I got an email earlier from Kirsty asking about how to end a text analysis question:
“instead of saying ‘The above all shows how Love after Love portrays emotions’ or ‘This all shows how all the main characters of Lord of the Flies show leadership’ or to that effect, something a little more interesting?”
This seemed a good question, so I thought I’d share my answer with you, the first part of which may be useless, but the last part can’t be faulted:
How you end depends to some extent on what you’ve said in the main body of the essay, but generally you should end on an evaluative note, summarising the detailed analysis of the main body of the essay, and linking it to a conclusion about the wider significance of the text(s) you are writing about:
For example if you’ve been considering the leadership qualities of a range of characters in LotF, you might conclude by saying which you think has the best claim to leadership, by linking the discussion out to the wider significance of the novel. For example:
“Although I have shown that Golding portrays Ralph as the character most likely to have leadership skills that would be valued in our democratic society, while Jack is the leader who would win out if pure force of personality were the deciding factor, I believe that it is the quiet, reflective Simon whom Golding advances as the truest leader. Like other moral leaders who speak to us from beyond the grave after their assassination: Martin Luther King, Gandhi, even Jesus Christ, Simon showed that it is only by recognising the evil, the darkness, the ‘Beast’ in our midst that we can hope to create a better society.”
or, with regard to your poetry example:
“The emotions of nostalgia, regret, hope and euphoria that I have explored in Love After Love suggest that Walcott recognises that even if we find our true self drained by a relationship that forces us to neglect our own needs, nevertheless, over time, we can rediscover the love for ourself that allows us to love others in the first place.”
I hope these examples help. As I’ve mentioned before, there is a lot of superb advice on essay technique, and writing about poetry, stories and non-literary texts on the superb EnglishBiz website ( www.englishbiz.co.uk). I highly recommend you spending some time reading through the advice on there. It is better than any published revision guide I’ve ever seen, but it is a completely free labour of love by an English Teacher who is incredibly generous in freely sharing the resources he has created.
I hope you’re all managing to strike a decent balance between working hard enough to be fully prepared, but keeping a sense of balance and perspective, too. They’re only exams after all. It won’t be long before you’ve forgotten all about them. Remember, education isn’t really about grades on a piece of paper. Someone once said, “Education is what survives after what has been learned has been forgotten.” I’m sure I’ve said plenty that will be forgotten, but I hope I’ve contributed a little something to what survives.