Essay-writing tips

(a) With reference to the ways Priestley presents Mr Birling, show how far you agree that Mr Birling acts inconsiderately towards his children.

Before you start writing your essay, you should spend five minutes planning what you will write. Think about how you can break down your answer into logical paragraphs.

A good approach to begin with is to highlight any key terms which stand out for you.

In sample question (a) the key term you must think about is ‘Mr Birling acts inconsiderately towards his children’.

Make sure you use the key term frequently throughout your essay. This helps to keep your answer focused as you create your argument.

The structure of your planning - and your essay - should provide evidence that Mr Birling does act inconsiderately towards his children and evidence that Mr Birling does not act inconsiderately towards his children.

It is also important to include comments on the effects of how Priestly uses language and techniques to show that Mr Birling does or does not act inconsiderately towards his children.

Language and stylistic devices / dramatic techniques could include some of the following:

  • division into acts and scenes
  • stage directions
  • use of some technical terms eg exposition, protagonist, hero, minor character, denouement
  • cohesive elements eg repetition of words or ideas, climax, sequential ordering
  • disjunctive elements eg use of curtain, flashback, or anticipation of events
  • asides, soliloquy, dramatic monologue, use of narrator, chorus
  • tonal features eg emphasis, exclamation
  • interaction through dialogue and movement
  • use of punctuation to indicate delivery of lines eg interruption, hesitation, turn-taking, listening
  • reportage
  • vocabulary choices
  • staging, set, lighting, use of properties
  • costume and music effects

You should use short quotations to support your ideas. You will also be given marks for paraphrasing parts of the book and referring to specific events, as this shows your knowledge of the text.