Essay-writing tips - continued

(b) Look again at the extract in Act One, beginning at the top of page 3 with Birling’s words, “Oh – come, come – I’m treating Gerald like one of the family” and ending near the bottom of page 5 with Mrs Birling’s words, “Well, it came just at the right moment. That was clever of you, Gerald.”

With reference to the ways Priestley presents reactions to the engagement in the extract and relationships elsewhere in the play, show how far you agree that marriage is based on social class.

Before you start writing your essay, you should spend five or ten minutes reading the extract and 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 (b) the key terms you must think about are ‘reactions to the engagement in the extract’, ‘relationships elsewhere in the play’ and ‘marriage is based on social class’.

Make sure you address each of these three areas and use the key terms throughout your essay. This helps to keep your answer focused as you create your argument.

It is also important to include comments on the effects of how Priestly uses language and techniques to show that marriage is based on social class.

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.