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Leaving Cert English Poetry FAQ

Leaving Cert English Comparative - Literary Genre - Circle of Friends, The Plough and The Stars and The King's Speech #625Lab

Write an essay on one or more of the aspects of literary genre which you found most interesting in the texts you have studied on your comparative course.

This is a good essay from a current Leaving Cert student. It's published under our #625Lab section that reviews the strengths and weaknesses of students' essays with comments and corrections.

If you are looking for model H1 essays and notes on Literary Genre, here you go:
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Literary genre is a fascinating area of study. (Be careful with saccharine enthusiasm.) It allows me to observe the craft of each of these authors as they use a variety of techniques to bring each text to life for me. The three texts I have studied as part of the comparative course are “Circle of Friends”, a novel by Maeve Binchy, “The Plough And The Stars”, a play written by Sean O’Casey, and “The King’s Speech” directed by Tom Hooper. The aspects of literary genre which I found most appealing are narration, dialogue and imagery. (It's always good to mention the 3-4 main things you are going to talk about in your essay at the start). 

Leaving Cert English Comparative Literary Genre
Donegal. Image credit: Chrissy
For me there is no doubt that one of the most effective ways of creating a good story is through an omniscient narrator. The three texts all come from different genres. "Circle of Friends" is a novel and is narrated in the third person. This allows Binchy to give us  present the story from the point of view of several different characters, although the story it is narrated primarily from Benny’s viewpoint. The author in this way is omniscient, which means that she is all knowing and all seeing. (Wouldn't it make more sense to include the definition in the opening sentence of this paragraph?) An example of this is the way in which, the author and I know that Nan and Jack are seeing each other, but no one else does. This omniscient narration allows me to have a greater overall knowledge than any one character in the novel. (It's best to avoid entire paragraphs on just one text. Aim to always be comparing texts. Note how for the entire duration of the essay the author writes entire paragraphs per single text. While the points he makes are excellent, it is still an example of what not to do. Why? Because there are no direct comparisons. Direct comparisons = marks. Otherwise, forget it.)

"The King's Speech" as is a film, is from and thus a completely different genre, yet in effect the camera is also an omniscient narrator. I am able to observe people at different times in the world of film. (Redundant.) The director, Tom Hooper, uses a variety of techniques to focus our attention on different details at certain times. In the opening sequence of the film I am able to see the Duke as he climbs up the steps. A reverse shot shows the microphone that awaits him. The sparse musical theme on the strings (it was piano. If you can't remember, leave it out) adds to the tension I feel as I empathise with the Duke. The size of the microphone in the shots that are edited together here emphasises the terror it inspires in the Duke. Therefore, this omniscient narration allows me to know how Bertie is feeling and helps me to sympathise with him. (This is all wonderful, but there are no comparisons.)

Leaving Cert Circle of Friends, The Plough and The Stars
Donegal. Image credit: Chrissy
In “The Plough And The Stars” I am part of an audience watching events as they unfold. There is no one narrator in the play but I, like in the film, get to witness everything that occurs. I see and hear the way Mrs Gogan and Fluther speak about Nora and Jack before they enter on stage. We see Peter close the door to the tenement in order to annoy The Covey when he returns with his looted goods. Therefore we are in a position of greater knowledge than any one individual in the play and therefore there is an element of omniscience. (Is it "we" or "I"? Choose one and stick with it. Same goes for tense (which is consistently the present in this essay - and that's good).)

The use of dialogue is vital in all three texts. In "Circle of Friends" I read many conversations between various characters. This adds immediacy to the novel and makes us feel as though we are there. Binchy makes the characters more real through this inclusion of actual dialogues. Through the use of dialogue we can also find out how the characters are feeling. This can also be seen when Jack tells Benny that Nan is pregnant and that he must marry her as he has to do the right thing which society expects. Through this conversation I learn about Jack’s feelings and his inner thoughts.

In “The Plough And The Stars” dialogue is essential when establishing plot, theme and character. Through the use of dialogue, I find out about the “meeting” and I hear the argument between The Covey and Uncle Peter about the nature of nationalism and socialism. Layers of meaning lie within such conversations, which is what O’Casey intended as he wanted his play to be thought-provoking. It’s clear that dialogue is essential in the creation of a good story. Without dialogue the texts could neither keep their audience interested nor create plausible characters. 

Dialogue plays a similar role in "The King's Speech" as it does in “The Plough And The Stars” as it highlights the major themes. Putting thematic or moral messages into the mouths of their characters, as I see with the socialist opinions of The Covey, allows playwrights and screenwriters to talk to us. For example, Lionel Logue expresses the viewpoint of the film that personal experiences are more crucially important when dealing with emotional or mental states than any letters after a name outlining expressing academic qualifications. He tells Bertie “All I know I know by experience, and that war was some experience. My plaque says L. Logue Speech Defects. No Dr... no letters after my name”. The point that experience trumps academic theory is therefore succinctly made.

The "The King's Speech" and “The Plough And The Stars” both use dialogue to enhance our experience of both mediums. It is interesting to compare how singing is used in both texts to convey theme or mood. The love song that Jack sings to Nora communicates better than any words the hopes of the young couple for their relationship and future. The humming exercises that Bertie does at Lionel’s request serve a different purpose as they enable Bertie to articulate that which he cannot speak. The cursing and swearing also allow him to express his inner monologue and reminds us of the outbursts which are so common in “The Plough And The Stars”. (This is the best part of the essay. There is a direct comparison of both texts. Up until now the author more or less told us: there is dialogue in all three texts and that enhances the experience. Well, that's pretty obvious, isn't it? In this last part he actually gave us a meaningful comparison. This is what you should aim for - throughout the essay.)

Leaving Cert English Comparative - Literary Genre - Circle of Friends, The Plough and The Stars and The King's Speech
Donegal. Image credit: Chrissy
Imagery and symbolism help to focus our attention and to convey meaning in all three texts. Writers often use imagery to enrich the language of a text. In "Circle of Friends" Binchy frequently uses simple and effective similes and metaphors to enrich her character creation. As Benny goes to college on her first day, she compares herself to a child. Benny, here, is emphasising the overprotective nature of her parents. Benny’s parents are compared to worrying ducks.

The language in “The Plough And The Stars” is also loaded with imagery. Mrs Gogan says of Nora and Jack that they were “like two turtle doves always billing and cooing”, and she says that Nora is a “well up little lassie”. Fluther describes listening to the patriotic speeches “like rain falling on the corn”. Most of the comparisons are similes. The language that the people use adds to the humour and energy of the play to a greater extent than in the other two texts. 

Symbolism also plays a major part in "The King's Speech". One of the most important symbol in "The King's Speech" is the long walk Bertie makes with his wife and Lionel before he speaks to the nation as King George VI. This long tortured walk represents the journey he has to undertake to overcome his speech impediment and his emergence into a new light of hope when he succeeds in addressing his subjects without stammering. 

One thing that emerged for me from my comparative studies was a new appreciation for the craft of storytelling. From a point where I really only appreciated a text on its most simplistic level I started to become aware and appreciate the great skills that novelists, filmmakers and playwrights bring to their work. The variety of techniques that they drew on to create such memorable storylines and memorable character was immense and certainly formed in me a genuine appreciation of the level of talent involved. (That's a particularly nice conclusion.)

PCLM - Leaving Cert marking scheme remarks

Clarity of Purpose:

- The message is very clear: narration, dialogue and imagery enhance the experience. The author backs up his points with reference to the text. 
- What about purpose? She answered the question in a super-relevant way when talking about Literary Genre, except...
- The real difficulty here is that the purpose of the Comparative answer is to compare. And this is one thing he didn't do properly - not out of not being familiar with the texts or not seeing enough comparisons, but by failing to frame what he knows into the right format. This is largely an essay on the Literary Genre of three separate texts, not a comparative essay :(

Coherence of Delivery

- Clear structure. This is largely accomplished by opening each paragraph with a simply stated idea. There is reasonable continuity in his argument. The author is consistent in how he presents her ideas. He definitely engaged with the texts.

Efficiency of Language Use

- It's not bad here at all. Clear logic. Simple sentences. The big inefficiency is the lack of  direct comparisons.

Accuracy of Mechanics

It's all been tidied up here, but remember that this counts for 10%!

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