Examples Of Essays For Gcse English

Question

Compare the ways these two texts present the life of a writer.

You should consider:

  • how they use language and structure
  • the ideas in the texts

Extract A

Here is an extract from the diaries of John Steinbeck.

Lincoln’s Birthday. My first day of work in my new room. It is a very pleasant room and I have a drafting table to work on which I have always wanted – also a comfortable chair given me by Elaine [his wife]. In fact I have never had it so good and so comfortable. I have known such things to happen – the perfect pointed pencil – the paper persuasive – the fantastic chair and a good light and no writing. Surely a man is a most treacherous animal full of his treasured contradictions. He may not admit it but he loves his paradoxes.

Now that I have everything, we shall see whether I have anything. It is exactly that simple. Mark Twain used to write in bed – so did our greatest poet. But I wonder how often they wrote in bed – or whether they did it twice and the story took hold. Such things happen. Also I would like to know what things they wrote in bed and what things they wrote sitting up. All of this has to do with comfort in writing and what its value is. I should think that a comfortable body would let the mind go freely to its gathering. But such is the human that he might react in an opposite way. Remember my father’s story about the man who did not dare be comfortable because he went to sleep. That might be true of me too. Now I am perfectly comfortable in body. I think my house is in order. Elaine, my beloved, is taking care of all the outside details to allow me the amount of free untroubled time every day to do my work. I can’t think of anything else necessary to a writer except a story and the ability to tell it.

John Steinbeck

Extract B

Here is an extract from Stephen King's advice book and memoir, On Writing. He is talking about his writing desk.

‘The last thing I want to tell you in this part is about my desk. For years I dreamed of having the sort of massive oak slab that would dominate a room - no more child's desk in a trailer laundry-closet, no more cramped kneehole in a rented house. In 1981 I got the one I wanted and placed it in the middle of a spacious, skylighted study (it's a converted stable loft at the rear of the house). For six years I sat behind that desk either drunk or wrecked out of my mind, like a ship's captain in charge of a voyage to nowhere.

A year or two after I sobered up, I got rid of that monstrosity and put in a living-room suite where it had been, picking out the pieces and a nice Turkish rug with my wife's help. In the early nineties, before they moved on to their own lives, my kids sometimes came up in the evening to watch a basketball game or a movie and eat pizza. They usually left a boxful of crusts behind when they moved on, but I didn't care. They came, they seemed to enjoy being with me, and I know I enjoyed being with them. I got another desk - it's handmade, beautiful, and half the size of the T. Rex desk. I put it at the far west end of the office, in a corner under the eave. That eave is very like the one I slept under in Durham, but there are no rats in the walls and no senile grandmother downstairs yelling for someone to feed the horse. I'm sitting under it now, a fifty-three-year-old man with bad eyes, a gimp leg, and no hangover. I'm doing what I know how to do, and as well as I know how to do it. I came through all the stuff I told you about (and plenty more that I didn't), and now I'm going to tell you as much as I can about the job. As promised, it won't take long.

It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around.’

Stephen King

  • 1

    Use sophisticated vocabulary, grammar and punctuation throughout and make sure that you use them properly. Using a range of words is effective because it can help to express your understanding and if you use the same words over and over again it can sound like you're repeating yourself. You may find yourself using a comma or a full stop that could be replaced with a semi-colon (;).

  • 2

    Analyse the language in depth. Make comments and by doing this you can identify techniques (e.g. metaphors, similes, hyperbole, imagery) that the writer uses and discuss the effect that it has: '[..] the sound bite at the start that begins 'perhaps the most generally ....' breaks the smooth, flowing of the prose. This emphasizes the negativity of the comment and startles readers because it is unexpected. Despite this, it is a good technique to keep readers engaged.' This is good because it shows that the student understand how the language and techniques are effective.

  • 3

    P.E.E.L. is something that I personally used in my English essays. This means to makes a point; back up the point with evidence (a quote); explain what this means and then make some further comments on the language/techniques within that quote e.g. 'The use of the hyperbole '[example of hyperbole]' is actually quite interesting; it helps to emphasize the portrayal of the protagonist's experience as [...]'

  • 4

    G.A.P.L.I.S.T refers to genre, audience, purpose, language, information, style and tone. Although it may be good to remember it as a whole, you may only really need to hold on to the thought of the genre, audience, language, style and tone. When it comes to the audience you may want to focus on how certain techniques may appeal to the audience. When it comes to tone, you may want to look at the techniques and language used that helps to determine the way that the author feels towards a certain subject.

  • 5

    Refer to the question after you've finished a point and when you are ready to move on to the next paragraph. It is important to refer back to the original question throughout where ever it may be possible.

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