A Level English Essay Example

Is Tess in ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles' portrayed as being responsible for her own demise? [pdf 40 KB]

Yours is a beautifully clear essay. You write very well, and your prose is delightful to read. You've also done your research and it shows. There is a remarkable lack of vagary about society or feminism in your piece, and you've picked canny quotes from your secondary sources that elucidate and situate your arguments.

You've also located some wonderfully specific quotations from your primary source to support your argument that Hardy's narrator sympathises with Tess. Some of your close readings are wonderfully astute, as when you point out that Tess implores Angel, rather than commanding him. Slightly less persuasive is your assertion that Tess is the victim of Alec's eyes; I suspect you might have found better quotations, descriptions, or incidents denouncing Alec's gaze.

You are clearly very good at pursuing and proving an argument. I encourage you to be a bit more experimental in your next essay; perhaps choose a less straightforward topic and see where it takes you.

Please see penciled notes throughout on shortening sentences and watching for comma splices (please look this term up in a style manual if it is unfamiliar).

This is an extract from an essay suitable for an A-Level standard of writing.

Imagination, identity, memory and secrecy in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Ian McEwen’s Atonement.

Despite their differences, both Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Ian McEwans’s Atonement explore the themes of imagination, identity, memory and secrecy. There are many differences in both of these texts, one being a play, the other a novel, one being written over a hundred years ago, and the other being very modern.

Identity is very much a theme explored in The Importance of being Earnest. The entire play revolves around the identity of Jack Worthing, who refers to himself as ‘Ernest’ when in the town. He says he has a brother called Earnest whom he goes to visit, but really he just wants to get away from the country house. When using this identity, Gwendolen, who is the cousin of his companion Algernon, falls in love with him and his name is a big part of her attraction to him (“Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination”). What attracts her to him is not even real, which in turn encourages him to keep lying. Later on in the play Algernon goes to Jack's country home pretending to be ‘Ernest’ where he meets Cecelia, a young lady for whom Jack is the guardian. Cecelia falls in love with ‘Ernest‘, who she doesn’t realise is really Algernon, she says she is attracted to him and has been intrigued with him before she even met him because of his interesting name. Both men are now lying to their love interests about their identity.

Identity is something one can create for oneself through fiction. For example in Atonement, Briony writes stories as a form of escapism. Through doing this she actually begins to lose touch with reality (“now she was back in the world, not one she could make, but the one that had made her”) - here it seems Briony isn’t even sure what is real anymore. Likewise, she seems unsure of herself; referring to Briony’s literary creations, the narrator (who we later discover was in fact Briony) says, “But it had all been her- by her and about her”.

Imagination is also a significant theme in The Importance of being Earnest. Both Algernon and Jack make up stories so they get to leave their homes whenever they want. Whilst Jack creates the character of ‘Ernest’ who he says is his brother who lives in the town, Algernon makes up the character ‘Bunberry’, who is an ill friend of his who he has to visit often. He ‘visits Bunberry’ when he wants to avoid an unwelcome social obligation. These fictional characters they create for themselves not only allow them to escape the duty they have in their real lives, but also allows themselves to appear to others as more moral; by visiting ‘Bunberry’ and ‘Ernest’ they give the sense of responsibility and kindness. In Victorian society it was Christian charity that was regarded as a practice of high morality, and both Algernon and Jack are pretending in the play to be adhering to this expectation of the middle and upper class. However, Jacks lies seem to be far worse than Algernon’s. Jack not only lies about what he is - a helpful, earnest, moral man - but also who he is - Ernest. This encourages the reader to favour Algernon over Jack, as they do not want to align themselves with immorality.

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