Category: Unit 3 English

Introductions and conclusions – the finishing touches of your essay

The introduction is your first opportunity to hook your reader. It’s where you establish your voice, your style, your view. 

An introduction that merely sums up the essay in advance will do very little to make any assessor want to read on. You want to engage them from the beginning and suggest to them that you’ve got an interpretation that is unique, interesting, and worth reading.

The conclusion is where you get to consider what ideas and issues your essay has resolved. It looks back to the intro, considers the discussion throughout the body paragraphs, and comes to a conclusion on the topic being addressed. It’s your opportunity it to leave your readers with a new understanding about the topic and the text. 

I find that looking at the function of these two bookend paragraphs helps to understand what you could include in them. It’s important to remember that they are two separate paragraphs that have two distinctly different functions. So let’s have a look at what these are.
The introduction

This opening paragraph establishes what your interpretation is and conveys what you will be exploring in the body of your essay. In essence, it is setting up what you hope to discover about the topic. It also:

  • contextualises the text by showing an an awareness of the world in which the text was created.
  • conveys a sense of what the text/director is trying to achieve.

Here is an example of an opening of an I ntro for the voyeurism topic:

When Hitchcock released his film ‘Rear Window’ in 1954, America was still reeling from the government’s investigation into communist activities that left many in Hollywood blacklisted and unable to work. The film’s focus on the ethics of voyeurism directly relates to the concerns of a nation who had discovered that one’s private life could very easily become public, and in such a way as to provide entertainment for millions around the nation by being widely televised. There is little doubt that the film presents voyeurism as both entertaining and dangerous, but whether one should be condemned and the other celebrated is up for question.”

The conclusion 

On the other hand, the conclusion finishes your essay by stating what you have discovered across the three paragraphs. It can’t just be a rehash of the intro, because the intervening three paragraphs have explored many ideas and issues. It doesn’t simply sum it up – the assessor doesn’t need you to tell him or her way they have just read. Instead, it reinforces your findings and concludes what your interpretation has lead you to realise. It can be useful to consider these things:

  • Where to from here? What lasting relevance does the film, in relation to what you’ve explored, leave behind.
  • What enduring message does Hitchcock leave us with?

Here is an example of a conclusion:

“There is little doubt that Hitchcock presents voyeurism as innocent fun while at the same time revealing its potential to be life-threatening. AT the time, the fear of the American way of life disappearing seemed all the justification needed to look into the private lives of others, and with the growing love of television (of watching others through a box-like window) the blurring of private and public was quickly disappearing. In the intervening 60 years, our love of looking in to the private lives of others has not diminished; in fact, with the advent of ‘reality TV’ it has drastically increased. And it’s all for entertainment. However, we perhaps shouldn’t forget that our love of looking can come with sinister consequences, highlighted by the outcomes that faced the characters in ‘Rear Window’. Hitchcock warns that we must be prepared to accept the consequences of destroying the line between public and private spaces. We must be prepared to lose our metaphorical freedoms, reflected by Jeff’s physical loss of freedom, if we insist on intruding into the lives of others. By Hitchcock remaining ambivalent about whether we should celebrate or condemn voyeurism, he is warning his audience of the difficulty of identifying it as being either purely entertaining or dangerous. It’s both.”


Psst…a secret!

Breaking down essay topics is hard. It requires you to follow trails in your mind until you have found a clear sense of direction.

Eventually, you will have followed so many paths, and teased out little ideas here and there, that you have a light bulb moment, your mind clears and you know what you will write.


Tom Kenny

But, as with anything in English, achieving this moment takes practice. And hard work.

The more you practice doing this, the easier it gets. As this cat can tell you:

SCRIBENDO DISCES SCRIBERE is latin for “By writing you will learn to write.”

I didn’t get a photo of the board, but I hope to make a copy of the notes that you took in class. Then I’ll pop that here.

Prompts for Whose Reality?

On the website VCE Study Guides I found a list of the different types of prompts you could expect to encounter.

What you should be working towards is getting together a generic essay that you can shape to fit any of the prompt types. Look at the prompts within the groups and work out the approaches you could take for the different types.

Experiencing reality

  1. Our reality is always changing.
  2. Reality is never fact but fiction.
  3. We are defined by our reality.
  4. Our perspective is always subjective.
  5. Both reality and imagination help our understanding of the world and ourselves.
  6. The reality we create is unique to our own experiences.
  7. Reality is subject to our  interpretations.
  8. Reality can be both subjective and objective.
  9. It is through a significant event that our reality changes.
  10. Our realities are formed by our opinions and beliefs.
  11. Reality forces us to act in extraordinary ways.
  12. When we face the truth, we need to be ready to face pain and suffering.
  13. People have varied reactions and responses to things because of their different realities.
  14. Reality is what we want to see, not what we have to see.
  15. Reality is based on the people and experiences we encounter.

Our reality in relation to others

  1. Our reality is never our own, but  influenced by others.
  2. No two realities are identical.
  3. Sometimes we lose ourselves in the reality of others.
  4. We cannot escape the world that others create.
  5. Accepting the reality of others is easier than accepting our own.
  6. Conflict occurs as a result of different realities.
  7. Some people manipulate others by distorting reality.
  8. One event can produce multiple  realities.
  9. Only through multiple perspectives can we understand reality.
  10. Some events influence our reality more significantly than others.
  11. Our reality can impact others positively or negatively.
  12. The realities of two people are drastically different.


  1. What we chose to remember and forget shapes our reality.
  2. Our memories distort our current reality.
  3. Memories help us maintain a grip on reality.
  4. Mixing memory and reality helps  reality.
  5. Some people suppress memories in order to cope with reality.
  6. Memories are the source of our  illusions.
  7. We can change our dreams to become our reality.
  8. Our memories teach us how to deal with  reality.

Dealing with reality

  1. We create illusions in order to cope with reality.
  2. Illusions are safe while realities are cruel.
  3. Truth is always more powerful than imagination.
  4. Distorting reality can result in both good and bad.
  5. What separates truth from fiction is our perspective.
  6. Illusions have the power to conceal reality but can never erase it.
  7. In the end, we are always forced to face reality.
  8. Illusions are created both intentionally and unintentionally.
  9. Reality and illusion are never dichotomous.
  10. Escaping into illusion is weak while facing reality is courageous.
  11. Illusions are created as a result of our disappointments and failures.
  12. Fantasies are how we create a world of success and happiness.
  13. Without illusion, reality is too difficult to confront.
  14. We cannot be forced to confront the truth; we must be willing to.
  15. What is real and fiction is irrelevant, merely what we want to believe.

Starting point for Language Analysis SAC

As the title suggests, the aim of the next SAC is to analyse language. It sounds quite simple. And it is.

Whenever we read or hear language, we are instantly analysing its meaning and how it affects us. There are few of us who have never been moved by a stirring speech in a movie and I’m sure we’ve all found ourselves nodding our heads in agreement when listening to someone persuasive.

So, what is happening when language is successful in making us feel strongly about the ideas and arguments it presents? That’s what this SAC is all about. How is the language working?

Ms Gordon’s lecture last week covered the following aspects of Language Analysis. If you want to look at the original Powerpoint check out Haileybury online.

Analysis is examining …

1.                    WHY those language choices have been made

2.                    HOW they work to position the target audience to accept the specific point of view being presented

3.                    DESCRIBING the context of the language use

Assessors are always looking to see what conclusions the student is drawing about the text and how they are supporting their claims.


—To encourage … them to …

—To invite … them to …

—To position … them to …

—To manipulate …

—To coerce …

—To elicit … feelings of …

—To consider, ponder, feel


HOW does the language work :

By appealing to …

—By linking …

—By establishing a contrast between …

—By making reference to …

By criticising …


Analysis is NOT:

—Paraphrasing (summary)

—Explaining what is said / shown

—Explaining what a word means

—Explaining what an author means

—The your point of view

—Your opinion on whether the author is right/wrong





To analyse effectively … you …

… need to step back …

… look at the whole piece …

… to work out how language is being used …


… then zoom in on specific examples …


George Orwell’s 5 Rules for Effective Writing

George Orwell

In our society, the study of language and literature is the domain of poets, novelists, and literary critics. Language is considered a decorative art, fit for entertainment and culture, but practically useless in comparison to the concrete sciences. Just look at the value of a college degree in English versus one in computer science or accounting.

But is this an accurate assessment of value?

Language is the primary conductor between your brain and the minds of your audience. Ineffective language weakens and distorts ideas.

If you want to be understood, if you want your ideas to spread, using effective language must be your top priority.In the modern world of business and politics this is hardly ever the case. In many instances, imprecise language is used intentionally to avoid taking a position and offending various demographics. No wonder it’s hard to make sense of anything!

This is hardly a recent problem, and as George Orwell wrote in his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, the condition is curable. By following Orwell’s 5 rules for effective writing, you’ll distinguish yourself from competitors and clearly communicate your ideas.

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such as toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles’ heel, swan song, and hotbed come to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic.

For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.

2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.

Long words don’t make you sound intelligent unless used skillfully. In the wrong situation they’ll have the opposite effect, making you sound pretentious and arrogant. They’re also less likely to be understood and more awkward to read.

When Hemingway was criticized by Faulkner for his limited word choice he replied:

Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree (Ezra Pound). Accordingly, any words that don’t contribute meaning to a passage dilute its power.  Less is always better. Always.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

This one is frequently broken, probably because many people don’t know the difference between active and passive verbs. I didn’t myself until a few months ago. Here is an example that makes it easy to understand:

The man was bitten by the dog. (passive)The dog bit the man. (active).The active is better because it’s shorter and more forceful.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

This is tricky because much of the writing published on the internet is highly technical. If possible, remain accessible to the average reader. If your audience is highly specialized this is a judgment call. You don’t want to drag on with unnecessary explanation, but try to help people understand what you’re writing about. You want your ideas to spread right?

6. Break any of these rules sooner than saying anything outright barbarous.

This bonus rule is a catch all. Above all, be sure to use common sense.These rules are easy to memorize but difficult to apply. Although I’ve edited this piece a dozen times I’m sure it contains imperfections. But trust me, it’s much better now than it was initially. The key is effort. Good writing matters, probably more than you think.

I hope you find these rules helpful, and through their application we’re able to understand each other a little bit better. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to read Orwell’s original essay. It contains many helpful examples and is, of course, a pleasure to read.

You won’t get better than this…

29 May 2009

“Streetcar Named Desire” – Study Guide

Article by Rachel Kafka


Tennessee Williams

Perceptions of reality are central to A Streetcar Named Desire. A number of characters in the play choose and shape their own realities. The play explores how people engage in fantasy in order to cope with the often harsh or unpleasant reality of a situation. In A Streetcar Named Desire, realities are re-created so that characters can cope with the confusion that surrounds them. Each character’s sense of reality is personal, leading to conflict within the play when it is questioned and challenged. What reality actually is becomes a matter of perception and of who has the power to shape it. The presentation of multiple points of view on a character or situation is central to this play.

Williams’ plays often focus on women using their sexuality to survive in a brutal, male-dominated world. In A Streetcar Named Desire both Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski are forced to survive in a changing world, but choose alternate paths determined by their gender, social status and personal histories. Blanche’s sister and Stanley’s wife, Stella, adapts (for the most part) to a changing world. She enjoys the chaos and noise of New Orleans’ French Quarter and takes pleasure in her husband’s animal masculinity. Blanche, however, struggles to relinquish her connection to old Southern ways and to move into the future. Her experience of the past shapes her perception of her present situation.

Williams also explores mental illness as a condition which changes one’s perception of reality and how others see you. In the wider context of the play, Blanche’s mental illness raises questions about who has the power to construct reality, and indeed whether all realities are merely constructions. In the play’s dramatic climax, where a delusional Blanche is led away to a mental hospital, we must question whether it is ultimately the physically and emotionally powerful who decide on the reality others will accept.

The clash between fantasy and reality
The lines between fantasy and reality are repeatedly blurred throughout A Streetcar Named Desire. When fantasy becomes real for Blanche, Williams offers a clash between different versions of reality. Some of these may be seen as mere illusion, despite their being experienced as real and authentic by a character. Blanche is so distraught by the loss of the family home, Belle Reve, and the events of her more recent past, that she creates an alternative reality mired in her past triumphs. Her inability to tell truth from illusion intensifies throughout the course of the drama and any shred of sanity is destroyed at the play’s climax, when she is raped by her brutish brother-in-law, Stanley.

From the play’s opening, Blanche is presented as an outsider, emerging from another reality, described in the stage notes as ‘incongruous to this setting’ (p.117). Blanche has created a fragile and easily damaged reality, at odds with the often harsh world of the French Quarter of New Orleans in which Stella and Stanley reside. Blanche is initially aware that she creates ‘magic’ (p.204), rejecting realism for the creations of the ‘imagination’ (p.212). Blanche tells her suitor Mitch that she replaces the truth with ‘what ought to be truth’ (p.204). When her ‘pack of lies’ (p.186) is exposed by Stanley we witness Blanche’s rapid decline as she awaits a fantasy ‘cruise of the Caribbean’ (p.209) with Mr Shep Huntleigh.

Blanche substitutes the reality of her situation (poverty, unemployment and sex scandals) with the way she wants her life to be. She doesn’t tell Stella the real reason she ‘happened to get away from the school before the spring term ended’ (p.122), omitting from discussion the truth behind her recent expulsion from Laurel. Blanche’s fear of ageing and losing her attractiveness to the opposite sex is a manifestation of her fear of death. She already seems to be dying as her world and everything she knows collapses around her. Instead of facing her fears, Blanche simply hangs a paper lantern to diffuse the cruel glare of truth. When she sings ‘Paper Moon’ Blanche reinforces her belief that fantasy can become reality: ‘it wouldn’t be make-believe/ If you believed in me!'(p.186). The fantasy is shattered in Scene Seven when Stanley crudely reveals the truth about Blanche’s past in Laurel and her sexual promiscuities, including the seventeen-year-old boy ‘she’d gotten mixed up with’ (p.188).

Blanche’s belief in the power of fantasy to reshape reality is part of her attempt at rebirth. She tries to reclaim her beauty and purity. This extends beyond the evocation of her name or her wearing white clothing. Blanche fully embraces an alternative narrative for her life in which she is still ‘A cultivated woman, a woman of intelligence and breeding’ (p.211). This fantasy world reaches its peak in Scene Ten when, in a state of drunkenness and dressed in a ‘somewhat soiled and crumpled white satin evening gown and a pair of scuffed silver slippers’ (p.208), Blanche addresses ‘a group of spectral admirers’ (p.208). Her inability to tell reality from illusion has intensified – she no longer simply adapts reality to suit her needs, she has created a new reality altogether. The scene culminates in her rape, which symbolises the final violation of her fragile world of ‘lies and conceit and tricks’ (p.212) by the brute future Stanley represents.

To some extent, Blanche does recognise the tenuous nature of her grip on reality. She recognises that Stanley possesses the strength she and her sister require ‘now that we’ve lost Belle Reve and have to go on without Belle Reve to protect us’ (p.141). Despite this, Blanche implores Stella not to ‘hang back with the brutes‘ (p.164). She wants her sister to rejoin her in a now obsolete past, imploring ‘You can’t have forgotten that much of our bringing up, Stella’ (p.163).

The past cannot be escaped and repeatedly encroaches on Blanche’s fantasy life. The polka music of the ‘Varsouviana’ (p.199) is echoed at key moments throughout the play, transporting Blanche to the moment her young husband, Allan Grey, died. Blanche continues to be tormented by guilt, knowing ‘This beautiful and talented young man’ (p.190) killed himself because of her impulsive condemnation of his homosexuality. This revelation also helps to explain her dalliances with young men in Laurel, and her attraction to the young man ‘collecting for the Evening Star’ (p.172) in Scene Five, whom she warns ‘I’ve got to be good and keep my hands off children’ (p.174).

Illusion as refuge and salvation
Blanche is unable to let go of the past and constructs an illusory identity or alternative reality as a refuge from her fear of an uncertain future. This illusion can also be seen as a refuge from the consequences of her sexual desires. The play repeatedly suggests that sexual desire and death are connected, that sex is a way of staving off decay and death. Blanche’s journey on the streetcars named Desire and Cemeteries is symbolic of the connection between sexual desire and loss, isolation and death. As Blanche arrives in New Orleans, searching for her own ‘Elysian fields’ (in Greek mythology, the home of the blessed after death), she is ‘dressed in a white suit’ (p.117), which displays an illusion of her innocence and purity. This purity has long been forgotten, symbolised by the ‘red satin robe’ (p.135) she wears in Scene Two. Blanche later concedes to Stella that she has ridden on ‘that rattle-trap street-car that bangs through the Quarter’ (p.162), that she has known ‘brutal desire’ (p.162) and that it is this desire which has brought her to New Orleans.

While readers/audiences may condemn Blanche for her lack of truthfulness, Williams highlights the usefulness and necessity of an imaginary world. Blanche is an escapist. Despite the inevitable destructive consequences of her dream-life, Blanche is able to cope on a day-to-day basis by imagining her life is something it isn’t. Her excessive consumption of alcohol helps her to deny this reality. For Blanche, sexual desire threatens the life of purity and refinement she pursues, so she pretends she doesn’t feel it. She takes refuge in a courtship with Mitch, believing his respectable love can save her. He seems more concerned, however, with his mother, fearing that ‘I’ll be alone when she goes’ (p.144). Blanche shares these fears. Later, after Stanley informs him of Blanche’s past, Mitch becomes frustrated by her illusion that ‘she had never been more than kissed by a fellow’ (p.186) and decides he doesn’t want to marry her anymore. He cruelly tells her, ‘You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother’ (p.207). He is determined, instead, to take ‘What I been missing all summer’ (p.207). Blanche’s last chance to retreat into her past innocence vanishes with Mitch’s sexual demands.

Blanche tells Mitch, as the Mexican woman passes selling ‘Flores para los muertos‘ (flowers for the dead), that sexual desire is the opposite of death (p.206). Blanche talks to Stanley about the ‘epic fornications’ (p.140) of her forefathers which resulted in the loss of Belle Reve. After this loss, Blanche’s own sexual desire led to her expulsion from Laurel when the management of the second-class hotel Flamingo ‘requested her to turn in her room-key – for permanently!’ (p.187). It remains ambiguous throughout the play what the actual nature of Blanche’s sexual activities at the hotel were – whether they were simply meaningless affairs with local soldiers or actual prostitution. What we do know is that Blanche felt alive when she ‘slipped outside to answer their calls’ (p.206). Despite a fear of death, Blanche is initially unwilling to explain her sexual past, hiding behind the mask of ‘prim and proper’ (p.171) lady for Mitch and others. This is a more pleasant identity to present to others than the ‘Dame Blanche’ (p.187) Stanley reveals her to be.

Blanche is also haunted by the guilt she feels over her husband, Allan’s, suicide when she discovered his homosexuality. She recounts how she, Allan and his lover drove out to Moon Lake Casino, got drunk and pretended that she hadn’t just walked in on them in bed. But this illusion could not be maintained. Love is a ‘blinding light’ (p.182) and its loss plunged her into a darkness from which she has been unable to escape:

And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that’s stronger than this – kitchen – candle.… (p.184).

Trying to return to a time of lightness and young love, Blanche’s fear of her own mortality is apparent in her obsession with her age and looks. She takes refuge in the dark, not permitting Mitch to look at her in the ‘merciless glare’ (p.120), frightened of what truth the light may reveal. As she explains, ‘The dark is comforting to me’ (p.203). Blanche associates the ‘blinding light’ with her love of Allan and the past. She also takes refuge in her looks because she realises that being attractive to men is a way for her to survive in this world. She admits to Stella, ‘I never was hard or self-sufficient enough’ (p.169) to get by alone. Her fear of the future is clear in the following passage:

People don’t see you – men don’t – don’t even admit your existence unless they are making love to you. And you’ve got to have your existence admitted by someone, if you’re going to have someone’s protection (p.169).

Blanche realises that she must maintain the illusion of beauty and youth if she wants to belong but realises the difficulty of this: ‘I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick. It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I – I’m fading now!’ (p.169).

Blanche’s rape reinforces the darker side of human sexuality. Stanley has been challenging her façade since her arrival and it seems inevitable that they will clash in the most violent way. As he notes, ‘We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning!’ (p.215). Prior to the rape there has been a presentiment of the collapse of her illusory sanctuary. Blanche shatters the mirror she has been using in her drunken fantasy at the beginning of Scene Ten. It is a symbolic moment in which she is appalled by her reflection and smashes it.

Creating an illusory life in order to deal with reality is also true for Stella, particularly in the aftermath of her sister’s rape. Her eventual decision to believe Stanley is innocent encourages audiences to question the extent to which we construct our own reality through the choices we make. Do we often choose the reality that is easiest for us to live with, knowing, as Eunice Hubbel does, that ‘No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep on going’ (p.217)?

For Stella it is the ‘things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark – that sort of make everything else seem – unimportant’ (p.162). This ‘brutal’ sexual desire, as Blanche calls it (p.162), gives Stella’s life with Stanley meaning and it is to this that she returns when ‘his fingers find the opening of her blouse’ in the play’s final scene (p.226). This desire makes the reality she has chosen in the dilapidated apartment bearable and permits her to believe what she quite possibly knows is a lie. At the play’s end Blanche returns to her sphere of affectation and Stella and Stanley resume their relationship, only this time their love is also an illusion – a reality formed by Stanley’s lies and Stella’s choices. Despite exiling Blanche, frustrated by her inability to adjust to reality as he sees it, Stanley has invited a world of fantasy into his apartment, only this time it is he and Stella who are culpable in its creation.

The Age of Competing Realities

In trying to find some inspiration for you I came across the following blog entry.

It is a fascinating piece of writing.

I really like the structure of this piece and how clearly it deals with the two realities that face America at the moment.

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to link these realities to Streetcar, particularly the character of Stanley – he lives in a world of opportunity, yet he also lives in a world of constraint. These are his competing realities. And what’s the tragedy? Maybe that he doesn’t realise the catch 22 that is his life.

Competing Realities