of immorality and emphasis on male achievement by the men narrating the story is a clear indication that despite the selfish choices they make, men are still able to shape their legacies in their favour. Watson and Crick in Photograph 51 are depicted as 'arrogant' and duplicitous as they extort their 'old friend[ship]' with Wilkins for personal gain, pressuring him into 'talking about his work' to further progress towards notoriety. The conclusion of the play, with Watson and Crick accepting the honour of the Nobel Prize and claiming it as the 'finest moment' of their lives, illustrates that the motivation of personal success justifies the immoral actions of men as they are remembered fondly as scientific heroes without the blemishes of their characters. Similarly in The Penelopiad , Odysseus is revered as a hero through the intertextual reference of The Odyssey, a myth detailing the legend of Odysseus and his 'cleverness'. Penelope’s recounting of the 'myth of Penelope and Odysseus' sheds light on her ingenuity in the tales of Odysseus, showing that she 'set the whole thing up on purpose', referring to the deceiving plan that Odysseus had been awarded all the credit for in the original retelling of their story. Additionally, in the 'trial of Odysseus', Odysseus’ character is evaluated in the setting of a court, as the maids have demanded justice for Odysseus’ unjust execution of them. However, the judge overturns this decision as it would serve as a 'blot on an otherwise exceedingly distinguished career', encapsulating the idea that men in a patriarchal society will omit personal errors in favour of presenting themselves and other men as heroes of their narratives. However, unlike the untarnished male success of Photograph 51 , the maids curse Odysseus so he would 'never be at rest' in the conclusion of the narrative, as Atwood makes the final statement that men throughout history should be held accountable for the immoral actions they make (11) .

‍ Annotations (11) By concluding with a specific reference to the authorial intent of this specific idea explored throughout the paragraph, you ‘zoom’ back out and show your reader the bigger picture. 

At the end of each text it is evident that, regardless of the representation and voice that is given to the female characters, the deeply entrenched patriarchal systems in both timelines negate this power in favour of the male voice (12) . Ziegler’s play asserts that Rosalind’s 'groundbreaking work' should 'cement her place in history', and aims to give her recognition from a relatively more progressive, feminist society. Atwood’s conclusion also is representative of giving women more recognition for their achievements, like giving credit for Penelope’s 'intelligence' as an esteemed character trait in contemporary society. Both characters cast doubt over the previously revered male heroes in both texts, and further criticise the lack of female representation in those heroic stories. In conveying both Penelope and Rosalind’s stories, the authors call for a further critique of past and future accounts of human achievement. 

‍ Annotations (12) In this conclusion, I have chosen to focus on comparing the authorial intentions of Atwood and Ziegler in relation to the topic. In doing so, it can summarise my contention that I introduced earlier in the essay. By starting my conclusion with an overall statement regarding the ending of the two texts, I draw on the readers’ preexisting ideas of how they felt at the end of each narrative.

If you’re studying Photograph 51 and My Brilliant Career, check out our Killer Comparative Guide to learn everything you need to know to ace this assessment.

Passage 1: Act 1 Scene 3

   [Aside] Two truths are told,

   As happy prologues to the swelling act

   Of the imperial theme.--I thank you, gentlemen.

[Aside] This supernatural soliciting

   Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill,

   Why hath it given me earnest of success,

   Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:

   If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

   Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

   And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

   Against the use of nature? Present fears

   Are less than horrible imaginings:

   My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,  

   Shakes so my single state of man that function

   Is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is

   But what is not.

Passage One from Act 1 Scene 3 takes place just after Macbeth has just been announced as Thane of Cawdor proving part of the Witches’ prophecy true “All hail Macbeth…Thane of Cawdor…/that shalt be king hereafter.” This part of the play is the first insight we have on Macbeth’s inner thoughts.  

Macbeth’s firm and thoughtful tone in the opening alliteration “two truths are told ” stresses how serious he takes the Witches’ predictions. Shakespeare presents this passage as a soliloquy in order to convey Macbeth’s true inner thoughts and motives. As this is Macbeth’s first soliloquy, it emphasises the strong possibility of Macbeth heading down a dark journey as he cannot forget the Witches’ predictions “(it) cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, / Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth?”

Shakespeare uses the metaphor of theatre for fate . The meta-theatrical reference, ‘as happy prologues to the swelling act’ makes the audience consider the action that will unfold in the following scenes through foreshadowing.

Macbeth feels that committing regicide will be a “supernatural soliciting”. The word “supernatural” demonstrates that Macbeth acknowledges that such an act is “against the use of nature.” It suggests that if Macbeth kills Duncan, he will forever be trapped in the supernatural world for his dishonourable action. The alliteration of “supernatural soliciting” sounds incredibly seductive, and therefore highlights Macbeth’s lust and thirst for the crown.

There is a physiological response to his unnerving thoughts as the ‘horrid image doth unfix my hair’ and ‘my seated heart knock at my ribs’ , emphasising the horror of Macbeth has with himself  at his thoughts.

The personification “my seated heart knock at my ribs” once again depicts the increasing fear that Macbeth experiences as his heart is not “seated” with its connotations of calmness and steadiness but “knock(ing)” which is associated with alarming fear.

As Macbeth struggles with his conscience and fears “my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,/ Shakes so my single state of man,”  he is uncertain whether or not he should take the prophecy into his own hands and murder Duncan or, let time decide his fate “time and the hour runs through the roughest day”. The consonance ’s’, Shakes so my single state of man”.. ‍

The alliteration “smothered in surmise” demonstrates how Macbeth’s vivid imagination causes him to struggle with fear and hesitate undergoing the action that is foreseen by him as a “horrid image.” These mental images are of significance throughout the play as it is evident that Macbeth’ conscience results in him “seeing” a dagger and also Banquo’s ghost.

The antithesis “and nothing is,/ But what is not” is deliberately broken up into two lines to demonstrate the ambiguity of Macbeth’s thoughts and the confusion which evidently contributes to his overall fear. Macbeth’s actions become overpowered by his imagination until ‘nothing is but what is not’ or imagination carries more weight than action. The partial alliteration of ‘smother’d in surmise’ and the antithesis of ‘nothing is but what is not’ makes this notion seem again, particularly seductive to the audience. The word ‘smother’d’ , with it’s connotations of oppression, further amplifies the notion and even suggests that Macbeth’s imagination takes the place of his will.

Updated 24/12/2020

  • Themes, Motifs and Key Ideas
  • Comparative Essay Prompt Example

Sample Essay Topics

The Crucible is a four-act play that portrays the atmosphere of the witch trials in Salem. As an allegory of McCarthyism, the play primarily focuses on criticising the ways in which innocent people are prosecuted without any founded evidence, reflecting the unjust nature of the corrupted authoritarian system that governs Salem. It starts off with the girls dancing in the woods and Betty’s unconsciousness, which causes the people of Salem to look for unnatural causes. People start scapegoating others to escape prosecution and falsely accuse others to gain power and land, facilitating mass hysteria which ultimately leads to the downfall of the Salem theocracy. The protagonist John Proctor is one of those that decides to defy the courts and sacrifices his life towards the end of the play, ending the play on a quiet note in contrast with its frenzied conflict throughout the acts.

The Dressmaker shows the audience the treatment towards Tilly Dunnage upon her return to fictional town Dungatar years after she was wrongly accused of being a murderess. Rosalie Ham critiques the impacts of rumours on Tilly and Molly, also establishing her condemnation of the societal stigma of this isolated town. Tilly starts making haute couture outfits to transform the lives of the women in the town and help them present themselves as more desirable and elevate their ranks. However, the townspeople still see Tilly negatively, except for some individuals who are able to look past the opinions of others and get to know Tilly themselves. Ham’s gothic novel garners the audience’s sympathy towards the outcasts of the town and antagonises those who find pleasure in creating drama and spreading rumours about others.  

2. Themes, Motifs and Key Ideas

Through discussing themes, motifs, and key ideas , we’ll gain a clearer understanding of some super important ideas to bring out in your essays. Remember, that when it comes to themes, there’s a whole host of ways you can express your ideas - but this is what I’d suggest as the most impressive method to blow away the VCAA examiners. Throughout this section, we'll be adhering to the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy to help us easily find points of similarity and difference. This is particularly important when it comes to essay writing, because you want to know that you're coming up with unique comparative points (compared to the rest of the Victorian cohort!). I don't discuss this strategy in detail here, but if you're interested, check out How To Write A Killer Comparative . I use this strategy throughout this discussion of themes and in the next section, Comparative Essay Prompt Example.

Similarities and Differences (CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT Ideas)

Social class .

Both The Crucible and The Dressmaker talk extensively about class. By class, what I mean is the economic and social divisions which determine where people sit in society. For instance, we could say that the British Royals are ‘upper class’, whilst people living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to get by are ‘lower class’.

Ultimately, both The Crucible and The Dressmaker are set in classist societies where there is no opportunity for social advancement. Whilst Thomas Putnam steals the land of poor Salemites accused of witchcraft, the McSwineys are left to live in absolute poverty and never leave the ‘tip’ where they have lived for generations. Dungatar and Salem view this social division as a ‘given’ and reject the idea that there is anything wrong with certain people living a life of suffering so others can have lives of wealth and pleasure. As such, for both Salem and Dungatar, the very idea that anyone could move between the classes and make a better life for themselves is inherently dangerous. What we can see here is that class shapes the way communities deal with crisis. Anything that overturns class is dangerous because it challenges the social order – meaning that individuals such as Reverend Parris in The Crucible , or Councillor Pettyman in The Dressmaker may lose all their power and authority.

For The Crucible , that’s precisely why the witchcraft crisis is so threatening, as the Salemites are prepared to replace Reverend Parris and deny his authority. Although Abigail and the group of girls thus single-handedly overturn Salem’s class structures and replace it with their own tyranny, Parris’ original intention was to use their power to reinforce his authority. In The Dressmaker , Tilly is threatening because she doesn’t neatly fit in to Dungatar’s class structure. Having travelled the outside world, she represents a worldly mindset and breadth of experiences which the townspeople know they cannot match.

For this theme, there’s a DIVERGENCE of ideas too, and this is clear because the way that class is expressed and enforced in both texts is vastly different. For The Crucible , it’s all about religion – Reverend Parris’ assertion that all Christians must be loyal to him ensures the class structure remains intact. More than that, to challenge him would be to challenge God, which also guides Danforth in executing those who don’t follow his will. In the case of The Dressmaker , there’s no central authority who imposes class on Dungatar. Rather, the people do it themselves; putting people back in their place through rumour and suspicion. However, by creating extravagant, expensive dresses for the townspeople, Tilly inadvertently provides people with another way to express class.  

Isolated Communities


The setting forms an essential thematic element of The Crucible and The Dressmaker . Both communities are thoroughly isolated and, in colloquial terms, live in the ‘middle of no-where’.

However, what is starkly different between the texts is how this isolation shapes the respective communities’ self-image. For Salem, its citizens adopt a mindset of religious and cultural superiority – believing that their faith, dedication to hard work and unity under God make them the most blessed people in the world. Individuals as diverse as Rebecca Nurse and Thomas Putnam perceive Salem to be a genuinely incredible place. They see Salem as the first battleground between God and the Devil in the Americas, and as such, construct a grand narrative in which they are God’s soldiers protecting his kingdom. Even the name ‘Salem’ references ‘Jerusalem’, revealing that the Salemites see themselves as the second coming of Christ, and the fulfilment of the Bible’s promises.

Not much of the same can be said for The Dressmaker . Dungatar lacks the same religious context, and the very name of ‘Dungatar’ references ‘dung’, or beetle poop. The next part of the name is 'tar', a sticky substance, creating the impression that Dungatar's people are stuck in their disgusting ways. The townspeople of Dungatar are acutely aware of their own inadequacy, and that is why they fight so hard to remain isolated from the outside world. Tilly is therefore a threat because she challenges their isolation and forces the men and women of Dungatar to reconsider why their community has shunned progress for so long. In short, she makes a once-isolated people realise that fear, paranoia, division and superstition are no way to run a town, and brings them to acknowledge the terribly harmful impacts of their own hatred.

On top of that, because Salem is literally the only Christian, European settlement for miles, it is simply impossible for them to even think about alternatives to their way of life. They are completely isolated and thus, all of their problems come from ‘within’ and are a result of their own division. For Dungatar, it’s a mix of societal issues on the inside being made worse by the arrival of people from the outside. The township is isolated, but unlike Salem, it at least has contact with the outside world. All Tilly does, therefore, is show the people of Dungatar an alternative to their way of life. But, for a community used to the way they have lived for decades, it ultimately contributes to its destruction.

3. Comparative Essay Prompt Example

The following essay topic breakdown was written by Lindsey Dang. If you'd like to see a completed A+ essay based off this same essay topic, then check out LSG's A Killer Comparative Guide: The Crucible & The Dressmaker , written by 50 study scorer and LSG tutor, Jordan Bassilious!

Compare the ways in which outcasts are treated in The Crucible and The Dressmaker.

Before writing our topic sentences, we need to look at our key words first. The keywords in this prompt are outcasts and treated .

So, who are considered outcasts in the two texts? Outcasts can be those of traditionally lower classes, they can be characters with physical flaws, those that are different to others or those who do not abide by the standards of their respective societies.

  • In The Crucible : Tituba, Abigail, John Proctor or even Martha Giles can be considered as outcasts.
  • In The Dressmaker : We can consider Tilly, Molly, The McSwineys, etc.

We also need to look our second key word ‘treated’. How would we describe the treatment towards these characters? Are they treated nicely or are they mistreated and discriminated against? Do ALL members of that community have that same treatment towards those outcasts or are there exceptions? Remember this point because we might be able to use this to challenge the prompt.

We’re going to skip Step 2: Brainstorm today, but if you’re familiar with LSG teachings, including the THINK and EXECUTE strategy discussed in my How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook, then you’ll be good for this part.

Both texts portray outcasts as victims of relentless accusations or rumours, seeking to engage the pathos of the audience towards those who are marginalised.
  • In The Crucible , Tituba the ‘Negro slave’ is the first person to be accused by witchcraft in Salem. Her ‘consequent low standing’ is also shown through her use of language ‘You beg me to conjure! She beg me make charm’ which is fraught with grammatical errors, compared to Judge Danforth who uses legal jargon and the Putnams who are much more well-spoken.
  • Similarly, the McSwineys are also those of lower class and are seen as the outcasts of Dungatar. Their names show us their position in the social hierarchy because they are associated with swines which are pigs. This is confirmed by Sergeant Farrat who said ‘Teddy McSwiney was, by the natural order of the town, an outcast who lived by the tip’. Even when Teddy McSwiney died, the townspeople still did not reflect on the impacts that their prejudice and bigotry had on him, eventually forcing the McSwineys to leave the town because they could not find a sense of belonging living there.
  • Tilly is also poorly treated due to the fact that she is fatherless, being bullied by the kids at school especially Stewart Pettyman and also used by William as a leverage to marry Gertrude, threatening Elsbeth that ‘it’s either her [Gertrude] or Tilly Dunnage’
  • Also discuss Giles Corey’s death and the significance of his punishment as the stones that are laid on his chest can be argued to symbolise the weight of authority
Miller and Ham also denounce the ways in which outcasts are maltreated due to their position in the social hierarchy through his antagonisation of other townspeople.
  • There’s also a quote on this by Molly ‘But you don’t matter – it’s open slather on outcasts'. Herein, she warns the audience of how quickly outcasts can become victims of rumours and accusations as the term ‘slather’ carries negative connotations.
  • Similarly, the theocracy that governs Salem dictates the rights of their people and children. He specifically states 'children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak', which explains the girls’ extreme fear of being whipped. Salem is very violent to children, slaves and helpers and it can be seen that this is the result of the social hierarchy and the Puritan ideology.
  • For The Dressmaker , also discuss the ways in which they name others in this quote ‘daughter of Mad Molly is back – the murderess!’ Likewise discuss how Goody Osbourne the ‘drunkard half-witted’ and Sarah Good an old beggar woman are the first ones to be named. You can talk about Martha who is accused of being a witch just because she has been ‘reading strange books’, and Sarah Good due to the mere act of ‘mumbling’. The normality of these actions underlines the absurdity of the accusations made against these individuals, furthering Miller’s chastisement of the fictitious nature of the trials and also the ways in which outcasts are the first to be scapegoated.
However, there are still characters that are driven by their sense of morality or remorse instead of mistreating the outcasts of their community.
  • Both Sergeant Farrat and Proctor are motivated by their remorse to make amends. Proctor’s evasion of ‘tearing the paper’ and finding ‘his goodness’ is motivated by his desire to atone for his sin (having committed adultery with Abigail), and Sergeant regretted sending Tilly away. He, in his eulogy, says ‘if you had included [Tilly], Teddy would have always been with us’, expressing his regret for the ways outcasts are treated in Dungatar. Similarly, Teddy McSwiney also has a pure relationship with Tilly and treats her differently instead of judging her based on the rumours about her being a ‘murderess’.
  • While those who can sympathise with outcasts in The Dressmaker are either outcasts themselves or are remorseful (or both), there are those in The Crucible that are purely and solely motivated by their moral uprightness. Rebecca Nurse is neither an outcast (as she is highly respected for her wisdom) nor remorseful (as she has remained kind and pure from the beginning of the play). She is always the voice of reason in the play and tries to stop authoritative figures from convicting and prosecuting outcasts. A quote you can use would be ‘I think you best send Reverend Hale back as soon as he come. This will set us all to arguin’ again in the society, and we thought to have peace this year'.

4. Sample Essay Topics

1. 'I say—I say—God is dead.' —John Proctor, The Crucible . Explore how communities respond to crisis.

2. People must conform to societal expectations in The Crucible and The Dressmaker . Do you agree?

3. Discuss how The Crucible and The Dressmaker use textual features to convey the author’s perspective.

4. Gender repression is rife in both The Crucible and The Dressmaker . Discuss.

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. If you're interested in reading a 50 study scorer's completed essays based off these 4 essay topics, along with annotations so you can understand his thinking process, then I would highly recommend checking out LSG's A Killer Comparative Guide: The Crucible & The Dressmaker.

This blog has written contributions from Lindsey Dang.

Understanding Context in The Crucible and The Dressmaker

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

3. Sample Essay Topics

4. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Things Fall Apart is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Things Fall Apart is set in a fictional group of Igbo villages called Umuofia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The first half of the novel is dedicated to an almost anthropological depiction of Igbo village life and culture through following the life of the protagonist Okonkwo . Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive in the nine villages and beyond. He has dedicated his life to achieving status and proving his strength to avoid becoming like his father Unoka – a lazy, improvident, but gentle man. Weakness is Okonkwo’s greatest fear. After men in another village kill a woman from Umuofia, a boy named Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as compensation and lives in Okonkwo’s compound until the Gods decide his fate. Ikemefuna quickly becomes part of Okonkwo’s family; he is like a brother to Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and is secretly loved by Okonkwo as well. Over the next three years, the novel follows Okonkwo’s family through harvest seasons, religious festivals, cultural rituals, and domestic disputes. Okonkwo is shown to be more aggressive than other Igbo men and is continually criticized and rebuked by the village for his violence and temper . When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decides that Ikemefuna must be killed, Okonkwo is warned by a respected elder to have no hand in the boy’s death because Ikemefuna calls him ‘father’. However, afraid of being thought weak, when Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo in hope of protection, Okonkwo delivers the fatal blow. Ikemefuna’s brutal death deeply distresses Nwoye who becomes afraid of his father. 

At the end of Part One, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman at a funeral after his faulty gun explodes and is exiled to his motherland, Mbanta. During his exile, British missionaries arrive in Mbanta and establish a church. Nwoye, disillusioned with his own culture and Gods after Ikemefuna’s death, is attracted to Christianity and is an early convert . This is a heartbreaking disappointment to Okonkwo. When Okonkwo and his family return from exile after seven years they find that the missionaries and colonial governors have established Umuofia as the center of their new colonial government . Clashes of culture and morality occur, and as the British make the Igbo more dependent on them through introducing trade and formal education, the Igbo way of life is continually undermined . When a Christian convert unmasks an egwugwu during a tribal ritual, a sin amounting to the death of an ancestral spirit, the egwugwu burn down the village church. The men who destroyed the church are arrested and humiliated by the District Commissioner, and Okonkwo beheads a court messenger at a village council in rebellion. When none of his clansmen rise with him against the British, Okonkwo realizes his culture and way of life is lost and commits suicide in despair. Suicide is a crime against the Earth Goddess, Ani , so Okonkwo is left to rot above ground in the Evil Forest, like his father Unoka – a shameful fate he spent his life desperate to avoid. The final paragraph, written from the perspective of the District Commissioner, reduces Okonkwo’s life to a single sentence about his death in his planned book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of The Lower Niger . Achebe has filled an entire novel with evidence of the complexity and sophistication of Okonkwo’s individual and social life and the District Commissioner’s casual dismissal and belittling of him causes us to flinch with horror and dismay. This is a metaphor for the reduction of Igbo culture in the eyes of its colonizers.  

The title gives away the plot of the novel and anticipates the collapse of Okonkwo and his society. Things Fall Apart is about the connection between the tragic downfall of Okonkwo , who fate and temperamental weakness combine to destroy, and the destruction of his culture and society as the Igbo way of life is assailed by forces they do not understand and are unprepared to face . 

A Full and Fair Representation of Ibo Traditional Life

The first part of the novel presents the traditional world of the Ibo with specificity and vibrancy . The imbedded descriptions of the patterns of interaction, daily routines and seasonal rituals of Ibo life creates an overwhelming impression of community and shared culture. We see the established system of values which regulates collective life and how closely related this is to natural cycles and environments. The Ibo’s moral values are contained in sayings and stories, rituals and festivals. Achebe depicts a comprehensive and sustaining social, spiritual, economic, agricultural, and legal order. (Chapters to consider: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 19)

While Ibo society is marked by the internal coherence of its organization and the poetry of its rituals, this coherence is partially formed by the repression of the individual and the inflexibility of social norms. Achebe shows the violence, dehumanization, and discrimination vulnerable groups experience in Umuofia due to the rigid adherence to tradition and superstition. This includes the customary abandonment of newborn twins, the sacrificial murder of Ikemefuna in the name of justice, and the discriminatory caste structure that denies inclusion to the osu (Chapters 7, 18).

Obierika’s questioning of the stern logic of some customs suggests that many laws are enacted from a sense of duty and inevitability rather than from a firm conviction in their justice or efficacy (Chapter 13). The cultural demand for conformity places a huge moral and psychological burden on individuals who must reckon with the sometimes heartless will of the gods . This internal tension is epitomized in the character of Okonkwo, discussed below.  

Clash of Cultures

When the Ibo are confronted with rival institutions a mirror is held up to their society. Fall Apart honestly considers and reflects on Ibo practices, customs, values, and beliefs. The novel is a frank articulation of the nature of the African past and its relevance to the present and future . Achebe wants to illuminate Ibo culture to dispense with lingering colonial prejudices, but he is not sentimental or nostalgic for the past. Instead he is shifting through it to identify the valuable aspects of Ibo culture to bring into the future and help define Nigeria’s post-independence identity .

Achebe recognises that the colonial encounter which led, swiftly and seemingly inevitably, to the disintegration of Ibo culture revealed its profound weaknesses. Achebe suggests that with the arrival and contrast against another culture, a cultural reckoning was inevitable for the Ibo. However, cultural reckoning and revaluation is not the same thing as destruction and erasure . The British colonialists were a hostile force seeking cultural domination. By pointing out some of the weaknesses of the Ibo tradition, Achebe in no way excuses or justifies colonial domination or diminishes the pain and tragedy of the cultural erasure that occurred.

Colonial Domination

The anti-colonial position and purpose of the novel is powerfully clear. Achebe depicts the process of colonial initial establishment and the resultant cultural suspension of Ibo society. The British colonizers believed in their inherent cultural superiority and arrived in Umuofia with the intention to “bring civilization” (p.151) to Africa. They wanted to achieve full control by supplanting Ibo religion and culture with their own.

The British arrived quietly and non-confrontationally with their religion and the clans allow them to stay, misinterpreting their silence as peaceability . An Ibo proverb warns that there is danger in silence and nothing to fear from someone who reveals their motivations (Chapter 15). Obierika recognizes how the white man’s strategy disguised their intentions and gave them the freedom to grow and fortify. He explains the political consequences for the clan, now divided by the new religion, they can no longer act as one (Chapter 20). Without strength in unity, the Ibo are vulnerable to further encroachment of British control in their other institutions .

As only a small number of Ibo initially converted to Christianity, the church was only able to establish itself firmly in the villages because of the Ibo’s religious tolerance (Chapter 2, 22). Mr Brown learns about Ibo religion and his willful blindness to its complexity shows how the colonizers justified their colonial rule and imposition through labelling their subjects ‘primitive’ . Mr Brown understands that Christianity held no appeal for people well integrated in Ibo society, concluding that “a frontal attack on it would not succeed” (p.132) and thus introduces education as a new method of cultural displacement and erasure . Additionally, trade also increased the Ibo’s dependence on the introduced economy (Chapter 21).

From the very first introduction of the colonizers we understand that violence and fear were tools of oppression and dominance , forcing the Ibo to submit and keeping them unresisting (Chapter 15, 20, 23). Not only do the British impose foreign rule on the Ibo and judge them by standards they do not recognize, the District Commissioner’s personal brand of ‘justice’ is corrupt and hypocritical. When the elders are arbitrarily and falsely imprisoned, he tells them that what they have done “must not happen in the dominion of our queen” (p.141), combining personal corruption with a state apparatus of paternalism, hegemony, and occupation (Chapter 20, 23).

Dogmatic zealot, Reverend Smith, encourages fanaticism in his converts, motivating them to insult and humiliate the clan (Chapter 22). Under Reverend Smith’s wrathful guidance, the colonial agenda becomes transparently aggressive . The grief and pathos of the Ibo’s situation and collective trauma is displayed evocatively in the final episodes as Achebe depicts this painful moment of acute crisis (Chapter 22, 23, 24, 25).

A recurring thematic question in Things Fall Apart is to what degree the collapse of the Ibo and the downfall of Okonkwo are due to their own internal weaknesses or the whims of a pernicious fate . 

The Ibo understand fate to be in a dynamic and somewhat ambiguous relationship with personal agency . This is evident in their proverb “when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (p.20) which acknowledges and privileges the role of an individual’s choices in shaping their destiny (Chapter 4). The saying “as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him” (p.135) also relates this idea – fate is a response to one’s behaviour. Okonkwo is warned that killing Ikemefuna, his surrogate son, is the “kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families” (p.49).This demonstrates the clan’s belief that the goddess’s (or fate’s) punishments are not arbitrary but the result of individual action (Chapter 8).

Although there is an element of chance in Okonkwo’s gun accidentally exploding and killing someone, his exile carries the suggestion of just comeuppance in its echo of the guns failure to shoot when purposely aimed at Ekwefi (Chapter 5, 13). Likewise, although the arrival of the Christians was unexpected and chanced, Nwoye’s rejection of his father is traceable directly to Okonkwo’s choice to kill Ikemefuna (Chapter 7). The desertion of people injured by Ibo traditions is a blow to the clan that feels equally earned (Chapters 16, 17, 18).  

After his exile, Okonkwo believes his chi has turned against him (Chapter 14). He renunciates the wisdom of his elders by denying the active role he had in directing the course of events. His refusal to reflect on the connection between his actions and punishment reflect his fatal flaws: hubris and willful lack of self-knowledge. By refusing to self-analyze and self-correct, Okonkwo loses the opportunity of redemption. Comparably, the Ibo, despite believing in a relationship between action and fate, do not reflect on the cause of their kinsmen’s desertion to Christianity. Achebe provides numerous examples of the clan’s dogma and brutal traditions denying people such as Ikemefuna or twins control over their lives (Chapter 2, 7). It was the shortcomings of the Ibo social and religious order that made members susceptible to the attraction of a competing value system with a more articulated concept of individuality. The Ibo’s cultural lack of self-apprehension meant they could not adjust their traditions to save themselves .

However, just as Achebe shows how individuals in the clan are at the mercy of rigid overarching authority, he shows how the fateful forces of history constrain human agency . The British’s hostile intention to erase and supplant the Ibo way of life is a punishment greater than the Ibo deserve and a force stronger than they can rise to. In his description of the grief and trauma of colonial imposition, Achebe demonstrates his compassion and sorrow for the Ibo as they faced the sweeping and unforgiving forces of change in their moment of historical crisis . 

1. "Things Fall Apart demonstrates how the values and customs of a society help us to deal with the familiar but not with change." Discuss.

2. "Traditional ideas of honour dominate Okonkwo's life and finally they destroy him." Discuss.

3. "Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories his mother used to tell." How does Achebe explore masculinity in Things Fall Apart ?

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Things Fall Apart Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!

Let's look at an essay prompt in this video below:

In Things Fall Apart , women suffer the most and are victimised by men. Discuss.

Whenever you are breaking a prompt down. Ask yourself...

  • What are the key words/ ideas that you need to address?
  • Which theme is the prompt referring to?
  • Do you agree with prompt? Or do you disagree with it?

The keywords of this prompt would be women, suffer,, victimised and men. The prompt requires us to address the role of women in the text and the ways in which they suffer in a society that is pervaded by patriarchal values. It also asks us, ‘Who is to blame?’ Are men solely responsible for the maltreatment or are there other causes to their suffering? The word ‘most’ in this prompt is actually there to give us a bit of room for discussion. Yes, women do suffer, but do they suffer the most? Or do men suffer as well?

Now that we’ve thought about the prompt, we can move on to the second step of the THINK part of the THINK and EXECUTE technique. To find out more about this unique strategy, I’d recommend downloading a free sample of our How to Write a Killer Text Response eBook!

Now, before we write our ideas in beautiful topic sentences, it’s often easier to simplify everything first. One way to do this is to work out whether the paragraph agrees or disagrees with the prompt at hand. We could follow this structure…

‍ Yes, the prompt is true because X Yes, another reason it is true is X While it is true, it is limited by X

By elucidating the ways in which women are seen as inferior to their male counterparts, the writer establishes his critique on a society that victimises and oppresses women. From the outset of the book, Okonkwo is characterised as a violent man who ‘rules his household with a heavy hand’, placing his wives in perpetual fear. The frequent beating and violence fortifies the portrayal of him as a man who is governed by his hatred of ‘gentility and idleness’, further showing the terror that his wives are forced to be living in.

"Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"

He also sees his wife’s mere act of questioning as disrespect, as evidenced through the ways in which he implies that she is overstepping her role.

“There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders"

This simile also shows how women are often marginalised and treated as outcasts, underlining the overarching yearning for social justice throughout the text. This pitiful image of women looking ‘on from the fringe’ also helps Achebe relay his criticism of gender double standards and the unfairness that Igbo women are forced to live with. Achebe’s sympathy for women’s suffering and condemnation of men’s mistreatment towards are also evident through his depiction of a society that normalises misogyny.

‘His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops… Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crops’

The personification of the crops, in particular, the men’s crops, the ‘yam’, being the ‘king of crops’ establishes this gender hierarchy in yet another way. More specifically, the position of men in the social hierarchy is highlighted and the negative connotation attached to the ‘women’s crops’ undermine their hard work, rendering it in significant. While women are the main victims of Igbo gendered prejudice, Achebe does not disregard the undue burden that societal expectations impose on men.

‘He was afraid of being thought weak.’

Achebe explores the burdens of unrealistic expectations that are placed on both men and women. This quote exemplifies societal expectations on men to be strong, powerful and fearless leaders who never show emotions. Achebe’s sympathies regarding these expectations show us that this is an important critique in Things Fall Apart that we can analyse.

If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Things Fall Apart: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.

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different types of essay prompts

Sylvia Plath wrote, "Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences." 1 Although she wasn't writing an essay when she wrote those words in her journal, they offer a message of hope, success, and pleasure in writing. Responding to an essay prompt can be intimidating when you first get started, but they all follow a standard format. If you are aware of important essay features, research your prompt, and take the time to outline your essay, you'll deliver what you want to say in a compelling piece of writing. 

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Sylvia Plath wrote, "Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences." 1 Although she wasn't writing an essay when she wrote those words in her journal, they offer a message of hope, success, and pleasure in writing. Responding to an essay prompt can be intimidating when you first get started, but they all follow a standard format. If you are aware of important essay features, research your prompt, and take the time to outline your essay, you'll deliver what you want to say in a compelling piece of writing.

Essay Prompts A wooden desk with study materials and a clock on it StudySmarter

The Different Types of Essay Prompts

Essay prompts help you to approach the topic by asking you questions. When you are faced with an essay prompt, it is important to think about how you will respond, as each essay prompt may require a different writing style or rhetorical approach.

The different essay prompts include:

  • Narrative : requires you to explore a fictional experience or write a true or imagined story to convey your argument .
  • Expository: requires you to explain or define a concept or idea by evaluating evidence . A specific audience needs to be kept in mind as you present your argument and the evidence to back it up.
  • Persuasive: requires you to persuade or convince your audience to take a stance on a particular viewpoint or action, with certain language choices to present logical thinking.
  • Descriptive: requires you to describe "in detail" an object, an experience, or an image using sensory language.

Format of an Essay

An essay comprises a beginning , a middle , and an end . Leaving out one of these parts will confuse the audience because the piece will not flow smoothly.

Beginning: Essay Introduction

The introduction is where you launch your topic. You tell the reader the subject in a few sentences and outline the main ideas. The first couple of sentences grab the reader's interest. There are a few standard ways to begin your essay:

  • A quote: Find a meaningful quote that illustrates your topic. A fitting quote is effective because it mirrors your thoughts and creates believability by adding a separate voice that shares your view.
  • An anecdote: An anecdote is a brief story from your life that is connected to the subject of your essay. A quick tale is a good way to establish the atmosphere and setting.
  • A statistic: Opening your essay with a statistic that shocks the audience plays on their trust or distrust in the statistic as reliable information. They will keep reading to satisfy their desire to know whether or not the statistic is accurate and how this is the case.
  • A question: When you are having a conversation, and someone asks you a question, the natural response is curiosity. The same holds for your writing. When you begin your narrative with a question, the audience wants to keep reading to find out the answer.

The thesis statement is typically the final sentence in the introduction. The thesis clearly defines your topic and gives the audience an overview of what will be covered.

Middle: Essay Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs are where you'll argue your opinion, share information, or tell your story. When first getting acquainted with an essay prompt, including at least three body paragraphs is customary , and each one builds upon the information given previously. Pay attention to the way you begin and end each section because awkward transitions interrupt the readability of the text .

End: Essay Conclusion

The conclusion ties everything together and offers closure to the reader. In the conclusion, r estate your thesis and briefly touch on your main points . As with the introduction, there are a variety of ways to write a powerful ending:

Consider the information included in the essay.

Examine what the audience gains from being made aware of your topic.

Discuss the moral or theme that underlies your issue.

Features of an Impressive Essay

There are many ways you can make your essay pop, including paying attention to language choices and choosing your sources wisely.

Language Choices in an Essay

Rhetoric is the study of how we communicate. One of the things it examines is the impact of language choice and structure on effective communication. The words you choose and how you write your essay's sentences directly affect its effectiveness. As you look over your writing, ask yourself:

Is your essay clear and concise?

Are you using concrete details to support the ideas in the essay?

Look at your writing objectively. How well are you explaining the main points? Is the essay saying what you are trying to make it say?

Through a more painful objective lens – is your essay interesting to read?

Have you answered the question or prompt directly and effectively?

Choosing Sources for an Essay

Credible sources are essential for the audience to take you seriously. The CRAAP Method is a handy guide:

Currency : When you're writing an essay about a rapidly evolving subject, the age of your source matters. Make sure your facts are up-to-date and that any links you include work properly.

Relevance : Research various sources to ensure they strongly support your arguments. Use sources that match the audience level of the essay you're writing.

Authority : A website's "About" section is an excellent resource for investigating the credibility of the source's information. Look at whether any organizations are connected to the source. Then, examine the author's credentials to decide if they have the knowledge to write about the subject.

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Accuracy : Verify that you can find the same information in other places and that experts have reviewed it. The sources for your essay should be grammatically correct and written in a neutral tone.

Purpose : Look at the reasons why the information exists. The "About" page of a particular website can help you decipher whether the source means to inform or entertain and whether it contains political, religious, or personal biases.

Essay Prompt Examples

If you can choose between multiple essay topics and prompts, pick the ones you'd like to learn more about because your interest will show through your writing. Ensure that your subject complements the style of the essay prompt you're responding to. Here are a few examples:

Write a story on the history of the printing press ( Narrative Essay ).

Convince us whether community gardens should be encouraged or not ( Persuasive Essay ).

Explain how to take a great nature photograph ( Expository Essay ).

Describe in detail how to make the perfect apple pie ( Descriptive Essay ).

Who was Alben Barkley? (Can you guess what the type of essay prompt this is?) .

Descriptive and Argumentative Essay Prompts

Take notes as you read through your sources and create a page that condenses your thoughts. Then, use these types of questions to come up with the main ideas of your essay:

What exactly has the Essay Prompt asked me to do?

What do you agree or disagree with in the sources you found? Why?

What stands out in the references you will use for your essay?

What evidence for your position do you see as you read?

Just like the format of the essay, an outline follows a model:

I. Introduction

A. Hook (quote, anecdote, statistic, or question used to attract attention)

B. Introduction of Topic

C. Thesis Statement

II. Body Paragraphs 1-3

A. Main Point

B. Discussion of Main Point with Source

C. Transition Sentence to Next Point/Conclusion

III. Conclusion

A. Restate Thesis

B. Summarize Main Points

C. Final Impression

Example Response to an Essay Prompt

Read the example essay below. What type of Essay Prompt could it be responding to? What word choices have you found that support your argument?

When I visited my Nonnie in the summer, I got to help with her garden. I spent my days digging in the dirt and getting tanned in the bright sunshine. I didn't like the spicy smell of marigolds exactly, but I couldn't stop myself from sniffing their stiff petals. While we watered the plants (and squirted each other with the hosepipe), she taught me how different plants work together. Some plants make a good team, but others don't do so well when paired close to each other. Companion gardening is growing your vegetables, herbs, and flowers together in ways that eliminate some of the common problems, such as pests.

Not all bugs are out to get your garden. Many beneficial insects help eliminate the need to use pesticides. To attract them, position host and shelter plants throughout the plot. Host plants attract insects that help pollinate, while shelter plants offer safe places for them to lay eggs and rest. Herbs are an outstanding choice for this role. For example, herbs in the mint family will bring "predatory wasps, hoverflies, and robber flies" that eat caterpillars, grubs, and aphids. 2 Gardening is a lot of work, so let nature do some of the work for you.

Companion planting can remove the annoyance of losing your crop to pests. Organizing the garden according to the characteristics of the vegetables, herbs, and flowers you want to plant creates a more natural, pesticide-free gardening experience. My Nonnie's tomatoes were the best I've eaten, and her company made the work all the more enjoyable, bringing yet another meaning to the benefits of "companion planting."

The anecdote attempts to gather interest in the essay. The thesis clearly defines the subject of the essay and its main points. The body paragraph supports its point using reliable evidence . Notice that the source supports your idea, not the other way around. There is a transition into the conclusion paragraph. The conclusion of the essay summarizes without repeating information word-for-word.

Essay Prompts - Key Takeaways

  • An essay has an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
  • A thesis statement rounds out the introduction by naming the essay's subject and main ideas.
  • Choose the wording and references you include carefully to craft an effective essay prompt response. The CRAAP Method helps you decide the validity of a source.
  • Use brainstorming and outlining to organize your thoughts and help make writing your essay easier.

1 Ted Hughes, and Frances McCullough, Eds. The Journals of Sylvia Plath . 1982.

2 Marie Iannotti. "Companion Planting to Control the Insects in Your Garden." 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions about Essay Prompts

--> how do i write an effective response to an essay prompt.

To write an effective response to an essay prompt, form a clear thesis and use concise language and concrete details to support explanations and assertions. Make sure the essay is engaging to the reader.

--> How long should the response to an essay prompt be?

An essay prompt response should have at least five paragraphs.

--> How should I structure a response to an essay prompt?

The structure of a response to an essay prompt includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A thesis statement states the topic and outlines the main points.

--> What's the best way to start the response to an essay prompt?

An essay prompt response should start with a hook to get the reader's attention. A shocking statistic, illuminating quote, anecdote, or question are all effective hooks. After your hook, introduce your subject. Round out your introduction with a clearly-worded thesis statement.

--> How can I improve an essay prompt response?

These are strategies that will help you improve your essay prompt response:

  • Research your topic and choose sources using the CRAAP Method.
  • Brainstorm your topic to organize your thoughts.
  • Structure your brainstorming session into an outline to create a blueprint for your essay.
  • Follow the structure of an essay: introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion.
  • Start your essay with a hook to grab the audience's attention, and choose the words you include in your essay carefully.

Final Essay Prompts Quiz

Essay prompts quiz - teste dein wissen.

What two strategies are critical to effectively responding to an essay prompt?

Show answer

Language choice and choosing valid sources are critical to effectively responding to an essay prompt.

Show question

A _____ essay uses personal experience to examine a moral or universal truth.

How are events in a narrative essay ordered?

Events are told in chronological order in a narrative essay.

What are three things learning to write a narrative essay can improve?

Learning to write a narrative essay can improve your comprehension, your reading, and your writing abilities.

How is a narrative essay structured?

A narrative essay is structured into an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

Where is the thesis statement located in a narrative essay?

What are the two types of dialogue you can include in your narrative essay?

The two types of dialogue you can include in your narrative essay are:

  • Direct (exact words)
  • Indirect (a paraphrase of the conversation)

An _____ essay objectively provides information with an academic tone.

A cause and effect expository essay explores the real-life consequences of _____.

An action or idea

A process expository essay describes the way something works _____.

A _____ expository essay examines the similarities and differences between two things.

Compare and contrast

A _____ expository essay explores an object or concept in detail.

How is an outline useful to an expository essay?

An outline is useful to an expository essay because it organizes your thoughts to make the writing process easier.

What is the structure of an expository essay?

An expository essay is structured into an Introduction, Body Paragraphs, and a Conclusion.

What is a thesis statement?

A thesis statement outlines your argument and lists the main points of your essay.

Which type of essay relates both sides of an argument and allows the audience to make their own decision?

Argumentative essay

What subjects make good topics for persuasive essays?

Any subject that you can agree or disagree with can be crafted into a persuasive essay.

What are the three Elements of Rhetoric?

A, B, and C

Why should you avoid "I think" and "I feel" statements in your persuasive essay?

You should avoid "I think" and "I feel" statements because they weaken your message.

How should you structure your persuasive essay?

A persuasive essay should include a thesis statement that lays out your argument and main points in an Introduction. Argue your main points in the body paragraphs. Use your conclusion to finalize your argument while restating your thesis and summarizing your main points.

Why are persuasive essays important?

Persuasive essays help you to think critically about your beliefs.

How is a persuasive essay different from an argumentative essay?

A persuasive essay presents one side of a topic and refutes the other. An argumentative essay presents both sides and allows the audience to form their own opinion.

Who was Aristotle?

Aristotle was the Greek philosopher who developed the Elements of Rhetoric.

What are some fields that use persuasive writing?

Persuasive writing is used in advertising, the media, and by speechwriters.

Where in your essay do you initially state your opinion and main ideas?

Thesis statement

What is the CRAAP Method?

The CRAAP Method (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) is a tool to help determine whether a source is valid and reliable.

What does the "C" in CRAAP stand for?

What does the "R" in CRAAP stand for?

What does the "A" in CRAAP stand for?

What does the "P" in CRAAP stand for?

Why should you make sure to include transitional sentences in your essay?

Transitional sentences help your essay flow smoothly from section to section.

Why is choosing the right sources for your essay so important?

Choosing the right sources for your essay is important because reliable sources lend credibility, but shaky sources destroy the reliability of your argument.

What are the questions you should ask yourself when proofreading your essay?

All of the above

Which features are unique to a Narrative essay?

Why are transitions important in a Narrative essay?

Transitions are important in a Narrative essay because it's disorienting to readers to have to stop reading to figure out what's going on.

How can you leave a lasting impression in the conclusion of a Narrative essay?

Why are concrete details in a Narrative important?

Concrete details in a narrative essay are important because they draw the reader into the experience. 

True or false: cover letters and personal statements are real-world applications of narrative essays.

True. Personal statements ask you to talk about yourself within the guidelines of a theme. Cover letters ask you to tell the story of how you gained your skills.

What do you learn while writing expository essays?

True or False: Before reading your expository essay, you should assume the audience knows something about your subject.

False. When writing your expository essay, you should assume the audience has no prior knowledge of the subject. Provide background information and explain technical terms.

Why is learning to write a descriptive essay important?

A _____ describes an object, place, or concept in deep detail.

Descriptive essay

What are some types of figurative language?

A _____ is an image or saying that has been overused. 

Why should you follow a consistent pattern in your description?

You should follow a consistent pattern in your description because if you don't, it creates a disjointed image in the reader's mind.

Why should you research you descriptive essay topic?

Researching your descriptive essay topic helps you include concrete details in your writing.

What is a personal descriptive essay?

A personal descriptive essay describes an event that affected the author's life.

A(n) _____ essay creates an impersonal, photograph-quality image of a subject.

Formal description

A(n) _____ essay attempts to create an emotional reaction with its description.


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Developing writing prompts.

A writing prompt introduces and focuses the writing topic. The purposes of a writing prompt are to encourage the student’s interest in a topic and encourage them to write about it in a thoughtful and creative way. While an effective prompt introduces and limits the writing topic, it should also provide clear instructions about the writing task.

An effective writing prompt includes two basic components;

  • A situation: The situation presents the general topic students are to write about. It is intended to spark the students interest and be consistent with their experience; and
  • Directions: The directions, describing the task students must complete, should be stated in a way that encourages students to share their knowledge and experience or inspires their thought and creativity.

When developing a writing prompt, the instructor should consider:

  • Essay type : The type of essay can influence the type and content of the prompt. When writing a prompt, first determine which type of essay the students will be writing. Common essay types include: argument, descriptive, expository (also known as evaluative, reflective, or analytic), narrative, opinion, and persuasive.
  • Prompt construction: One useful approach to prompt writing is to break it into three parts. The first part introduces the topic to the students; the second part encourages students to think about the topic, possibly with a pre-writing activity in which students brainstorm for ideas; the final part describes the writing task
  • Brevity: Writing prompt should be short and focused to avoid confusing students, but the instructor must ensure they provide sufficient information in order for students to clearly understand the assigned writing task.
  • Repetition: The parts of the prompt may be repetitive. Using parallel wording helps students remain focused on the specific writing task.
  • Bias and sensitivity: Topics should be inclusive of and equitable to all of your students. Prompts should be written in a manner that all students will have knowledge and experience to understand them regardless of cultural and other factors. Prompts should avoid cultural, ethnic, gender, or other stereotyping.

Writing prompt construction:

  • Part 1. Introduce the topic or writing situation with a statement or generalization to orient the student to the topic.
  • Part 2. Encourage students to brainstorm and to make a personal connection with the topic. The instructor might include specific ideas promote ideas.
  • Part 3. Describe the writing task, purpose, and audience. The instructor should provide sufficient information for the students to fully understand their task.

Before writing your prompt, be sure to determine the purpose of the assignment, how the assignment aligns with the learning objectives, and the criteria evaluate the writing, and, finally, which type of prompt will achieve those goals best. Writing prompts can be:

  • Descriptive: Asks students to create or describe an image or experience;
  • Narrative: Describes a real or fictitious scenario and invites students to tell a story about it;
  • Expository: Asks students to provide information about a topic. or
  • Persuasive:. Presents an opinion or viewpoint, requiring students to take a stance and defend it.

Descriptive Prompts

Descriptive prompts often contain cue terms, such as “describe in detail”, “describe how something looked/felt/smelled/tasted”, to help the reader to experience the same thing. This is in contrast to an expository prompt which would ask the student explain or tell “why”. Example descriptive prompt

Many people have a favorite childhood toy. Sometimes these favorite childhood toys are not even expensive but were giving to you by someone special or as a reward.. Think about your favorite toy. It could be a stuffed animal or doll. It could even be the toy you made out of an everyday object, such as a blanket. Think about this favorite childhood toy, memories created with this toy, what it looked like, how it felt to have it with you. Write an essay that will be posted in your e-portfolio in which you describe your favorite childhood toy. Make sure you provide enough details so your readers can see it and feel what it is like to be there.

Narrative Prompts

Narrative writing recounts a personal or fictional experience or tells a story based on real or imagined events. Narrative writing is often characterized by insight, creativity, drama, suspense, humor, and/or fantasy. Narrative prompts use cue terms such as “tell about…”, “tell what happened”, or “write a story.” Similar to descriptive prompts, narrative prompts should avoid asking the students to explain “why.”

Example Narrative Prompt

Vacations can create some wonderful and not-so-wonderful memories. Sometimes vacations turn out to be funny, strange, scary, or weird. Think about a vacation with your family or friends that either became a favorite memory because it was the best, strangest, funniest, or worst vacation. Think about what you did, what else was happening at the time, where you were, who was involved, and the time of day or year it happened.

Write a story about the best, strangest, funniest, or worst vacation. Make sure you include enough details so the instructor can understand and follow your story.

Expository Prompts

Expository writing informs, clarifies, explains, defines, and/or instructs. Problem and solution, cause and effect, and how-to essays are subtypes of expository writing. Expository writing is guided by a purpose and with a specific audience in mind, therefore the voice and essay organization must align with the subject and audience. Expository prompts use the cue words: why, how, what, and explain.

Example Expository Prompt

Some animals have evolved to live and thrive under extreme climate conditions or to eat a very specific diet. Think about an animal that has evolved to live under extreme climate conditions or to eat a very specific diet. Think about where this animal lives, what the climate conditions are like, the types of food it eats, and how it gets its food. Think about the possible advantage and disadvantages for the animal of living in this habitat or eating this diet. Write an essay for your e-portfolio that identifies the animal and its unique habitat or diet and explains (with specific details to support your explanation) why it is an advantage for the animal to have evolved this way.

Persuasive Prompts

Persuasive writing is intended to convince the reader that a point of view is valid or to take a specific action. Persuasive writing should address the strengths and weakness of both sides of an issue but ultimately support one perspective. Persuasive prompts use the cue words “convince”, “persuade”, and “why,” rather than using terms like “how.”

Example Persuasive Prompt

Some parents are concerned about administering vaccines to their infants and children because they believe vaccines can lead to autism. Your sister who is currently pregnant is considering not vaccinating her child. Think about whether you agree or disagree with her plan to not vaccinate her child. Think about the advantages and disadvantages of vaccinating a child and what the scientific literature says. Write a letter to your pregnant sister in which you state your opinion on the decision to not vaccinate. Include enough specific details to support your opinion and to convince your sister that your position on the issue is correct.

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What Is a Writing Prompt and What Types There Are?

June 2, 2022

What Is An Essay Prompt?

Understanding writing prompts, types of writing prompts, how to write a prompt, how to respond to essay writing prompts for beginners, key takeaways.

Do you love writing but sometimes feel stuck or uninspired? Are you looking for a way to jumpstart your creative process ? If so, writing prompts may be just what you need. But what is a writing prompt and what is its role in writing?

In this article, we will discuss the definition of a writing prompt, explore different types of prompts, and learn how to write one yourself.

What Is a Writing Prompt?

A writing prompt is a sentence, paragraph, or (rarer) an image that provides inspiration and guidance for creative writing . It may be used as a possible topic or starting point for an original essay, report, journal entry, story, poem, etc. A writing prompt’s main aim is to test a writer’s analytical capabilities, writing skills, and ability to express their point of view.

Writing prompts for students have long been used in the classroom to encourage student attention and develop their capacity to focus on a certain subject, idea, or concept. They also give students the chance to express their own opinions on a certain topic. Prompts stimulate students’ critical thinking and offer them an opportunity to construct a well-reasoned, structured argument in response to another writer’s viewpoint.

An essay prompt is a subtype of the writing prompt. Essay prompts are generally made up of 1 to 3 sentences that provide some context about the subject, followed by a question that asks students to write about a certain topic in the form of an essay .

The goal is to get students to respond with an essay focusing on a statement or issue in order to assess their writing, reasoning, and analytical abilities.

Analyzing your writing prompt is easier if you highlight the important words while reading it . Here are some of the words you should watch out for:

  • Argue – requires you to present facts that support your opinion
  • Compare – determine the similarities and differences between two or more concepts
  • Define – provide a definition of a specific concept or subject
  • Discuss – explain various aspects of a subject or problem and reach a conclusion
  • Describe – give a detailed description of an event or a particular person, place, or thing

Prompts can help improve your writing skills by providing practice in brainstorming, planning, drafting, revising, and editing . Daily writing prompts can also help you practice and develop your understanding of grammar when learning a new language .

Following are the most common types of writing prompts that students come across as a part of their degrees or continuing education programs:


Descriptive prompts frequently include cue terms such as “describe in detail,” “describe how something looked/felt/smelled/tasted,” and so on. In this type of writing, the reader should be able to experience what you’re writing about. Descriptive writing exercises frequently request writers to provide details that will help the reader construct a vivid picture by including sensory elements , such as sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste.


Expository writing prompts are a good writing practice for teens and college students. Expository prompts typically ask the writer to describe, compare and contrast, discuss pros and cons, or define something .

Expository writing has a particular purpose and audience in mind; as a result, the style and voice must correspond to the set subject and audience. The following words are used as cues to elicit expository answers: why, how, what, and explain.

The act of writing a narrative is the process of recording and telling events from one’s personal or fictional experience . Identifying what a narrative writing prompt look like is easy when you know what to look for. These prompts call for insight, creativity, drama, suspense, humor, and/or fantasy, and often contain the term “tell about…,” “write a story,” or “describe”.

Writers should use real or invented experiences when responding to narrative prompts. They should also incorporate dialogue, sensory elements, and sensible sequences into their response.

In this sort of prompt, the writers are expected to express their viewpoint on a certain subject, followed by logical reasoning and facts . This can either be a controversial issue or something light-hearted and fun. No matter what the topic is, if you’re wondering how to start a writing prompt like this, just make sure you’re clear and concise so that the reader knows exactly what is being discussed.

Persuasive prompts are writing prompts that require the writer to convince or persuade the reader to agree with a certain point of view . These types of prompts typically use cue words such as “convince,” “persuade,” and “why” rather than “how.”

To write a persuasive prompt, it is important to first brainstorm ideas and then narrow down your focus to come up with a creative and unique prompt. Remember to consider your audience when writing persuasive prompts.

The research approach to daily writing prompts encourages writers to look for information on a given topic using books, internet resources, films, etc . Such a writing assignment asks students to look up all the details and provide the resources as well, sometimes in the form of a bibliography .

When you start writing, no matter the type and form of the written piece, it’s important to consider your audience and purpose. When you’re responding to a written prompt that lists children as your target audience, for example, you’ll need to use age-appropriate language and focus on the topics that are interesting for the particular age group . Apart from the audience, you need to pay attention to the following factors, as well:

Prompt Construction

Breaking down the writing prompt into three parts is another useful approach for better conveying the task’s meaning:

  • the first part introduces the subject
  • the second part encourages writers to think about it, perhaps with a brainstorming pre-writing exercise
  • the third portion explains what needs to be written

In order to avoid confusion, writing prompts should be brief and focused . The instructor must make sure that the students are provided with sufficient information in order for them to understand the writing assignment completely.

The components of the prompt can be repeated, but using parallel wording will help writers stay focused on the specific writing task.

Bias and Sensitivity

The topics of your creative writing prompts should be inclusive and fair to all potential writers . The prompts should be written in a way that allows writers to easily comprehend them, regardless of their cultural background or other variables. It’s important to avoid cultural, ethnic, gender, or any other form of bias when developing prompts.

After you’ve examined your prompt, it’s time to get creative and prepare for your essay writing:

  • First, make a thesis statement to address the main issue . Your thesis statement should be the focal point of your whole essay and should reflect your stance on the issue.
  • When responding to writing prompts for beginners, write simple topic sentences that cover all the criteria. Add any facts, elaborations, or evidence you need to back up your viewpoint.
  • After you’ve finished, you may add more facts and smooth transitions between each phrase and paragraph . Make sure to include an eye-catching opening line in your first paragraph, as well as a conclusion that summarizes your ideas and thesis statement.

All in all, understanding what is a prompt in writing and how to respond to one is a key skill for all writers. By taking the time to analyze the prompt and brainstorm ideas, you’ll make sure that your written piece is clear, concise, and on-topic. Practicing with different types of prompts will help you hone your skills and become a more confident writer.

The three parts of a writing prompt are the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the piece, the body provides support for the thesis, and the conclusion ties everything together and leaves readers with a final thought or impression.

Most writing prompts consist of the following six parts: articulation of purpose, a summary of the assignment, logistics, paper’s key components, framing questions, and evaluation criteria.

What is a writing prompt supposed to be like in order to both challenge a writer and let them showcase their writing skills? It must be clear and concise, and possible to answer in a short amount of time. It should also be open-ended enough to allow for creative interpretation, not requiring prior knowledge in order to be answered.

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To answer an essay question (EQ), students must assess the purpose of the essay question: factual recall, analysis (explanation of relationships) synthesis (application/transfer of previously learned principles) opinion

How much information to include, repeat, restate (intro needed? details needed?).

The chart below outlines 4 main types of essay questions, the verbs/cues that indicate the type of essay question and its purpose, and the strategy to be used to answer it.

Read the questions very carefully at least 2 or 3 times. Circle  the main verb (= action verb/imperative) in the question and decide on the necessary rhetorical strategy for answering the question (cause-effect, comparison-contrast, definition, classification, problem-solution). Make sure you understand what type of answer the main verb calls for (a diagram a summary, details, an analysis, an evaluation). Circle all the keywords in the question. Decide if you need to write a 1-paragraph or a multi-paragraph answer. Write a brief outline of all the points you want to mention in your answer. Restate the question and answer it with a topic sentence (for a 1-paragraph answer) or a thesis statement (for a multi-paragraph answer).  Answer the question according to general rules of academic writing.  Use indentations; begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; support the topic sentence(s) with reasons and/or examples; use transition words to show logical organization; write a conclusion.  Use correct punctuation throughout. Read over your answer again and check if all the main ideas have been included. Check your answer for grammar and punctuation.

© 2005: Christine Bauer-Ramazani ; last updated: September 02, 2019



Blog de Cristina

Digital tools and ideas to transform education, timesaver: repository of writing prompts for every essay type.

Although I have been doing this job for a long time, it still surprises me to realize how terribly inefficient I can be at times. I think this must be one of the reasons why I started this blog.

different types of essay prompts

It’s hard to understand, even for me and about myself, why I do not have a repository of writing topics to give my students. Is it the same for you?

How many times, for God’s sake, have I given my students the task of writing an opinion essay or a cover letter? Hundreds. Well, believe it or not, every single time I spend precious time looking for an adequate topic or a suitable advertisement. After 3o years doing the same, one would think I should have a dozen to choose from.

Nothing like that, believe me; that’s why this post is so necessary. What you will find below are links to websites with lots of possibilities to choose from. In some cases, they are not only inspiration for writing but also for speaking activities/assignments. Lets’ jump right in!

501  Writing Prompts ( persuasive, expository, narrative and literary) targets students,  encouraging autonomous learning by including model essays for a certain number of prompts so that students can compare and contrast their writing. It also includes a  scoring guide. Students are encouraged to use this guide to get an idea of how their essay may be graded.

From IELTS LIZ, we get 100 essay questions organized alphabetically by topic: from Art to Work and much more.

From The NewYork Times, we get 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing .

Lots of writing prompts touching from family life to pop culture, gender roles, video games, social media, travel and more.

  •   From Busy teachers.com, we get 600 Creative Writing Prompts : I also find them really good to spark conversation.

different types of essay prompts

  • A quick writing activity in class. Students decide on a number and write for about 15 minutes. You can do this activity often as it only takes 15 minutes and gives them a lot of practice if done regularly. They also get direct help from the teacher as it’s a class activity.
  • You can also divide the class into pairs or groups of three, depending on how large your class is and ask each group to assign a writing task to another group in the class by choosing a random prompt. Students write their stories. Set a time limit of 30 or 35 minutes. Put their stories up on the walls of the class for all the students to read.
  • Brainstorm vocabulary recently studied. Make sure there is a variety of nouns, adjectives, phrasal verbs, idioms…etc to choose from. Write them on the board. Ask students to choose two numbers and write the two prompts on the board too. Students choose one of these options and write their story including some of the target vocabulary.
  • 100 Creative Writing Prompts for Middle School includes a selection of story starters, research prompts and expository prompts among others
  • From Thought. co, we get 50 awesome argumentative essay topics
  • Also, form Thought.co,  100 Persuasive Essay topics
  • From IELTS Liz,
  • Opinions essays 
  • Discussion essays
  • Solution essays 
  • Direct questions Essays
  • Advantages and disadvantages essays 
  • From ImagineForest, you will find 32 letter writing prompts
  • From ReadWriteThink , we get some excellent prompts for formal letter writing
  • More formal email writing prompts from Diginadme.com.
  • From LoloyaPress, 10  Formal Writing Prompts

If you know of any other great sites, please leave a comment with writing prompts, leave a comment.

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15 thoughts on “ Timesaver: Repository of Writing Prompts for Every Essay Type ”

Thanks! Glad you like it so much!

Another thumbs up to what you share with us on your website,I really admire your dedication ,one happy lady from Tenerife.

Lovely to hear you find the post useful!

You are my inspiration! I teach in higher ed and at least once a day think “My god, there has got to be a better way.” Each year I vow to buld a repository of assignments and associated grading feedback tailored to them that will allow me to refocus on actively teaching and reduce red pen hours. Thanks for sharing.

Thank! Appreciate the feedback!

AWesome information, really valuable. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for this information!

Hey cristina, I am from india and thanks to your provide me the links from last some months. Our team members are just thankful to you.

Yes, thank you. I know it and use it very often. In fact, a post on random choice of story beginners is on the shelf waiting to be published. I just don’t know when. 🙂 The curriculum is killing me!

Hi Cristina, You might like this website


Thank you for all the great links and lessons you have provided me with over the years.

Thanks a lot for the links!

Hi Cristina On the Self Access Group Blog, we shared a post with essay questions grouped by topic. http://selfaccessgroup.blogspot.com/2016/04/essay-questions-used-on-blog.html We also prepared some tables for students writing an essay in the EBAU exam to be able to answer each question type appropriately. e.g. http://selfaccessgroup.blogspot.com/2016/04/discussing-theme_27.html http://selfaccessgroup.blogspot.com/2016/04/pau-preferenceopinon-essays.html You’re welcome to use these posts and ideas – and share them on your blog if you like them! That’s why they were written!

Thanks, Caroline! The activities I publish have already been tested with my students and they most certainly work. 🙂 You are very kind!!


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