About Margaret

Qualified English Teacher, BA/BT UNE, Registered with VIT, located in Berwick Victoria 3806. Contact 0418 440 277, email contact@englishtutorlessons.com.au

Straight A+’s for VCE English

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Congratulations to all my students I tutored for VCE English in 2017 who have achieved exceptional results in the exams but also for those who received the University Entrance to courses they wanted in 2018.

To achieve Straight A+’s for VCE English puts you in the top 9% of the State of Victoria for students who have scored 3 consecutive A+’s.

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I am so proud of all of your achievements.

 It has been a privilege to teach you.

Fishbone Diagram as Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

 "Machili Jal Ki Rani Hai" Fish Poem Animated Hindi Nursery Poem Song for Children with Lyrics. "One of the famous kids songs depicting the story of fish and its life . Hindi Poems Hindi Poem Hindi rhymes 2D Rhymes 2D Rhymes 2D Rhymes English Education preschool SchoolWhat is a Fishbone Diagram?

A fishbone diagram, also called a cause and effect diagram or Ishikawa diagram (named after Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa who invented it) , is a visualization tool for categorizing the potential causes of a problem in order to identify its root causes.

Using a Fishbone Diagram in Brainstorming for Persuasive Writing

See my Post regarding the Process for a Persuasive Writing Essay.  I suggest using the fishbone diagram for brainstorming ideas.

The Fishbone Diagram Design

The design of the diagram looks much like a skeleton of a fish. Fishbone diagrams are typically worked right to left, with each large “bone” of the fish branching out to include smaller bones containing more detail.

Blank Fishbone Diagram Template Online Calendar Templates Example

Persuasive Writing Plan for Years 7-10

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 Why is Persuasive Writing in Years 7-10 Important in the English Curriculum?

Persuasive Writing is part of the English curriculum for Years 7-10 and forms the basis for writing and analysing topics that students will go on to perfect in Years 11-12 as AOS2 Analysing and Presenting Argument.  An important aspect of good writing is to follow a process that will lead to understanding your topic, identifying the important points in your main contention and stating your opinion clearly and assertively in body paragraphs.

The best structure for an essay is a straight forward one:

  1. Introduction = to introduce the issue / state the main contention / introduce supporting reasons that will be covered in the essay
  2. Body paragraphs = each paragraph should use the TEEL structure and start with the most important reason in your supporting reasons and follow with next reason in the next body paragraph (at least 3-4 good body paragraphs)
  3. Rebuttal = choose one of the most important reasons that are the opposite view point to your main contention and point out the errors in the argument
  4. Conclusion = sums up your argument and refers your reader back to the topic covered in your main contention.  Do not bring up new evidence or develop an opinion contrary to your main contention otherwise you might contradict yourself.

TEEL – What is it?

Teachers stress all throughout Years 7-10 the correct structure for an essay is to use TEEL for your body paragraphs which enables students to have a clear focus in their essay writing.

T = Topic sentence

E = Evidence/Examples (quotes)

E = Explanation

L = Link

So lets look at a Sample Persuasive Essay Topic and the Process needed to complete the essay.

Write a persuasive essay on this topic: Do you think secondary school students should work part-time?

 Image result for picture of students working at part time jobThe Process:

  1. Research your information = Many secondary school students work part-time after school. Studies have shown that students can work up to 10 hours a week without affecting their school work.  However, if they exceed these hours their school work may suffer.
  2. The questions are =? Does combining school and part-time work affect school work and post-school outcomes?
  3. Brainstorm your ideas using the fish-bone diagram, think of facts, consequences and solutions, decide on your main contention
  4. List points for and against to make sense of which side the arguments fall
  5. Identify appropriate examples grouping them in common themes, think about what is logical evidence
  6. Decide which is the most persuasive order to present your topic sentences, start with the most important reason
  7. Summarise your contention, write your introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion.

Have a look at my Draft Plan for answering the persuasive topic:


Draft Plan
What is the issue? Much debate has been raised by parents and teachers questioning whether combining school and part-time work affects secondary students’ school work and post-school outcomes.
Defining key terms Studies from the National Centre for Vocational Education have shown that students can work up to 10 hours a week without affecting their school work.  However, if they exceed these hours their school work may suffer.
Main Contention Each student who chooses to work part-time has a unique set of circumstances and reasons for wanting to work.  Some students need to work part-time to help support their family.  Provided that the part-time work hours are not excessive, students can benefit from their working experience.  However, it is important to balance school commitments and part-time work so that working does not affect future post-school outcomes.
Supporting Reasons Research from the National Centre for Vocational Education has shown that students can work up to 10 hours a week without affecting their school work.  Working part-time helps students to achieve personal goals and can offer a break from school work.  Part-time work gives students greater financial independence to earn their own money to pay for their clothes and other items that they would have asked their parents to provide.  More importantly, part-time work can allow students real world experience dealing with people, customers, their boss, time management and financial responsibility which gives them confidence in future.  Working part-time also enables students to decide what type of job they want to do as a future career further motivating them to get better grades at school in order to gain a high ATAR for a university degree.
Rebuttal The Bureau of Labour Statistics in the US suggests that students who held a job in high school spent 49 minutes less on their homework than on the days they worked.  The research showed that if students spent 30 minutes more on homework, say studying maths, they could increase their maths ability by 2 grades higher.  Students who work more than 10 hours per week part-time can lead to students falling asleep in class because of long work shifts the night before.  The result is that students cannot keep up with school assignments on time and then their grades inevitably suffer.  The affect of working more than 10 hours part-time can lead to students falling so far behind their school commitments that they consider dropping out of school.  The result of this action is that their post-school future is in jeopardy.
Summing up sentences It is imperative that secondary school students should carefully consider their options before taking on part-time work.  It should be noted that not all students’ circumstances are the same.  However, it is important to balance school commitments and part-time work so that working does not affect future post-school outcomes.  Moreover, provided the hours are not excessive, students can benefit from their part-time working experience.


Genly and Estraven characters from The Left Hand of Darkness by Le Guin

Image result for left hand of darkness imagesFor students studying Mainstream English in VCE Year 12, The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin is from the VCAA List 1 of Texts.  You will be required to write an analytical interpretation of the text in AOS1, Unit 3: Reading and Creating Texts in a SAC and the final English exam.

Look carefully at the similarities and differences between the two main characters Genly Ai and Therem Harth Rem Ir Estraven in The Left Hand of Darkness.  The list of differences and similarities between the two characters is from my interpretation only and therefore could be added to by students who develop their own interpretation of Genly and Estraven.

Read my previous post on ‘Characters in Texts’ for in depth details as to the importance of interpreting a character in a text and the relationships between them.

For ease of writing I call Genly Ai (Genly) and Therem Harth Rem Ir Estraven (Estraven) in the notes below.

Genly Ai

Genly’s Differences from Estraven

  • Genly Ai is from Terra (Earth), almost 30 years old
  • 1st Envoy from the Ekumen to recruit the planet Gethen to the Ekumen to become part of a universal and mystical trade venture of planets
  • Different physical characteristics – tall, black skin, strong, less hair, large hands, not built for cold
  • Stereotypical male – heterosexual, sexually active all the time considered a ‘pervert’ by Gethenians
  • Has been in Karhide for 2 years in an attempt to gain favour with King Argaven and convince him and Karhide to join the Ekumen
  • Inability to trust and uncertainty factors influence his decisions & fear of the unknown
  • Gender fear of difference especially the feminine traits of Gethenians which he sees as negative traits
  • Non believer in androgynous Gethenians, can’t comprehend their reactions or faces that he sees as not human but like animals – cat, seal, an otter
  • Often is impatient, quick to despair and then to rejoice
  • Lacks insight to understand and seen as an alien in Gethen is not to be trusted
  • Has trouble communicating and understanding the intricate subtleties of ‘shifgrethor’
  • Unaware of other people’s motives especially Estraven
  • Does not have the qualities of the Handdara in regards to intuition or ‘nusuth’
  • Struggles with too much yang in order to create harmony at the beginning of the novel
  • Effectively in terms of dualism, Genly is the ‘right hand’ of Estraven (Le Guin stresses that each yang contains it’s yin, each yin contains it’s yang)

Genly’s Similarities with Estraven

  • Believes in the mission to persuade the inhabitants of Gethen to join the Ekumen for the purpose of expanding trade and interplanetary alliance
  • Even though Genly has been on Gethen for 2 years he does not give up trying to carry out his mission
  • This is similar to Estraven in his continued mission to join Gethen with the Ekumen as he believes in the benefits of uniting his planet with other worlds even if it means exile
  • Genly is loyal, honourable and idealistic like Estraven
  • They both have sacrificed a lot for their ambitions but see the big picture of helping humanity
  • Both are in exile, Genly from his planet and Estraven from his home of Estre
  • On the Gobrin Ice they both pull together for survival
  • On the Gobrin Ice Genly transforms and understands the significance of the yin and yang in Estraven and the importance of harmony as a whole person
  • Therefore Genly finally accepts Estraven as an androgynous person not as male/female but as one
  • The relationship of Genly with Estraven is described by Le Guin as ‘profound love’ and one that changes Genly

Therem Harth Rem Ir Estraven

Estraven’s Differences from Genly

  • Estraven is from the Domain of Estre in Kerm land, a southern end of Karhide on the planet Gethen (age not sure)
  • Prime Minister of Karhide at the start of the novel
  • Different physical characteristics – stocky, dark, with a layer of fat to protect against the cold, black eyes and sleek hair
  • He is an androgyne, neither male nor female but both, as are all Gethenians
  • Typical androgyne goes into kemmer
  • Had a son Sorve to his brother Arek and swore a ‘vow of faithfulness’ to Arek
  • He had a kemmering with Ashe and they had 2 sons
  • His personal life has been steeped in profound and tumultuous human emotions, involving love and death, which feed his soul
  • He is honest, quick minded, wise, versatile and adaptable, courageous, creative in responding to new situations, a shrewd politician, powerful, aggressive when needed & constantly pushing forward
  • He has a strength of character and diplomacy by preventing Karhide and Orgoreyn from going to war over the Sinnoth Valley dispute
  • Has highly trained skills of the Handdara which makes him respond intuitively doing no more or no less than what is required
  • His spiritualism is an important part of his character
  • He praises ‘darkness’ when it comes and it’s counterpart ‘light’
  • He is not moved by personal desire, interest or advantage and acts spontaneously in accordance with his true nature as the quality of the Handdara teaches
  • He uses his feminine intuition as a good quality and has perfected the balance of yin and yang in his harmonious actions which demonstrates that both male and female characteristics are necessary for survival
  • Effectively Estraven is the ‘left hand’ of Genly and without Estraven, Genly would not have been able to undertake his transformation of character that leads him to a deeper understanding of Gethenians and himself
  • Estraven is willing to sacrifice his life to achieve the success of the mission and the good of the whole world

Estraven’s Similarities with Genly

  • Believes in Genly’s mission to persuade the inhabitants of Gethen to join the Ekumen for the purpose of expanding trade and interplanetary alliance
  • Estraven continues his belief in the mission to join Gethen with the Ekumen as he believes in the benefits of uniting his planet with other worlds even if it means his exile
  • Both are in exile, Genly from his planet and Estraven from his home of Estre
  • Estraven is loyal, honourable and idealistic like Genly
  • They both have sacrificed a lot for their ambitions but see the big picture of helping humanity
  • On the Gobrin Ice they both pull together for survival
  • Accepts Genly as different, but it is the likeness, the wholeness that he understands and the importance of harmony
  • The relationship of Estraven with Genly is described by Le Guin as ‘profound love’ and one that embodies Genly’s physical as well as spiritual journey to greater self knowledge and understanding


Fear and Hysteria Quotes in Year of Wonders Explained

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Students studying Year 12 Mainstream English in AOS1: Unit 4: Reading and Comparing Texts will look carefully at many themes in both texts The Crucible a play by Arthur Miller and Year of Wonders a novel by Geraldine Brooks.  To help students with relevant evidence in the form of quotes for writing analytical essays on Year of Wonders in relation to the theme of ‘fear’, see important quotes explained for you below along with Geraldine Brooks author’s purpose.

Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders focuses on the lives of the villagers in the plague-stricken town of Eyam in 1665.  As this close-knit community suffers the effects of isolation arising from their rector’s decision to quarantine the town, many of the villagers are overcome by fear and ignorance.  As fear spreads, conditions become worse for the villagers.  However, some villagers do find the strength to deal with their fear and ignorance and try to come to terms with their devastating ordeal.

Brooks reveals that it is the fear of God’s punishment that corrupts the townspeople – as they scapegoat and resort to barbarity to alleviate God’s anger and thus rid themselves of the Plague. Brooks argues that it is religion’s flimsy support that leaves individuals susceptible to superstition and thus causes their own demise.

Fear and Hysteria Quotes in Year of Wonders Explained

“Do not joke sir, for on the turnpike north of London, I encountered an angry mob, brandishing hoes and pitchforks, denying entry to their village inn to any who were travelling from London” (Robert young man from London dining with the Bradfords p.60-61).

The plague of the novel is based upon the Great Plague of 1665 where 20% of the population in London perished.  Eyam was not immune to the contagion carried by fleas that infected people by bites, carried also by rats and in Eyam’s case a bolt of cloth infected.  Out of a village of 350 people 260 died in Eyam by 1666.  Brooks highlights and criticises the wealthy families who were driven by self-interest during the Plague.  She explores the ramifications of ‘noblesse oblige’ that privilege should offer support and leadership to poorer people living under the elite.  In the Bradford’s case they refuse to accept they have any duty to offer support to the villagers and cast off their servants with little care for the fact they have nowhere to go and leave Eyam during the Plague quarantine.

“These times, they do make monsters of us all…” (Jon Millstone the Sexton p. 141)

Brooks depicts the community caught in extraordinary times and the Sexton Jon Millstone is weary of carting so many corpses and he laments to Anna that he is irritated to be called to the Maston house when Mr Maston isn’t dead yet.  In this context the comment suggests that in times of crisis people may act disrespectfully and immorally towards each other because of fear and hysteria.

“My cowardice shamed me” (Anna p.182).

In order to help Merry Wickford hold onto her family mine Elinor and Anna go down the mine facing the greatest fear left to Anna.  During this feat down the mine, Anna struggles with the idea of the feminine that has always restricted her talents and led her to doubt her strength.  However, typically under Elinor’s guidance she overcomes her fear and succeeds in extracting the minerals by this dangerous fire-setting method.  Brooks illustrates the pit as a metaphor for the crisis engulfing the village.  Despite the terrible fear Anna’s courage is rewarded and there is renewed hope for the future for Merry Wickford.  Brooks also provides Anna and Elinor the opportunity to step outside their circumscribed roles and act with unprecedented autonomy.

Mompellion raised his voice to a roar “Oh, yes, the Devil has been here this night!  But not in Anys Gowdie!  Fools!  Ignorant wretches!  Anys Gowdie fought you with the only weapon she had to hand – your own ugly thoughts and evil doubting of one another!” (Mompellion p.95)

Brooks highlights the increasing paranoia and fear of the villagers desperate for a scapegoat to pin the Plague on.  Mompellion lambasts the villagers for their shameful murder of the two women who are killed.  He exposes their hysterical crimes and places the blame firmly on each of the perpetrators.  He accuses them of using “their own ugly thoughts and evil doubting of one another”.  (For this same reason, Anys sarcastically confirms their accusations and admits her “guilt”, born of their own self – doubts: “Yes I have lain with the Devil and he is might and cold as ice to the touch” (p.93).  In fact Mompellion is so indignant that he also challenges them to “gird yourselves, and pray that God does not exact from you the price that this day’s deeds deserve” (p.94).

“She witched my husband into lying with her” (Urith Gordon p.92)

As marginalized females, who symbolically and literally live on the fringes of society, Mem and Anys become convenient targets of the Puritans in the attempt to expunge their fear and horror of the Plague.  The villagers accuse Anys of their sins.  Brooks suggests that Urith, deceitfully, seeks to displace the blame for her husband’s adultery through such accusations and Anna is unable to curb “the frenzy”.

“But it was John Gordon’s fear that led him upon the queerest path” (Anna p.218)

The Puritans see the plague as God’s punishment.  They whip themselves because they believe that they have sinned.  John Gordon’s response is typical of the flagellants who see the Plague as a scourge of God.  He stops eating and subjects his body to cruel punishment, whipping himself with ”plaited leather”.  Defined as a ”solitary” and ”difficult soul”, John Gordon shows the terrible consequences that can occur during such a crisis when people begin to doubt each other.  Through his self punishment, he hoped to purge himself of infection and “allay God’s wrath” (Elinor p.221).

Some other useful Quotes about fear and hysteria for evidence in analytical essays:

  1. “There had been fear here, since the very beginning, but where it had been veiled, now it had become naked. Those of us who were left feared each other and the hidden contagion we each might carry.  People scurried, as stealthy as mice, trying to go and come without meeting another soul” (Anna p.217).
  2. “We greeted our Maying with a mixture of hope and fear; the hope, I suppose, that comes naturally into the human heart and at the end of any hard winter; the fear that the gentler weather would bring with it an increase in disease” (Anna p.216).
  3. “Fear was working strange changes in all of us corroding our ability for clear thought” (Anna p. 227).
  4. “Loneliness, shunning and fear. Fear will be your only faithful companion” (Mompellion p.105)
  5. “Fear took each of us differently” (Anna p.218).
  6. “We were all like wounded animals, our hurts so raw and our fear so great that we would lash out at anyone” (Anna p.243).
  7. “Some slaked their dread in drink and their loneliness in wanton caresses” (Anna p.218).

Fear and Mass Hysteria in The Crucible and Arthur Miller’s Views on the Play

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Students studying Year 12 Mainstream English in AOS1: Unit 4: Reading and Comparing Texts will look carefully at many themes in both texts The Crucible a play by Arthur Miller and Year of Wonders a novel by Geraldine Brooks.

An important theme is that of fear and mass hysteria which leads to extreme acts in the play as the human inclination to ascribe blame for pain and suffering to others and then destroy the supposedly guilty party surfaces. In Salem the witch trials are a clear example of mass hysteria, with residents engulfed in a frenzy of accusations.

Briefly What is Causing Fear in The Crucible?

  • In The Crucible Abigail and the group of girls spark fear in the town after being accused of engaging in sacrilegious activities while playing in the forest
  • The people in Salem are convinced that the Devil has arrived and must be driven from his conspirators
  • What begins with a handful of girls dancing in the forest manifests within eight days into a society whose feverish desire to rid itself of an unseen evil allows the suspending of human decency
  • Unfortunately fear leads to a rapidly growing series of accusations against various members of the community
  • Innocent people are labelled witches and forced to confess or suffer death

What does Miller Believe about the Spread of Fear?

  • Miller presents the witch hunt then as a consequence of the hysterical fear that grips citizens when faced with social and religious upheaval
  • Miller seeks not only to explore the evolution of mass hysteria but additionally to delve into what causes individuals to abandon personal loyalties in such times
  • Even justice and reason are sacrificed and religion, which should provide a moral and ethical blueprint, is used to fuel the emerging fear and hysteria
  • The theocratic society in Salem and the power of the state is under threat as individuals begin to question entrenched conservative, Puritan religious values
  • Miller explains this as a paradox as individuals seek greater freedom they become a threat to the religious and political status quo

Arthur Miller was interviewed about why he wrote The Crucible and his thoughts about fear, hysteria and the threat of the Devil in Salem.  See Arthur Miller’s views:

Fear Motivates People to Behave Unscrupulously in The Crucible

As Miller comments (on page 17 of The Crucible in his notes before Act One), that “Old scores could be settled on a plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord”.

  • Personal fears instigate some characters to cry witch
  • Reverend Parris fears losing his job provokes him to cry witch and if Abigail is exposed as the fraud she is he will be punished for supporting an illegitimate court procedure
  • Parris also fears that the rebellion in Andover about the hangings will occur similarly in Salem
  • Abigail uses fear of consorting with the Devil in her motives of vengeance against Elizabeth Proctor to accuse her of witchcraft
  • The group of girls do what Abigail says for fear of getting caught so deflecting blame away from themselves is their only option
  • The Putnams use fear and the hysteria of the accusations for self interest in acquiring land from those about to hang
  • Deputy Governor Danforth uses the fear as a reason for his agenda to protect his reputation, the court and the theocracy it serves

Understanding Characters in Texts Years 11/12 English

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Year 11/12 students studying Mainstream English texts in AOS1: Reading and Creating Texts and Reading and Comparing Texts, need to look carefully at the characters in their texts to be able to write an analytical interpretation for their SACs and the final English exam.

Understanding Characters in Texts

Characters generate the action of narratives /plays / films so they engage us as readers / viewers by their roles in the stories and we often become emotionally engaged by their fortunes and misfortunes, their aspirations and challenges.  If we understand the characters we come a long way to understanding the themes and values presented in the text and how the author constructs meaning.

What Do We Need to Know About Characters?

To build an understanding of characters it is a good idea to create a list of information about them that includes:

  1. Their name and age that spans the narrative
  2. If they are a protagonist (main character) or minor character
  3. Where they live or if they move around in the narrative
  4. If there is a description of what they look like (will be able to see a physical appearance if in a play or film)
  5. Their main personal qualities, attitudes and values, decisions and choices made, life experiences (which may change as the narrative develops)
  6. Relationships with other characters and interactions with others
  7. Key allies and enemies
  8. Key events in the narrative that affect their lives ie. crisis points or resolution

How Do Characters Respond at Crisis Points in the Narrative or Change as Events Unfold?

Characters can be tested at crisis and turning points in the narrative and are forced to make choices and decisions, which in turn reveal their true priorities and aspirations.  Difficult choices and decisions that characters make in narrative texts are closely linked to ideas and values.

Like real people characters are not static but develop and adapt sometimes changing dramatically.  Important changes should be noted such as a shift in the way a character thinks or interacts with another, a transformation of the way they think of themselves and a change in their own beliefs and values.

The Importance of Narrative Viewpoint

The narrative viewpoint determines what we know about the characters and how we as readers relate to them.  Narrative viewpoint perspectives are:

  1. First Person Narrative Voice = Where a character uses the first person ‘I’ gives an inside account of events but limits the reader’s knowledge to one person’s perspective.
  2. Third Person Narrative Voice = Where the voice is located outside the text and uses ‘he, she, they’ to give a more detached and objective account. In effect the reader is put in a position of observer rather than participant.  May be an ‘omniscient’ or all knowing narrator which allows the reader to know the thoughts and feelings of as many characters as the author wishes.  This narrator encourages the reader to form their own judgements and see complexities in issues.

Characters in Non-Fiction

In a non-fiction narrative the author portrays real people rather than imaginary ones and so they have to stick to the real facts and may be even have photographs of the characters in the text.  However, the author’s own attitudes towards the characters can affect the way the reader interprets those characters.  In effect readers are subjected to the feelings of the author about the character and sometimes these feelings can be extremely subjective.

Characters in Drama and Films

Characters portrayed by actors in plays and films are obviously conveyed visually and by sound as much as the words in their dialogue.  In this way other elements help to make viewers understand a character either by visual elements such as costumes, sets, facial expressions and body movements.  Conveying meaning can be shown through directors stage directions, mise en scene, camera angles, sound tracks, music as well as the actors own style and how they represent the character they are portraying.

Identifying Themes, Ideas and Values of Characters

It is really important to identify the main themes, ideas and values of characters so you can respond to the perspective of the author through their characters and also explore the ‘big picture’ the text is trying to explore.

  1. What is a Theme?

Themes are more general terms that the author is either showing clearly or inferring by implication repeated throughout the whole text.  These general themes can be perspectives explored in texts such as:

growing up gender issues
love family
injustice prejudice
war power
  1. What is an Idea?

An idea reflects on part of the theme and is the author’s message about the topic.  Think of an idea as part of the big picture that the text uses as its conduit to explore the main theme.  You can discuss different ideas and characters highlighting through their difference how people are and see the world.  Ideas can reflect the discoveries, emotions, conflicts, and experiences of a story’s main character.  They are commentaries about the way the world works and or how the author views human existence.

  1. What is a Value?

These make up our belief system.  Values are beliefs that guide our behaviour. Values define what we accept as good, right or acceptable.  We may have our own personally thought-out and constructed values but many of the values we accept are socially or culturally constructed.  Characters embody values through their thoughts, feelings and attitudes, beliefs and actions.  Values that are generally held by society:

honesty loyalty
patriotism tolerance
integrity justice
equality respect for others
compassion responsibility

See also my earlier Post on Construction of Meaning in Texts for AOS1

Construction of Meaning in Invictus the Movie

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Invictus the movie directed by Clint Eastwood is studied in Year 12 Mainstream English in AOS1, Unit 4, Reading and Comparing Texts.

In order to compare Invictus a movie with the text Ransom which is a novel, students should look carefully at construction of meaning that is relevant to a movie.  In order to answer the criteria for comparative texts in a SAC and in the final English exam, it is important to incorporate construction of meaning in your essays.

Why is Construction of Meaning in Invictus the Movie Important?

When reading/viewing texts to construct meaning, readers/viewers increase their understanding by recognising the craftsmanship of the writing/movie and the choices the authors/directors made to portray the topic in a certain way.

In order to achieve a high mark for essays students need to interpret the texts analytically which includes understanding the implications of:

  • how the author constructs meaning and structure in a text and
  • then explain what the author’s purpose or agenda was in writing the text

If you just write about the narrative only you are NOT answering the key criteria of AOS1

See my earlier Post on Construction of Meaning and the Key Criteria of AOS1 for further details

What is Construction of Meaning?


The details below are a brief summary only of the construction of meaning to help students develop the material further in class:

  1. Type of Text = Movie / historical / drama / biographical / political / sports. Released in 2009.  Director Clint Eastwood.  Writer Anthony Peckham.
  2. Setting = South Africa between 1994-1995. 1st year of Nelson Mandela’s Presidency.  Post apartheid South Africa, start of Rainbow Nation.
  3. Title of movie = Symbol for ‘unconquered’ taken from Henley poem that inspired Mandela.
  4. Narrative Structure = The film progresses in a linear fashion with an introduction / middle / end with the history behind Nelson Mandela / his Presidency / Rugby World Cup / conclusion winning the World Cup.
  5. Historical Context = Mandela is released after 27 years in prison and his 1st year of Presidency is the narrative as he uses the Rugby World Cup in 1995 to unify South Africans.
  6. Themes = leadership / sacrifice / reconciliation / forgiveness / identity / family / politics / challenges / responsibility / racial tension / apartheid / inspiration / change / sport / revenge / documentary story / destiny
  7. Symbolism/Imagery = Flag of Springboks / Rainbow Nation Flag / South African Flag / Mandela’s clothes / Springboks jersey, cap and colours / Nkosi Sikelel / South African division between black and white / poor and wealthy / rugby catalyst for change
  8. Characters & Relationships = Mandela & his staff / Mandela & his family especially Zindzi / Mandela & the South African nation / Pienaar & his rugby team / his family / Black & white body guards / South Afrikaners & black South Africans
  9. Director’s Big Picture Values = Clint Eastwood was inspired by the book ‘Playing the Enemy’ by Carlin about the inspiration of Mandela to use a rugby game to help unify a nation. He also appreciated the element of ‘the underdog’ in sport to win and the support of sportsmanship.
  10. Music & Soundtracks = 9000 Days of Destiny / Nkosi Sikelel i Africa adds to position the viewers and the dramatic plot.
  11. Narrative Voice = Dialogue of characters – words are powerful tools / social and political interactions / media is a narrative device to create a back story on Mandela / Newspaper headlines / News casts on TV / TV broadcaster Johan de Villiers comments establishes the international community view on apartheid.
  12. Film Techniques = Discuss in detail these techniques with your English teacher
    1. Mise en scene
    2. Setting
    3. Lighting
    4. Acting style
    5. Costumes
    6. Cinematography
      1. Camera distance / close ups / medium shots / medium long shots / long shots
      2. Camera angle / straight on / low angle / high angle / camera movement / pans
    7. Sound
      1. Dialogue and sound of action
      2. Music soundtrack
      3. Voice overs
      4. Dream sequence of action in character’s mind


The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga Quotes Linked to Themes

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For VCE Year 12 Mainstream English students, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga is a text from List 1 of VCAA texts.

You will be required to write an analytical interpretation of The White Tiger in AOS1: Unit 3 Reading and Creating Texts.

Look carefully at these quotes below and the themes that interlink in each chapter of The White Tiger.  You can use these quotes related to the themes in your analytical essay text response.

Themes in The White Tiger

Themes overlap = education / self made man / self improvement / morality / Indian society / family / social breakdown / self interest / corruption / power dynamics / contrasts

Chapter 1            1st Night

Theme                  education / self improvement

“I am self taught entrepreneur”

Theme                  self made man / education / self improvement

“The story of my upbringing is the story of how a half-baked fellow is produced. But pay attention, Mr. Premier! Fully formed fellows, after twelve years of school and three years of university, wear nice suits, join companies, and take orders from other men for the rest of their lives. Entrepreneurs are made from half-baked clay.”

Theme                  self made man / education / morality / Indian society

“You, young man, are an intelligent, honest, vivacious fellow in this crowd of thugs and idiots. In any jungle, what is the rarest of animals—the creature that comes along only once in a generation?” “The white tiger”.  “That’s what you are, in this jungle.”

Theme                  education / morality / Indian society

“They remain slaves because they can’t see what is beautiful in this world.”

Chapter 2            2nd Night

Theme                  family

“You know how close they are to their families in the Darkness”

Theme                  self made man / education / self improvement

“That’s the one good thing I’ll say for myself, I’ve always been a big believer in education – especially my own”.

“Many of my best ideas are, in fact, borrowed from my ex-employer or his brother or someone else whom I was driving about. (I confess, Mr. Premier: I am not an original thinker—but I am an original listener.)

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“Stories of rottenness and corruption are always the best stories, aren’t they?”


Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“See, this country, in its days of greatness, when it was the richest nation on earth, was like a zoo… the day the British left—the cages had been let open; and the animals had attacked and ripped each other apart and jungle law replaced zoo law.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“To sum up—in the old days there were one thousand castes and destinies in India. These days, there are just two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies. And only two destinies: eat—or get eaten up.”

Theme                  self made man/ education

“I absorbed everything—that’s the amazing thing about entrepreneurs. We are like sponges—we absorb and grow.”

Theme                  morality / Indian society

“The Devil, according to the Muslims, was once God’s sidekick, until he fought with Him and went freelance.”

Theme                  power dynamics

“Is there any hatred on earth like the hatred of the number two servant for the number one?”

Chapter 3            4th Morning

Theme                  corruption / self interest / power dynamics

“Now the Great Socialist had been the boss of the Darkness for a decade at the time of this election.  … he was dirty from the start, but he had just fooled everyone and only now did we see him for what he was”.

Chapter 4            4th Night

Theme                  contrasts

“The capital of our glorious nation … The showcase of the republic.  That’s what they call it … the truth is that Delhi is a crazy city”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“We’re driving past Ghandi, after just having given a bribe to a minister. It’s a fucking joke ,isn’t it.”

“The judges? … they are in the racket too.  They take their bribe, they ignore the discrepancies in the case.  And life goes on”.

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / family

“We were like two separate cities—inside and outside the dark egg. I knew I was in the right city. But my father, if he were alive, would be sitting on that pavement… So I was in some way out of the car too, even while I was driving it.”

Theme                  family

“You’re part of the family Balram”.

Chapter 5            5th Night

Theme                  power dynamics

“Do we loath our masters behind a facade of love – or do we love them behind a facade of loathing?”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“The greatest thing to come out of this country… is the Rooster Coop. The roosters in the coop smell the blood from above. They see the organs of their brothers…They know they’re next. Yet they do not rebel. They do not try to get out of the coop. The very same thing is done with human beings in this country.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“… But where my genuine concern for him ended and where my self-interest began, I could not tell: no servant can ever tell what the motives of his heart are… We are made mysteries to ourselves by the Rooster Coop we are locked in.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“The Rooster Coop was doing its work. Servants have to keep other servants from becoming innovators, experimenters, or entrepreneurs. Yes, that’s the sad truth, Mr. Premier. The coop is guarded from the inside.”

Theme                  family

“   the pride and glory of our nation, the repository of all our love and sacrifice … the Indian family, is the reason we are trapped and tied to the coop”.

“…without family, a man is nothing”.

Chapter 6            6th Morning

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“The rest of today’s narrative will deal mainly with the sorrowful tale of how I was corrupted from a sweet, innocent village fool into a citified fellow full of debauchery, depravity and wickedness, All these changes happened in me because they happened first in Mr. Ashok.”

Chapter 7            6th Night

Theme                  contrasts

“The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor – they never overlap, do they?”

“Enough to feed a whole family, or one rich man”

Theme                  education / self improvement

“The moment you recognise what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave”.

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“The city knew my secret… Even the road—the smooth, polished road of Delhi that is the finest in all of India—knew my secret.”

Theme                  education / morality / Indian society

“You were looking for the key for years/ But the door was always open!”

Theme                  morality / Indian society

“Let animals live like animals; let humans live like humans. That’s my whole philosophy in a sentence.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“We went from bank to bank, and the weight of the red bag grew. I felt its pressure increase on my lower back—as if I were taking Mr. Ashok and his bag not in a car, but the way my father would take a customer and his bag—in a rickshaw.”

Chapter 8            7th Night

Theme                  self made man/ education

“Now, despite my amazing success story, I don’t want to lose contact with the place where I got my real education in life. The road and the pavement.”

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“The city has its share of thugs and politicians. It’s just that here, if a man wants to be good, he can be good. In Laxmangarh, he doesn’t even have this choice. This is the difference between this India and that India; the choice.”

“… the worst kind of man … nothing in his mind but taking money from everyone who came to his office.  Scum”.

Theme                  social breakdown / self interest / corruption

“There is no end to things in India, Mr. Jiabao, as Mr. Ashok so correctly used to say. You’ll have to keep paying and paying the fuckers. But I complain about the police the way the rich complain; not the way the poor complain.”

Theme                  self made man / social breakdown / self interest / corruption / morality / Indian society

“Yet…even if they throw me in jail…I’ll say it was all worthwhile to know, just for a day, just for an hours, just for a minute, what it means not to be a servant. I think I am ready to have children, Mr. Premier.”

Theme                  self made man / education

“People in this country are still waiting for the war of their freedom to come from somewhere else…That will never happen. Every man must make his own Benaras. The book of your revolution sits in the pit of your belly, young Indian. Crap it out, and read.”

Analysis of Quotes I for Isobel for AOS1 Reading & Creating Texts

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For VCE Year 12 Students studying Mainstream English, I for Isobel is from List 1 of the VCAA texts.

You will need to look carefully at these quotes below that can be used as evidence in your analytical essay interpretation for AOS1 Unit 3: Reading & Creating Texts.

Chapter & Page #



1 – p.1 “No birthday presents this year!” May Callaghan.  The significance of this statement in the second line of chapter 1 is to show from the very beginning of the novel how dominant May Callaghan is and the extent of her vindictive power and control she wields over Isobel.  The abuse of Isobel is integral to understanding her struggle as an alienated artist figure.
1 – p.7 “Birthdays, injustices, parents all vanished”. Isobel as narrator.  When Isobel reads Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes she reads to affect an imaginary escape from reality.  The promise of pleasure offered by books counters the unhappiness and deprivations of family life.  The world in her books does not contain personal hardship.
1 – p.15 “It was a present for a real girl”. Isobel as narrator.  Mr Mansell gives Isobel a brooch for her birthday even though she receives no presents from her own parents.  The present represents something a normal, caring parent would give to a child.  At the time Isobel does not completely grasp how different her mother is from other more nurturing mothers.  The emphasis on “real girl” suggests that Isobel does not fit the social requirements of the era due to her parent’s abuse.
1 – p.17 “In one way or another, she would be wearing it all her life”. Isobel as narrator.  Two interpretations of the brooch’s significance.  Firstly, May Callaghan’s reaction to Mr Mansell’s gift of the brooch becomes for Isobel an important awakening.  Even after May slaps Isobel she does not take the brooch which Isobel realises that there are things her mother cannot do.  The brooch is the first step towards her possession of self and power a tiny triumph over her mother.  Secondly, that the brooch is a metaphor for the effects of May Callaghan’s abuse on Isobel’s life.  The long term effects of the abuse are detrimental to Isobel’s whole life.
2 – p.20 “Half the time you don’t know what you’re talking about”. May Callaghan.  Her insistent scepticism about Isobel telling the truth leads Isobel to doubt her own mind.  The constant doubt in turn affects Isobel’s tone of voice.  The complex relationship between what is said and the way it is said is central to many of Isobel’s challenges and dilemmas.  Isobel is constantly trying to decipher what is said in order to grasp the underlying truth.
2 – p.23 “There was no living without the moments”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel’s vivid imagination serves as a powerful survival tool throughout her traumatic childhood and subsequent tumultuous transition into adulthood.  The imaginary friends in Isobel’s ‘moments’ and the books she reads sustains her each night in bed from the reality of the restrictions and conflicts of her daily life.  In fact she is more at ease with her imaginary friends than the flesh and blood people she meets.
3 – p.34 “… the state of grace”. Isobel as narrator.  The ‘state of grace’ is an inner, psychological state that Isobel experiences throughout this chapter.  She aspires to a condition of saint-like tranquillity refusing to be upset by any emotional disturbance and anger of her mother.  May Callaghan wants Isobel to scream but keeping silent is more torture for May as she is powerless.  What ends the ‘state of grace’ is the ripping of the hand-me-down dress.  This is a low point in Isobel’s well being.
3 – p.35 “Then she saw that her mother’s anger was a live animal tormenting her”. Isobel as narrator.  The emotional abuse and power of May Callaghan’s rage was an inner psychotic mental illness that took joy in abusing Isobel.  When Isobel sat silently not reacting her mother is deprived the thrill of the power over Isobel.
4 – p.83 “Isobel, as she listened, tried on each life to see how it would suit her”. Isobel as narrator.  After May Callaghan’s death and Isobel moves into Mrs Bower’s boarding house where she feels happy at her independence which might lead to greater self acceptance of herself.  She even considers taking on a new name and personality, someone poised serene and quietly self-confident traits obviously in direct contrast to her real personality.  At this point Isobel searches for a sense of identity by aspiring to be like other people.  However, as she thinks about other people’s lives in terms of her own uncertain identity she finds that their lives do not suit her at all.
4 – p.120 “Isobel had an idiot in the attic”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel now perceives herself to have a kind of split personality to have an idiot in the attic or in type of mad reality in her mind.  This suggests that Isobel is at the mercy of irrational forces within herself that threaten her.  Isobel resists the instincts of the idiot and helps Madge move out of the boarding house.
5 – p.165 “And for those who hear nothing, the dead in life, her mother and Diana – you could shed a tear for them too”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel realises that the person in her life most like Diana is her own mother, since they both resemble corpses in their rejection of life’s changes.  In contrast Isobel is determined to experience change and in leaving Mrs Bowers boarding house she starts on her journey of self discovery and is somewhat reconciled with the ghosts of her past.
5 – p.166 “… she had discovered a small authentic piece of her lost self”. Isobel as narrator.  Isobel’s memory of the sewing class is painful but she follows her own wishes rediscovering her pleasure in embroidery by discovering a piece of her lost self.  Isobel needs to revisit the key settings of her childhood to discover the real truth about who she is.
5 – p.177 “Artesian tears rising from the centre of the earth”. Isobel as narrator.  Once Isobel realises that the anxiety her parent’s caused her over the cat poem were totally false the cruelty of their deception strikes her emotions and her tears are able to finally flow.
5 – p.177 “I am a writer”. Isobel as narrator.  Once her tears are released Isobel gains a new sense of her own identity as a writer.  For Isobel an important point about writing is that compared to relationships or love, is that writing can be performed in solitude and the writing is her true self.  In order to make the self belief and identity real and tangible she buys an exercise book from the corner store to start her writing.
5 – p.181 “I met someone”. Isobel as narrator.  The last sentence of the novel signals an end to the internal tensions and divisions that characterise Isobel’s personality for so much of the novel.  The person she has ‘met’ is her own self and her joyful feeling is due to at last attaining a sense of unity and purpose.