How do I Structure the Essay?

There are many different ways to ensure your essay includes all of the main points but one of the easiest is to use an essay plan. This allows you to follow a set structure when writing in the exam and ensure you don’t miss anything out. However, you must be prepared to manipulate the plan to accommodate the essay question you have been set.

Standard Essay Plan

This was the essay plan I used in the exam, it’s quite versatile and can provide an immense amount of help.

The poems ‘_poem_’ by _poet_ and ‘_poem_’ by _poet_ main purpose is to entertain the reader. However, both poems also share a much deeper (message). Both poems follow a common (theme) of_______________

The poets deal with this (theme) in a number of different ways. For example _poet_’s ‘_poem_’ uses its structure to great effect. It’s use of _______________ could suggest _______________ This is an effective technique because _______________ This has a _______________ effect on the reader and (creates/adds to) a _______________tone.

This (is similar/contrasts with) ‘…poem…’ which uses _______________ This has a (similar/different) effect on the reader and could suggest _______________ In my opinion ‘_poem_’ is more effective because it_______________

Both poets have used a range of poetic and lingual devices to great effect. For example ‘_poem_’ uses_______________ This could suggest _______________ The poem ‘_poem_’ uses a (similar/different) technique. Its use of _______________ could suggest _______________ and has a _______________ effect on the reader.

In ‘_poem_’ the poet has selected to use _______________ such as “_______________”. This is another successful technique which has been selected in my opinion to have a _______________ effect on the reader. ‘_poem_’ use of _______________ for example “_______________” could suggest _______________ This is effective because _______________

In conclusion both poems are very effective in portraying _______________ In my opinion ‘_poem_’ is the most effective because_______________

This may look daunting but the essay plan is incredibly easy to use once you know how. Here’s a brief outline of how to use the plan for a question from Cluster 1.

1. The title ‘Nothing’s Changed’ is important in understanding the poem. Compare the ways the poets use the titles in this and one other poem. (27 marks)

Here you would explain how the title of ‘Nothing’s Changed’ and another poem are important, describe how the layout contributes to the idea that nothing has changed and how the poet has crafted the language to suit this purpose as well. As you can see the essay plan is nothing more than a general outline but what it does do is it help to ensure you include all of the criteria required to get an A*.

However, the essay plan can be more difficult to use on some questions and therefore should be manipulated to suit. An example of a less suitable question to use the essay plan for is:

1. How is identity important in ‘Search for my tongue’? Compare with and one other poem.
(27 marks)

The poems ‘Half Caste’ by John Agard and ‘Search for my tongue’ by Sujata Bhatt main purpose is to entertain the reader. However, both poems both explore a much deeper theme of how identity is important when two cultures come together.

The poets deal with this theme in a number of different ways. For example Agard’s ‘Half Caste’ uses non-standard English, for example “Explain yuself”. The irregular spelling may have been used to reflect Agard’s culture and to aid the pronunciation. This irregularity is also present in a lack of a formal rhyme scheme or metre.

‘Search for my tongue’ uses a different technique. The importance of her identity is expressed by using English-Gujerah-English. This may have been used so when the audience view the poem they immediately get the impression that the Gujerah is trapped. In my opinion this creates a sad tone and is a particularly effective technique.

In both poems the message of the importance of identity is developed as the poems progress. This sense of progression is most apparent in ‘Search for my tongue’ through the use of English-Gujerah-English. ‘Half Caste’ is also another well developed poem. It begins with a light hearted tone, “standing on one leg”, which suggests that if he is half-caste then he is only half a person. This is obviously untrue and seems ridiculas. However, this tone is replaces through the argument on the last three lines, “de other half of my story”. This could have been used to suggest that we must give people our full attention and respect if we are to deserve to hear the whole ‘Story’. This change in tone is also supported by the last three lines breaking off from the rest of the poem to act as an almost conclusion to the poem.

Both poems use a number of poetic devices to allow us as the audience to recognise with the writers culture. For example ‘Half-Caste’ uses repetition throughout. This may have been used to emphasise the main points in the poem. For example, “Explain yuself” is directly aimed at the audience and by repeating this phrase Agard engages the audience. This has an almost threatening effect on the reader and allows us to understand the importance of his identity.

In ‘Search for my tongue’ the poet uses an extended metaphor for her tongue, “two tongues in your mouth” suggests the physical organ while “foreign tongue” could have been used to suggest the language we speak. By using both meaning a once Bhatt may be trying to express not only her fear that she has lost her previous language but that she has also lost her culture. We can really feel for Bhatt and appreciate her sadness.

In the concluding section of ‘Search for my tongue’ the poet uses a further extended metaphor of a flower for her tongue, “It grows back” which builds on the idea of “rot and die” from the first section of the poem. The idea of a dream in the second section may also be not just the idea that her original culture has never been lost but the idea that wants to find her “mother tongue” again.

In conclusion both poems use a number of poetic and presentational techniques to aid the implication of identity behind the poems. They are both successful in this. However, both poems, although similar in their message, vary greatly in their method to portray this message. While ‘Search for my tongue’ uses a number of poetic techniques such as metaphors, ‘half-caste’ uses less formal poetic techniques. In my opinion ‘Half-caste’ is the most effective through its use of humour which has a powerful effect on the audience and allows use to understand his message more thoroughly.

25/27 - A*
Consistent insight
Original interpretation
Close textual analysis
As you can see the main components of the plan have been exploited whilst still answering the question. This is very important because if you don’t answer the question you won’t get many marks!

Here’s a quick reference guide to poetry comparisons:

Poetry Comparisons

Obviously when you answer a question in the exam some poems are easier to compare than others. Here are the main themes that the poems follow.

Cluster 1

Limbo, Nothing's Changed, Vultures

Rich and poor
Nothing's Changed, Blessing, Two Scavengers, Night of the Scorpion

Different places
Island Man, Blessing, Night of the Scorpion, What Were They Like?

Cluster 2

from Search for my Tongue, from Unrelated Incidents

from Search for My Tongue, from Unrelated Incidents, Half-Caste, Love After Love, This Room, Not My Business, Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan

Different places/cultures
from Search for My Tongue, Not My Business, Presents from My Aunts in Pakistan, Hurricane Hits England

Test Yourself Questions

Try these questions for practice:

Cluster 1
1. Compare the portrayal of different places in ‘Island Man’ and one other poem.
2. Compare the use of tone in ‘What were they like?’ and one other poem.

Cluster 2
1. Describe the use of colour in ‘Presents from my aunts in Pakistan’ and one other poem.
2. Compare the use of other language and dialects in ‘from Search for my tongue’ and one other poem.