Essay writing - continued

Foundation tier sample answers

Here are two sample responses which address point four of the essay plan:

Sample answer one

The last chapter ties up all the loose ends. Francis is in the railway station after he has said goodbye to Nicole for the very last time. The previous two chapters showed how first Larry, then Nicole, took away Francis’ feelings of guilt about the night of the rape. He describes how he watches people rushing around the station on their way somewhere. He sees two soldiers, one is still in the army and wears medals on his chest. This man is a hero. The other soldier is wearing an old battle jacket, soiled and stained and he does not look like a hero. Francis sees his smile change to a frown as he remembers the horrible things he witnessed in the war.

Francis remembers the men in his platoon, and he says that they were the real heroes because even though they were scared, they did not run away. Cormier starts the next four sentences with Maybe... This tells the reader that Francis is beginning to make some plans. I like the last lines when Francis refers to his duffel bag and says, the weight is nice and comfortable on my back. He then heads for the exit and the next train to leave the station.

Feedback comments – good but needs some improvements

This response shows an understanding of the way Cormier brings all the loose ends together. It places Francis in the railway station, showing an understanding that he is on his way somewhere, but it needs to extend this and show the examiner that the station represents his journey through life. At this moment he is at a crossroads and must decide which way to go.

The discussion of the two soldiers is good because there is an obvious understanding of the way appearances can be deceptive. However, this needs to be explained more carefully. An opportunity to discuss language has been lost when mentioning the soldiers in Francis’ platoon, because their names sound like a roll-call, and another has been lost by not analysing the effect of the four sentences starting with Maybe... Finally, the candidate could have talked about the final description about the duffel bag being light now, as Francis no longer feels weighed down by guilt.

Sample answer two

The last chapter is very short and it ties up all the loose ends. Francis is in the railway station, which symbolises his journey through life, after he has said goodbye to Nicole for the very last time. He must be feeling quite sad, but also optimistic because she has given him some encouragement. The previous two chapters showed how first Larry, then Nicole, took away Francis’ feelings of guilt about the night of the rape. He describes how he watches people rushing around the station on their way somewhere. This reminds us that Francis does not have anywhere to go. He sees two soldiers, one is still in the army and wears medals on his chest.

By this point in the novel, the reader knows that people would consider this man a hero because he looks like one. The other soldier is wearing an old battle jacket, soiled and stained. This man may look like a tramp, but we know, through Francis’ narration, that he is the real hero. Francis sees his smile change to a frown as he remembers the horrible things he witnessed in the war.

Francis remembers the men in his platoon, and he runs through their names like a roll-call in the army, which is an effective link back to the war. He says that they were the real heroes because even though they were scared, they did not run away.

Then Cormier does an interesting thing with language; he starts the next four sentences with Maybe... This use of repetition tells the reader that Francis is beginning to have some hope, as he is starting to consider a future. The final lines are very effective because Francis refers to his duffel bag, which he has been carrying everywhere, representing his heavy burden of guilt. He says, the weight is nice and comfortable on my back. He then heads for the exit and the next train to leave the station, and the reader knows he will continue on his journey. I think it is a very effective ending.

Feedback comments – a very good grasp of Cormier’s use of form, structure and language

This is a really detailed response. It shows an appreciation of the way that Cormier has shaped the ending with the reference to the short chapter. There is a good discussion of the way the railway station symbolises Francis’ journey through life, and the discussion of the two soldiers is excellent because it shows that the candidate has learned the message of the book – that appearances can be deceiving. There is some analysis of language when the candidate analyses the way the platoon names are like an army roll-call, and the examination of the four sentences beginning with Maybe... is thoughtful. Similarly, the discussion of the duffel bag and how it is now lighter is well expressed. The response is neatly concluded with another reference to Francis’ journey. The candidate gives an opinion of the effectiveness as a final thought. There are four quotations which support the points well.