Gcse English Text Analysis Essay
The key to planning an essay is to focus on the question. What are you being asked to do?
The next stage is to annotate your extract, or find evidence from your longer text to support your answer. Keep the question in mind as you do this. Highlight or underline key parts of the text that you will be able to use in your response.
- the narrative voice
- how characters are presented
- what the main themes of the text are
- what the structure or shape of the text is
- what language devices are used
- who the audience for the text is and how that affects the way the text is written
If you are looking at an extract, read it more than once. First read the entire text from beginning to end and get a sense of its purpose and meaning. On your next read-through annotate important words and phrases.
Example question one
This extract is from a key moment in a novel. How is the theme of conflict presented here? Support your views with detailed reference to the text.
This sort of question asks you to focus on different examples of a theme throughout a text. In this case you would ideally find four or five examples of conflict to write about in your essay. As well as picking obvious examples of arguments between characters, you would also seek out moments of internal conflict, conflict in setting and conflict between appearance and reality.
For each example, choose a few words or lines from the text that demonstrate the theme. Explore how language, literary devices and structure work together to create effects. Think about how important the theme is to the overall message of the text.
Example question two
A student, having read this extract said: “The writer creates a sense of quiet tension here. I feel like the scene is calm, but there’s also something unsettling.” Do you agree?
This question is asking for a more personal response. Your main task is to explain the extent to which you agree with the student and to explain how the extract makes you feel. However, you still need to use evidence for each point you make. Look closely at the word choices the author makes and explore how these affect the reader. Remember to use appropriate literary terminology and to look for layers of meaning.
Example question three
How does the writer create tension and suspense in this extract?
When you’re looking at tension and suspense in an extract remember to examine the particular words and phrases used. What patterns of words do you notice – for example are there lots of words connected with darkness, time, fear?
Look at sentence structures and notice how the writer is using these to create tension. Are there lots of short sentences to build pace? Do longer sentences keep us hanging on?
How do the characters behave and respond to their situation? Notice dialogue as well as descriptions.
Pick out four or five examples from the extract that support your answer to the question. Then, if possible, link to one or two other examples of tension and suspense in other parts of the text. As well as action, think about how characters contribute to tension, how setting is important and how ideas are presented by the writer.
Example question four
In the last twenty lines of this passage, the writer makes the reader feel sympathy for the main character. To what extent do you agree with this view?
If you’re asked to focus on a particular section of an extract, then of course, this is where you should begin! Decide how far you agree with the statement and find evidence to support your argument.
Remember to look at the rest of the extract as well. Do you feel sympathy for the character in the other sections as well? Compare the two parts of the extract and use quotations to support your answer.