Skip to main content


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 - Macbeth, The Fault in Our Stars, Rear Window for Leaving Cert English #625Lab

The world in which a character lives shapes the person that they become.

Write an essay comparing the cultural context and how it affects the lives of the characters of your chosen texts.

#625LabThis essay includes a lot of interesting points. A cultural context essay that doesn't discuss the role of socioeconomic status/money doesn't really make sense to me. It comes up in some subtle way shape of form in every text. For example, in "Macbeth", it's not about money, but, by God, it is about status. Also, the author didn't reference the question enough: she definitely examined cultural context, but she didn't really explain how the characters fell into/didn't fall into their roles as the culture dictated it. You may also like: Complete Guide to Leaving Cert English (€). 

I agree that there are various aspects in the world which a character lives that influence the character’s personality. Cultural context relates to the society the characters live in and how their culture can affect their behaviour and opportunities. The three texts I have studied are “The Fault in Our Stars” written by John Green, “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare and “Rear Window” directed by Alfred Hitchcock. “The Fault in Our Stars” is a socially realistic film about a teenage girl and boy who have cancer and fall in love, “Macbeth” is a Shakespearean tragedy about a thane who is greedy for power and “Rear Window” is a crime thriller film about a man with a broken leg who looks out of his back window at the neighbours and solves a crime. Undoubtedly, these three texts are set in very different societies and have very different plots, but there are also cultural similarities between them.

One of the things that shape the characters in all three of my chosen texts is the presence of religion and spirituality in their lives. However, due to the different time frames and different circumstances, this aspect is portrayed and understood differently in all of them. In “Macbeth”, people believed strongly in good and evil. A symbol of evil in the play is the three witches, who stir up trouble in the beginning of the play when they choose Macbeth as the subject they want to turn evil. A symbol of good in the play is Duncan, because he is the king and is considered to be God’s representative on earth. This shapes the character of Macbeth, because he is trying to be good by being the king, but uses evil motives that the witches have planted in his head to do so. (J. A. Bryant Jr. goes into a lot of depth about Christianity in "Macbeth". It's completely not necessary for a H1, but I know that some of you like to quote critics.) Similarly to the Christianity shown here, “Rear Window” is based on Christianity, with the main message throughout the film being “love thy neighbour as thyself”. This impacts Jeff, as he spends most of his time looking through the neighbours’ windows, trying to figure out what is going on in their lives and what he can do to help. “The Fault in Our Stars” is very different from both of these texts. It is secular in nature and there is more emphasis placed on the current life we are living rather than the afterlife. Because of this and their cancer, which will make their life shorter, Hazel and Gus are forced to find meaning in their current life. As we can see, religious and spiritual beliefs play a role in characterisation. (I think there is quite a lot of religious symbolism in “The Fault in Our Stars”. The church, that houses the support group, is shaped like a cross. They joke about it being the “Literal Heart of Jesus” and this is a throw back to the idea that the sick hold a special place in his heart. "I'd learned this from my aforementioned third best friend, Peter Van Houten, the reclusive author of An Imperial Affliction, the book that was as close a thing as I had to a Bible." There is much more in this vein.)

As well as this, the three texts I have studied value relationships, albeit in slightly different proportions. (I think relationships is a bit too broad as an aspect of cultural context. I would perhaps break it down into family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, etc. Otherwise, it belongs in theme or issue.) The characters’ opinions on relationships throughout the texts influences their behaviour and their beliefs. “Macbeth” is least impacted by relationships. Power is the primary driving force in the play. We see this in the relationship between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Even though they are married and love each other very much, ultimately it is their greed for power which makes them work together and become allies in the task of murdering Duncan. Unfortunately, it is also this blind desire for power which tears the couple apart. Contrastingly, the driving force in “The Fault in Our Stars” is relationships. Family and friends are used in the novel for comfort and understanding, however romantic relationships hold much more meaning. Hazel and Gus are very influenced by each other. They help each other through the bad times, even when they know that it will hurt the other person when they die. For example, Hazel calls herself a “grenade” because when she dies she will hurt everyone around her. Despite this, she stays with Gus because love is the meaning of life in this novel. Relationships are also very prominent in “Rear Window”. One of the main things that shapes Jeff as a character is his unwillingness to get married, even though Lisa is the perfect candidate for this. Different views on relationships and marriage are shown in the neighbours’ windows. For example, the newlyweds represent the early, blissful stages of marriage, while Thorwald’s wife is trapped in an abusive marriage. Jeff does not want to get married and have a “nagging wife”. Because of this, he pushes Lisa away. Clearly, relationships or lack of relationships because of greed for power shapes the characters in all three texts.

In my opinion, gender roles also greatly impact the characters’ actions in the texts. “Macbeth” is set in a world of gender stereotypes. At the time, men were supposed to be leaders and warriors and women were wives and mothers. In the beginning, we see these strong stereotypes in Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, but this doesn’t last long. When Lady Macbeth hears of the witches’ prophecy, she takes charge, telling Macbeth what he has to do in order to kill Duncan. She wants to rid herself of any feminine qualities, asking the Gods to “unsex” her, because she no longer wants to just be a wife or a mother. However, she also wants Macbeth to follow his stereotype and remain a courageous warrior so that he can kill Duncan. When Macbeth expresses his uncertainty about murdering the king, his wife immediately questions his masculinity, which forces him to continue with the plan. In the end, both defying gender roles and following them have tragic results for the couple. (Stellar analysis! Now we just need to compare. Remember that your depth of analysis won't get you very far unless you compare.) Similarly, gender roles are very visible in “Rear Window”. Males are described as needing to be strong, capable and hard workingBecause of this, when Jeff is confined in a wheelchair he feels emasculated while he is incapable of carrying out his work. There are different roles for women in the film, for example, Miss Torso as an object of desire and Miss Lonelyhearts as an object of pity. Stella is characterised as being a caregiver and Lisa is marriage material. (Hmmm, the last two are actually characters with a lot of depth. Stella isn't exactly Florence Nightingale, she is strikingly witty and even harsh, and it is suggested that Lisa belongs in the world of fashion magazines, not good old marriage.)

Stereotypes are challenged in the film because Jeff has to rely on Stella and Lisa to carry out work for him, for example they dig up the flower patch and Lisa goes snooping in Thorwald’s apartment, putting herself in danger. In comparison to this, “The Fault in Our Stars” does not rely on gender roles and the characters are free to be their own person. We see that males can both be confident and insecure. In the beginning, Gus is a charming young man who is very happy with himself, however when his cancer returns, he is scared and weak. Hazel does not follow any stereotypes - she is conscientious and confident but also moody and insecure. We see that gender roles are very powerful in “Rear Window” and “Macbeth”, but do not play a big part in “The Fault in Our Stars”. (Hazel has the female tendency of trying to please everyone, one could argue.)

In conclusion, it is fair to say that aspects such as religion, relationships and gender roles shape the characters in the texts. These aspects depend on the world and society in which a character lives in and therefore link to the cultural context of the texts.

Cultural Context - Macbeth, The Fault in Our Stars, Rear Window for Leaving Cert English
James Stewart in Rear Window. Photograph: Kobal via The Guardian

Popular Posts