Tag Archives: essay stimulus

Mockingbird table top plans

Year 10 worked to create plans for two questions:

“Explore the significance of Heritage in the novel”

‘”The summer is going to be a hot one” – explore this quotation with particular focus on ch 12-15″

Their work is on the PDFs for them to download – -feel free to use it.

heritage essay

hot summer planning

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Filed under EDEXCEL IGCSE, IGCSE support, KS4

Putting together a book…

I am aware that the content of this blog is growing to alarming proportions. With this in mind, I have published some of the stimulus essays in a KINDLE edition book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/AO3-alternative-critical-challenge-GCSE-Students-ebook/dp/B00K0O76ZI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398875222&sr=8-1&keywords=ao3+essays

My intention is that, for the cost of a bottle of wine or a couple of lattes (around £5), the essays can be easily accessed in one place. I will, in time, remove the essays from the blog, leaving a link in their place. 41nkHPPzeuL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU02_

Teachers and students alike, I hope you will download the book and find essays to stimulate discussion on many GCSE/A level and IBDP texts: Much Ado, Macbeth and Othello; OMAM, Inspector Calls, The Awakening, Hardy poetry and several more. If you do look at the book and enjoy the contents, please leave a review on Amazon.

Enjoy reading.

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Is the Pardoner likeable?

A short stimulus essay for Year 13. This is , as usual, not comprehensive and deliberately short on close analysis – that s the students’ task! Hopefully this is interesting and useful, nonetheless.

The Pardoner is not a likeable character at first glance. His description in the General prologue focuses on his lank, greasy hair and his dubious sexuality before scorning his goat-like voice. It is acknowledged, however, that he is a good Pardoner (for a Pardoner). Student should also be aware in passing that he is one of the few pilgrims who appears in other stories – in his case, The Wife of Bath, where he makes comments designed to reflect well on his sexual prowess. If he was not in some way likeable, would Chaucer have made him one of the Pilgrims whose characters develop outside their stories?

The LITB 3 course asks you to consider elements of the Gothic in the writings you study. Whilst Chaucer is not and can never be described as a Gothic writer, this question asks you to consider the Gothic trope of the villain who is found attractive by readers and characters alike. One need not spend time here considering this in depth, but characters such as Heathcliff, Dracula, Satan, Mephistopheles, or The Monk are certainly found attractive at times within the story. This attraction is often sexual or physical and comes despite the clear awareness that the character is in no way “good”.

So, is the Pardoner attractive? Do we like him? I expect that in the 21st Century, the answer is a clear NO, but I wonder if this is fair. Let us consider the elements of the character that might be attractive:

His apparent sexual prowess
His ability to turn others from sin, even whilst sinning himself
His honesty in his tale
His Iago-like daring in stating the depth of his depravity so openly.

The rest of this article can be found on my boook of support materials available on KINDLE here:http://www.amazon.co.uk/AO3-alternative-critical-challenge-GCSE-Students-ebook/dp/B00K0O76ZI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1400320915&sr=1-1&keywords=jonathan+peel

Please feel free to buy it and enjoy a wide range of articles on a wide range of texts which feature regularly in examinations. Happy reading


Filed under AQA LitB

Finding the “fiend-like queen”.

As a response to an AQA Lit B A2 essay, here are some musings in the form of a give back discussion. These are not the last word, but, as with all I post, be seen as a stimulus for discussion and consideration. Develop your own individual thought processes, but listen closely and join the debate!

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Filed under AQA LitB, Shakespeare

Women are the central focus of The Great Gatsby, and they aren’t pretty: A stimulus document.

A basis for AQA B Coursework – to be responded to, not necessarily agreed with!

Whilst Gatsby should be read as an attack on the consumer heaven of pre-crash America, it can also be read as a savage attack on American women of the period. Too often we focus our thoughts on Nick and Gatsby as the central points of the novel, but we should not overlook the three women at the centre of the whole book. Daisy, Jordan and Myrtle are present in one way or another in almost every scene depicted – often intruding in the form of a ‘phone call or as a subject of conversation. In this novel gender stereotyping is harsh and it can not be denied that women receive close critical scrutiny for their thoughts and behaviour and a manner that the men do not. It may not be too extreme to see the end of the novel not as Gatsby’s tragedy (we are denied even the view of the corpse), but as a tale of feminine betrayal.

Daisy, from her first appearance, fits a stereotype based on the “poor little rich girl”. She is pampered and lives in thrall of her bullying husband Tom. She seems accepting of this and even her complaints about Tom’s “woman” carry little conviction. By the end of the novel we have seen, in the scene in the kitchen, that her outlook on life requires maintenance of the status quo, rather than an honest recognition of her faults. This apparent “purity” is seen at the first meeting, with the whites of the room and the sense of the association with birds that will colour images throughout this section – “fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight…” From this point there is a knowingness about Daisy’s behaviour – her every action is consciously designed to produce allure- “That was a way she had” comments Nick. He focuses the narrative on her voice – “breathless, thrilling, glowing, singing”- which seems to take on the elements of the siren or enchantress/lover. It is hard to avoid the notion, however that this is a carefully practised act. The effect is repeated at the tea party when Fitzgerald refers to the “fluctuating, feverish warmth… a deathless song.” Here the voice is Nightingale-like and equally unattainable.
Her own response to her gender is therefore telling: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world…” Whilst this comment is spoken in the bitterness that follows Myrtle’s ‘phone call we should not ignore the wider message that it presents, with regards to women in society. Nick recognises the false pretences of the seductive act and the reader sees the split between Gatsby’s dream of Daisy and the rather sordid reality that Fitzgerald presents behind the façade.
In Chapter 4 Daisy is presented at first as a fairy-tale princess locked in her tower and a slave to romantic love. Her response is to swiftly transfer her affections to a more suitable (richer) suitor and any idea of a sort of romantic heroine is undermined again by this action. Her attempted “suicide” before the wedding does not convince and is lessened by her drunken state and the reader notes that Gatsby’s focused pursuit of his love is in contrast to the somewhat feckless response shown by Daisy. We should not be surprised by her final decision. Fitzgerald shows us a woman who cannot remain constant to her true love and who opts instead for wealth, convenience and the boredom highlighted in the opening section.
Whilst it is true to say that Daisy is seen through the eyes of others – Gatsby, Jordan or Nick- the reader has to pass judgement. She is entranced by the “human orchid of a woman” until Nick accuses her of preferring false gestures to the reality of emotion. Gatsby’s emotion is certainly overpowering, but the fixation on the green light seems apt. Daisy will never let Gatsby close to her, she has too much to lose – just as West and East Egg can never meet.
Gatsby’s version of the young lovers is given only after Myrtle’s death, as though providing a bitter sweet reflection on reality. The reality might be a Daisy who avoids the confrontation by “fixing her hair” and who responds to the death of Myrtle by shirking any moral responsibility to hide behind her husband. Appearances are all in her world. At this point she can only “nod(ded) in agreement” and her beautiful voice is silenced by the need to acquiesce to the world that men inhabit. She does have a genuine choice at this point – Gatsby waits like a lover in a French farce, lurking in the hedge, but she opts for luxury and convenience rather than finding a reality for herself.

Jordan Baker is equally cruelly drawn. Named after two sports cars of the era, cars whose phallic masculinity will not just kill Myrtle, but will physically dismember her, she is presented with a curiously androgynous femininity. Her boyishness is coupled with more of the conscious sexuality shown in Daisy – “completely motionless, with her chin raised a little, as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall”. Her whole life could be said to consist of this balancing act, Nick remembers her background… She is a liar and a cheat who is becoming successful in a man’s world – that of the sporting star. Femininity is not a strong suit of Jordan’s.
She is self-sufficient and intrusive – she longs to eavesdrop on Tom’s ‘phone call – she is “incurably dishonest” in Nick’s phrase, and it may be this that allows her to succeed in a man’s world. Certainly, she is not seen in a positive light by this.
Nick is certainly attracted to Jordan, but he is equally put off by her moral uncertainty. That she desires Nick is less obvious – she sees Nick as a “safe driver” and seems to want both the role of protected, weak female as well as that of emancipated and free thinking female. Ultimately it is the lack of moral centre that repels Nick and the reader, since our only view of Jordan is that which he presents. She never tells her own story, despite being very willing to tell Daisy’s. Art the point in the novel where she is required to make a choice based on the moral imperative against the option of luxury, she chooses the latter and leaves Nick in the drive of Tom and Daisy’s house. The need to continue her life unimpeded by what is “right” seems to drive her all the way through the narrative.
In Jordan, Fitzgerald is creating one of a new type of woman, fit for the 1920s. The opportunity to find positives in the emancipated outlook of that time has been replaced by a harsh, unfeminine construct that prefers to protect her way of life rather than to abide by the “rules” of an ethical society. Even in this, she might have been seen as a positive role modal, standing against the over-masculine world she inhabits. Fitzgerald ensures that she is not seen in this way and creates with great clarity, a deeply unpleasant figure.

Myrtle does not inhabit the same world as these two, living in the Valley of the Ashes, yet her depiction is again utterly unsympathetic. Unloved and poor, she craves something else. Unfortunately her snobbishness and tawdry behaviour do not allow her to receive sympathy from the reader. True, she is trapped in a loveless marriage, but we feel little pity for this figure. When she dies, she is ripped apart, a breast left “flapping” in a curiously sadistic depiction of male brutality, but still we feel little real sympathy. At the first meeting she is outspoken and brash, we remember that the telephone had a “shrill metallic urgency” and this is what we see in Myrtle’s behaviour. She is spoiled and ignorant, she furnishes the apartment in staggeringly poor taste (the contrast with Daisy is stark here) and she lacks social graces enough to become drunk and to so antagonise Tom that he breaks her nose. Like Daisy, she wears her sexuality openly – “her wet lips”- and we perceive the woman as seductress in a different form. Where Gatsby dreams of an unattainable Daisy, she has the man of her dreams in the shape of the jock/bigot Tom and her position in society is dictated by this. Nick is seeing her from his elevated social position, and her fantasy, as portrayed by Catherine, that Tom and she are trapped in loveless marriages could be sad – due to her brashness and her sensuality, we join Mick in pitying her inability to se the truth in front of her. When her nose is broken, Tom leaves the narrative and Fitzgerald focuses on Myrtle trying to protect her mini-Versailles form the drops of blood.
Her death is a tragedy – not for her but for the reader who learns from the death. She is killed by a fellow woman, masquerading as a man and unable to give her the respect of acknowledging the act. The whole event is a mistake on Myrtle’s part and watched over by Dr Eckleburg’s all-seeing eyes. Even after her death, she is given little dignity since Michaelis recalls her last words: “Throw me down and beat me, you dirty little coward”. She seems torn between making a martyr of herself and taunting her husband for his perceived lack of masculinity. Her pose at the moment of death recalls humility. It seems ironic that the coarse adulterous should end up like this, her body is torn and her mouth “ ripped a little at the corners” which recalls Nick’s comments about the sexuality of her wet lips from the first meeting. She is, to all intents and purposes, raped by the car that hits her. The car piloted by her competitor for the love of a man.
Our pity for her is reduced further when we see how irrelevant she is to the story. Tom feels nothing for her – he hurries off to buy jewellery rather than face her death. He is quick to use her death to implicate Gatsby and to ensure his death. Once again a female character has been denied sympathy and portrayed in a negative light.

Names continue this theme – Jordan has been discussed, but both Daisy and Myrtle are plants. Daisy is a superficially pretty semi-weed, loved and hated in equal measure, whose beauty is only temporary. A Myrtle is a fleshy plant and a climber. The analogy is obvious here. In the narrative Myrtle’s climb is cut off early.
The novel is a man’s world. Nick despises Tom’s boorish athleticism, nevertheless the world he inhabits is defined by his friendship with Gatsby. He enjoys Jordan’s company and finds her sexually attractive. However he tires of her and can not accept her lack of a firm moral core. At the end of the novel it is Gatsby who we pity and it is with Gatsby’s dream that we sympathise, viewing the women as part of the “rubbish” which floats in his wake. Sadly, the feeling that the women are, indeed, rubbish, is hard to ignore.

A sound version of the page can be found here: http://soundgecko.com/view/H6UGP8HRhEm80NY-nUNDhAucWuGFrG/women-are-the-central-focus-of-the-great-gatsby-and-they-arent-pretty-a-stimulus-document?source=


Filed under IBDP support

How does the way of life led by the characters affect their behaviour in Of Mice and Men – stimulus paper.

How does the characters’ way of life affect their behaviour in the novel?
Ideas on an essay title – you need to find the appropriate quotations and to develop my stimuli.

This essay has caused some problems, not because of its complexity, but because students have been unwilling to engage with the focus of the title. There is a need to engage clearly with an exploration of what is meant by Way of Life.
Let’s consider what we can say about the way of life:
• Itinerant workers tend to travel alone.
• Lack of money
• Lack of familial responsibility causes wastage of money
• Lack of privacy in living conditions
• Constantly moving on, so no great wish to try to develop friendships.
• Male dominated society.
Any of these, and there are more, would be suggestive of a way of life. Having established this in an introduction, you can begin to discuss the behaviour and link to these ideas.
Travelling alone is picked up from the outset – any number of passages relate to this, from the suspicion with which George and Lennie are viewed on arrival (behaviour of others towards G+L) to the mantra that “we got each other” that George and Lennie use as the bedtime story.
Your task is to pick you 4 or 5 favourite behaviours and to establish a link to a way of life.

Carlson shooting the dog is a favourite of many. This can not simply be a retelling of the narrative, however. This episode comes about due to the lack of privacy and disgustingly claustrophobic living conditions – a way of life. When one adds the idea that loneliness breeds an unwillingness to empathise – to become “sick” in Crooks’ words, this is a fairly clear path to follow. One could even add that since they all live on a farm, the idea that an animal should be put down when it has outlived its usefulness is not too shocking. Men are on the junk heap here – why should animals receive preferential treatment?
Curley’s Wife can be seen in the same way: A victim of a male society, where any hint of femininity is seized upon by the lonely and frustrated males she is the target of typically “locker room” gossip and abuse. This is exacerbated by her way of life – a young girl with aspirations to emulate the film stars of the day. Her clothing, first seen as provocative becomes a sad echo of her wish to be seen as beautiful; her behaviour in the bunk house, seen as “giving the eye” is finally shown to be little more than the behaviour of a thwarted actress trying to carve a niche for herself in the masculine world. The way of life imposed on her leads directly to her death. Curley will not let her talk to the men, she fails to do so whenever two of them are together (section 4) and seeks individuals, Curley treats her badly physically and mentally, Lennie shows some compassion and lets her tell her story. From that point her fate is sealed.

This is not to say that she is a pure character. Her abuse, particularly of Crooks, but also of Lennie and Candy can be attributed to a way of life where simple bigotry has replaced reflection and where swift expression of feelings has replaced the need to build relationships.
Crooks and Candy both suffer from a fear of replacement due to their injuries, but Candy has another layer. He is a gossip and when we first meet him he is very quick to criticise and to “tell tales”. He needs to “buy” friendship and is actively trying to win over George by letting him on secrets – the glove, the tart, the nigger, the fight with Smitty – in order that he gains an ally in the event of his disability bringing about the end of his useful life. He fears being “canned” above all else. It is only later, once the humanising effect of Lennie and George has begun to work on him tha the starts to behave in a more sociable manner. However, once Curley’s wife is dead and the Dream with her, he reverts swiftly to type. His abuse of the corpse could be said to be a direct result of the isolated way of life all live on the ranch. The selfish and the masculine are re-established as the driving force of all behaviours.

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