Reporting Topics

Explore our articles database by topic:

Zingers, quotes, anecdotes and other things that make your writing great

essay zinger examples

When we think about how to get eyeballs on our reporting these days, we talk a lot about Twitter and Facebook and online branding.

Weber was part of the Los Angeles Times team that reported the 2004 Pultizer Prize-winning series The Troubles at King/Drew , groundbreaking reportage that led to the closure of a major urban hospital. Here are some of the major lessons she learned while telling blockbuster health stories.

Even with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Weber says, "there are all manner of ways to find out what it's like in a hospital." Documents can get you more than dry day -- they can proved the fodder for great stories . Weber offers several examples of how documents gave her great leads:

-Employee disciplinary records -- which become public when an employee makes an appeal -- often have graphic details about employee conduct, medical misconduct. Weber once discovered that a nurse had a janitor administer medications this way. 

-Workers compensation records revealed that King/Drew had a surprisingly high rate of "chair falls," giving color to a story about hospital funding . It also gave Weber and the rest of the team an excellent lead for a section of the piece: "Vast sums at King/Drew go to workers injured in encounters with seemingly harmless objects. Take, for instance, the chair."

-Public hospitals have records of how many surgeries and procedures are being done. Couple that with salary information and you might find inconsistencies. This is how Weber discovered information about the salary of King/Drew's neuroscience chief: "As neurosciences chief, Locke made a total of more than $1 million over the last two fiscal years. That includes his hospital salary and a stipend he receives from King/Drew's affiliated medical school, records show. Top county officials can't say what Locke does for all the money he earns."

-Nursing boards, medical boards and other oversight agencies' records are powerful tools. Weber, with a ProPublica team, reported on the misconduct of registered nurses in 2009 and offered a tutorial for how you can do similar reporting .

-Criminal records can provide information about health care providers. Weber visited six courthouses to get records about one of the nurses in her 2009 ProPublica report.

Telling stories is a process that begins when you are reporting . "Don't leave this until you're back at your desk," says Weber. "You need to be thinking along the way, is there color?"

You can use a straight lead  -- it can be really effective way to get to the heart of a story. But Weber says that a great anecdote can get to the heart of complicated subjects . "What I look for in an anecdote is something that can tell your entire story," says Weber. "I try to look for one that is a small version of the bigger story." She offers the example of a 2009 ProPublica report by Robin Fields about the risks of dialysis . The story has a paragraph that begins with data and facts, but what readers remember and comment on most is an anecdote about bugs:

Conditions within clinics are sometimes shockingly poor. ProPublica examined inspection records for more than 1,500 clinics in California, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas from 2002 to 2009. Surveyors came across filthy or unsafe conditions in almost half the units they checked. At some, they found blood encrusted in the folds of patients' treatment chairs or spattered on walls, floors or ceiling tiles. Ants were so common at a unit in Durham, N.C., that when a patient complained, a staffer just handed him a can of bug spray. 

" If the quote's boring, don't use it ," says Weber. Avoid the "tendency to quote from the official document because it's official, or quote an official." If the quote is unclear or unengaging, call back for another quote or quote an expert somewhere else.

Your reporting doesn't have to be a big project . Even one amazing story in one document can give you a single quick and powerful story.

"I like to have a good, solid end on story that's a real zinger ," Weber says. "I think the purpose of the ending is to leave the reader with what the story means." A story about severe medical errors at King/Drew ends with a powerful quote: "She lives in King/Drew's shadow. She can see it from the rear window of her apartment. 'Every time I look at that hospital I think about what happened to me,' Clemons said. 'That hospital took my life away from me.'"

Write a great lead . Weber says she went through 75 leads with her editor at the Los Angeles Times on the King/Drew medical errors story.

Pay attention to your bullets and don't use them if they are not impactful . "Your bullets have to be so incisive, but also have a zinger," says Weber. Bullets help get your points up at the top, but also adds color and helps you outline a big project.

Sections should be each be mini-stories with "a saucy lead and a saucy end," Weber says. "You're going to have an arc for your whole story, but also for each section."

Keep sources on the record and get documentation for everything to help shield you from lawsuits , says Weber. (Learn more about legal resources for journalists from a prior post .)

essay zinger examples

VCE Study Tips

English Language

essay zinger examples

Private Tutoring

essay zinger examples

Only one more step to getting your FREE text response mini-guide!

Simply fill in the form below, and the download will start straight away

English & EAL

5 tips for a mic-drop worthy essay conclusion

Sarah Faltas

August 1, 2017

essay zinger examples

Want insider tips? Sign up here!

Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). the kool kids don't use landscape....

It’s time your conclusions got the attention they deserve! So grab a massive piece of chocolate, a glass of water and prepare to be taught about the beginning of the end (of your essay, that is).

Having a rushed conclusion is like forgetting to lock your car after an awesome road trip- that one rushed decision could jeopardise the whole experience for your assessor. A mediocre conclusion is the same as powering through a 500 metre race then carelessly slowing down seconds before the finish line! Dramatic comparisons aside, the way you choose to end your text response either leaves the marker with a bad taste in their mouths or increases your chance of hitting a home run. On the other hand, if you’re feeling discouraged by how your essay has shaped up to be, having a killer conclusion could set you up for a pleasant surprise.

5 Tips for a mic-drop worthy conclusion

1. make a plan for the conclusion.

It has been said many times, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” and it could not be more true when it comes to crafting a killer conclusion. By setting a few minutes aside before even beginning your essay to plan everything out, you get to see the necessary elements which you will want to address in your conclusion. In simpler terms, an essay plan reminds you of your contention and your main points, so that you are able to start gathering all of your arguments and create the perfect concluding paragraph. Planning for each paragraph sets you up for a win as you begin to refine key ideas and explore the many ways of expressing them, which is crucial for a conclusion.

2. Don't tell the reader you are concluding!

Time and time again I have seen people fall into the trap of using phrases such as “in conclusion” or “in closing”. The person marking your work may be blown away by the majority of your response, then reach those rotten words and will reconsider this thought. Being this ‘obvious’ with opening a conclusion does not earn any points. In fact it’s simply not sophisticated. The main reason many students are tempted to begin in such a clumsy way is that they don’t know how to begin their conclusion. If you are having difficulty to start and experiencing a bit of writer's block, simply go back to your essay plan and start to unpack the contention - it’s that easy! Rephrase your answer to the actual essay question.  In most cases, you can just cut out those nasty little words and the opening line of your conclusion will still make perfect sense.

3. Rephrase, not repeat

The definition of a conclusion is literally to “sum up an argument”, thus your last paragraph should focus on gathering all of the loose ends and rewording your thesis and all of your arguments. It’s great to reinstate what you have said throughout the body of your response but repeating the same phrases and modes of expression becomes bland and bores the reader. Instead, aim to give them a fresh outlook on the key ideas you have been trying to communicate in the previous paragraphs. All it takes is a little time to change the way you are saying key points so that the conclusion does not become tedious to read. Conclusions are there to unite all of your points and to draw a meaningful link in relation to the question initially asked.

4. Keep things short and sharp

Your closing paragraph is NOT for squeezing in one or more ‘cool’ points you have- no new points should be brought into the conclusion. You should focus on working with the arguments and ideas that have ALREADY been brought up throughout your response. Introducing new arguments in that last paragraph will cause a lack of clarity and may cause the paragraph to become lengthy. A long conclusion will slow down the momentum of your piece and the reader will begin to lose interest and become impatient. Having a clear aim before writing your conclusion will help avoid a lengthy paragraph as your final thoughts will be more concise and refined.

5. The last line is where you get to really shine

Your closing sentence is the ultimate make or break for the entire essay so it is a shame to see many responses ending awkwardly due to students running out of time or becoming lazy with that final sentence. Last words are so important but don’t spend too much time on it! One awesome way to finish is with a very well thought-out phrase which summarises your contention one last time. Imagine dropping the mic after the final sentence of your essay, your conclusion needs to be stronger.

If you need further help on Text Response (including essay structure), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

essay zinger examples

Struggling to answer the essay topic?

Has your teacher ever told you:

"You're not answering the prompt"

"You're going off topic"

Then you're not alone! If you struggle to understand and stay on topic, learn how to answer the prompt every time with our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

essay zinger examples

Passage 1: Act 1 Scene 3

   [Aside] Two truths are told,

   As happy prologues to the swelling act

   Of the imperial theme.--I thank you, gentlemen.

[Aside] This supernatural soliciting

   Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill,

   Why hath it given me earnest of success,

   Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:

   If good, why do I yield to that suggestion

   Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair

   And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

   Against the use of nature? Present fears

   Are less than horrible imaginings:

   My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,  

   Shakes so my single state of man that function

   Is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is

   But what is not.

Passage One from Act 1 Scene 3 takes place just after Macbeth has just been announced as Thane of Cawdor proving part of the Witches’ prophecy true “All hail Macbeth…Thane of Cawdor…/that shalt be king hereafter.” This part of the play is the first insight we have on Macbeth’s inner thoughts.  

Macbeth’s firm and thoughtful tone in the opening alliteration “two truths are told ” stresses how serious he takes the Witches’ predictions. Shakespeare presents this passage as a soliloquy in order to convey Macbeth’s true inner thoughts and motives. As this is Macbeth’s first soliloquy, it emphasises the strong possibility of Macbeth heading down a dark journey as he cannot forget the Witches’ predictions “(it) cannot be ill, cannot be good. If ill, / Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth?”

Shakespeare uses the metaphor of theatre for fate . The meta-theatrical reference, ‘as happy prologues to the swelling act’ makes the audience consider the action that will unfold in the following scenes through foreshadowing.

Macbeth feels that committing regicide will be a “supernatural soliciting”. The word “supernatural” demonstrates that Macbeth acknowledges that such an act is “against the use of nature.” It suggests that if Macbeth kills Duncan, he will forever be trapped in the supernatural world for his dishonourable action. The alliteration of “supernatural soliciting” sounds incredibly seductive, and therefore highlights Macbeth’s lust and thirst for the crown.

There is a physiological response to his unnerving thoughts as the ‘horrid image doth unfix my hair’ and ‘my seated heart knock at my ribs’ , emphasising the horror of Macbeth has with himself  at his thoughts.

The personification “my seated heart knock at my ribs” once again depicts the increasing fear that Macbeth experiences as his heart is not “seated” with its connotations of calmness and steadiness but “knock(ing)” which is associated with alarming fear.

As Macbeth struggles with his conscience and fears “my thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,/ Shakes so my single state of man,”  he is uncertain whether or not he should take the prophecy into his own hands and murder Duncan or, let time decide his fate “time and the hour runs through the roughest day”. The consonance ’s’, Shakes so my single state of man”.. ‍

The alliteration “smothered in surmise” demonstrates how Macbeth’s vivid imagination causes him to struggle with fear and hesitate undergoing the action that is foreseen by him as a “horrid image.” These mental images are of significance throughout the play as it is evident that Macbeth’ conscience results in him “seeing” a dagger and also Banquo’s ghost.

The antithesis “and nothing is,/ But what is not” is deliberately broken up into two lines to demonstrate the ambiguity of Macbeth’s thoughts and the confusion which evidently contributes to his overall fear. Macbeth’s actions become overpowered by his imagination until ‘nothing is but what is not’ or imagination carries more weight than action. The partial alliteration of ‘smother’d in surmise’ and the antithesis of ‘nothing is but what is not’ makes this notion seem again, particularly seductive to the audience. The word ‘smother’d’ , with it’s connotations of oppression, further amplifies the notion and even suggests that Macbeth’s imagination takes the place of his will.

Sunset Boulevard is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .


Sunset Boulevard is perhaps the most famous film about film . A darkly funny yet disturbing noir, it follows washed-up screenwriter Joe Gillis being pulled into the murky world of even-more-washed-up former silent film star Norma Desmond, disingenuously helping with her screenplay. Critical commentary on the film industry is obviously included here, but Billy Wilder’s 1950 film digs deeper to explore the blurred line between fantasy and reality, as well as power, authenticity and self-delusion. Crucially, these themes are often shown in the film’s construction , via the cinematic techniques implemented by Wilder in each scene. This blog will explore the most important examples of these cinematic techniques. Remember, VCE examiners are on the lookout for students who can offer a close reading of the text they are discussing, giving specific examples of how its creator has constructed it to support their arguments. Just look at the difference between an essay that says:

' Through the final shot of the film, Wilder shows Norma completely succumbing to her fantasy.’ 

Compared to one that argues:

‍ ‘Through his utilisation of an increasingly glossy and distorted filter in the ominous final shot, Wilder depicts Norma being completely overtaken by her romanticised fantasy of ‘Old Hollywood’.

So read below to learn how to use the most effective and crucial cinematic techniques within Sunset Boulevard.  ‍

Camera Techniques: Shot Types & Angles

Camera techniques are arguably the primary way that a director will intentionally direct the eye of the audience, directly framing how they view a film. The two most basic ways in which the camera is used for this are through the distance between the subject (what the scene is about) and the camera, or the ‘shot type’ and the ‘camera angle’ at which the subject is being filmed. Four key examples of these from Sunset Boulevard are explored below. 

Key Examples of Shot Types

essay zinger examples

Our first look at Norma Desmond is within the wide shot above, just as Joe Gillis has entered her dishevelled mansion early in the film. As a rule, the introductory shot of a character is always worth closely analysing, as the director typically establishes their characteristics and place within the film’s wider world. 

Shown above, this distant first look at Norma establishes her distance, both physical and mental, from the world around her. Removing herself from an industry that has long since moved on from her, she is severely out of touch with the reality of the world outside her home. Crucially, as this same shot is from Joe’s perspective, Wilder also foreshadows the more specific character ‘distance’ that will emerge between the two. Here, the audience sees the space Joe will similarly leave between himself and Norma, disingenuously humouring her poor-quality scripts and romantic advances and, therefore, always keeping her ‘at a distance’.

essay zinger examples

Another shot conveying crucial information about character relationships is shown when Joe officially ‘loses’ Betty towards the end of the film, refusing to give up his ‘long-term contract’ with Norma. Here, Wilder consciously frames the scene’s subject (Betty) at a distance with a medium shot. Supported by her refusal to make eye contact with Joe and her literal statement that she ‘can't look at [him]’ we again see physical distance between the camera and the subject translating to emotional distance between two characters. The impact of them no longer ‘seeing eye to eye’ is additionally heightened by the clear chemistry they previously demonstrated across the film. 

Key Examples of Camera Angles

essay zinger examples

Just like the introductory shot of a character is worth digging into, the opening shot of a film is also incredibly important to unpack. Sunset Boulevard’ s seemingly straightforward opening shot simply includes the film’s title, by showing the real-life Hollywood street. However, notice that we are not seeing a ‘Sunset Boulevard’ street sign (the more obvious choice), but instead a dirty and stained curbside. Further, Wilder shoots this curb from a high angle . Therefore, the film’s opening shot establishes maybe the most central aim of Wilder’s film; offering a critical look at the superficiality and flawed nature of Hollywood. As such, we are literally looking down on the film industry in the first moment of the film, represented by this dirty and unflattering visual symbol of Hollywood. This, therefore, is setting the stage for the satire and critical commentary that will follow. 

essay zinger examples

Wilder’s careful use of camera angles is further shown at the end of the film after Betty abandons Joe at the gate of Norma’s mansion. Crucially, this all happened due to the desperate exertion of power by Norma, who called Betty and revealed the details of her relationship with Joe. As such, Wilder shoots Norma at a low angle, as Joe looks up at her haughty gaze. The level of power that Norma has exerted over Joe may seem minimal within the moment, but when we consider what happens next, this shot becomes much more important. On the brink of descending completely into madness and taking Joe’s life, Wilder uses this shot to establish that Joe should be looking up in fear at Norma, and his dismissive and pitiful opinion of her will soon lead to his death.  


Mise-en-scène is perhaps the most deceptively simple cinematic technique. It involves analysing what appears within a frame and where it has been placed by the director. This includes elements such as the actor’s costumes, the props and the design of the set. Often, mise-en-scène is used to reinforce something we are being told about a character already through the film’s dialogue and acting.  

Key Example of Mise-en-scène 1

essay zinger examples

We can see a key example of characterisation through mise-en-scène early in the film, where the audience’s introduction to Joe Gillis visually communicates his unconcerned and detached attitude, as well as his tendency to settle for something convenient despite its inauthenticity. His being dressed in a bathrobe with the blazing sun outside (and his debt collectors clearly up and doing their jobs) speaks to his slovenliness and uninvested approach to life. The set design within this scene further characterises Joe, with the script directly describing the ‘reproductions of characterless paintings’ that cover his walls. Here, the set arguably provides a visual metaphor for the profit-driven ‘Bases Loaded’ script he is writing at that very moment, later described by Betty as having come ‘from hunger.’ 

Key Example of Mise-en-scène 2

essay zinger examples

Equally, our introduction to the home of Norma Desmond helps establish the key elements of her character. The house is, as Joe describes, ‘crowded with Norma Desmonds’, in the form of countless framed photos of her from her silent film era. These self-portraits constantly looking out onto Norma symbolise the deluded fantasy world she has placed herself in. They both show how this world is based around her still being a youthful and famous actress, and that this delusion is maintained through Norma only communicating inwardly, refusing to face the reality of the outside world.

As ‘symbolises’ is a verb that is very commonly misused, it’s necessary here to provide a very simplified definition:

A symbol is something that contains levels of meaning not present at first glance or literal translation.  

In film, the most obvious symbols are often physical objects that reappear within the story, working to symbolise concepts that develop the text’s key themes. 

The Dead Chimp & The Organ

essay zinger examples

One of the more seemingly inexplicable parts of Wilder's film actually contains one of its most important symbols, with Norma’s pet monkey playing a key foreshadowing role from beyond the grave. The chimp, a pet owned and trained by Norma to amuse her, leaves a vacant role that Joe will gradually fill after having unknowingly interrupted its funeral. From this point in the film, Joe is manipulated, or ‘trained’, by Norma to entertain and provide companionship to her. Naturally, Joe also ends up dead within the bounds of Norma’s estate, with this symbol, therefore, foreshadowing the full trajectory of his character. All of this is directly alluded to through Joe’s description of the ‘mixed-up dream’ he has the night of the funeral, imagining ‘an organ [player]’ and the ‘chimp…dancing for pennies’ that he will soon become. 

essay zinger examples

This naturally brings us to the organ itself, which serves as a physical reminder of the unflattering parts of the new role Joe must play. Included after Joe wakes from his ‘mixed-up dream’, the shot above frames Max’s organ-playing hands as massive and overpowering, as the much-smaller Joe storms in demanding to know why his ‘clothes and things’ were moved to Norma’s house without his say-so. Crucially, Norma then reveals that she ordered this action and that Joe's apartment debts are ‘all taken care of’, hand-waving his attempt at grasping back some control and dignity by proposing it be ‘deduct[ed]...from [his] salary’. This scene reveals the symbolic role the organ plays within Sunset Boulevard, reminding Joe of the shameful and powerless role of the ‘pet monkey’ that he now fills, as well as what he will be ‘dancing’ for. 

Finally, we come to allusions, one of the techniques that Sunset Boulevard is most famous for. Allusions refer to anytime something from outside the world of the text is referenced, including other texts and real-world people, places, events, etc. Biblical and mythological allusions are commonly found in fiction, but references to something closer to our world can often bring a degree of realism to certain texts, working to strengthen their social commentary. 

Cinematic Allusions

essay zinger examples

Being a film about film, Sunset Boulevard naturally contains many allusions to other films. However, Wilder does not shy away from adding an extra level of realism to his references to the film industry. Central to this is the use of the real (and still functional) Paramount Pictures studio to which Joe attempts to sell his clichéd baseball script. Notably, this is the studio that actually released Sunset Boulevard , all of which adds a self-deprecating edge to the satire of the film industry these scenes contain. The scene where the cigar-chomping Paramount executive, Mr Sheldrake, cynically suggests that changing Joe’s film concept to a ‘girls' softball team’ might ‘put in a few numbers’, packs an extra punch due to the use of the real film studio, therefore, showing the effect of this allusion in strengthening the film’s satire. 

Allusions to specific films are additionally used for humorous purposes and character development. For instance, take Joe’s dry observation that the extravagance of the funeral for Norma’s pet means that he ‘must have been a very important chimp’, perhaps the ‘great-grandson of King Kong’. Here, Joe’s sardonic and witty character is revealed to the audience. Additionally, these kinds of references further place the film firmly in the world of real Hollywood , again working to strengthen the satire it offers of this industry. 

Literary Allusions

Similarly, allusions to the world of literature flesh out both the characters and the world of Sunset Boulevard . The most stand-out example of this is the allusion to Charles Dickens’ classic novel Great Expectations . Here, Joe muses that the ‘unhappy look’ of Norma’s house reminds him of ‘Miss Havisham’ from this text. This is a character, who, after being abandoned by her fiance, refuses to change her clothing and lives secluded in a ‘rotting wedding dress’. Havisham directly parallels Norma, being a tragic figure immovably stuck in the past, with Norma's excessive placement of young self-portraits being reminiscent of Havishman’s insistence on keeping her house’s clocks at the exact time she received her letter of marital rejection. Therefore, this comparison to the Dickens character, who engages in a more exaggerated version of Norma’s behaviour, seeks to highlight just how detached Norma is from reality through her attempts to live in the past, implying that what she is doing is just as deluded as refusing to remove a rotting wedding dress. Further, the eventual fate of Miss Havisham within Great Expectations, with her wedding dress catching fire and leaving her as an invalid, foreshadows Norma’s similar descent to invalidity through her madness.

Written by Milo Burgner

2. Historical Context

3. Main Characters

4. Minor Characters

5. Dissecting an A+ Essay using 'The Golden Age'

6. Creative Essay Topic Brainstorm

7. Essay Topics

The Golden Age is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our VCE Text Response Study Guide.

Even though this hasn’t been one of the more popular choices on the VCE text list, Joan London’s The Golden Age is a personal favourite of mine for a number of reasons. This is a novel about the experiences of children recovering from polio inside a convalescent home in Perth. With a sympathetic and warm approach, London tells the tragic yet brave stories of these children, as well as the stories of their parents and carers.

The novel essentially revolves around Frank Gold, a Hungarian Jew and a war refugee, and London blends his mature voice with the innocence of a coming-of-age narrative, all set against the backdrop of World War II.

As you’re reading the book, watch out for her literary or poetic language, and keep track of the story’s overall mood. These will be important considerations for text study, particularly if you are to write a creative response on this text for your SAC. With this in mind, I’ve included writing exercises throughout this blog post for you to practise writing creatively on this text.

If you are writing analytically on this text, either for your SAC or for your exam, you may still complete the exercises—each one should still be insightful for your writing in some way. Also, feel free to check the video below; it breaks down an analytical prompt for this text.

Historical Context

This novel is set in Perth during the early 1940s, which gives rise to a couple of interesting historical elements all intersecting in the book.

Crucially, the events of the novel take place for the most part while World War II is raging in Europe. This is important for understanding the backstory of the Gold family: they are Hungarian Jews who have escaped their war-torn home of Budapest to seek safety in Australia. In particular, we know that at some stage, Meyer had been taken away to a labour camp, and that Frank had had to hide himself in an attic.

Their Hungarian heritage, however, is something that distances them from other Australians, and they never really get a good chance to settle in, always feeling like they just weren’t on the same wavelength as the locals. In many ways, the story of the Golds is underpinned by tragedy—not only are they war refugees, but young Frank then contracts poliomyelitis (known to us just as polio), which forces the family to reassess all the plans they had for him to settle into an ordinary, Australian life.

However, Frank was far from the only victim of polio at the time—the entire nation was rocked by a wave of polio , with major outbreaks during the 1930s-40s. This was quite a nerve-wracking, and causing great fear for our country and its active, outdoors-y culture. The prospects of death, paralysis and permanent disability were understandably terrifying. About 70,000 people were affected, and almost half of them eventually died as a result. Almost every Australian at the time knew or knew of someone who had polio.

Task: You are Ida, composing a letter to Julia Marai after Frank’s diagnosis. Convey succinctly (in 250 words or less) what you think and how you feel. ‍

Key themes & implications.

I like to think that a lot of the themes in this book exist in diametric or opposing pairs. For instance, London gives Frank a voice that is wise beyond his years, yet uses it to tell a tender story of first love. She also plays on the paradox that while some characters have become isolated due to the unfortunate events that have befallen them, these very events end up becoming the thing that unite them.

Essentially, London plays with a lot of these thematic tensions, showing us that life isn’t really ever black and white, but there are whole lot of grey areas in every day life.

Central to the novel are ideas of innocence or childhood . These ideas are really explored in the friendship between Frank and Elsa, who are both on the cusp of adolescence. While they are set up as young lovers in the eyes of readers, we know that they are far too young to truly have romantic feelings for each other. In actual fact, their interactions are permeated by a sense of innocence.

However, these interactions are also punctuated by a sense of maturity , a desire for more. This is evident to the extent where nurses are getting hesitant about leaving them alone with each other (even though their parents still trust them entirely). In actual fact, these parents serve as an important point of contrast. Some manage to recapture the magic of youth even as adults—consider Ida reigniting her love for the piano, or Meyer jumping on opportunities to start anew. In this sense, innocence and maturity are a pair of themes that are interestingly not always found where one might expect.

Another key thematic element of the novel is tragedy or adversity , which are relevant to a far wider gamut of characters. Considering the story’s geographical and historical setting, it seems evident that these ideas will play a major role in the story. A particularly poignant example lies in Sullivan, who contracts polio right on the cusp of adulthood, and readers can’t help but feel a sense of loss for what might have been.

However, on the other end of this spectrum is the strength required to cope with their suffering. While Sullivan had his indefatigable sense of humour, other characters have developed different mechanisms to stay strong in the face of adversity. In some cases, you might say that they’ve transcended or risen above their tragedies, and become stronger for it.

Finally, London also tackles the idea of isolation , which can be seen as a consequence of tragedy—characters become isolated because they lose their ability to relate to others, and others feel unable to relate to them. Symbolically, the Golden Age hospital is surrounded by four roads and therefore cut off from the world, almost as if quarantined. However, the solidarity and unity of patients inside becomes a great source of strength—I’ll leave it to you to think about what London was trying to say with this!

Task: Selecting one of the above themes, write a poem from the POV of an imaginary spectator in the novel, outlining how you perceive/experience these themes in other characters. Use all five senses(how you see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and touch/feel it)

Major characters.

I haven’t written too extensively about characters for a range of reasons: on one hand, it’s important for you to form your own interpretations about what they’re like and why they do the things they do, but on the other hand, I wanted to leave you with some key points to consider and/or some essential points about their characters to incorporate into your writing. This will allow you to hopefully feel like you’re capturing them accurately when writing your creatives, but without feeling restricted by an extensive set of traits that you have to invoke.

  • the central character, he is cerebral, intelligent and mature (which we can tell from his narrative voice, or how he ‘sounds’)
  • he is, however, still very young, wide-eyed, inquisitive in spite of the tragedies which have befallen him (consider how he sees his relationship with Elsa)
  • also significant is the motif of his poetry; not only does it highlight his maturity, but it also acts as a way for him to voice or articulate his feelings and experiences in the hospital—you could try incorporating some poetry in your writing (either original poems or quoted from the novel)

Elsa Briggs

  • another central character who becomes quite attached to Frank (they are the two eldest children in the Golden Age)
  • she is warm, caring and selfless, demonstrating an emotional maturity beyond her years (because of having to bear the metaphorical albatross of polio)
  • a lot of what we know about Elsa comes from Frank’s perspective (though we do get some insight from her own, and some from her mother’s)—how does this shape the way we see her? Consider London’s use of imagery, portraying her as an angelic figure.

Ida & Meyer

  • Frank’s parents, Hungarian Jews, and war refugees who come to Australia to cleanse them of their pasts and to have a fresh start; some of this is purely by circumstance, but there are parts of their past that they willingly and actively eschew e.g. Ida’s piano
  • note that Hungary is a landlocked country in the midst of European hustle and bustle with easy access to other nations/cultures/peoples, but Australia is an island on the other side of the world—consider how this affects their sense of isolation
  • on the other hand, they do form new connections with people here and in their own individual ways; Ida by reclaiming her pianist talents and Meyer by taking up a new job

Task: You are Elsa, Ida, or Meyer and you’ve just discovered Frank’s poem book. What are your thoughts and feelings towards his writing? Consider the context of your chosen character’s own experiences

Minor characters.

I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, but any piece of text-based writing (creative or analytical) can be strengthened by diversifying the range of characters that you write about. Even though you’ve already differentiated yourself from most VCE students by even doing this text at all (very few people choose it, so props to you!), some inclusion of more minor characters might help to distinguish yourself further. I’ve picked some that I think are interesting to talk about, but feel free to experiment with others as well!

  • a young man who contracts a severe strand of polio right on the cusp of adulthood, thereby exemplifying the theme of tragedy—however, his sense of humour remains active in spite of his immobility, so perhaps he not only exemplifies this theme but subverts it as well
  • London poses the complex question of whether or not he’s actually unhappy or defeated as a result of polio; there’s no clear answer, since there’s many ways to interpret his humour (is it a sign of strength or is it a front for inner turmoils expressed through poetry?)
  • in addition to his humour and poetry, his relationship with his family could also be an interesting point of discussion to address some of these questions
  • a young girl in the hospital who is quite close to Elsa (almost in a sisterly way)—how have they developed this relationship, and how does this relate to the theme of unity/companionship/human connection?
  • notably, she wanted to rehabilitate herself after polio took away her ability to feed the brumbies in her desert town—think about how this might represent strength as well

Julia Marai & Hedwiga

  • Ida’s former piano teacher and her flatmate/partner who live at the top of an apartment block in Budapest; they shelter Frank in their attic under no obligation whatsoever, but purely out of the kindness and selflessness of their hearts
  • again, there’s this subversion of what it means to be isolated: on one hand, their apartment is so cut off from the rest of the world below, and they lead a largely self-sufficient life together, but on the other hand, the fact that they’re together means that they’re not entirely isolated consider the power of human connection in this context as well

Task: Pick a minor character from this list and a character from the above list of major characters, and write about them meeting each other for the first time. Pick two that do not already interact closely within the novel e.g. Elsa meeting Sullivan

I hope this gives you some ideas or starting points about writing creatively on this text!

Download the PDF version of The Golden Age study guide   here .

Dissecting an A+ Essay using 'The Golden Age'

Picture this: you’re sitting down at your desk, fumbling your fingers, inspecting the new stationary that you convinced yourself you needed for year 12, resisting the urge to check your phone. Your text response SAC is in two weeks. You’re freaking out because you want, no, need an A+. You decide to write a practice essay for your English teacher. Practice makes perfect, right? You stay up for hours, pouring your heart and soul into this essay. The result? B+. Where did I go wrong?

That’s where I come in! Writing an A+ essay can be really tough without examples and specific advice. Before reading on, make sure you've read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response so you are up to scratch.

I will be explaining some basic dos and don’ts of writing an essay on The Golden Age , providing a model essay as an example.

The following prompt will be referenced throughout the post;

‘The Golden Age’ shows that everyone needs love and recognition. Discuss.

Planning: the silent killer of A+ essays

I’m sure your teachers have emphasised the importance of planning. In case they haven’t, allow me to reiterate that great planning is compulsory for a great essay . However, flimsy arguments aren’t going to get you an A+. The examiners are looking for complex arguments , providing a variety of perspectives of the themes at hand. From the above prompt, the key word is, ‘discuss’. This means that you should be discussing the prompt, not blindly agreeing with it . Make sure you don’t write anything that wouldn’t sit right with London. ‍

Don’t plan out basic arguments that are one-dimensional. This may give you a pass in English, but won’t distinguish you as a top-scoring student.

For example:

  • Paragraph 1: The children at TGA need love and recognition.
  • Paragraph 2: Ida and Meyer need love and recognition
  • Paragraph 3: Sister Penny needs love and recognition.

The above paragraphs merely agree with the statement, but don’t delve into the many aspects of the novel that could contribute to a sophisticated essay.

Do create complex arguments, or paragraphs with a twist! If you can justify your argument and it makes sense, include it in your essay. There are many ways that you could answer this question, but my plan looks like this:

  • Paragraph 1: Frank Gold yearns for mature, adult love, not recognition from onlookers or outsiders
  • Paragraph 2: Ida Gold does not seek recognition from Australia, but love and validation from herself
  • Paragraph 3: Albert requires love from a specific kind of relationship – family, and Sullivan may view love from his father as pity which he rebukes

See the difference?

The introduction: how to start your essay off with a BANG!

Personally, I always struggled with starting an introduction. The examiners will be reading and marking thousands of essays, so if possible, starting your introduction with something other than Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’… is a great way to make you stand out from the crowd. Having a strong start is essential to pave the way for a clear and concise essay. You could start with a quote/scene from the text! This is not essential, but it’s a great way to mix things up. This is my start:

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life.  There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Remember, there are many other ways you could start your essay.

The body paragraphs: To TEEL or not to TEEL?

I’m sure you’ve heard of TEEL countless times since year 7. Topic sentence, evidence, explanation, link. The truth is that these elements are all very important in a body paragraph. However, following a rigid structure will render your essay bland and repetitive. It is also extremely important to note that you should be using evidence from multiple points in the text , and you should be making sure that your paragraphs are directly answering the question . Write what feels natural to you, and most importantly, don’t abuse a thesaurus . If you can’t read your essay without rummaging for a dictionary every second sentence, you should rewrite it.  If vocabulary isn’t your strong point (it definitely isn’t mine!), focus on clean sentence structure and solid arguments. There’s nothing worse than you using a fancy word incorrectly.

Don’t overuse your thesaurus in an attempt to sound sophisticated, and don’t use the same structure for every sentence. For example:

Prematurely in the paperback London makes an allusion to Norm White, the denizen horticulturalist of The Golden Age Convalescent Home…

That was an exaggerated example generated by searching for synonyms. As you can see, it sounds silly, and some of the words don’t even make sense. I mean, “denizen horticulturalist”…really?

Do mix up your paragraph structure! If vocabulary is your weak point, focus on clean language.

Here’s mine:

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, “as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace”. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; “his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain”. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; “we Jews have to be on the lookout”. Elsa sees “a look in his eyes that she recognised”, thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

To learn more about using the right vocabulary, read 'Why using big words in VCE essays can make you look dumber'.

The conclusion: closing the deal

I firmly believe in short and sharp conclusions. Your body paragraphs should be thoroughly explaining your paragraphs, so don’t include any new information here. A few sentences is enough. Once again, write what feels natural, and what flows well.

Don’t drag out your conclusion. Short and concise is the key to finishing well.

Do write a sharp finish! Sentence starters such as, “Ultimately…” or “Thus, London…” are great.

Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.

‍ To learn more about A+ essays, you should also have a read of 10 easy English points you're missing out on .

I'll finish off by giving you an exercise: brainstorm and write up a plan for the essay topic shown in the video below. I'd recommend you do this before watching Lisa's brainstorm and plan. That way, you can see which of your ideas overlapped, but also potentially see which ideas you may have missed out on. Good luck!

The Golden Age Essay Topic Brainstorm

[Video Transcript]

The takeaway message for this video will be to utilise minor characters here and there to deepen your argument. London has really developed all her characters to feel three-dimensional and real, so it’s important not to just write about Frank and Elsa when there are so many others worth touching on.

Let's head straight into background information:

Joan London’sThe Golden Age is a novel about children recovering from polio in a convalescent home in Perth. She tells the stories of these various children, their families, and their caretakers, focusing on FrankGold and Elsa Briggs, the young protagonists who are just starting to develop romantic feelings for each other. Though they, and many of the other children, have faced much hardship and misfortune, London tells a story of hope and human connection in times of misery.

On that note, today’s essay topic is:

The Golden Age  is primarily a tragic tale of isolation. Discuss.

Let’s break this prompt down and define some keywords. The keywords we’ll be looking at first are isolation and tragic. We’ll be defining them quite briefly, but be sure to think about these in terms of how they relate to the novel. In particular, see if any scenes, passages or characters jump to mind.

Isolation is a state of being alone or away from others and can be associated with a sense of powerlessness or insignificance. Tragic can simply just mean sad, depressing and loaded with sorrow or ‘pathos’, but there are also literary implications to this word: you might’ve done a tragic Shakespeare play and learned this before, but in general, a tragic story centres on a hero who encounters misfortune, and treats their demise in a serious or solemn way. Note that a good essay will discuss both these terms, and will address not only isolation but also the question of whether or not it is treated tragically.

The other important word is ‘primarily’. This word in the prompt suggests that The Golden Age is  for the most part  about these ideas - for you, that means you should ask yourself how central you think they are, and make a call on whether they are the  most  central.

Well, it’s definitely true that elements of isolation and separation do exist in The Golden Age, but these themes are not primarily tragic ideas in the novel -London explores the way in which hope can shine through in times of hardship. In fact, the novel overall has a message of kinship and hope, and this would be the primary thematic focus, as well as the main treatment of otherwise tragic ideas. So how might this look in paragraphs?

Paragraph 1: Let’s concede that the novel does evoke sadness through its frequently sombre tone and treatment of isolation

We see this through characters such as Ida and Meyer, who have been cut off from the world in their escape from their war-torn home, and forced to transition from their landlocked Hungary to an island on the other side of the globe. Their struggle to adjust is evoked through symbols - for instance, black cockatoos, which represent a “homely, comforting” omen to locals, sound “melancholy [and] harsh” to Ida. In particular, London’s solemn characterisation of Ida as constantly “frowning”, and as having a “bitter little mouth that usually gripped a cigarette ”works to emphasise her ennui or her dissatisfaction with being cut off from the world. Their homesickness is evoked through this constant longing for home, though sometimes much more literally: Meyer feels that “never again on this earth…would, he feel at home as he once had.”

Similarly, the story of Sullivan Backhouse, confined in an “iron lung” and physically isolated from outside contact, is also primarily tragic. London develops this character and gives him a backstory - he has “just turned eighteen” and had been the “prefect [and] captain of the rowing team.” This gives readers an idea of the life he might have had if not for the tragedy of his condition. Even in spite of his “good-humoured nature”, his poetry belies the pessimism within - his book, morbidly entitled “on my last day on earth”, closes with the line “in the end, we are all orphans.” We can thus see how lonely he must have felt when he tragically passed away.

In this paragraph, we’ve considered three different characters, whereas a lot of people writing on this text might just do a character per paragraph, so this is a good way to really show the examiners that you’ve considered the full extent of what the book offers. Let’s continue this as we move onto…

Paragraph 2: We disagree, however, since the novel includes various other moods and thematic material - in particular, London explores notions of resolve and hope in times of hardship 

Now, the first character that comes to mind would have to be Elsa - London uses particularly powerful imagery, such as her “translucent”, “golden wave” of hair or even her “profile, outlined in light”, to portray her as angelic or elysian. For the children, Elsa evidently represents hope - even in her state of isolation, her “graceful and dignified” demeanour and her quiet acceptance that polio “was part of her” is courageous and worthy of admiration.

Moving onto a minor character who was perhaps inspired by Elsa - the young Ann Lee, who was quite close to Elsa, also has a story which is more inspiring than tragic. When polio first crippled her, she found herself unable to give water to the brumbies in her desert town. As a result, she perseveres, “step after painstaking step” so as to be able to return home and “give a drink to thirsty creatures.” Her compassion and determination to work against her isolation become the focus of her tale.

Paragraph 3: In fact, the  novel ’s focus is on hope rather than tragedy

A range of other characters demonstrate the power of love and human connection in the face of adversity, and London seems to be focusing on these ideas instead. Plus, it’s not just the children who are brave in the face of tragedy, but ordinary people prove themselves to have the potential for strength and courage. Take Julia Marai and Hedwiga, who hide Frank in their attic during the Nazi invasion of Hungary. Even though their apartment is “on the top” of the block, and isolated in its height, suspended from the world, they become “provider[s]” for Frank. London writes that in difficult times, “kindness and unselfishness were as unexpected, as exhilarating, as genius,” and it’s easy to see how these qualities form a counterpoint to the tragedies that permeate the novel, allowing hope to shine through. 

And that’s the end of the essay! Being able to explore minor characters like we did here is a really good way to show examiners that you have a deeper understanding of a text, that you’ve considered it beyond just the main characters on the surface. The Golden Age is a really great one for this because London has done so much with her cast.

Essay topics

1. “Being close made them stronger.” In The Golden Age , adversities are tempered by camaraderie. Do you agree?

2. Despite the grim context, The Golden Age highlights and celebrates the potential of life. Discuss.

3. Memories of past successes and failures have significant lingering effects on characters in The Golden Age . Is this an accurate assessment?

4. “[I would be] a fox, following a Palomino.” How do animals such as these contribute symbolically to The Golden Age ?

5. It is largely loneliness which defines the struggles of the children in The Golden Age . Discuss.

6. In what ways is The Golden Age a novel of displacement?

7. Fear of the unknown is something which permeates The Golden Age . Is this true?

8. What is the role of family in Joan London’s The Golden Age ?

9. Isolation in The Golden Age exists in many oppressive forms. Discuss.

10. Throughout The Golden Age , London draws attention to beauty rather than to suffering. Discuss.

11. In spite of their youth, it is the children of The Golden Age who understand best what it means to be an individual in the world. Do you agree?

12. How do characters from The Golden Age learn, grow and mature as the novel takes its course?

13. Due to the range of different onset stories, each of the children and their families in The Golden Age face a different struggle with their identity. Discuss.

14. “Home. She hadn’t called Hungary that for years.” In spite of all their struggle, the Golds never truly feel any sense of belonging in Australia. To what extent do you agree?

15. Explore the factors which drive Joan London’s characters to persevere.

The Ultimate guide to VCE Text Response

How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide

How to embed quotes in your essay like a boss

How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion

EXECUTE is the writing component that ticks off the English criteria so that your teacher is wowed by your essay and wished it was longer. So, what are these criteria points? Each school may express these points differently, however at the end of the day, teachers and examiners are all looking for the same thing:

An understanding of social, cultural or religious background in the text and how that shapes the themes, ideas, and characters. Without a clear understanding of the context of your text, you cannot fully comprehend the views and values of the author, nor the overall meaning of a text.

For example, Austen was hunched over her small writing desk in the village of Chawton during England’s Georgian era as she wrote Persuasion. You are more likely reading it in a cozy bed, listening to Taylor Swift and half considering what you’re going to watch on Netflix later. Remember, your current social and cultural context can have a great influence on how you read a text, so it’s always important to imagine the author’s own context – whether this be very similar, or very different from the context of their text. It’s as easy as a Google search!

✔️Views and values

An understanding of the author's message and purpose.

Writers use literature to criticise or endorse social conditions, expressing their own opinions and viewpoints of the world they live in. It is important to remember that each piece of literature is a deliberate construction. Every decision a writer makes reflects their views and values about their culture, morality, politics, gender, class, history or religion. This is implicit within the style and content of the text, rather than in overt statements. This means that the writer’s views and values are always open to interpretation, and possibly even controversial. This is what you (as an astute English student) must do – interpret the relationship between your text and the ideas it explores and examines, endorses or challenges in the writer’s society.

✔️Different interpretations by different readers

An understanding of how different readers and develop different interpretations, and how this changes an author's message.

Like our example using Austen vs. you as a modern reader above, the way you interpret an idea or view a character can change based on your unique views and values.


An understanding of how author's constructs their text through specific choices in words.

For example, the use of the word 'bright' vs. 'dull' to describe a landscape is intended to effect the way you perceive particular ideas or characters in a text.

A high-graded English essay will cover all of these points without fail. If you're unfamiliar with any of these, you are missing out on ways to differentiate yourself from other students. At the end of the day, there are only so many themes and characters to discuss, so you need to find unique angles to discuss these themes and characters. This will help your essay move from generic to original (yeah boy!).

If you're interested, How To Write a Killer Text Response ebook shows you the inner workings of my brain 💭- what I think when I see an essay topic, how I tackle it, and how I turn these thoughts into a high-scoring essay. The ebook includes:

essay zinger examples

‍ - 50-pages teaching you how to respond to ANY essay topic

- Examples from 15+ popular VCE English texts

- Know exactly what to  THINK  about so you can formulate the best possible essay response

- Plus a bonus 20-pages of high vs low scoring essays , fully annotated (what works and what doesn't) so you know exactly what you need to do

Click here to access the FULL version now!


Margo Channing played by Bette Davis

As the protagonist of the movie, Margo Channing is a genuine and real actress raised by the theatre since the age of three. She is a vulnerable character who openly displays her strengths and weaknesses; Mankiewicz showcasing the life of a true actress through her. Initially, we see Margo as mercurial and witty, an actress with passion and desire (not motivated by fame but the true art of performing). She is the lead in successful plays and with friends like Karen and Lloyd to rely on and a loving partner, Bill, it seems that she has everything.

essay zinger examples

However, Margo’s insecurities haunt her; with growing concerns towards her identity, longevity in the theatre and most importantly her relationship with Bill. Eventually, in a pivotal monologue, Margo discusses the problems that have been plaguing her. She battles with the idea of reaching the end of her trajectory, the thought that ‘in ten years from now – Margo Channing will have ceased to exist. And what’s left will be… what?’ By the end of the movie, Margo accepts the conclusion of her time in the theatre and understands that family and friends are what matters most, not the fame and success that come with being an acclaimed actress.

Eve Harrington played by Anne Baxter

Antagonist of All About Eve , Eve Harrington (later known as Gertrude Slojinski) is an egotistical and ambitious theatre rookie. With a ‘do-whatever-it-takes’ attitude, Eve is first introduced to the audience as a timid and mousy fan (one with utmost dedication and devotion to Margo). However, as the plot unfolds, Eve’s motive becomes increasingly clear and her actions can be labelled as amoral and cynical, as she uses the people around her to climb the ladder to fame.

Margo is her idealised object of desire and from the subtle imitations of her actions to infiltrating and betraying her close circle of friends, Eve ultimately comes out from the darkness that she was found in and takes Margo’s place in the theatre. Mankiewicz uses Eve’s character to portray the shallow and back-stabbing nature of celebrity culture; Eve’s betrayal extending beyond people as she eventually turns her back on the world of theatre, leaving Broadway for the flashing lights of Hollywood.

essay zinger examples

Addison DeWitt played by George Sanders

essay zinger examples

The voice that first introduces the audience to the theatre, Addison DeWitt is a cynical and manipulative theatre critic. Despite being ambitious and acid-tongued, forming a controlling alliance with Eve, Addison is not the villain.

The critic is the mediator and forms a bridge between the audience, the theatre world, and us; he explains cultural codes and conventions whilst also being explicitly in charge of what we see. Ultimately, Addison is ‘essential to the theatre’ and a commentator who makes or breaks careers.

Bill Simpson played by Gary Merill

essay zinger examples

Bill Simpson is the director All About Eve does not focus on Bill’s professional work but rather places emphasis on his relationship with Margo. He is completely and utterly devoted to her and this is evident when he rejects Eve during an intimate encounter. Despite having a tumultuous relationship with Margo, Bill proves to be the rock; always remaining unchanged in how he feels towards her.

Karen Richards played by Celeste Holmes

Wife of Lloyd Richards and best friend and confidante to Margo Channing, Karen Richards is a character who supports those around her. During conversations she listens and shares her genuine advice, acting as a conciliator for her egocentric friends. Unfortunately, Karen is also betrayed by Eve, used as a stepping stone in her devious journey to fame.

essay zinger examples

Lloyd Richards played by Hugh Marlowe

Successful playwright and husband to Karen Richards, Lloyd Richards writes the plays that Margo makes so successful. However, as Margo grows older in age, she begins to become irrelevant to the plays that Lloyd writes. Subsequently, this causes friction between the two characters and Mankiewicz uses this to show the audience the struggles of being an actress in the theatre; whilst also adding to the Margo’s growing concern towards her age.

Lloyd is unwilling to change the part for Margo and thus Eve becomes a more attractive match for the part. An unconfirmed romance between the budding actress and Lloyd also adds to the drama within All About Eve .


Birdie played by Thelma Ritter

A former vaudeville actress (which means that she acted in comic stage play which included song and dance), Margo’s dresser and close friend, Birdie is not afraid to speak the truth. Initially she sees right through Eve’s story and she warns Margo to watch her back. Despite not being in much of the movie, Birdie’s critical eye is a foreshadowing for the audience towards what is to come.

essay zinger examples

Max Fabian played by Gregory Ratoff

Producer in the theatre, Max Fabian is involved in theatre just to ‘make a buck’. He is a hearty character who adds comic relief to a dramatic plot.

essay zinger examples

Miss Claudia Caswell played by Marilyn Monroe

Aspiring actress, Miss Caswell is seen briefly throughout the movie to show the audience the shallow nature of the world of show business. Unlike Eve, she relies on her appearance to ‘make’ it rather than talent; as seen during her encounter with Max and the unsuccessful audition that followed.   

Phoebe played by Barbara Bates

The next rising star to follow in Eve’s footsteps, Phoebe is featured at the end of the film. In this scene there is a foreshadowing of the future, which suggests a repeat of the past, thus, making Phoebe an interesting character to observe. She is a manufactured construction of an actress and illustrates how replaceable a character is in the world of theatre.

Updated 19/01/2021

1. What Is Text Response? 2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria) 3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks 4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam 5. How To Write a Text Response

1. What Is Text Response?

Like its name, Text Response is when you respond to a text. The most popular texts are novels and films; however, plays, poetry and short stories are also common. Your response will be in the form of an essay, in which you discuss themes, ideas and characters. Recall all the novels and films you've studied since Year 7 (there'll be quite a few!). You should be very familiar with the process of watching a film or reading a novel, participating in class discussions about themes and characters, and finally, submitting an essay based on the text.

As you graduate into higher year levels, you spend each year revising and improving on TEEL, learning to better incorporate quotes and formulating even longer essays than the year before (remember when you thought you couldn't possibly write an essay more than 500 words?).

The good news is, all of that learning is now funnelled into VCE’s Text Response, one of the three parts of the VCE English study design. Text Response, officially known as ‘Reading and Responding’ in the study design, is the first Area of study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Text Response SAC in Term 1. Let's get into it!

2. What Are You Expected To Cover? ( Text Response Criteria)

What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Text Response essays.

Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Text Response essay.

a) Critically analyse texts and the ways in which authors construct meaning;

Much of the ‘meaning’ in a novel/film comes instinctively to readers. Why is it that we can automatically distinguish between a protagonist from an antagonist? Why is it that we know whether or not the author supports or denounces an idea?

Here you need to start looking at how the author constructs their texts and why they have made that choice. For example, the author describes a protagonist using words with positive connotations (kind, brave, charming), whereas the antagonist is described with words using negative connotations (vain, egocentric, selfish).

For example, 'in Harry Potter , by describing the protagonist Harry as "brave", the author JK Rowling exhibits the idea of how possessing bravery when making tough choices or facing challenges is a strong and positive trait.'

b) Analyse the social, historical and/or cultural values embodied in texts;

Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us as readers, identity and appreciate theme and character representations.

For example, 'through the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird , Harper Lee expresses the belief that the American legal system in the 1930s was not always fair or just.'

For more information on context and authorial intent in VCE English, read Tim's blog, Context and Authorial Intention in VCE English, or Olivia's on what authorial intent is and why it's important .

c) Discuss and compare possible interpretations of texts using evidence from the text;

Be open to the idea that many texts can be interpreted in many ways. Texts are rarely concrete and simple. Take The Bible , a book that is one of the most popular and famous books in history but is interpreted differently by every person. Acknowledging more than one perspective on a certain aspect of the text, or acknowledging that perhaps the writer is intentionally ambiguous, is a valuable skill that demonstrates you have developed a powerful insight into your text.

For example, 'in The Thing Around Your Neck , feminist readers condone Adichie's stories which all revolve around women either as protagonist or as narrators, giving voice to the disempowered gender in Nigerian society.'

‍ d) Use appropriate metalanguage to construct a supported analysis of a text;

While you should absolutely know how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss , you want to have other types of evidence in your Text Response essay. You must discuss how the author uses the form that he/she is writing in to develop their discussion. This encompasses a huge breadth of things from metaphors to structure to language.

For example, 'The personification of Achilles as "wolf, a violator of every law of men and gods", illustrates his descent from human to animal….' or 'Malouf’s constant use of the present voice and the chapter divisions allow the metaphor of time to demonstrate the futility and omnipresence of war…'.

To learn more about metalanguage, read our ' What Is Metalanguage? ' post.

e) Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.

For further advice on the above criteria points, read Emily's (English study score 46): Year 12: How To Turn Your Text Response Essays From Average to A+ .

3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks

Reading and Creating is assessed in Unit 1 (Year 11) and Unit 3 (Year 12). The number of allocated marks are:

  • Unit 1 - dependant on school
  • Unit 3 English – 30 marks
  • Unit 3 EAL – 40 marks

Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often, schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 800 to 1000 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)

In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays (Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis). The general guide is 60 minutes on Text Response, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Text Response essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.

essay zinger examples

4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam

Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking on the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Text Response preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):

a) Reread your book (or rewatch the film)

After all the learning and discussion you’ve had with your teacher and peers, you should have now developed a solid foundation of knowledge. Rereading a book enables you to refresh your memory on subplots, popular passages and most importantly, helps you fill in any missing gaps in knowledge. Take this as an opportunity to get familiar with the parts of the texts you're less confident with, or to examine a particular theme that you know you're weaker in (HINT: A good place to start is to make sure you know the difference between themes, motifs and symbols !)

b) Do a close analysis

This is like an advanced version of rereading a book. A 'close analysis' - a term stolen from VCE Literature (thanks Lit!) - is basically where you select a passage (a short chapter or a few pages), and analyse it in detail.

As you move through the passage, you can pick out interesting word choices made by the author and try to interpret why they have made this choice. Doing a close analysis will immensely strengthen your metalanguage analysis skills, and also give you the opportunity to stand out from other students because you can offer unique and original analysis and evidence in your essay. I know this can be a bit confusing, so this video below shows a full close analysis of a Macbeth passage in action:

c) Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources

Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:

YouTube Videos

We create general Text Response advice videos like this:

We also create text-specific videos:

And if you just need general study advice, we've got you covered too:

Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).

Study Guides

Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written up study guides based on popular VCE texts. Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far:

After Darkness by Christine Piper

Cosi by Louis Nowra

‍ ‍ Extinction by Hannie Rayson

‍ Flames by Robbie Arnott

False Claims of Colonial Thieves by Charmaine Papertalk Green and John Kinsella

‍ Go Went Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck

‍ Like a House on Fire by Kate Kennedy

‍ Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare

‍ Old/New World Selected Poems by Peter Skrzynecki

‍ ‍ On The Waterfront by Elia Kazan

‍ Ransom by David Malouf

‍ Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock

‍ Runaway by Alice Munro

‍ Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder

‍ The Crucible by Arthur Miller

‍ The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman ‍

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

‍ ‍ The Golden Age by Joan London

‍ The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

‍ The Secret River by Kate Grenville

‍ To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

‍ William Wordsworth: Poems Selected by Seamus Heaney

‍ ‍ Women of Troy by Euripides (Don Taylor's version)

‍ Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks

Tip: You can download and save many of these study guides for your own study use! How good is that?

And if that isn't enough, I'd highly recommend my How To Write A Killer Text Response ebook.

Most people seem to the think the most difficult part of Text Response is the writing component - and they're not completely wrong. However, what I've found is that not even students place emphasis on the brainstorming, preparation and planning of Text Response.

Think about it - if you don't come to the table with the best ideas, then how can you expect your essay to achieve A+? Even if you write an exceptional essay, if it doesn't answer the prompt, your teacher won't be sticking a smiley face on your work. We need to avoid these common teacher criticisms, and I have no doubt you've experienced at least once the dreaded, 'you're not answering the prompt', 'you could've used a better example' or 'more in-depth analysis needed'.

Enter my golden strategy - the THINK and EXECUTE strategy . This is a strategy I developed over the past 10 years of tutoring, and I've seen my students improve their marks every time. The THINK and EXECUTE strategy breaks up your Text Response into two parts - first the THINK, then the EXECUTE. Only with the unique THINK approach, will you then be able to EXECUTE your essay to its optimum potential, leading yourself to achieve those higher marks.

To learn more about the THINK and EXECUTE strategy, download my ebook sample on the shop page or at the bottom of this blog, or check out the video below:

‍ d) Get your hands on essay topics

Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to hint you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask.

We have a number of free essay topics curated by our team at LSG, check some of them out. Also go scroll back up to our list of study guides above, as most of those also have essay prompts included:

‍ ‍ All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topics ‍ Like a House on Fire Essay Topics ‍ ‍ The Handmaid's Tale Essay Topics ‍ ‍

e) Brainstorm and write plans

Once you've done some preliminary revision, it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Text Response essay.

Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans can will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.

I've curated essay topic breakdown videos based on specific VCE texts. In these videos, I explore keywords, ideas and how I'd plan an essay with corresponding examples/evidence.

f) Write essays

Yes, sad, but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing . Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Text Response next.

Take a look at some of the essays our amazing LSG team have written:

After Darkness Essay Topic Breakdown

All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topic Breakdown

‍ Extinction A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

‍ Station Eleven Essay Topic Breakdown ‍ ‍

Women of Troy Essay Topic Breakdown ‍

If you need any more tips on how to learn your text in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your text and is a must read for VCE English students!

And, if you're studying a text you hate (ugh!) be sure to check out Lavinia's guide which teaches you how to do well even when you don't like your text !

5. How To Write a Text Response

Before you start writing, make sure you're familiar with The Five Types of Text Response Prompts . Understanding the different types will help you move beyond a 'basic' one-size-fits-all structure.

In an introduction, you're expected to have the following:

  • Context (or background)
  • Author's name
  • Title of text
  • Main arguments

Here's an example from Vindhya (English study score 46), in her post Dissecting an A+ Essay Using 'The Golden Age' by Joan London :

Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life. There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.

Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and then move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.

Body Paragraph

Most of you will be familiar with TEEL. TEEL can stand for:

  • T opic sentence
  • L inking sentence

If your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different - that's okay too. At the end of the day the foundations are the same.

Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, 'as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace'. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; 'his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain'. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; 'we Jews have to be on the lookout'. Elsa sees 'a look in his eyes that she recognised', thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.

Conclusions should be short and sweet.

For further detail from Sarah (English study score 45), read her advice on 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion .

That's it for the Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response . Good luck!

*Originally posted in 2011, this blog post has been revised for the latest English study design.

2. Themes/Motifs

4. Character Analysis

5. Quote Analysis

6. Sample Essay Topics

7. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Much Ado About Nothing is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s classic comedies, and is in fact the most performed of his plays – even more than Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet . While it was also popular in Shakespeare’s time, its themes are still very contemporary. Much Ado About Nothing is a story of mixed-up love, lies and deceit, themes that are still prevalent in current hit movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before , or 10 Things I Hate About You . The banter between Beatrice and Benedick is amusing and ridiculous, and the ensuing drama between Hero and Claudio is probably not far off the modern drama in the relationships of your friends.

Much Ado About Nothing explores themes of love, the ways that we can be opposed to love and relationships, the position of women and necessity of marriage, and the ways we can deceive each other and ourselves. If you’ve ever felt attracted to someone who really pushed your buttons, felt a spark with someone the first time you saw them, experienced your friends’ relationship drama, said you’d never have a relationship because study is too important, or even maybe tried to play matchmaker for two people, this play is for you! Love is a beautiful and yet frustratingly unavoidable part of life, and Shakespeare shows us the many ways in which people can react to this and manipulate this for their own desires. This play uses comedy to reassure us that mistakes and misunderstandings in love are an innate part of humanity, as we struggle to communicate how we feel towards another person. Further, it is a play about how we stage these relationships to one another and questions whether true love needs an audience at all. As you’ll see, it’s very much a play about appearance and reality, and deception and truth – these are the kinds of questions that humanity will always face when dealing with love.

Themes / Motifs

Marriage and its effects on freedom.

Marriage acts as the primary source of the drama that unfolds in the play, and the main factor that drives its romantic plot forward. Much Ado About Nothing explores the paramount importance the Elizabethan society placed upon the notion of marriage, and the threat this often placed upon the free will of many individuals. This is primarily perceivable in the characters of Benedick, who compares the married man to a tame and lifeless animal, and Beatrice, who disparages the idea of saccharin romance and thus ‘mocks all her wooers out of suit’.

Chastity and Family Honour

‍ Much Ado About Nothing also examines the social concept that a woman should act gracefully and stay ‘chaste' until marriage in order to bring honour to her family. Claudio’s public rejection and public humiliation of Hero during their wedding ceremony acts as the climax of the plot and a direct representation of the societal values in the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare assumes an arguably feminist stance in his implied denouncement of this despotic treatment of women, who were expected to lose all social standing if they happened to lose their virginity before marriage. The extent of this cruelty is emphasised by the harsh, obliterative words of Leonato, as in his belief that Hero is unchaste, he proclaims his own daughter as ‘stained’ and ‘fallen into a pit of ink’, having brought dishonour upon his entire family.

Much of the play’s plot is driven by both accidental and deliberate deception, of which almost every character is a victim. False language in Much Ado About Nothing is so prevalent that it obliterates the truth and forms an alternate kind of society, in which characters assume the very roles chosen for them by the lies spread about them by others. For example, the rumours that Benedick and Beatrice are in love lead to their marriage, and Hero is treated as a whore by her own father due to Claudio’s denunciation of her as ‘every man’s Hero’. Despite this, Shakespeare examines both the positive and detrimental effects of such deceit; just as the duping of Claudio and Don Pedro culminates in Hero’s social demise, her faked death also allows her to reconcile with Claudio and attain her public redemption. 

Perception and Reality

The defining characteristic of Much Ado About Nothing is that nothing of material actually happens in the plot, other than marriage. There are no real fights, deaths, trials, illnesses or sexual encounters - the only perceivable change in the play is the perception of various events and characters, such as whether Hero is a virgin, or whether Claudio and Benedick will fight - hence its name, ‘ Much Ado About Nothing’.

Used to represent the idea of perception in the play, eyes are often utilised by Shakespeare when characters’ perceptions are distorted by the deceptive actions of others. Much like Claudio’s rhetorical question, ‘Are our eyes our own?’, the play questions the extent to which others affect an individual’s way of thought. 

Beards act as a complex emblem of masculinity in Much Ado About Nothing. Benedick’s autonomous bachelorhood is symbolised by his full, rugged beard, whereas Claudio’s clean, shaven face is a token of his ‘softness’ and emotional vulnerability. In tandem with this, Beatrice’s aversion to beards represents her scorn for men in general. It is important to note that the action of shaving one’s beard is a symbol that accompanies the act of getting married - Benedick’s first action as a married man is to shave his beard, and by doing such, allowing himself to be as vulnerable with Beatrice as ‘Lord Lack-beard’ Claudio is with Hero.

The Savage Bull

Don Pedro’s taunting of Benedick that “In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke,” symbolises the act of a free-willed man succumbing to the attractive comfort of marriage. The notion that marriage can be a kind of prison to men is repeatedly alluded to in the play through the symbol of the ‘savage bull’; just as the bull is tamed by humans’ training, the free bachelor is tamed by responsibility when he is married. However, the image of marriage shifts in the play along with a transformed imagery of the bull, as Claudio assures Benedick that his horns will be ‘tipped with gold’ and love through his marriage. This suggests that while it may seem like an intimidating and suffocating prospect, marriage can also provide infinite warmth and comfort to those who embrace it. 

Character Analysis

  • Niece of Leonato and cousin of Hero.
  • Although kind to her loved ones and described as ‘pleasant-spirited’, she is extremely witty and cynical, particularly towards Benedick, whom she once loved but now engages in constant bickering with.
  • Shakespeare’s symbol of early feminism, as she is a character of justice and female autonomy, vowing at the beginning of the play that she will never marry a man in order to keep her freedom.
  • A lord, recently returned from fighting in the wars.
  • Just like Beatrice, he also vows that he will never marry and stay a liberal bachelor.
  • Although he often retorts Beatrice’s snide remarks and sarcastic wit with insulting retort, his observant friends perceive an underlying affection for her beneath his facade of apathy. 
  • The main character through which Shakespeare explores the theme of deception and performance; as a natural entertainer, it is difficult for the audience to comprehend whether he is merely pretending to be in love with Beatrice, or genuinely in love with her. 
  • The beautiful, gentle and graceful daughter of Leonato.
  • The quintessential and ideal woman of the Elizabethan era, as she is obedient to her father and cherished for her perceived pureness and chastity. 
  • A young, handsome and widely appraised soldier who has attained great public acclaim through his noble fighting under Don Pedro’s command. 
  • Falls in love with Hero immediately upon his return to Messina.
  • Although depicted as the ideal male Elizabethan hero, his suspicious and doubtful nature results in his downfall, as he is quick to fall for deliberate lies and wicked rumours, even about those closest to him.
  • Sometimes referred to as ‘the Prince’, Don Pedro is an established nobleman from Aragon and longtime friend of Leonato.
  • A character with two faces; although socially adept and courteous in his public actions, he is, like Claudio, quick to fall for rumours and takes hasty revenge on those who fail his expectations. Through this characteristic of Don Pedro, Shakespeare condemns the hypocrisy of societal expectations, presenting the idea that propriety can often cover devious intent. 
  • Also referred to as ‘the Bastard’, Don John is the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro. 
  • Perpetually melancholy and dispirited due to his social standing as an outcast, he devises a treacherous plan to ruin the happy courtship between Hero and Claudio. 
  • Despite Shakespeare’s depiction of Don John as the villain of the play, many of his characteristics suggest  rather that he is merely an individual driven to commit evil deeds due to his inherent inferiority to his brother, and constant rejection by a prejudiced society. 

Quote analysis

“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”
  • This quote by Beatrice represents her aversion to the idea of marriage and her belief that no man will ever be able to satisfy her. 
  • As it was widely believed that the beard of a man symbolised his manliness and maturity, this conundrum suggests that Beatrice believes that no man, whether a man without a beard or a boy with one, will be able to win her love or admiration. 
“The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write ‘Here is good horse to hire’ let them signify under my sign ‘Here you may see Benedick, the married man.”
  • This quote is Benedick’s mocking, sarcastic reply to Don Pedro’s adage about how all men, even the wildest of them,  eventually settle down to become married. 
  • The ‘sensible Benedick’ here refers to a Benedick who is too clever and pragmatic to yield to the fleeting attractions of true love, as he knows that he will be disappointed by it soon enough. His imaginative scene of himself with ‘bull’s horns’ on his head symbolise the Renaissance belief that cuckolds, or men whose wives committed adultery, grew horns on their heads due to their futility. Thus, Benedick here is implying that part of his disinclination towards marriage stems from his fear that his wife will be unfaithful to him. 
“But now I am returned and that war thoughts have left their places vacant, in their rooms come thronging soft and delicate desires, all prompting me how fair young Hero is, saying I liked her ere I went to wars.”
  • Claudio here describes his swift transformation from a war hero to a passionate lover of Hero. The change that occurred in Claudio is so rapid that it is more of a passive event that occurred to him, rather than something that he chose of his own volition. 
  • As such, Shakespeare uses this quote to emphasise his volatile character and foreshadow the swiftness with which Claudio later disowns his feelings for Hero and humiliates her.

Sample Essay Topics

Quote-based essay prompt.

1. "I am a plain dealing villain." Don John is the only honest character. Discuss

How-Based Essay Prompt

2. How does Shakespeare use music and poetry to convey love and the intricacies of communication?

Metalanguage-Based Essay Prompt

3. Discuss Shakespeare's use of symbols throughout the play and how they relate to the concepts of appearance and reality.

Note: You’ll notice that each essay (or prompt, as we like to use interchangeably), has been labelled a particular type of prompt (theme-based, character-based, etc.). While we won’t go into detail with the types of prompts in this blog, in LSG’s How To Write A Killer Text Response , we explore the five different types of essay prompts. By identifying the type of essay prompt, you’ll immediately understand how you should answer the essay prompt so that you satisfy the VCAA criteria for your SACs and exams. This approach to essays is incredibly valuable as it saves you precious time during assessments, while ensuring you don’t go off topic.

Essay Topic Breakdowns

Character-based essay prompt  .

Much Ado About Nothing is primarily Shakespeare’s strong argument for feminism and female autonomy.

1. Shakespeare in Much Ado About Nothing utilises the character of Beatrice as the quintessential strong female hero, and thus encourages female autonomy. 

  • Beatrice’ strong, independent spirit and fierce wit defines her as the most powerful female character in the play. Her desire to remain a ‘maid’, uncommon in the times as every woman was expected to aspire to marriage, is a striking emblem of feminism, as her self-governance and liberated spirit is depicted.
  • Beatrice is also perceivably masculine - she even expresses her desire to have been born a man in her patriarchal society, stating, ’I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.’ As such, Shakespeare advocates that society should accept a more diverse range of women, including those with more masculine characteristics. 

2. In tandem with this, the character of Hero is employed as an instrument through which Shakespeare condemns the harsh societal expectations of women. 

  • The public humiliation of Hero as ‘unchaste’, or sexually loose, results in her rejection both from society and her own family, including her previously doting father, Leonato. 
  • As such, Hero’s devastating plight reminds the audience that being a woman in the Renaissance meant that one was constantly vulnerable to inferior treatment compared to men, and their harsh judgments - even from male relatives or close ones.

3. Ultimately, the repeatedly negative connotations of marriage expressed by female characters highlights the lack of autonomy women possessed in the Shakespearean era.

  • Beatrice’s extreme aversion to marriage, as she ‘cannot endure to hear tell of a husband’, suggests that it was not all women’s choice to marry but rather a heavy societal burden placed over their heads.
  • Hero is perceived to have almost no agency or self-determination when choosing a life partner, perceivable by Leonato’s reminder to her, 'Daughter, remember what I told you. If the Prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.’ As Hero expresses that her heart is ‘exceedingly heavy’ on her wedding day, the audience is positioned to question the extent of power that fathers held over their daughter’s fates in the Elizabethan era.

Theme-based essay prompt

In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare argues that deception always results in negative consequences. 

1. Deception is portrayed as a negative tool in Much Ado About Nothing , as trickery leads to tragic events, as Don John’s lies directly results in Hero’s social demise and the destruction of her relationship with Claudio. 

  • Don John’s deceitful words to Claudio before their wedding, “I came hither to tell you, and, circumstances shortened—for[Hero] has been too long a-talking of—the lady is disloyal,” lead to Claudio’s public humiliation of Hero as every man’s Hero’ - an unfaithful woman.
  • The catastrophic outcome of this highlights the negative power of deception and the danger of being swayed by mere hearsay, as Hero is not only scorned by all of society, but also disowned by her own father, who wishes death upon himself and his ‘stained’ daughter.

2. Despite this, deception is not always detrimental in Much Ado About Nothing , in which deliberate trickery leads to the resolution of the main romantic conflict between Beatrice and Benedick. 

  • The act of deceiving Benedick and Beatrice that the other is in love with them eventually leads to their marriage - the resolution of the main conflict of the play. 
  • Although Benedick is firmly against the idea of being contained by marriage in the beginning of the play, he becomes a passionate lover as soon as he hears the false words, “Did you know Beatrice is madly in love with Benedick?”, declaring that he ‘will be horribly in love with her’ thenceforth. 
  • Similarly, Beatrice is also positively influenced by deceptive words, as the audience can discern her transformation from a ‘flighty maid’ to a woman full of genuine affection of Benedick - perceivable by the end of the play, in which she delivers the lines, ‘Benedick, love on, I will requite thee, taming my wild heart to thy loving hand,’ as if releasing the very last fragment of her stubborn heart to him. 

3.  In a similar vein, Hero’s staged and thus deceptive death results in her social and familial redemption, as well as the saving of her marriage with Claudio. 

  • In order to punish Claudio for his mistakes, Leonato’s household publicly ‘publishes’ that Hero has died. 
  • The idea of Hero’s death brings so much guilt to Claudio that he begins to remember all of her benevolent qualities in a fit of misery, delivering the lines, ‘Sweet Hero, now thy image doth appear / In the rare semblance that I loved it first.’ 
  • Leonato asks Claudio to marry his niece (Hero in disguise) instead of the ‘dead’ Hero, and as Claudio tearfully agrees, the redemptive masquerade through which Hero and Claudio reconcile symbolises the positive factors of deception. 

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. If you're you’d like to read completed A+ essays based off the two essay topics above, as well as the ones listed below,  complete with annotations on HOW and WHY the essays achieved A+ so you can emulate this same success, then I would highly recommend checking out LSG's Killer Text Guide: Much Ado About Nothing . In it, we also cover themes, characters, views and values, metalanguage and have 4 other sample A+ essays completely annotated so you can smash your next SAC or exam! Check it out here.

‍ Extra Resources

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

Whenever you write anything, whether it be a creative piece, a text essay or a literature discussion, keep these four words in mind:

Simple language, complex ideas.

It seems a basic concept, and at the heart of it, it is! But these four words hold the key to unlocking your English potential. 

To write at your own personal best, you need to utilise the language that you are familiar with. This way, you won’t confuse yourself, and as an extension, the marker too!

Writing clearly and precisely is a skill that all academics can improve on, so how do we outdo ourselves? It’s really quite simple. 

Whenever you write, choose words familiar to you. Searching for longer and more complex words can be dangerous. Rather for the simple word, the word that can be universally understood. When you truly understand the language you use, you then have the power to explore your arguments with far more efficiency.

Of course, with progression of writing comes an increase of sophistication, but do not let this be your goal. Rather, aim to allow your vocabulary to increase organically, looking up definitions when and where you need to. Expression is a facet of writing that every person can improve on, so why overcomplicate your task?

Next time you write anything, consciously focus upon how you express your argument, point of view or analysis. Often, you will find, the simplest word can be the most effective!

So, what about the complex part? This too will grow organically. Find a concept, idea or theme that you understand, and simplify it through the best language you can think of. This way, you ensure that nothing becomes lost in translation, and you demonstrate clearly to the marker that you understand the core of your topic. Next, find another idea, this time of a greater complexity. Break it down and put it into your own words. Over time, you will not only build a concise and accurate writing style, but you will also learn your arguments intimately. You can never go wrong!

If you, like me, grew up Asian in Australia, you might think you already know a thing or two about, well, growing up Asian in Australia. Our stories can be pretty similar—just have a scroll through the ‘subtle asian traits’ Facebook group, or have a conversation with literally any Asian Australian about their parents.

At the same time, it’s also important to recognise that everyone’s experiences are diverse, especially given how broad an identity ‘Asian’ can be. Also important is to recognise how broad and intersectional identity can be in general—intersectional meaning that race isn’t the only thing that defines any one of us. Things like gender, socio-economic status, ability, sexual orientation and religion can also be really central, for example. Each of these things can impact the way we navigate the world.

Covering a broad range of these stories is Alice Pung’s anthology, Growing Up Asian In Australia . Some of the contributors in this volume include Sunil Badami , Matt Huynh , Bon-Wai Chou , Diana Nguyen , Michelle and Benjamin Law, and Shaun Tan , and already this cross-section is fairly diverse in nature. You can also click on their names to find out a bit more about each of their work. I think this is worth a few minutes, just to get acquainted with the sheer range of Asian-Australian creatives who are represented in this book, and to locate their work within the themes they write about—in other words, having a think about the ways that cultural heritage, or experiences with family, or economic hardship permeate their work, both in the anthology and in their lives outside it.

The anthology is (perhaps quite helpfully) divided into sections which revolve around key themes, which is also going to inform the structure of this guide. I’ll be using this guide to go through an exercise that I found really helpful when learning the text, which involves:

  • taking two stories per section and drawing up some dot-point similarities and differences
  • translating two of those points into paragraphs, a bit like a ‘mini-essay’

We’ll go through some an example of what this might look like, and why it’s a helpful exercise to try.

Before we start diving into Growing Up Asian in Australia , I'd highly recommend checking out LSG's Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Strine (Badami & Tseng)

Strine is what’s called a syncope , a shortened way of pronouncing Australian (a bit like ‘Straya’)—it refers to Australian English as it’s spoken by locals. This section of the book is all about language , and about the difficulties of juggling two languages growing up, and Badami and Tseng’s stories are great examples of this.

1. Similarity: connections to one’s mother tongue fade over time. Tseng recounts how, one by one, she and her sisters stopped learning Chinese as they progressed through their Australian education. Badami on the other hand compromises his name which stood out as too Indian when he “just wanted to fit in.”

2. Similarity: for ‘third-culture kids’, losing knowledge of their language also strains their relationship with their forebears. Badami’s mother is shocked to hear the anglicisation of his name despite the significance it carrie for her (“she spat my unreal new name out like something bitter and stringy”), and Tseng describes the experience of communicating with her father in “Chinglish” so that they can both understand each other.

3. Difference: language can be an internalised, personal experience, or a highly exposed and interpersonal one. While Tseng feels her loss of her language as a “sense of shame, a vague unease”, Badami is almost bullied into changing his name, “Sunil? Like banana peel?”

The Clan (Law & Chau)

This section delves into the complex ties that hold migrant families together. Chau’s poems are starkly different to Law’s story, so it’ll be interesting to compare how these different narrative forms work to explore those ideas.

1. Similarity : it can take at least one generation for migrant families to dig their roots into their new home. While Law’s parents are proud tourists at Queensland theme parks, he and his siblings “groan” at their comportment. Chau’s poem ‘The Firstborn’ traces his ancestry forward until he arrived, “an ABC” and his son “by amniotic sea”, both of them born into Australia.

2 . Similarity: family dynamics are still traditional and therefore gendered. Law notes how his mother’s health suffered when divorcing his father, and Chau notes that the women members of his family were “cast off” the family tree “as if they were never born.

3. Difference: family history and heritage can vary in importance. Chau’s family traces back “twenty-eight generations” of history, whereas Law’s family very much lives in the present, the only tie to older generations being his “Ma-Ma”, or grandma.

4. Difference: families show their love in different ways. Whether it’s dedicating a poem to his son about his life as one of “ten thousand rivers” of Chinese diaspora into the Australian sea, or taking the kids to theme parks on weekends, all sorts of affection can hold families together.

Putting it together

So I’ve tried to choose two sections (and four stories) that are all a bit different to try and mix it up and get some rich comparative discussion out of these. You might be studying this text alone, but even as one text, remember that there’s a lot of diverse experiences being represented in it, so discussing how stories connect, compare and contrast is just as important as discussing the content of individual stories themselves.

If we do a mini-essay, we might as well go about it properly and pick some sort of contention. Without a fixed prompt though, it might be easier to start with those dot points and pick which ones we want to write out and string together. Let’s pick two—connections to mother tongue fading over time (Strine similarity 1) and digging roots into Australia over time (The Clan similarity 1). A contention covering these points might look like:

While second generation migrants may struggle with loss of culture, they also constitute a unique and significant part of the diaspora.

Many migrants lose connections to their heritage over time, and these connections are often in the form of language. Particularly for Asian migrants, there is not as strong a need to preserve their mother tongue in the English-speaking Australia, and as such their knowledge of those languages can be easily lost. Ivy Tseng, for instance, recalls how she was never able to “grasp the significance” of learning Chinese as a child, and eventually she and her sisters would prioritise “study” and other academic pursuits over learning Chinese. Because tertiary study and education as an institution generally carry a lot of weight in migrant cultures, there is often a compromise made at the expense of heritage and language. These compromises can come from other factors as well, particularly the group dynamics of being in white-dominated Australia. Bullying is a frequent culprit, and Badami for example is indeed peer-pressured into resenting—and ultimately anglicising—his name, “Sunil? Like banana peel?” More generally speaking, a sense of shame for one’s difference is a common part of the migrant experience—Law experiences it as well at theme parks, where he and his siblings attempt to “set [them]selves apart” from the faux-pas of their parents. Not always an intentional goal, but a general willingness to compromise connections to heritage underscores many Asian Australian migrant stories, particularly of second-generation migrants.

However, the extent to which migrants feel socially integrated in society shifts generationally and over time as well. Second generation migrants are thus unique in that they have the closest connection to their heritage while also initiating this process of integration. Law and his siblings exemplify this, with their “Australian accents” and “proper grammar and syntax.” While some loss of their native Cantonese takes place, they are also the first in their family to sound Australian, one step closer to being Australian. They constitute part of the distinct, third culture of “ABC”—Australian-born Chinese—to which Chau alludes in his poem, ‘The Firstborn’. Distinct from first-generation migrants, ABCs are a product of diaspora and spend their formative years immersed in the Australian way of life. Chau’s poem goes on to highlight how sizeable this demographic now is—“the sea is awash with the unfathomable Chinese sons.” Thus, we can see how ABCs, or second generation Asian migrants, represent a unique and significant social group exemplified by great compromise, but also great change.

Why is this useful?/How can I apply this?

I like this exercise because it gets you thinking creatively about the key implications of the stories. Within a section or theme, you want to identify similarities in how both stories contribute to our understanding of that theme . You also want to identify differences to explore how stories can be unique and nuanced , which will provide your essay with more depth when you ultimately need it. Then, putting it all together helps you synthesise new connections between themes .

For an analytical study of this text, you’d flesh out those ideas until they become paragraphs, introducing relevant evidence and mixing it up with explanatory sentences as you go. Explanatory sentences keep you analysing rather than story-telling, and they usually don’t have any quotes—an example from above might be “because tertiary study and education as an institution generally carry a lot of weight in migrant cultures, there is often a compromise made at the expense of heritage and language.”

For a creative study, you’d take away those ideas and look at how else you might explore them in other stories. Feel free to challenge yourself for this; I remember falling back on more personal writing when studying this creatively, but don’t neglect other genres or forms! If second generation migrants are in fact more on their way to belonging, write a speculative story about how an apocalypse tests those connections to white Australians. I dunno, but don’t be afraid to really push the boundaries here and test the implications you draw from the stories.

Give it a go

Try it for some of these:

  • UnAustralian? (Loewald & Law) and Leaving Home (Diana Nguyen & Paul Nguyen)
  • Battlers (Dac & Law/Huynh) and Mates (Phommavanh & Ahmed)
  • The Folks (Lazaroo & Tran) and Homecoming (Beeby & Larkin)

Growing Up Asian in Australia Essay Prompt Breakdown

Video Transcription

The essay topic we’ll be looking at today is short and sweet;

To belong is to sacrifice. Discuss. 

The key terms are evidently “to belong” and “to sacrifice”, so these are the words and definitions that we’ll have to interrogate. 

Belonging is a feeling of being accepted by someone or being a member of something, so we’d have to ask who is doing the accepting, and what are the writers seeking to be members of. On the other hand, sacrifice is loss, it’s giving something up—it’s implied that seeking belonging means you may have to navigate compromises to what you have, how you live, or maybe, who you are. Have a think about what sacrifices are made by whom, and why.

With that in mind, let’s brainstorm a contention . We usually want to avoid going fully agree or fully disagree to create a bit more ‘grit’ for the essay—and in this case, the prompt is pretty deterministic or absolute; it’s saying that belonging is all about sacrifice. 

I’d probably argue that belonging is sometimes about sacrifice, and for migrant children they often give up some of their culture or heritage for Western lifestyle or values. That being said, belonging in these cases is probably more about synthesis than sacrifice—it’s about being able to negotiate and bring heritage into increasingly Australian ways of life.

The brainstorming section of writing a killer essay is where my THINK and EXECUTE strategy comes in. If you haven’t heard of it before, essentially, it’s a method of essay writing that emphasises the importance of really thinking about all aspects of a prompt and exploring all the different avenues you can go down. To be able to EXECUTE a well-reasoned, coherent and articulate essay that contains enough nitty-gritty analysis, you have to do enough THINKing to get some meat on the essay’s skeleton, so to speak. To learn more, check out my top selling eBook, How To Write A Killer Text Response .

In paragraphs , we could start by looking at some of the sacrifices people make in order to belong . The poem, ’Be Good, Little Migrants’ has a more of a cynical take on this, suggesting that migrant groups are expected to sacrifice economic mobility and even personal dignity in order to gain favour with locals: “give us your faithful service”, “display your gratitude but don’t be heard, don’t be seen.” 

Economic sacrifices are seen across many stories, from the working class “decent enough income” in ‘Family Life’ to the failing business in ‘ABC Supermarket’. Other forms of sacrifice might be less material—for example Benjamin Law’s sacrifice of his Mariah Carey cassettes in an attempt to fit in at school from the story ‘Towards Manhood’. This example is interesting because it isn’t a cultural sacrifice, but a gendered one—it’s a good reminder that identity is always multi-layered. 

For migrant children though, the sacrifices usually revolve around their race and culture . Diana Nguyen for example notes language as a key sacrifice: she quits Vietnamese school because she didn’t feel like she belonged with the grade ones in her class, and her ultimate “lack of interest in learning [Vietnamese] created a lasting barrier” between her mother and her. In Sunil Badami’s story, ‘Sticks and Stones and Such-Like’, the sacrifice is his name, as he Anglicises it to Neil. When his mother finds out, “she spat my unreal new name out like something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow.” The common denominator here is that Asians growing up in Australia often have to navigate sacrificing some of their heritage in order to belong in western society. 

However, the challenges faced by the Asian diaspora growing up abroad are more complex and more nuanced than just sacrifice. More often than not, they’re required to synthesise a ‘third culture’ identity that balances their heritage with western values and lifestyles. 

Diana Nguyen goes on to discuss her career trajectory in becoming a “working actor” in Melbourne’s entertainment industry, carving out a path for herself in spite of her parents’ disapproval, and going on to represent a new generation of Asian Australians in the media. The story ‘Wei-Lei and Me’ also points to this shifting demographic in Australia, as Gouvernel and her best friend stave off a racist primary school bully only to see their home change for the better as they grew up, with new restaurants from their home cuisines opening up. At the same time, they “had become what [they] thought [they] could never be: Australian,” describing a way of life in Canberra that is unmistakably Australian. 

So, belonging isn’t necessarily all about sacrifice—it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue your passions or become ‘Australian’. Sure, sometimes sacrifice is necessary, but ‘third culture kids’ synthesise conflicting identities in order to belong. 

Having arrived at the contention, let’s just have another think about the takeaway message - being able to bring other themes into an essay topic that only really raises one theme. To answer this topic fully, a good essay wouldn’t just discuss belonging and sacrifice, but it would also bring in discussion about family, friends, careers and cultures, just to name a few. Hopefully this is something you can translate into your own future work!

Growing Up Asian In Australia is an anthology with a lot to unpack, but there are plenty of unique stories with plenty of interesting links to be made. However you’re learning this text, being able to draw conclusions from stories and extrapolate them into your writing is a really important skill.

As you go, ask yourself about the implications: ‘so what?’ and ‘why?’. These sorts of questions will help you get richer insights and write about the anthology in a more interesting way.

Last updated 20/10/19

Planning is an essential part of any successful text response essay. It helps you ensure that you’re answering the prompt, utilising enough quotes and writing the most unique and perceptive analysis possible! The hard part of this is that you only have about FIVE MINUTES to plan each essay in the Year 12 English exam… (more info on the best way to tackle that challenge in this video !)

So, I developed the FIVE TYPES of essay prompts to help students streamline their planning process and maximise every minute of their SACs and exams.

By identifying the type of prompt you’re being challenged with immediately, a number of parameters or guidelines are already set in place. For a specific type of prompt, you have specific criteria to meet – for example, in a metalanguage-based prompt , you immediately know that any evidence you brainstorm in your planning stage should be based around the literary techniques used in your given text.

If you’d like the full picture on our best FREE advice on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response here .

1. Theme-Based Prompt

‘Ambition in the play Macbeth leads to success.’ Discuss. ( Macbeth )

When you’re presented with a theme-based prompt, you can automatically shift your brainstorming and planning towards the themes mentioned in the prompt along with any others that you can link to the core theme in some way.

In regard to this Macbeth prompt, for example, you could explore the different ways the theme of ambition is presented in the text. Additionally, the themes of guilt and power are intimately related to ambition in the text, so you can use those other ideas to aid your brainstorming and get you a step ahead of the rest of the state come exam day.

2. Character-Based Prompt

‘Frankenstein’s hubris is what punishes him.’ Discuss. ( Frankenstein )

These prompts are pretty easy to spot – if you see a character’s name in the prompt, there you have it; you have a character-based prompt on your hands.

Once you know this, you can assume that each example you brainstorm has to be relevant to the specific character named in the prompt in some way. Also, you can explore how the actions of characters don’t occur in isolation – they’re almost always interrelated. Remember, however, that the actions of characters are always connected to the themes and ideas the author is trying to convey.

This type of prompt also grants you some freedoms that other types don’t give. For example, unlike a Theme-based prompt, a character-based prompt means that it’s perfectly fine to write about characters in the topic sentences of your body paragraphs.

3. How-Based Prompt

‘How does Grenville showcase Rooke’s inner conflict in The Lieutenant ?’ ( The Lieutenant )

Unlike other prompts, the ‘How’ positions you to focus more on the author’s writing intentions. This can be achieved by discussing metalanguage – language that describes language (read my blog post about it here ). These prompts tell you immediately that you need to be thinking about the literary techniques explored in the text and explain how they affect the narrative.

Rather than using specific techniques to frame your specific arguments, it’s best to use them as evidence to support arguments that attack the main themes/ideas mentioned in the prompt.

4. Metalanguage or Film-Technique-Based Prompt

‘Hitchcock’s use of film techniques offers an unnerving viewing experience’. Discuss. ( Rear Window )

This type of prompt is very similar to How-based prompts, specifically in the fact that the discussion of literary techniques is essential.

For this type of prompt specifically, however, the actual techniques used can form more of a basis for your arguments, unlike in How-based prompts .

5. Quote-Based Prompt

“Out, damned spot!” How does Shakespeare explore the burden of a guilty conscience in Macbeth ? ( Macbeth )

Countless students ask me every year, “What do I do when there’s a quote in the prompt?!” My reply to these questions is actually fairly straightforward!

There are two main things that you should do when presented with this type of prompt. Firstly, contextualise the quote in your essay and try to use it in your analysis in some way. Secondly, interpret the themes and issues addressed in the quote and implement these into your discussion. The best place to do both of these is in a body paragraph – it weaves in seamlessly and allows for a good amount of analysis, among other reasons!

When faced with unknown prompts in a SAC or your exam, it's reassuring to have a formulaic breakdown of the prompt so that your brain immediately starts categorising the prompt - which of the 5 types of prompts does this one in front of me fall into? To learn more about brainstorming, planning, essay structures for Text Response, read our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

We've curated essay prompts based off our All the Light We Cannot See Study Guide which explores themes, characters, and quotes.

LSG-curated All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topics

  • Contrary to what the title might suggest, All the Light We Cannot See explores light more so than darkness. Is this true?
  • How does Doerr’s narrative structure highlight the similarities and differences between Marie Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • All the Light We Cannot See demonstrates that war brings out the best and worst in humanity. Discuss.
  • Explore the forms of courage demonstrated in All the Light We Cannot See.
  • What is the role of family in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • Werner’s character is defined by his cowardly and harmful conformity to the Nazi regime. To what extent do you agree?
  • All the Light We Cannot See is a warning against unethical and selfish scientific pursuits. Discuss.
  • Who deserves our sympathy in All the Light We Cannot See and why?
  • Throughout All the Light We Cannot See, various forms of guilt are shown to be emotionally crushing. Is this true?
  • “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” Explore the value and meaning of human life as evinced in All the Light We Cannot See.
  • No character from All the Light We Cannot See is totally monstrous, just as no character is totally pure. Do you agree?
  • In All the Light We Cannot See , Doerr suggests that nobody truly has agency over themselves. Discuss.
  • More so than any other object, it is the radio which drives the plot of All the Light We Cannot See . Is this an accurate statement?
  • All the Light We Cannot See posits that strength must come from within. Discuss.
  • “Open your eyes and see what you can see with them before they close forever.” To what extent do characters exhibit this sentiment in All the Light We Cannot See ?

If you'd like to see a fully planned, written and annotated essay, see our All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topic Breakdown .

All the Light We Cannot See is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

We’ve explored themes, literary devices and characters and development amongst other things over on our After Darkness by Christine Piper blog post. If you need a quick refresher or you’re new to studying this text, I highly recommend checking it out!

Here, we’ll be breaking down an After Darkness essay topic using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, you can learn about it in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse

Step 2: B rainstorm

Step 3: C reate a Plan

Let’s get into it!

The Prompt: 

‘While Ibaraki clearly suffers the consequences of his actions, it is those closest to him who pay the highest price. Discuss.’

Step 1: Analyse

This is a theme-based prompt, and the keywords are: suffer, consequence, actions and highest price . You want to explore both the evidence that supports the statement and also any evidence that may offer a contradiction to the statement. From here you can find the definition of the keywords to help develop some questions to explore.

Step 2: Brainstorm

To suffer is to be affected by or subject to something unpleasant. 

  • Is Ibaraki the only one who suffers? Who else suffers? Kayoko, Johnny, Stan, Sister Bernice.
  • How do characters deal with their suffering differently? Kayoko and Sister Bernice abandon their relationships with Ibaraki, Johnny becomes agitated and spiteful, Stan becomes depressed. 

A consequence is a result of an action. 

  • Are the consequences negative or positive? Johnny being outspoken in the internment camp angers the traditionalist Japanese, but creates a sense of kinship amongst the half-blood Japanese. 
  • Can characters overcome these consequences or learn from them? Ibaraki eventually learns from his mistakes and grows as a result. 

An action is the process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim. 

  • Is it Ibaraki’s actions, or lack thereof that lead to consequences? It is often his silence and obedience that cause trouble. For example, not telling Kayoko about his work leads to the failure of their marriage.  
  • Is it only Ibaraki who makes mistakes? Sister Bernice ignores her religion to confess her love for Ibaraki. 
  • What are the factors that cause the characters to act in the way that they do? Ibaraki’s guilt and fear of authority and judgement prevent him from speaking up on multiple occasions.  

Highest price refers to Ibaraki’s suffering being above all else. 

  • Is this true? Ibaraki loses his dignity, his friends, his wife, his unborn child, his family, his job and his freedom. However, he does partially regain these.  
  • Who suffers the most? Kayoko has a miscarriage and her marriage to Ibaraki fails. Stan is assaulted by other internees and is eventually killed by a guard. Johnny becomes an outcast in his community and is bullied by other internees.  

At this point, you can begin to group your ideas and evidence from the text to support your claims.

Throughout the novel, Piper uses a variety of literary devices including dialogue, simile and foreshadowing to convey her message of every action having a consequence . The most prominent of these is her use of imagery and metaphor which she uses to illustrate Ibaraki’s guilt and the way it impacts his actions. However, the story is not only centred around Ibaraki. Piper also highlights that people will often face consequences no matter what decision they make. She does this through her use of foil characters (characters who are used to highlight a particular trait in another character). For example, Ibaraki’s fear and obedience are emphasised by the courage of Kayoko and Johnny Chang. These characters, alongside Ibaraki, face suffering as a result of their actions. 

From these ideas, the main themes I am going to explore are what factors affect the character’s actions, and how the consequences of these actions can lead to negative, but also positive change. 

Step 3: Create a Plan

Paragraph 1:

  • Whilst the novel centres around Ibaraki’s actions and their consequences, he is not the only character that makes mistakes and is forced to face the repercussions.

Paragraph 2:

  • It is not necessarily Ibaraki’s actions, but lack of action that often results in the suffering of those around him. Consider the reasons for his lack of action: his blind devotion to authority, his fear of judgement, his ongoing guilt and regret from previous situations.
  • Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, but it is not the only factor.

Paragraph 3:

  • Ibaraki may pay the highest price for his actions. The structure of the storyline to include a chapter from Ibaraki’s perspective years later indicates that these consequences have ultimately led to positive change.

Now it is time to write the essay!

Set during the Pacific War, Christine Piper’s After Darkness explores the difficulties and misfortunes many face during wartime. Depicting the rise and fall of Japan’s war efforts (1) , After Darkness highlights that all actions have consequences of varying severity, particularly those of protagonist Dr Ibaraki Tomokazu. Throughout the novel, Ibaraki’s lack of action perpetuates the suffering of those closest to him, however, this is shown to be one of many factors and often initiates positive change within him, allowing his character to develop. Fundamentally, After Darkness highlights that change can only occur if people face the repercussions of their actions. (2)

Annotations (1) In the introduction, it is important to introduce the text with context . As After Darkness is predominantly set in 1942 during wartime in both Japan and Australia, it is important to include this in the introduction in order to explore the essay topic with a complete understanding. 

(2) Another key part of the introduction is to briefly introduce the topics you will discuss throughout the essay.

Throughout the novel, Piper emphasises the idea that all actions have consequences, however, this idea is not limited to Ibaraki. Across the three novel strands, protagonist Dr Tomokazu Ibaraki’s suffering as a result of his mistakes is depicted through both his internal and external dialogue. Ibaraki makes many significant mistakes throughout his lifetime, one of these being his failure to perform a dissection of a child when working at Unit 731. Despite ‘not [being] [him]self’ (3) when asked to perform the operation, Ibaraki is promptly fired. His termination of employment is not the only consequence of his failure, as shame continues to take over his confidence. This is illustrated when he was ‘unable to go on’ during an operation in Broome, despite being in a completely different scenario. Through Ibaraki’s flashback of ‘Black dots on a child’s belly’, Piper indicates the torment and lasting effects of consequences on an individual (4) . Whilst the novel centres around his mistakes, it is revealed that Ibaraki is not the only character who is forced to face the repercussions of their actions. Despite acting as foils for Ibaraki and presenting many different qualities, Australian internees Johnny Chang and Stan Suzuki also struggle immensely to overcome the results of their behaviours. Johnny Chang’s outspoken nature is often shown to cause disruption among the camp, for example, labelling the imperialist Japanese as ‘emperor worshipping pig’s.’ In standing for his beliefs, Johnny creates a tense division within groups, leading to the half Australian internees being treated like ‘outcasts’. Conversely, Stan’s introverted behaviour results in his eventual death (5) . Piper’s contention that all actions have consequences is arguably enforced strongly through Stan’s death, as it results from the failure of many characters to act. Ibaraki’s inability to open up, Johnny’s selfishness and Stan’s loss of self are inevitably all factors leading to his eventual demise. This is ultimately reinforced when Johnny states ‘It should’ve been me Doc’, indicating he has finally realised his role in the tragedy.

Annotations (3) In order to embed quotes , words, prefixes and suffixes can be added to ensure the sentence flows correctly. However, you must indicate that you have edited the quote by placing your changes in square brackets. Here, the original quote was ‘not myself’ but it has been changed to fit the sentence. 

(4) Whilst it is important to include quotes, it is even more important that you analyse how the author uses the quote to convey a message. In this case, the example of one of Ibaraki’s many flashbacks is used to bear Piper’s belief that one cannot escape the repercussions of their actions.

(5) Comparison is a powerful way of exploring the author’s ideas throughout the text. Here, Johnny’s outspoken nature is contrasted with Stan’s ‘introverted behaviour’, yet both concede repercussions. This supports the idea that all actions have consequences, no matter their nature.

Ibaraki’s lack of action acts as a perpetuating factor for the suffering of those closest to him, however, it is not the only factor. After Darkness shows the faults in many of Ibaraki’s actions, suggesting his mistakes lead to the misfortunes of many of those around him but this is only partially true. Stan Suzuki’s death is a pivotal moment in the novel where Ibaraki begins to truly express his emotions and open up about the pain he feels (6). Ibaraki realises that he ‘could have done something’ when opening up to the investigators of Stan’s death, leading to the conclusion that Ibaraki is to blame. Piper illustrates that suffering results as a combination of factors through the later revelations of Johnny’s escape attempt and the instability of the ‘trigger-happy’ guard who shot Stan. This idea is reinforced through the breakdowns of Ibaraki’s close relationships with Kayoko and Sister Bernice. Whilst Ibaraki’s emotionally distant nature catalysed the loss of these significant relationships, it was not the only factor. Both Kayoko and Sister Bernice are structured with similar characteristics in the novel, one being their confidence and strength in their beliefs. Nevertheless, both women lack this characteristic when it comes to their relationship with Ibaraki (7) . Ibaraki admits his separation from Kayoko is his ‘greatest regret’, and whilst the first-person perspective does not give an insight into Kayoko’s side, she is shown to lack her usual self-assuredness. Similarly, Ibaraki’s allowance of ‘silence [to] stretch between…’ him and Sister Bernice is hurtful and a failure on his behalf, yet she still willingly confesses her feelings, aware of the risks involved. This is evident when ‘her eyes dart away from [his]’, implying she is ashamed of her statement as it contradicts her religion and the terms of their work relationship and friendship. This results in an abrupt end to their friendship as the embarrassment of the repercussions of her actions overwhelm Sister Bernice. Whilst the series of mistakes that Ibaraki makes throughout the novel show that his actions cause grief for both him and the people around him, they also highlight that the misfortune of others is not always the fault of one individual.

Annotations (6) Referring to specific events in the text is extremely useful to support your ideas and claims. However, it is important that you avoid over-explaining the event, as this will lead to you retelling , rather than analysing the text. See How To Avoid Retelling the Story for more tips. 

(7) An often-overlooked literary device is the use of foils . A foil is a character that is used to highlight a particular trait in another character, often a flaw. In this case, Piper uses the similarities between Kayoko and Sister Bernice, and the ultimate failure of their relationships. This highlights Ibaraki’s repetition of his mistakes, which we can attribute to his ongoing guilt. 

Ibaraki ultimately pays the highest price for his actions; although this is shown to result in positive change. Through her descriptions of Australia and Japan, Piper uses the juxtaposition of light and dark imagery to illustrate how suffering can lead to learning and growth. Facing racism in Broome when labelled as a ‘Bloody Jap…’, trauma from his experiences in Unit 731 and hardship during his internment at Loveday, Ibaraki is constantly a victim of circumstance. Even so, the pressures and torment of these events force him to seek the support of others. The colourful descriptions of the ‘pink spur of land crested with green’ foreshadow the positive change to come for Ibaraki (8) . This becomes evident when Ibaraki finally opens up to Stan in the infirmary about his separation from Kayoko. Ibaraki’s development as a character continues as he learns to trust despite the unfair circumstances of being interned. Although memories of trees haunting the river’s edge ‘like lost people’ and the bark of red trees appearing ‘like blistered skin’ continue to plague Ibaraki’s conscience, they force him to confront his past and in turn begin to heal. Through the retrospective novel, Piper describes Japan as where ‘darkness crowded the corners’ and Ibaraki worked ‘in the basement’, indicating his misguided obedience and attachment to silence. This not only illustrates (9) Ibaraki’s trauma, but emphasises his drastic development through his experiences. The importance of the consequences Ibaraki has faced throughout his lifetime are reinforced in the final pages of the novel after he reads Sister Bernice’s letter and has an epiphany. The discovery that he had ‘clung to the ideal of discretion’ creates a sense of hope for Ibaraki’s future and emphasises his newfound understanding of life through the consequences he has faced. (10)

Annotations (8) Ensure you don’t just randomly place quotes throughout the essay, but instead, analyse them to give them meaning. An easy way to do this is by including the quote , its connotations and what emotions or ideas they provoke, followed by why the author has used it. In this case, the quote was the ‘pink spur of land crested with green.’ Its connotations were positive such as colour, happiness, and hope. These connotations were used to foreshadow positive change. 

(9) Using a variety of vocabulary such as ‘illustrates’, ‘explores’ and ‘demonstrates’ shows that you are not only identifying what the author is doing but that you understand how and why they have done it in this way. This is ultimately the goal of a text response essay. 

(10) It is important to ensure the flow of your essay to show sophistication in your writing. It is not only the ideas you have, but the way in which you convey and explain them that ultimately indicates your understanding of the text. A simple way to do this is to use a summary sentence at the end of each topic that subscribes to the idea and links to the previous or following paragraph. 

Essentially After Darkness highlights the necessity of facing consequences for our actions to promote learning and growth. Whilst Ibaraki and many other characters suffered as a result of their behaviour, Piper asserts that Ibaraki is not the overall perpetrator but ultimately pays the highest price of all. (11)

Annotations (11) Just like the introduction, the conclusion is a brief summary of the discussion topics throughout your text response. Most importantly, after exploring all of the evidence you must form a stance in relation to the essay topic. Many students believe that this needs to be a simple and definite yes or no, which is not the case. Instead, I have suggested that Ibaraki is not the only one to blame for other character’s suffering, but that ultimately, he paid the highest price. Check out 5 Tips for a Mic-Drop Worthy Essay Conclusion if you need more help finishing your essay off with a bang!

If you found this essay breakdown helpful, then you might want to check out our After Darkness Study Guide which includes 5 A+ sample essays with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals!

After Darkness is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Get exclusive weekly advice from Lisa, only available via email.

Power-up your learning with free essay topics, downloadable word banks, and updates on the latest VCE strategies.

latest articles

Check out our latest thought leadership on enterprise innovation., developing interpretations sac guide: interpreting alias grace.

essay zinger examples

Why Genre Matters in VCE Literature: An Analysis of Dracula

Reckoning & the namesake: quote analysis by theme.

essay zinger examples

Keep in touch

Have questions? Get in touch with us here - we usually reply in 24 business hours.

Unfortunately, we won't be able to answer any emails here requesting personal help with your study or homework here!

essay zinger examples

Copyright © Lisa's Study Guides. All Rights Reserved. The VCAA does not endorse and is not affiliated with Lisa's Study Guides or The VCAA provides the only official, up to date versions of VCAA publications and information about courses including the VCE. VCE® is a registered trademark of the VCAA.

03 9028 5603 Call us: Monday to Friday between 3pm - 6pm or leave us a message and we'll call you back! Address: Level 2 Little Collins St Melbourne 3000 VIC


  1. Types of news story leads

    essay zinger examples

  2. Parenting Advice- Stop the Zingers

    essay zinger examples

  3. LaVilla 8th Grade Language Arts: How to Elaborate--body paragraphs

    essay zinger examples

  4. zinger: How to pronounce zinger with Phonetic and Examples

    essay zinger examples

  5. Zinger

    essay zinger examples

  6. Sample Short Argumentative Essay

    essay zinger examples


  1. Zinger 🔥🍗 For delivery ☎️71497014☎️العنوان لبنان الحدث

  2. Emily Zinger Highlights

  3. Awaryjny ZINGER KFC

  4. Essay

  5. Everything About Essay Writing

  6. #GetAllPapers #USA #academia #academic #writer #writing


  1. Best One-Liners and Zingers

    Best One-Liners and Zingers The HyperTexts The Best One-Liners and Zingers This page contains some of the greatest one-liners and "zingers" in the English language. One-liners and zingers are humorous forms of the epigram (a brief, pithy or startling statement). Let's begin our inquiry with the following question:

  2. Zingers, quotes, anecdotes and other things that make your

    Weber offers several examples of how documents gave her great leads:-Employee disciplinary records -- which become public when an employee makes an appeal -- often have graphic details about employee conduct, medical misconduct. Weber once discovered that a nurse had a janitor administer medications this way.

  3. Narrative Essay: hooks and zingers

    1. *Interesting/Sensory Description: Ashes filled the air as I sat at the campfire. Smoke burned my eyes and my clothes reeked. 2. *Conversation: “We’re moving.” That’s what she told me. I couldn’t believe it! I had just made the basketball team and was making more friends. “What!” I exclaimed. 3.

  4. 5 tips for a mic-drop worthy essay conclusion

    Closing Sentence “Zingers” *Uses a transitional phrase *Tells the reader how the writer feels *Repeats the main idea *Ends with a wish or a hope