Looking at the feedback from my mock exams honestly surprises me, as these are all things I have done wrong in the past and so improvement should have been noticeable by now. The main thing I am still struggling with is specifying my ideas and formulating clear, structured sentences. My writing still seems too broad and all over the place, whereas short sentences with one definite idea per sentence would be ideal. Having received this feedback in the past, definitely made me want to realize it in the mock exams, but I feel the pressure of the examination situation made me too stressed out and not think clearly. I need to organize my thoughts before I write and not get ahead of myself. I feel like I have the right idea for the analysis part but due to the fact that I clearly don’t plan it enough beforehand, it makes the essay unstructured and not concrete enough.
For the text extract “Devisions upon Greek Ground” I missed (or rather ignored) the dates above each paragraph. This would have definitely helped me in understanding the work better but as already mentioned, I was much too unfocused and not concentrated enough. For the poem, a similar situation occurred as the rush of writing down all my ideas made me create logical mistakes that can’t make sense in any way. I have read through each extract once more along with my essays and gone through the most common mistakes. I hope to practice and correct these for next time.
The area I scored most in, although still not amazing, is criterion D, language, but definitely leaves room for improvement. In order to improve this for the final exams in May, I feel I must re-read the works studied in school and look at pieces of great literature daily.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe showed readers an intense insight into African clan cultures. Whilst strongly focusing on the African clan traditions resembling some kind of religious acts, christianity is contrarily introduced through missionaries called the “White men”. This opposing storyline and the clashes and conflicts arising between the two populations really reflects upon current world issues, raising global significance towards conflicts such as discrimination, violence, misunderstanding and inequality.
Personally, I really enjoyed reading the book, as it made me reflect upon my own interactions with the African culture. The character Okonkwo interested me most, as this dichotomy between Okonkwo and his father was weaved in throughout the entire novel and in my opinion really reflected onto Okonkwo’s actions in the clan. This almost toxic dislike towards his father ended up making him resemble his father more than anyone else. Throughout the beginning, Okonkwo tried so hard to be the opposite of what his father, which eventually, towards the end of the novel, made him repeat his fathers mistakes and gain enemies just the same way.
Furthermore, I found it really interesting how Achebe used gender to distinguish whether a person was strong, determined and possessed with leadership skills in the group or rather just a silent follower and not anyone of great significance. Strong characters were referred to as men, whereas people who made even the slightest mistake were immediately distinguished as women. This makes one question why women are necessarily used as a comparison in this case. Are the societal standards really this discriminating, making women less valued than men? Looking at such conflicts and regulations for gender equality nowadays, an example like this would make such a statement or use of words within the novel fairly controversial or even unacceptable.
Lastly, the hardest part for me whilst reading Things Fall Apart was really getting into the characters and feeling sympathy for the consequences of their actions. Okonkwo as well as other characters who were punished, to me, all seemed to have at least deserved it a little bit and so picking out the “hero” or the “favorite main character” was not possible.
The most important thing I learnt after reading my feedback on the Paper 1 Essay was that my writing is still too descriptive and does not dive deep enough into an analysis. Although I do touch upon correct themes during characterization, analyzing imagery, sound effects, structure and diction more throughly to develop a good exploration of the characters in connection to how the author portrays these elements whilst conveying an effect on readers, will help to improve my writing.
Some simple mistakes were also made regarding the formatting of words (such as working on a smoother integration of quotations in certain paragraphs) and layout of the essay itself, but can be improved easily through practice. The highest score I gained was for criterion C, which shows me that my understanding of the literal meaning was fairly present and had improved since the previous time.
I think for the future what I need to work most on, is practicing a more structured analysis of the texts. A more focused thesis statement in the introduction and a clear topic sentence for each start of the new paragraph will hopefully help me to improve this aspect and stay focused throughout the essay.
To me, personally, the novel “Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut took some time to get used to. The first couple of pages I was extremely confused and could not really follow the timeline, until eventually I had adjusted to Vonnegut’s chosen form of writing: basing his novel on time-jumps. No more than two pages at a time focus on ongoings in one time era and so following the main character Billy’s thoughts, feelings and experiences was struggling.
I however eventually really got to enjoy this form of writing due to an increase in tension and an enhancement in shown character development. Stopping the plot in a certain time-jump abruptly and only continuing further a paragraph or even a few pages later, kept my interest and tension ongoing and strong. It led me to explore the meaning of these interruptions continuously and understand the author’s intention through the meaning of said time-jumps. Also, watching Billy’s character development over time was extremely crucial in understanding his behaviours and actions in the present. If the whole storyline would have just been based in the Dresden war, I don’t think any reader could’ve understood what was happening. The way time-jumps and the form of writing aligned, therefore made it seem like they were symmetric poetry – watching Billy unpack his past, immediately made sense in the present, as well as the future. What made it seem so connected and natural, was that throughout the different stages, there was always one thing that was similar or the same in other stages of the story. For example, the three words “So it goes..” were always used when describing that someone had died, no matter what time era the storyline was in. This type of repetition allowed everything to come together and make it seem like it had only been one time era all along. It was essentially what made Billy from being stuck in time, transform into infinite possibilities and being unstuck in time.
Overall, though, I can definitely say that I am impressed with how Vonnegut managed to make his content fully match up with his style of writing. He was able to not only capture the key difference time-jumps can make in learning as much as possible about one narration, but also allow readers to fantasize and possibly identify themselves within all levels of the story.
After having read “The Color Purple” and Keith Byerman’s take on what Alice Walker meant within in her novel, I noticed a few questionable details. Although Byerman did point out some interesting assumptions his whole response felt more like a summary of the book rather than a personal commentary. None of his analysis really went into any depth and all quotes were sort of generalized to match his thoughts. Most times, I personally did not agree to what he was saying especially when comparing the Afro-American and African setting to European fairytales. I thought that part was definitely an understatement of what horrible conditions society’s minority had to go through at the time and did not align with what I feel like Walker was trying to portray to the reader at all.
Reading George Orwell’s essays has given me a completely new insight as to why literature endures. Personally, I have never seen an author write in such an ‘unbiased’ way, always conveying issues and stories with the utmost neutral background, while still strongly portraying his perspective and making sure the reader knows his thoughts exactly on a certain topic. It comes to show that the correct use of language skills and diction make an incredible difference, as to whether or not the author is actually emotionally invested in his own words. A great example for this would have to be his essay ‘The Hanging’, giving details about the decapitation of a young man in Burma, respectfully told from Orwell’s point of view on site. There is not one word which indicates towards any direct emotion but his tone and inner voice within the passage, create sympathy amongst the audience. I believe that with this, Orwell was trying to make sure the readers had enough freedom to form their own thoughts, while at the same time still making absolutely sure they would lean towards the same sense of commiseration creating a balanced form of harmony.
These thoughts and learning outcomes were naturally achieved along with the ‘Daily Reading Journals’. They allowed me to pause and reflect every couple of sentences and think about what purpose or meaning was being revealed behind the text. We were warned in advance that when looking at sound imagery and sound effects, confusion could occur as to what words or phrases would belong in which category. Even though I definitely believe that after the received feedback I still have some progress to make, Orwell has easily made the difference more clear with a good set of examples. Without his fairly playful and bold style of writing, including several uses of sound imagery as well as sound effects, I believe it would be questionable whether or not Orwell would have achieved this memorable affect on the reader without them. It is almost as if he wanted us to solely focus on this linguistic aspect.
Whilst thinking that I had gotten a pretty good understanding of George Orwell’s personality through his own words, Geoffrey Wheatcroft finally sheds light upon Orwell’s character outside of literature. Even though he does mentions that “no other can have so enriched the language” he brings forward something I would have not expected. By saying “there were dark sides to his personality” about his friend of many years, it makes one question the reason behind his yet mysterious style of writing. Throughout all essays and short-stories I have not once recognized anything ‘dark’, as Wheatcroft mentions. Even the essays with the heaviest meaning seem to be told in the easiest and most lighthearted way, awakening a sort of urge for the reader to continue.