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Gcse War Poetry Essay Example

Section one

The question for the poetry section of the Unit one English Literature exam will be the same every year, but the poems will always be different.

For higher tier, the question is: Write about both poems and their effect on you. Show how they are similar and how they are different.

For foundation tier, the layout of the question is as follows: Write about both poems and their effect on you. Show how they are similar and how they are different.

You may write about each poem separately and then compare them, or make comparisons where appropriate in your answer as a whole.

You may wish to include some or all of these points:

  • the content of the poems – what they are about
  • the ideas the poets may have wanted us to think about
  • the mood or atmosphere of the poems
  • how they are written – words and phrases you find interesting, the way they are organised, and so on
  • your responses to the poems, including how they are similar and how they are different

The poems will be contemporary and will be linked together, usually by topic, although they could approach this topic in very different ways.

There will be a brief description of what the poems are about above the question – you must read this carefully as it is there to help you.

Example question:

Section two

Spend about one hour on this section. Think carefully about the poems before you write your answer.

In the first of the following poems, Names, a woman’s life is described through the different names that she uses at different times. The second poem, In Oak Terrace, describes an old woman who lives on her own.

Higher tier and lower tier: Write about both poems and their effect on you. Show how they are similar and how they are different.

You may write about each poem separately and then compare them, or make comparisons where appropriate in your answer as a whole.

You may wish to include some or all of these points:

  • the content of the poems – what they are about
  • the ideas the poets may have wanted us to think about
  • the mood or atmosphere of the poems
  • how they are written – words and phrases you find interesting, the way they are organised, and so on
  • your responses to the poems, including how they are similar and how they are different

Names

byWendy Cope

She was Eliza for a few weeks

when she was a baby –

Eliza Lily. Soon it changed to Lil.

Later she was Miss Steward in the baker’s shop

And then ‘my love’, ‘my darling’, Mother.

Widowed at thirty, she went back to work

As Mrs Hand. Her daughter grew up,

Married and gave birth.

Now she was Nanna. ‘Everybody

Calls me Nanna,’ she would say to visitors.

And so they did – friends, tradesmen, the doctor.

In the geriatric ward

They used the patients’ Christian names.

‘Lil,’ we said, ‘or Nanna,’

But it wasn’t in her file

And for those last bewildered weeks

She was Eliza once again.

In Oak Terrace

byTony Connor

Old and alone, she sits at nights,

Nodding before the television.

The house is quiet now. She knits,

rises to put the kettle on,

watches a cowboy’s killing, reads

the local Births and Deaths, and falls

asleep at ‘Growing stock-piles of war-heads’.

A world that threatens worse ills

fades. She dreams of life spent

in the one house: suffers again

poverty, sickness, abandonment,

a child’s death, a brother’s brain

melting to madness. Seventy years

of common trouble; the kettle sings.

At midnight she says her silly prayers,

And takes her teeth out, and collects her night-things.

Making a start

You should spend up to 15 minutes reading the poems and planning your answer, then 45 minutes writing your response (allowing some time to check through your answer at the end).

Start by reading the poems twice and asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are the poems about?
  • How do the poems make me feel?
  • Are the poets trying to make me think about a particular issue or give me a message about something?
  • Are the poems positive or negative overall? In what particular ways?
  • What kind of mood or atmosphere is created in the poems? How is this done?
  • Are there any words that stand out as creating a particular effect or feeling?
  • How are the poems organised? Why might this be? (For example, is this linked to the mood or content?)
  • What do you think of each of the poems?
  • How are the poems connected?
  • Are they giving the reader the same type of message?
  • Are the themes linked?
  • Do they use language and imagery in similar or different ways?
  • Do the poets use form and structure in similar or different ways?
  • What type of mood or atmosphere is created in each poem? How do these compare? Have the writers used similar or different techniques to do this?

Which of the two essay structures works better when responding to the example essay question?

Structure A

IntroductionHow both talk about family relationships between parents and children
Paragraph 1How Walking Away deals with family relationships - themes and form, structure and language
Paragraph 2 How Eden Rock deals with family relationships - themes and form, structure and language
Paragraph 3 Ways in which they are similar
Paragraph 4 Ways in which they are different
Conclusion Sum up comparison

Structure B

IntroductionHow both talk about family relationships between parents and children
Paragraph 1How the themes and ideas of Walking Away and Eden Rock are similar and different
Paragraph 2 How the form and structure of Walking Away and Eden Rock compare and how this links to their effect
Paragraph 3 How the language of Walking Away and Eden Rock compare and how this links to their effect
Conclusion Sum up comparison

Feedback

Either of the examples above could produce a good essay as they both explore each poem and compare their similarities and differences. However in structure B, the comparison takes place throughout the whole essay and avoids looking at the poems separately. This is a better model to use and one which can be applied to comparisons of other poems.

Explore the study guide for 'Walking Away' .