Advanced English Essays

BODY PARAGRAPHS (skip at own risk)

These are slightly harder, and MUCH more important. Basically, you’re expected to prove the theme you brought out in the intro by using examples from the texts. Or even more simply, just give quotes significance and meaning.

This is the ‘body’ of your essay. It’s basically the engine room of your argument. Remember that these paragraphs aren’t exercises in rhetoric or wordiness, they’re exercises in logic. Rhetoric is tested in the Creative section of the exam. Here, you are tested as to how quickly and how clearly you think, within a pre-determined paragraph structure.

There’s no point saying anything if it can’t be a) understood or b) made relevant. Because of this, there are some golden rules:

1. Make sure one sentence follows onto another. Can’t stress how important this is. If a sentence appears difficult to understand or place into context, the marker will thank whatever gods they have if they re-read the previous sentence and suddenly understand everything.
2. DO NOT NEGLECT TECHNIQUES! I had a similar problem in year 12 where I began a paragraph with the best of intentions, and then just listed the quote and the analysis, without explaining how the analysis was justified by the quote. This is unfortunately impossible without a technique in Advanced and Standard English. I’m sure it’s possible in the real world, but that’s a year away and where you stand in the real world is determined in no small way by English markers. You’re free to disagree, but you will fail to varying degrees if you neglect techniques outright. Sad but true.
3. This is what I call ‘the bridge of English marking logic’.

TEXT | Quote==========Technique=========Linkage | MEANING


^ River of Fail

To go from text to meaning (which is where I desperately hope you want to go), you’re going to have to navigate this bridge over the River of Fail. The marker will thank you, given that most people prefer to swim. And sink.

Here’s a tried-and-true paragraph structure. It comes in six parts, and is a little more complicated than what you may have seen before:

1. Thesis
2. Contextualisation
3. Quote/Evidence
4. Technique
5. Linkage
6. Reference back to question

A bit more in-depthly:

1. Thesis: What you set out to prove. Usually one sentence. This usually comes from the dominant theme or thesis you put out in your intro, and is ALWAYS in line with your position on the question (you’d be amazed how many people let that slip). Variations on your thesis are extremely good. If your thesis is, say, a Marxist reading, make one of your themes ‘the development of Marxist thought through character development’ or ‘the use of emotion in personifying Marxism’ etc. You will, of course, be restricted by the question in this regard. Make sure you mix it up, though. Five identical thesis statements heading each paragraph is not a good look.

2. Contextualisation: At what point in the story your evidence comes from (bonus points for act and scene numbers). Much easier than it sounds. Basically, you’re setting the scene for your quote, or painting a picture within which your quote is said. Try to include who it was said by, who it was said to, and where it was said (less important if said during a significant event in the text, which you should mention instead). The reason for contextualisation is the unfortunate tendency for people to make up quotes on the spot. Including the scene where you found your evidence invites the marker to check you on your honesty. It also helps enormously in ‘giving a feel’ to the general vibe of your quote, so the marker can see you’re using it appropriately and not twisting it to mean the opposite of what the author intended it to be (or at least, didn’t intend it not to be).

3. Quote: Your hard evidence. Taken straight from the text. Must be word-for-word, given the marker can check the quote if you contextualise properly, and excluding or changing one word can give a sentence opposite meaning (like ‘not’, ‘no’, or swapping ‘if’ and ‘unless’). The length can range anywhere from one word to two paragraphs. The only part of your essay (apart from techniques) that absolutely MUST be memorized.

4. Technique: What gives quotes significance and meaning with the target audience. Similes, metaphors, imagery, personification etc. Absolutely vital. Having no technique means it’s impossible to justify whatever significance you get out of your quote, which kills your linkage. Which, as you’ll come to find, kills your essay.

5. Linkage: What the significance of your quote is, and how it answers the question. I have come to believe, after much learning, tears, practice, failure, arguments, trial, error, and tutoring that a good 70-80% of marks are allocated on the quality of linkage. It is the final step on the journey from words to meaning. This is the part that takes the most practice, and can rarely be memorised word-for-word to use on exam day.

Linkage usually takes the form of: The use of (technique) makes the audience feel (significance), and this means they can identify with (your thesis). As a result, (your thesis) is an especially relevant take on (the question).

It can take several sentences to get this across if the technique is complicated, the significance is hard to explain, or your thesis and the question are awkward to slot into a single sentence. Use as many sentences as you need, because this is where your marks are coming from.

It goes without saying that the significance and your thesis have to be closely related. It also goes without saying that your technique has to be justified in giving the significance it does. The use of repetition, for instance, does not mean Hamlet is a post-colonial play. Make it logical.

Do. Not. Neglect. This. Ever! It is the difference between a 60 and an 85, or a 90 and a 98. Too much rides on your linkage for you to ignore it. Practice it. Many, many times. Then practice it some more. It’s a skill to learn, not a fact to memorise; once you get it right, it doesn’t ever go away.

Of course, there are plenty of variations on the bolded sentence. This is just something to practice with, and maybe fall back on when you get stuck.

6. Reference to question: Statement that your thesis answers the question. It was mentioned in the linkage section. I’ll show it again: As a result, (your thesis) is an especially relevant take on (the question). This is what most people mistake for linkage, and then don’t actually link. In reality, this is just the icing on the cake. Don’t ignore it, though. You don’t need to justify the link between the thesis and the question here – you did it in your first sentence.

This paragraph structure should be fail-safe. It’s exactly the one I used for every paragraph I wrote in the Advanced English HSC exam.

Practice Body Paragraph (easy)

The numbers are there to show what stage of the paragraph it’s up to
(1 for Thesis, 2 for Context, etc. – refer to the original list)

Practice question: How does your chosen text communicate the idea of belonging?
Sample text: Call Of the Horizon (Jaksic, Sydney Morning Herald, 2/08/09)
Brief synopsis: Interview of Ernie Dingo on where he wants to travel

(1) Call Of The Horizon communicates the idea of belonging as a form of attraction towards a particular destination. (2) This is evident in the subject’s dialogue with the author, when he says (3) ‘Don’t tell the Kiwis, (but) I would go back to New Zealand tomorrow.’ (4) The use of a hypothetical in ‘go back to New Zealand tomorrow.’ (5) implies his readiness to go there despite the accompanying difficulties of embarking with a day’s notice, and the aside of ‘don’t tell the Kiwis’ recognises that such a sense of a belonging to a foreign country, for an Australian, is unusual. (6) Therefore, the article manages to use these devices in order to depict belonging as a readiness to be near to or in a place.

Practice Body Paragraph 2 (harder)

Practice question: How does your chosen text communicate the idea of belonging?
Sample text: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Rowling, 2007)

(1) Rowling depicts the most obvious sense of belonging as belonging within the community; in other words, the community recognising and accepting the protagonist. However, she also shows the concept of belonging as being a necessary part of a storyline’s resolution. (2) This is shown in the immediate reaction from others after the resolution of Harry and Voldemort’s climactic duel. (3) The narration of ‘Harry was an indispensable part of the mingled outpouring of jubilation and mourning, of grief and celebration’ is depicted entirely through (4) sustained emphasis on Harry, via the adjective of indispensable, between two wildly juxtaposed states of emotion. (5) The sentence, although dominated by evocative imagery, keeps Harry’s ‘belonging’ as its focus; that is, belonging within the emotion displayed by the secondary characters and therefore ‘belonging’ as a part of the climax of the story. Rowling consequently integrates Harry into two different states of ‘belonging’: the esteem given to him by the story’s other characters despite their emotional state, and his integrated belonging into the story through the emphasis placed on him in its climax. (6) This gives a multi-layered idea of belonging within the narrative as shown by Rowling.

In this case, the significance of the quote is taken from its point in the story, which happened to be the climax. You can take the significance of the quote from anywhere, as long as you fix your linkage to reach that significance.

If you took the linkage out, this paragraph would still appear normal enough in an English essay:

(1) Rowling depicts the most obvious sense of belonging as belonging within the community; in other words, the community recognising and accepting the protagonist. (2) This is shown in the immediate reaction from others after the resolution of Harry and Voldemort’s climactic duel. (3) The narration of ‘Harry was an indispensable part of the mingled outpouring of jubilation and mourning, of grief and celebration’ is depicted entirely through (4) sustained emphasis on Harry, via the adjective of indispensable, between two wildly juxtaposed states of emotion. (6) This gives an idea of belonging within the narrative as shown by Rowling.

….which is fair enough, but the paragraph would get more of a 15/20 instead of 18 or 19, which you should be shooting for.

Why would it get a lesser mark? It leaves questions unanswered.

1. How does the technique help the reader understand the idea of belonging?
2. Just how are the states of emotion juxtaposed? Is it done through Harry's perspective? Is the description of each state of emotion different? Etc. This is a free technique/link gone begging.
3. What specific sense of belonging are we shooting for? Harry belonging among other characters, or Harry belonging within the text? Sure, we put it in the thesis statement but that doesn't mean we proved it.

Notice how these are all answered in the linkage. It’s that important. Linkage closes the deal in terms of reinforcing your thesis statement against any potential attacks. It gives the reasoning behind your interpretation, which (in truth) was all the marker was looking for in the first place.

You need to see what a Band 6 Discovery essay looks like before you can write your own. That’s why we’ve included one below. We recommend reading it carefully and breaking down what it does so successfully. How is the introduction structured? How does the student analyse evidence? And how do they bring it all together in the conclusion? Once you’re finished, apply the strategies you uncover to your own AOS: Discovery essays. We also have a detailed overview of how to write creatives in our Our Beginner’s Guide to Acing HSC English – Part 6: Writing Creatives.

Essay Question

‘An individual’s experience of discovery is determined by their context.’ To what extent is this statement reflected in your prescribed text and ONE text of your own choosing?


Band 6 Discovery Essay

The unique context of an individual is what defines their process of discovery and in so doing, shapes their perspectives on interpersonal relationships, personal identity and existential outlook. These ideas are exemplified in both Robert Gray’s poems, Diptych and The Meatworks, and Matthew Thorne’s short film, Where Do Lilacs Come From. We see in these texts that discovery can only take place when our context challenges us, whether it is a change in context or the confronting nature of situational context itself. Only then can transformation occur.

The contexts in which the interpersonal relationships of an individual take place are what fuel discoveries to occur. In Gray’s Diptych, elements of the persona’s family life are embedded throughout, in particular the ongoing tension between the persona and his father. The father’s dialogue, “Nothing whingeing. Nothing by New York Jews; / nothing by women,” provides insight into the personality and character of the father. The anaphoric repetition of the harsh, despairing “nothing” portrays the father in his limited relationship with the persona, denoting the disconnect between the two and the persona’s negative perceptions of his father as a result. However, the transformative powers of context are revealed after the character experiences the death of his father. It is only after this event that he discovers newfound feelings towards his father and reconsiders their past relationship.  His death provokes a newfound acceptance and nostalgic fondness within the persona. The accident, “my pocket knife slid / sideways and pierced my hand – and so I dug with that one / into his ashes,” is central to the persona’s final emotional discovery. The mixing of his blood and his father’s ashes symbolically unifies the two, highlighting the change in perspective that has occurred with this change in context. Therefore, it can be argued that an individual only truly discovers his feelings towards others when their relationship is challenged by a change in context. The experience of loss following the death of his father caused Gray’s persona to reflect upon their past relationship and in doing so, he discovers feelings of clarity and acceptance that replaced past feelings of resentment and hostility. In other words, contextual experience has the potential to re-determine one’s interpersonal relationships.


Similarly, Matthew Thorne’s film Where Do Lilacs Come From explores the transformative powers of context. Much like Gray’s Diptych, Thorne depicts a change in context, in particular one that challenges an individual’s personal beliefs, as a fast catalyst to self-discovery. The film follows Chris, an elderly man with Alzheimer’s disease, as he struggles with the strain his condition places on his relationship with his son, Michael. This is symbolised by the reoccurring large spaces which separate the two characters in each frame, implying their emotional disconnect. A tracking shot of Chris chasing his younger self down a long, brightly lit corridor symbolises his desire to rediscover his lost memories. The responder is able to gauge from this Chris’ perspective on his condition. Senility is a burden on his identity. However, at the end of the film Michael discovers he is able to reconnect with his father by showing him home movies. The movies, displayed as hand-held camera footage with a muted colour palette evoke the same sentiment of nostalgic fondness that changed the persona’s perspective in Gray’s in Diptych. The restorative experience of bonding is shown by a return to the metaphor of distance as the space between two characters is breached and the pair embrace. Not only does this show the characters re-discovering their love for each other, but the discovery they are still able to bond is a revelation within itself, one that allows Chris to view his Alzheimer’s in a new context. He is able to challenge and transform his personal beliefs of his condition, coming to terms with his ageing as he rediscovers hope. Therefore, not only can a physical change in context shed new light on interpersonal relationships, but the way in which an individual contextualises their unique experience within their own mental framework can transform one’s very identity.


However, a change in context is not the only determining factor of personal discovery. One’s contextual environment alone has the immense ability to provide incentive for internal transformation through the process of discovery. In Gray’s poem, The Meatworks, the persona’s existential contemplation of life and death is entirely due to his experience working at a slaughterhouse. The self-discovery commences at the start of the poem, as the persona reflects upon the other workers and their disregard for the lives of the animals. The compounded sensorial imagery of the passage, “Most of them worked around the slaughtering / out the back / where concrete gutters / crawled off / heavily, and the hot, fertiliser-thick, sticky stench of blood / sent flies mad,” establishes and sustains an oppressive sense of death. The use of alliteration in ‘s’ and ‘h’ creates a cacophony of emphatic sounds which combine to create a disturbing synesthetic response, illustrating the violent nature of death. It is this horrid setting that facilitates the persona’s inner discovery of existential turmoil, and with it a renewed appreciation for life in all its forms. The symbolic gesture of hand washing in, “I’d scoop up the shell grit and scrub my hands, treading about through the icy ledges of the surf”, illustrates the persona’s desire for purification following his change in perspective. The use of personification in the poem’s last line further conveys the persona’s changing belief regarding the lives of animals: “the ways those pigs stuck there, clinging to each other”. The persona discovers that in death, animals and humans are the same. This revelatory, existential experience perfectly exemplifies how the process of discovery is shaped by an individual’s contextual environment. It shows the true transformational power of context to shape an individual’s outlook and their very understanding of life.


In conclusion, it is highly evident that an individual’s context, whether it be their physical environment, or the experience of a change in context, determines their process of discovery. Robert Gray’s poems Diptych and The Meatworks, and Matthew Thorne’s short film Where Do Lilacs Come From, all convey these ideas to a great extent. In these works responders come to understand how the relationship between context and individual experience define the discoveries which impact interpersonal relationships, personal identity and one’s very perceptions of existence. Only when our context challenges us can we discover, and it is the impact of our discoveries that define who we are and our unique, individual experience.


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