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Brendan Kennelly for Leaving Cert English: Begin

"Begin" by Brendan KennellyYou may also like: 2019 Guide to Leaving Cert English. Full notes on Brendan Kennelly will be made available to everyone who has the 2019 guide, free of charge, as soon as they are ready.

Summary: a philosophical reflection on starting something new again and again communicated through the description of a morning walk across the Grand Canal in Dublin.

Style features:
anaphora (1) (highlighted in bold) adds a sense of determination as does the repetition of the word “begin” throughout the poemenjambment highlights the never ending need to begin again imperative tone, “begin again” is an encouraging command to never give up alliteration e.g. “dying in dark / determination” enhances the imageryreference to familiar places, “Pembroke Road” near the Aviva Stadium in Dublin 4, make the poem more accessibleimagery appeals to multiple senses: “summoning birds”, “sight of the light”, “roar of morning traffic”, “crying birds in the sudden rain”, “branches…

Cultural Context - The Great Gatsby, Children of Men and The Plough and The Stars for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

Understanding the cultural context of a text allows you to see how values and attitudes are shaped. 

Show how this statement applies to one of the texts on your comparative course. 

The answer is pretty good, but it would be even better if the key terms of the question were mentioned more often. You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€). 

Attitudes and values tend to be entrenched very deeply in human culture. The mindset and morals of characters that roam throughout texts are undeniably resulting factors of the world they live in. A text’s characters are defined by their actions, but those actions never happen in a vacuum. Typically, a character is revealed through their reactions to the social landscape - the cultural context - they act within and against. This social ‘world’ of the text is a distinctive shaping force in terms of what happens to the characters throughout the course of the plot. It allows readers to understand the circumstances under which values and attitudes are shaped. (This is all true, but just a little too protracted. Half of this would have been enough.)

Cultural Context - The Great Gatsby, Children of Men and The Plough and The Stars for Leaving Cert English
"I'm scared. Please help me." [Do you think the fact that this is set in a barn is alluding to anything? It's symbolism, suggesting that this birth is as important as the birth of Jesus.]

For my comparative course, I have studied the following texts: the novel, "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the play, "The Plough and the Stars" by Sean O’Casey and finally, the film, "Children of Men" directed by Alfonso Cuarón. For the purpose of part A of this question, I would like to focus on the cultural context concerning "The Great Gatsby", more specifically the corrupting effect money has on a character’s morals and attitudes towards life.

The dishonest, unethical behaviour and lack of transparency that we see embodied, to a certain extent, in nearly every wealthy character present in "The Great Gatsby" truly highlights how values and attitudes are shaped by the world one lives in. The common characteristic I saw riddled through each well-off socialite was their utter carelessness. The majority of the rich, except for maybe the nouveau riche, grew up with no financial problems. Their every need was catered to. They probably never worked a day in their lives! To sum up, it is evidently clear that they were spoilt and entitled. This attitude towards sovereignty and entitlement continued into their adulthood. Daisy and Tom are prime examples.

"The Great Gatsby" depicts a society that recently went through the Great War. America seemed to throw itself headlong into a decade of madcap behaviour and materialism. This contributed to the "vast carelessness" of the age. Everyone’s main concern was to have a good time. The careless attitude of character’s such as Gatsby, Tom and Nick towards prohibition laws highlights their sense of entitlement. They feel as though they’re above the law, that because of their vast wealth they get to bypass government regulations and do whatever on earth they want. They don’t care why prohibition was instated, all that concerns them is themselves. 

In my view, if you peel back the multitudinous layers that is the sweet Daisy Buchanan, a selfish and unemphatic character is revealed. Even I was initially blind-sighted by the tragic love story that is Daisy and Gatsby. I was rooting for them, completely ignoring the fact that Tom’s lack of monogamy infidelity was equivalent to what Daisy was doing. However, as the novel came to a close, I realised Daisy had no problem misleading and betraying Gatsby. She is a corrupt individual who toys with his feelings and is ultimately repulsive. She didn’t even bother to show up at his funeral. 

We see this attitude of carelessness again coupled with her lack of moral value when Daisy kills Myrtle. She ran away from the scene of the crime, not caring that the blame could (and did) get put on someone innocent. I feel like Daisy’s moral values are non-existent at this point. Her attitude is that someone else will come and clean up her mess, because someone always does. Daisy doesn’t seem to have any morals, her values lie in her money and status. She consistently hides behind the golden façade that is her money, this old money which never fails to portray her as a desirable innocent ‘Golden girl’. 

Tom and Daisy’s marriage appears to be no more than a legal and financial arrangement. They live in a closed narcissistic world with no transparency that rejects new-comers, like Gatsby. Even the idea that Gatsby ought to get wealthy to have a chance with Daisy seems to be based on a unanimous societal attitude that assumes that money and power come first.

Nick seems to have the most moral strength in the story and because of this, he comes to realise the true corrupt nature of the elite portrayed in "The Great Gatsby". ‘They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together; and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” I feel like this accurately sums up the toxic and corruptive effect money has on values and attitudes. We see a sense of entitlement and sovereignty felt by the elite characters. They feel as though they are above everyone else, even the law. They all share a ‘vast carelessness’ for the world around them. This carelessness has been nurtured by their money, their values and attitudes shaped by the wealthy world they live in.

Compare the way in which values and attitudes are shaped in two other texts on your comparative course.

In marked contrast to "The Great Gatsby", the values and attitudes on display in "The Plough and the Stars" and "Children of Men" are often shaped in response to the violent uprisings and depressed social settings that feature in both texts.

The appalling poverty seen in "The Plough and the Stars" gives rise to characters valuing the simple things in life. We see this with Nora when she buys a new hat and when she tries to emulate a more middle-class existence, spending time tending to home décor, “the little bit of respectability that a body’s tryin’ to build”. She is very content with herself, proud of her small success. Conversely in "Children of Men", despite the similar poverty-stricken situation in Bexhill, we don’t see much character satisfaction in a world filled with war. Every immigrant we see, as the shots move throughout the camp, is filled with hatred and despair. Their attitude towards the xenophobic world they live in is pure resentment. The small slivers of gratification seen in "The Plough and the Stars" in a desolate war zone contrasts sharply with the continuous fear and violence seen in the similar war-torn apocalyptic world of "Children of Men".

However, despite this, we do see a brief euphoric scene in "Children of Men" when the soldiers stop fighting in awe of the crying baby. This is truly a moving scene. They all value this baby. They see him as a beacon of hope in a previously hopeless world. However, in "The Plough and the Stars" there in no moment in the ending that shines hope on their depressing situation. Jack, Bessie, Nora’s baby and Mollser have all died, and Nora has descended into madness. "Children of Men" seems to have a distinct resolution where "The Plough and the Stars" isn’t as obvious. (This reeks of general vision and viewpoint. Make sure that you talk about the culture and values, not the optimism/pessimism.)

The cultural context of "Children of Men" is bleaker than "The Plough and the Stars": the whole world is slowly extinguishing. The characters in "Children of Men" see no end point, simply death and destruction. Kee is a symbol of hope in "Children of Men" because, like her name suggests, she is the key to humanity’s continued existence. (Nice!) Theo, Julian and Miriam continuously risk their life to get her safely to the human project. The values of courage and selflessness are extremely evident here. We see something similar in "The Plough and the Stars". When Mollser dies, the uprising is in full motion. It is extremely dangerous to go outside. Despite this, Fluther leaves the safety of the tenements to help Mrs. Gogan organise Mollser’s funeral. It is very evident in these two texts that many characters have high moral standards and values. They do things for others out of the kindness of their hearts. I believe this to be true because of the world they live in. The world of "The Plough and the Stars" is in constant poverty and war. "Children of Men" is set in a similar warzone. Characters aren’t corrupted by money because in a world where you may not even live to see the next day, money is virtually nothing. Their values lie in virtue, helping other people. (What about Luke?)

Jack and Theo contrast significantly in their attitudes towards the war they are currently experiencing. Jack is extremely patriotic and wants to fight for his country. Theo, on the other hand, seems resentful of his oppressive government and does not agree with the conditions under which the immigrants are treated. Jack also doesn’t value his wife the way he should, he even goes as far to say, “Ireland is greater than a wife”. He gives his life for Ireland and fails to realise that his domestic happiness has been destroyed as a result of this commitment. Jack’s loyalty is shown to be tragic and hollow. Theo and Julian’s relationship seems to be no picnic either. However, it is clear that they both respect each other and have an unwavering loyalty for one another. In contrast, Jack doesn’t respect Nora. He sees her as an object. The same isn’t true of Julian and Theo.

Both "Children of Men" and "The Plough and the Stars" depict bleak societies plagued by fear and resentment. The characters in both texts operate under immense stress from their political and social contexts. Despite this social turmoil, the majority of characters seem to be very virtuous in both texts. Their attitudes towards war is one of utter inadvertence. It is evident that in a world with little hope, the values of courage and selflessness emerge, and characters risk their lives for others. It is a testament to human nature what war can do to the values and attitudes of struggling people in a hopeless world.

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