Teaching Sections A&B (Paper 1, AQA GCSE English Literature)

Each question will ask students to explore how a writer presents a character, setting or theme. Remember, you must explore both the extract and the whole text; if you do not, your answer could be capped at level 2.

Important note: the main body paragraph structure for each of these questions is the same. 

Essay Checklist:

An Introduction: 

  • Briefly explore the issue raised in the question. Do not bring in technical analysis. A broad consideration of the character/setting/theme is all that is required. You can embed quotations to show your knowledge of the play as a whole, but this is not the time for bringing in your knowledge of adverbs and synecdoche!
  • Pose questions/ideas worth exploring in your introduction.

E.g. Starting with the passage, explain how far you think Shakespeare presents Macbeth as being in control.

The extent to which Macbeth is in control of his actions is central to the narrative, which leads to questions relating to the extent to which anyone, at any time or in any place, has true control over their fate. Whilst Macbeth could be said to relinquish control to Lady Macbeth, the idea of fate, epitomised by the Witches, dominates the play. Throughout Macbeth, Shakespeare raises questions about whether our lives are controlled by a divine or supernatural force, as human beings seem only to be ‘poor players’ on somebody else’s ‘stage’. 

Main Body Paragraphs: (three, please!)

  • Follow the paragraph structure below.
  • Always begin by exploring and analysing the extract, then zoom out to: the rest of the novella/play; relevant wider social and historical contextual details; writer’s intentions; and themes/ideas.

e.g. Starting with the extract, write about how Dickens presents childhood.

Explain what Dickens shows us about childhood.

In the extract, Dickens presents childhood as…; however, in the rest of the novella, childhood is presented as….


Throughout the novel, childhood is presented as…

In the extract Dickens presents childhood as a ‘lonely’ and painful period of Scrooge’s life; however, in other parts of the novella, childhood is presented as a merry and joyful time, despite the many hardships of lower class Victorian society.
Provide some evidence in the form of a quotation.

Make sure you embed the evidence, avoid using phrases like ‘a quote to show this is…’

In the vision of his childhood, Scrooge is presented as a ‘lonely boy by a feeble fire’.
Zoom into a quotation from the extract.

You must pick a quote that has something worth zooming into. Explain why the word or technique was used by exploring connotations or examining what effect the technique has.

The adjective ‘lonely’ reveals how isolated Scrooge is, and it is also mentioned that he has been ‘neglected by his friends’. The use of emotive language in ‘lonely’ and ‘neglected’ makes the reader feel highly sympathetic towards Scrooge, and we begin to understand why he is such a ‘hard and sharp’ character, as he had so little love and affection in his childhood, which seems to have permanently damaged him. Furthermore, the description of the ‘feeble fire’ could be a symbol of Scrooge because, like the fire, Scrooge was weak and lacklustre because he didn’t have the love of a family.
Zoom out to one or more of the following (as appropriate)

The rest of the novella

A key theme from within the novella

Social and historical contextual factors

Dickens’ message

Dickens could be showing his reader that a childhood can be full of difficulty, like Tiny Tim’s, with his disabilities, yet it is still more bearable than a childhood without love. Dickens may be suggesting that children do not need luxury, they only need parents who care for them, in order for them to have happy childhoods. However, the ghost of Christmas present does comment to Scrooge that Tiny Tim will die if his father cannot afford to support him, showing that basic human needs still need to be met, which shows how harsh Scrooge and Victorian society were towards children.

Link back to your opening point and reiterate why you agree or disagree, based on what you have just explored.

Overall, childhood is presented as a solemn time without a supportive family, and also a very difficult time in an uncaring society like Victorian London. Dickens shows how children suffer the most in society.

A Conclusion

  • Remember the questions/ideas worth exploring that you posed in your introduction? Try to answer them here, drawing upon the evidence explored in the essay.
  • Your conclusion is similar to an introduction; it must be brief. However, a conclusion requires a summary of the deeper messages brought up by the question, rather than a more surface level exploration of the character/theme/setting named in the question.
  • State your personal position in relation to the issues that you have explored.
  • Begin with ‘ultimately’, ‘overall’ or ‘in conclusion’.

e.g. Starting with the extract, explain how far you think Shakespeare presents Macbeth as being in control.

Overall, Shakespeare continually shows us that ‘fate’ is out of our hands. The tragedy of Macbeth displays the paradoxical idea that the more you try to gain control, the more of it you will lose. Whether it is divine or supernatural forces that ultimately take Macbeth’s control continues to be a subject for debate. Either way, Shakespeare shows that attempts to control our own fates are futile, and that we are inevitably being led down a path that we cannot change. 

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