Guide to answering English comparative questions for Leaving Cert

Guide to answering English comparative questions for Leaving Cert

There are three sections to the comparative studyCultural ContextTheme/Issue and Literary Genre.

Cultural Context

This is the setting and society of the text. You are expected to discuss aspects of Cultural Context such as: Family Structures, Political Structures, Gender Roles, Race & Religion, Love & Marriage. Few useful questions to ask yourself:

  • What is valued; money or status?
  • Who has power, why?
  • How does society view those who resist social expectations?
  • How do members of the community relate?
  • Is work viewed as necessary drudgery or a worth while pursuit?
  • Are material possessions important?
  • Attitudes towards the wealthy; Admiration? Envy? Respect?
  • Attitudes towards the poor; Scorn? Compassion? Pity?
  • Is love valued as love or as a necessary prelude to marriage?
  • Is marriage seen as a social advancement?

Theme/Issue

Choose a theme that is relevant across all three texts. In my case, my themes are Change, Oppression, Hope, and Wealth. In your answer you will discuss one of the following:

  • Aspects of the theme (+ a tail end question, e.g. how they affected you). E.g. How oppression thrives, how it is defeated, and the effects oppression can have on a character.
  • OR trace the development of the theme through the texts.

Literary Genre

Essentially Literary Genre is about how the story is told. Discuss things such as:

  • Symbols
  • Music
  • Camera angles
  • Narrative voice (Who is telling the story?)
  • Written chronologically?
  • Twists in the plot
  • Characterisation

How To Answer

Every answer you do will essentially be the same, except manipulated the tiniest bit for relevance to your answer. For this reason, practice is essential, and mind maps are fantastic. Timing is an issue you may have to practice, making answers as
clear and concise as possible. Quality, not quantity.

For clarity and relevance I will be basing this layout on the 2011 question:

“A reader’s view of a theme or issue can be either changed or reinforced through interaction with texts.” Compare the extent to which your understanding of the theme or issue was changed or reinforced through your interaction with the texts on your course.

Introduction

Name the texts you’ve studied, give them abbreviations. Explain the definition of theme/issue. Explain how you will structure your answer.

The theme of a text is essentially the fundamental message and backbone of the text. The texts I have studied are Purple Hibiscus by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie, “PH”, Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron, “CoM”, and Sive, by John Keane, “S”. There are a range of themes which are strikingly relevant across each of the texts such as _______. However, the theme which stood out to me due to its dynamic principles and varying interaction levels was wealth. My understanding of wealth was changed frequently throughout my interaction with the texts, and I learned several valuable lessons in this regard. In this essay, I intend to discuss how wealth can influence a character, the means in which the wealthy express their wealth, the stark inequality in terms of distribution of wealth, the evil connotations wealth often holds, and how my interactions with the text influenced my view of these aspects of the theme.

Main Body

As a rule of thumb, you should aim for three points in the main body. Three long paragraphs. Within each paragraph you should be discussing all texts at the same time. (See keywords to use at the bottom of this post). Topic sentences are extremely important.

My view of wealth was greatly influenced when I witnessed the startling differences in affluence between characters. In “P.H”, I was stunned similarly to Kambili when she visits her cousins who live in poverty stricken conditions. At home, she had become accustomed to “persian rugs on stretches of gleaming marble”, “large compound walls” and “frangipani trees”. It is no surprise, therefore, that she is shocked by the poverty her cousins live in. *Insert relevant quotes about her shock and the conditions.* Immediately shattered my previous view of wealth; that of an equal and fair aspect in everyday life. “P.H” was mirrored by “C.o.M” in this regard. Similarly to Kambili and Amaka, Theo and Nigel are both cousins. Despite this fact, they too differ substantially in terms of wealth. Due to his cynical nature, Theo, in contrast to Kambili, is not quite as taken aback. Theo’s poverty is highlighted when *key moment*. From my previous interaction with “PH”, I expected a similar response to that of Kambili’s when he witnessed the *quote about Nigel’s wealth*.

Theo’s calm and slightly mocking approach aroused my interest and changed my view of wealth once again. Not only did it reinforce my outrage at the infuriating inequality of wealth, it also conveyed to me that there are more important things than wealth in one’s life. Thankfully “S” does not display such inequality. Perhaps not preferable, there exists a shared poverty among the community, with the exception of Seán Dóta. This is revealed when *key moment*.

As you can see I try to stick to the question as much as possible, and also refer to the three texts, weaving them into one discussion.

Conclusion

Length is not important in a conclusion. It is important that you give a brief summary of what you did, as this is the last part the corrector reads before marking you. Short and sweet is the trick.

In conclusion, I can honestly say that my view and understanding of wealth was significantly influenced by my interaction with each of my texts, especially when viewed side by side. I understand now that despite the influence wealth can have on people, there are still people with the integrity and self respect to overcome this. *Reiterate points*

Tips

  • Topic Sentences are essential.
  • Use keywords for comparisons: Similarly, in contrast to, this is mirrored, reflected, reinforced, despite, alternatively.
  • The number of comparisons is irrelevant. It is about the quality of your points and your relevance to the question.
  • Be consistent: If you answer on three texts in the first point, do so in all three.
  • Refer to the question.

Cultural Context example – 2009 paper

“The main characters in texts are often in conflict with the world or culture they inhabit” In the light of the above statement, compare how the main characters interact with the cultural contexts of the texts you have studied.

Introduction

The cultural context of a text is the world and society of the texts. The texts I have studied are Purple Hibiscus by Chimamande Ngozi Adichie, “PH”, Children of Men by Alfonso Cuaron, “CoM”, and Sive, by John Keane, “S”. It is fascinating to me that, despite the vast contrast in cultural contexts between 1960′s Nigeria, 1950′s Ireland and 2037′s London, there are still some striking similarities in the characters’ interactions with their respective cultural contexts. There are several aspects of cultural context that are relevant across all of the texts, including wealth, gender roles, family structures, political structures, and love. In this essay, I intend to compare how the characters of my studied texts interact with their cultural context, in particular the issues of wealth, gender roles, and family structures.

Main Body

I was intrigued by the family structures in each of the texts, especially when viewed in relation to one another. “PH” presents us with a nuclear family – Eugene, Beatrice, Jaja and Kambili. “S” and “C.o.M” contrast this strongly – Sive having a fractured
family unit with her grandmother, uncle and aunt, while Theo, with no immediate family, forms a family unit with Miriam and Kee. One would assume that Kambili is the advantaged one in this respect, but this is not the case. It is revealed that
her family, although appearing close from the outside, is in fact distant than the two makeshift families. This distance is conveyed in the key moment when *key moment*. Kambili is a ware of this distance, and acts accordingly. When she visits
her cousins, who have a happier and closer family unit, she is very eager to stay. She was very much in conflict with her own cultural context. Adversely, Sive is very close to her grandmother. Their relationship is similar to that between Theo and Kee;
Theo and Nana are protectors of the vulnerable – Sive and Kee. Her closeness with her grandmother is formed through their shared hatred of Mena, conveyed in *key moment*. It can be argued that Nana and Theo, due to their conflict with their lack of family, have resolved to protect those they care for, and form family units.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I believe the interactions of the characters were to a large extent very similar and predictable. The cultural contexts imposed on them was not ideal, and they were often in conflict with the limitations of their cultures. *Short summary of points*

More tips

  • Structure: Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you’ve said.
  • Use topic sentences.
  • N.B. Try and figure out the coding system the corrector will use. In this case it would have been “C” (Compare) and “I” (interact). In each paragraph, the corrector will look for these, and you will be penalised if your answer is not relevant to these codes.
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...

You need to login or register to bookmark/favorite this content.

Ask a question
Did this raise a question for you? Get involved in the discussion.