Comparative Writing Assignment [1] (“B-” , 2001/2002)


Original comparative writing assignment (“B-” , 2001/2002) can be opened in a print-friendly text document format here
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“Compare and contrast the attitudes towards school in the extracts which follow.”

In your answer you should:

  • show understanding of the content, audience and purpose of each text
  • explore the different historical, cultural and social factors and contexts which have helped to shape the texts
  • use both linguistic and literary approaches to analyze the texts

Text A Contents

{Content & Audience; Purpose; Historical & Social Factors; Textual Analysis.}

Text A is a fictional story extract from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. This piece of writing will have been aimed at well-educated people who were looking for mental stimulation. On a wider scale, Dickens will have aimed this at those in power at the time who weren’t doing anything to improve the education system.[^]

Written from an adult narrator’s point of view, the immediate purpose of this text will have been to inform, enlighten and interest his well-educated readership. The high-brow nature of the text is highlighted by the use of high register language, even when making light-hearted comments: “Mr Wopsle’s great aunt… coma… either from sleep or a rheumatic paroxysm.” This humorous juxtaposition also hints at the author’s view of school as a ‘bit of a laugh’.[^]

The historical and social factors at work at the time when this was written are demonstrated by the following facts: in 1850, half of the people in England couldn’t even sign their own names, and in 1857 half of the working population in Manchester couldn’t read. Great Expectations was written before the 1870 Education Act, stating that “There should be a school within reach of every child”.[^]

Long descriptive sentences, and a good deal of modification“Biddy leading with a high shrill monotonous voice…” – serves to convey the author’s view of school as a wholly inadequate, laborious experience.[^]

Text B Contents

{Content; Audience & Purpose; Societal & Cultural Influences; Textual Analysis.}

Text B contains a description of Truro School’s history, linking it to their modern day values. For example, “The school’s foundation… for ‘Godliness and good learning’. This tradition is energetically maintained today.”[^]

This extract is aimed at prospective, well-educated and financially secure students and their parents, with a view to providing information to encourage students to come to this learning establishment with its clearly defined standards, “In every field – academic… judged to flourish, and we flourish still.” It’s very self-endorsing orientated – a sort of online prospectus.[^]

The societal and cultural influence can be seen by the fact that the internet is the chosen medium – a different technological age to Dickens.[^]

Truro School’s values concerning education are set out in the text: it takes it very seriously, and hopes to provide and achieve educational excellence.[^]

Text C Contents

{Content & Audience; Purpose & Historical Factors; Textual Analysis.}

Text C relates a 17-year-old’s anecdote, told to a group of fellow student friends in informal circumstances. Naturally, the audience is the storyteller’s friendship circle.[^]

The purpose of the anecdote is to inform the interested parties about previously attended school. An informal, personal tone is used to relate the experiences with a suitable blend of objective and subjective perceptions. Previously attended schools play a large part in shaping adult personality, so historical factors are at play here.[^]

As befits friendly chat, a great deal of colloquialism is used – “yeah”, “there was [sic] four different houses…” Unconventional grammar choices, seamless blending of past and present tenses“there was… houses – everyone’s in a certain house” -, fillers“ur [sic]… um…”-, incomplete utterances, “they get- they go and -…”, and phonetic spelling (“ur”) build up the casual tone, resulting in the feeling that the storyteller had “only a vague idea about” what was going on during their education.

The overall feeling is one of slight bemusement and uncertainty, and provides a parallel with Kazuo Ishiguro’s Stevens: the narrator is trying to make sense of the past before being able to move on in their life.[^]

Text D Contents

{Content; Audience & Purpose; Societal Factors; Textual Analysis.}

A typically emotive headline – playing on, and drawing attention to, the financial situation of the education system – grabs the reader’s attention and alerts them as to the content of the feature, “SCHOOL LOTTERY TO PAY FOR A TEACHER”.[^]

The average tabloid reader is – stereotypically – of low intelligence, looking for an easy read and entertainment. Articles aimed at such a readership aim to capture the attention and interest quickly and keep the subject matter light-hearted enough to cater for those with a short attention span.[^]

Educational system and National Lottery importance to modern day society are used to keep readers awake and concentrated.[^]

A mixture of fact/hyperbole is used, “To do it the school has had to register as a CHARITY”.

Typographical highlighting/underlining/italicising is used to emphasize ‘important’ points {usually the most emotive} in the text.

The overall view towards school seems to provide a modern day parallel to Dickens’ view: there must be a better way. The paper’s “EXCLUSIVE” manages to come across as relatively unbiased, although leaning towards sympathy with the school’s plight.[^]

Copyright 2016-present day Permission to use quotations from this comparative writing assignment is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to Chris Larham and as authorial and website sources, respectively.

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Forty-year-old father of three wonderful children [William, Seth, and Alyssa]. Works as an Assistant Technical Officer in the Sterile Services Department of Treliske Hospital, Cornwall. Enjoys jogging, web design, learning programming languages, and supporting Arsenal FC. Obtained a BA degree in English from the University of Bolton in 2008, and has continued to gain qualifications in a diverse range of subjects thereafter.

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Posted in A Level English [A2]

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