The Exams You Will Sit:
May 20th
This exam is split into two parts. Section A: Modern prose or drama is based on the play ‘An
Inspector Calls’ by J.B. Priestly. Follow the table of contents to the correct page and question
choices. You will have the choice of two questions, only write a response to one of these questions.
Section B: Exploring cultures is based on the novella ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck. This
question is split into two parts; you must answer both parts. Part a is based on an extract from the
novella and will ask you to analyse Steinbeck’s use of language and structural devices in regards to a
theme or character. Part b will ask you to link the extract to the rest of the novella and the relevant
context it explores.
30 marks per question are awarded for the content of your response, 4 marks per question are
awarded for Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation.
May 23rd
This exam is split into two sections. Section A: Poetry cluster from the Anthology is based on the
poems you have studied in the Anthology on Conflict. Follow the table of contents to the correct
page and question choices. You will have the choice of two questions, only write a response to one
of these questions. You will need to compare two poems that you have studied, analysing language,
form and structure of the poems, the writers’ intentions and the effect on the reader.
Section B: Responding to an unseen poem is a previously unstudied poem. You will have 30 minutes
to read, understand and analyse the poem. Your essay will be much shorter than the one for Section
A. This poem could be about anything. You must analyse language, form and structure of the poem,
the writer’s intentions and the effect on the reader.
How to Revise Literature
• Highlight the key points of the question- this will help you stay focused on the question.
• Use the language of the question and refer to the question at the beginning and end of your
• Plan your answer. You have an hour so you will have time to prepare a good plan.
• Use the PEEA paragraph structure.
• Remember to be specific. Do not start narrating the story, the examiner knows the story. Do not
make generalising statements. You must be really specific. Say exactly how or why something
• Use appropriate formal vocabulary.
• Remember to pay attention to the bullet points (if any are there) and make these the focus of your
• Analyse the character’s use of language closely. How does this reflect the time period, story, and
the social and historical context?
• Do not spend several paragraphs on one point. Make the point, then move on. Squeeze as many
points in as possible.
• Remember if you choose a very narrow or prescriptive question which is asking you about a
specific point, answer the specific point but then take it wider and think about how this relates to
other features of the text or incidents.
• Always relate points to other issues in the text. This shows you have a wide understanding of the
text and you will get more marks.
• For Of Mice and Men: Think about how everything reflects the context of the time. Whatever
point you are making, consider whether you can say anything about the context of the time. This will
automatically get you more marks. Remember historical and social contexts.
• Back every point in with close analysis of the language. Do not just use a quote to back up your
point but use it to examine the choice of language. What does it imply to you and what is the effect
on the audience?
• Remember inverted commas around the titles of texts.
• Every point you make needs to be backed up by evidence.
• There is a difference between the style of writing used in coursework essays and the style of
writing used in the exam. You need to improve the pace of your writing. Do not spend a long time
justifying points. Make a point, back it up, analyse language, effect on audience, move on.
• It’s really important that you ensure you have read your text at least twice.
• Make sure you know key themes, quotes and characters
• Use the internet resources listed on the back to help you revise.
How to Revise for ‘An Inspector Calls’
Reread the play – focussing on themes and characters
Review language, structural and dramatic devices
Review the context of the text
Practice answering questions, which you can find further on in this booklet
To understand the context of the play, it's helpful to know a little about J B Priestley's life and his
political views during the early 20th century - a time of great global change. He wrote An Inspector
Calls after the Second World War and like much of his work contains controversial, politically
charged messages. Keen to pioneer a new 'morality' in politics, Priestley’s chief concerns involved
social inequality in Britain and the need for nuclear disarmament.
The characters we see as the curtain rises are not the same as those at the plays conclusion. The
events of the evening change everyone, as well as their expectations of the future. Inspector Goole
is instrumental in disturbing the harmony; a purposeful, mysterious character who forces the
characters to confront each other's social responsibility, snobbery and guilt. But is the inspector as
genuine as he seems? All these changes take place because of the visit of Inspector Goole. But who
is Inspector Goole? And who is the girl whose suicide he is apparently investigating?
Priestley deliberately set his play in 1912 because the date represented an era when all was very
different from the time he was writing. In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure
that nothing would change. Yet by 1945, most of those class and gender divisions had been
breached. Priestley wanted to make the most of these changes. Through this play, he encourages
people to seize the opportunity the end of the war had given them to build a better, more caring
Political views
During the 1930's Priestley became very concerned about the consequences of social inequality in
Britain, and in 1942 Priestley and others set up a new political party, the Common Wealth Party,
which argued for public ownership of land, greater democracy, and a new 'morality' in politics. The
party merged with the Labour Party in 1945, but Priestley was influential in developing the idea of
the Welfare State which began to be put into place at the end of the war. He believed that further
world wars could only be avoided through cooperation and mutual respect between countries, and
so became active in the early movement for a United Nations. And as the nuclear arms race between
West and East began in the 1950s, he helped to found CND, hoping that Britain would set an
example to the world by a moral act of nuclear disarmament.
Arthur Birling
He is described at the start as a "heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties but
rather provincial in his speech."
He has worked his way up in the world and is proud of his achievements. He boasts about having
been Mayor and tries (and fails) to impress the Inspector with his local standing and his
influential friends.
However, he is aware of people who are his social superiors, which is why he shows off about the
port to Gerald, "it's exactly the same port your father gets." He is proud that he is likely to be
knighted, as that would move him even higher in social circles.
He claims the party "is one of the happiest nights of my life." This is not only because Sheila will
be happy, but because a merger with Crofts Limited will be good for his business.
He is optimistic for the future and confident that there will not be a war. As the audience knows
there will be a war, we begin to doubt Mr Birling's judgement. (If he is wrong about the war, what
else will he be wrong about?)
He is extremely selfish:
He wants to protect himself and his family. He believes that socialist ideas that stress the
importance of the community are "nonsense" and that "a man has to make his own way."
He wants to protect Birling and Co. He cannot see that he did anything wrong when he fired Eva
Smith - he was just looking after his business interests.
He wants to protect his reputation. As the Inspector's investigations continue, his selfishness
gets the better of him: he is worried about how the press will view the story in Act II, and accuses
Sheila of disloyalty at the start of Act III. He wants to hide the fact that Eric stole money: "I've got
to cover this up as soon as I can."
At the end of the play, he knows he has lost the chance of his knighthood, his reputation in
Brumley and the chance of Birling and Co. merging with their rivals. Yet he hasn't learnt the
lesson of the play: he is unable to admit his responsibility for his part in Eva's death.
Mrs Sybil Birling
She is described at the start as "about fifty, a rather cold woman and her husband's social
She is a snob, very aware of the differences between social classes. She is irritated when Mr
Birling makes the social gaffe of praising the cook in front of Gerald and later is very dismissive of
Eva, saying "Girls of that class."
She has the least respect for the Inspector of all the characters. She tries - unsuccessfully - to
intimidate him and force him to leave, then lies to him when she claims that she does not
recognise the photograph that he shows her.
She sees Sheila and Eric still as "children" and speaks patronisingly to them.
She tries to deny things that she doesn't want to believe: Eric's drinking, Gerald's affair with Eva,
and the fact that a working class girl would refuse money even if it was stolen, claiming "She was
giving herself ridiculous airs."
She admits she was "prejudiced" against the girl who applied to her committee for help and saw
it as her "duty" to refuse to help her. Her narrow sense of morality dictates that the father of a
child should be responsible for its welfare, regardless of circumstances.
At the end of the play, she has had to come to terms that her son is a heavy drinker who got a girl
pregnant and stole money to support her, her daughter will not marry a good social 'catch' and
that her own reputation within the town will be sullied. Yet, like her husband, she refuses to
believe that she did anything wrong and doesn't accept responsibility for her part in Eva's death.
Sheila Birling
She is described at the start as "a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life and
rather excited."
Even though she seems very playful at the opening, we know that she has had suspicions about
Gerald when she mentions "last summer, when you never came near me." Does this suggest that
she is not as naive and shallow as she first appears?
Although she has probably never in her life before considered the conditions of the workers, she
shows her compassion immediately she hears of her father's treatment of Eva Smith: "But these
girls aren't cheap labour - they're people." Already, she is starting to change.
She is horrified by her own part in Eva's story. She feels full of guilt for her jealous actions and
blames herself as "really responsible."
She is very perceptive: she realises that Gerald knew Daisy Renton from his reaction, the moment
the Inspector mentioned her name. At the end of Act II, she is the first to realise Eric's part in the
story. Significantly, she is the first to wonder who the Inspector really is, saying to him,
'wonderingly', "I don't understand about you." She warns the others "he's giving us the rope - so
that we'll hang ourselves" (Act II) and, near the end, is the first to consider whether the Inspector
may not be real.
She is curious. She genuinely wants to know about Gerald's part in the story. It's interesting that
she is not angry with him when she hears about the affair: she says that she respects his honesty.
She is becoming more mature.
She is angry with her parents in Act 3 for trying to "pretend that nothing much has happened."
Sheila says "It frightens me the way you talk:" she cannot understand how they cannot have
learnt from the evening in the same way that she has. She is seeing her parents in a new,
unfavourable light.
At the end of the play, Sheila is much wiser. She can now judge her parents and Gerald from a
new perspective, but the greatest change has been in herself: her social conscience has been
awakened and she is aware of her responsibilities. The Sheila who had a girl dismissed from her
job for a trivial reason has vanished forever.
Eric Birling
He is described at the start as "in his early twenties, not quite at ease, half shy, half assertive."
Eric seems embarrassed and awkward right from the start. The first mention of him in the script
is "Eric suddenly guffaws," and then he is unable to explain his laughter, as if he is nervous about
something. (It is not until the final act that we realise this must be because of his having stolen
some money.) There is another awkward moment when Gerald, Birling and Eric are chatting
about women's love of clothes before the Inspector arrives. Do you feel that there is tension in
Eric's relationship with his father?
It soon becomes clear to us (although it takes his parents longer) that he is a hardened drinker.
Gerald admits, "I have gathered that he does drink pretty hard."
When he hears how his father sacked Eva Smith, he supports the worker's cause, like Sheila.
"Why shouldn't they try for higher wages?"
He feels guilt and frustration with himself over his relationship with the girl. He cries, "Oh - my
God! – how stupid it all is!" as he tells his story. He is horrified that his thoughtless actions had
such consequences.
He had some innate sense of responsibility, though, because although he got a woman pregnant,
he was concerned enough to give her money. He was obviously less worried about stealing (or
'borrowing' from his father's office) than he was about the girl's future. So, was Eric, initially, the
most socially aware member of the Birling family?
He is appalled by his parents' inability to admit their own responsibility. He tells them forcefully,
"I'm ashamed of you." When Birling tries to threaten him in Act III, Eric is aggressive in return: "I
don't give a damn now." Do you think Eric has ever stood up to his father in this way before?
At the end of the play, like Sheila, he is fully aware of his social responsibility. He is not interested
in his parents' efforts to cover everything up: as far as he is concerned, the important thing is that
a girl is dead. "We did her in all right."
Gerald Croft
He is described as "an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy but very much
the easy well-bred man-about-town."
He is an aristocrat - the son of Lord and Lady Croft. We realise that they are not over-impressed
by Gerald's engagement to Sheila because they declined the invitation to the dinner.
He is not as willing as Sheila to admit his part in the girl's death to the Inspector and initially
pretends that he never knew her. Is he a bit like Mr Birling, wanting to protect his own interests?
He did have some genuine feeling for Daisy Renton, however: he is very moved when he hears of
her death. He tells Inspector Goole that he arranged for her to live in his friend's flat "because I
was sorry for her;" she became his mistress because "She was young and pretty and warmhearted - and intensely grateful."
Despite this, in Act 3 he tries to come up with as much evidence as possible to prove that the
Inspector is a fake - because that would get him off the hook. It is Gerald who confirms that the
local force has no officer by the name of Goole, he who realises it may not have been the same
girl and he who finds out from the infirmary that there has not been a suicide case in months. He
seems to throw his energies into "protecting" himself rather than "changing" himself (unlike
At the end of the play, he has not changed. He has not gained a new sense of social responsibility,
which is why Sheila (who has) is unsure whether to take back the engagement ring.
Inspector Goole
He is described on his entrance as creating "an impression of massiveness, solidity and
purposefulness. He is a man in his fifties, dressed in a plain darkish suit. He speaks carefully,
weightily, and has a disconcerting habit of looking hard at the person he addresses before
actually speaking. "
He works very systematically; he likes to deal with "one person and one line of enquiry at a time."
His method is to confront a suspect with a piece of information and then make them talk - or, as
Sheila puts it, "he's giving us the rope - so that we'll hang ourselves."
He is a figure of authority. He deals with each member of the family very firmly and several times
we see him "massively taking charge as disputes erupt between them." He is not impressed when
he hears about Mr Birling's influential friends and he cuts through Mrs Birling's obstructiveness.
He seems to know and understand an extraordinary amount:
He knows the history of Eva Smith and the Birlings' involvement in it, even though she died only
hours ago. Sheila tells Gerald, "Of course he knows."
He knows things are going to happen - He says "I'm waiting...To do my duty" just before Eric's
return, as if he expected Eric to reappear at exactly that moment
He is obviously in a great hurry towards the end of the play: he stresses "I haven't much time."
Does he know that the real inspector is shortly going to arrive?
His final speech is like a sermon or a politician's. He leaves the family with the message "We are
responsible for each other" and warns them of the "fire and blood and anguish" that will result if
they do not pay attention to what he has taught them.
He controls the pace and tension by dealing with one line of enquiry at a time. Slowly the story of
Eva's life is unravelled, like in a 'whodunnit'.
He is in command at the end of Act I and the start of Act 2, and the end of Act 2 and the start of
Act 3. He is a brooding, inescapable presence, very much in control.
All this mystery suggests that the Inspector is not a 'real' person. So, what is he? a ghost (Goole
reminds us of 'ghoul'), the voice of Priestley, the voice of God, the voice of all our consciences?
Do you have any other suggestions?
Eva Smith
Of course, we never see Eva Smith on stage in the play: we only have the evidence that the
Inspector and the Birlings give us.
The Inspector, Sheila Gerald and Eric all say that she was "pretty." Gerald describes her as "very
pretty - soft brown hair and big dark eyes."
Her parents were dead.
She came from outside Brumley: Mr Birling speaks of her being "countrybred."
She was working class.
The Inspector says that she had kept a sort of diary, which helped him piece together the last two
years of her life.
However, in Act 3 we begin to wonder whether Eva ever really existed. - Gerald says, "We've no
proof it was the same photograph and therefore no proof it was the same girl." - Birling adds,
"There wasn't the slightest proof that this Daisy Renton really was Eva Smith." Yet the final phone
call, announcing that a police inspector is shortly to arrive at the Birlings' house to investigate the
suicide of a young girl, makes us realise that maybe Eva Smith did exist after all. What do you
Think about Eva's name. Eva is similar to Eve, the first woman created by God in the Bible. Smith
is the most common English surname. So, Eva Smith could represent every woman of her class.
In the course of ‘An Inspector Calls’, the Birling family and Gerald Croft change from a state of great
self-satisfaction to a state of extreme self-doubt. The play is in 'real time' - in other words, the story
lasts exactly as long as the play is on the stage. So, what happens in a comparatively short time to
create such a dramatic contrast? How is the drama maintained and the audience involved?
Setting and Subtle Hints
The setting and lighting are very important. Priestley describes the scene in detail at the opening of
Act 1, so that the audience has the immediate impression of a "heavily comfortable house." The
setting is constant (all action happens in the same place). Priestley says that the lighting should be
"pink and intimate" before the Inspector arrives - a rose-tinted glow - when it becomes "brighter and
harder." The lighting reflects the mood of the play.
The dining room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. It has
good solid furniture of the period. At the moment they have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a
special occasion, and are pleased with themselves.
There are subtle hints that not is all as it seems. For example, early on we wonder whether the
happy atmosphere is slightly forced. Sheila wonders where Gerald was last summer, Eric is nervous
about something, Lord and Lady Croft did not attend the engagement dinner. This arouses interest
in the audience – we want to find out what is going on!
Dramatic Irony and Tone
There is dramatic irony. For instance, the audience knows how wrong Mr Birling is when he makes
confident predictions about there not being a war and is excited about the sailing of The Titanic:
famously, the ship sank on her maiden voyage. This puts the audience at an advantage over the
characters and makes us more involved.
Tension and Timing
There are numerous changes in tone. For instance, Mr Birling's confidence is soon replaced - first by
self-justification as he tries to explain his part in Eva's death, and then by anxiety.
Timing of entrances and exits is crucial. For example, the Inspector arrives immediately after Birling
has told Gerald about his impending knighthood and about how "a man has to look after himself and
his own."
The Ending
The ending leaves the audience on a cliff-hanger. In Act 3 the Birlings believed themselves to be off
the hook when it is discovered that the Inspector wasn't real and that no girl had died in the
infirmary. This releases some of the tension - but the final telephone call, announcing that a real
inspector is on his way to ask questions about the suicide of a young girl, suddenly restores the
tension very dramatically. It is an unexpected final twist.
In An Inspector Calls, the central theme is responsibility. Priestley is interested in our personal
responsibility for our own actions and our collective responsibility to society. The play explores the
effect of class, age and sex on people's attitudes to responsibility, and shows how prejudice can
prevent people from acting responsibly. In addition, the play also considers the following themes of
morality and lies and deceit.
Everyone in society is linked...
The words responsible and responsibility are used by most characters in the play at some point.
Each member of the family has a different attitude to responsibility. Make sure that you know how
each of them felt about their responsibility in the case of Eva Smith.
The Inspector wanted each member of the family to share the responsibility of Eva's death: he tells
them, "each of you helped to kill her." However, his final speech is aimed not only at the characters
on stage, but at the audience too: One Eva Smith has gone - but there are millions and millions and
millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their
suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do.
The Inspector is talking about a collective responsibility, everyone is society is linked, in the same
way that the characters are linked to Eva Smith. Everyone is a part of "one body",the Inspector sees
society as more important than individual interests. The views he is propounding are like those of
Priestley who was a socialist. Remember at the time the ethos was based on the individualism ethos
of laissez faire ( leave alone), Priestly wanted the characters to consider a social conscience and to
embrace a collective responsibility.
He adds a clear warning about what could happen if, like some members of the family, we ignore
our responsibility: And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson,
when they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.
What would Priestley have wanted his audience to think of when the Inspector
warns the Birlings of the "fire and blood and anguish"?
Probably he is thinking partly about the world war they had just lived through - the result of
governments blindly pursuing 'national interest' at all costs. No doubt he was thinking too about the
Russian revolution in which poor workers and peasants took over the state and exacted a bloody
revenge against the aristocrats who had treated them so badly.
Apart from Edna the maid, the cast of the play does not include any lower class characters. We see
only the rich, upwardly mobile Birlings and the upper class Gerald Croft. Yet we learn a lot about the
lower class as we hear of each stage in Eva's life and we see the attitude the Birlings had for them.
The Palace Variety Theatre was a music hall. It was not seen as quite 'respectable' entertainment
- probably not somewhere where Sheila would have gone. The stalls bar of the Palace Variety
Theatre, where Eva Smith met both Gerald and Eric, was the bar for the lower classes and a
favourite haunt of prostitutes. We could ask what Gerald and Eric were there in the first place!
Alderman Meggarty, a local dignitary, also went there a lot. Priestley is trying to show that the
upper classes are unaware that the easy lives they lead rest upon hard work of the lower classes.
Because Eva was a woman - in the days before women were valued by society and had not yet been
awarded the right to vote - she was in an even worse position than a lower class man. Even upper
class women had few choices. For most, the best they could hope for was to impress a rich man and
marry well - which could explain why Sheila spent so long in Milwards.
For working class women, a job was crucial. There was no social security at that time, so without a
job they had no money. There were very few options open to women in that situation: many saw no
alternative but to turn to prostitution. Look at these quotations, showing the attitude to women of
some characters:
Mr Birling is dismissive of the several hundred women in his factory: "We were paying the usual
rates and if they didn't like those rates, they could go and work somewhere else."
Gerald saw Eva as "young and fresh and charming" - in other words, someone vulnerable he
could amuse himself by helping.
Mrs Birling couldn't believe that "a girl of that sort would ever refuse money." Her charitable
committee was a sham: a small amount of money was given to a small amount of women, hardly
scratching the surface of the problem.
Why did Priestley decide to hinge his play on the death of a young working class woman rather
than the death of a young working class man?
The older generation and the younger generation take the Inspector's message in different ways.
While Sheila and Eric accept their part in Eva's death and feel huge guilt about it, their parents are
unable to admit that they did anything wrong. The Old (Mr and Mrs Birling) The Young (Sheila and
The old are set in their ways.
They are utterly confident that they are right and they see the young as foolish.
The young are open to new ideas. This is first seen early in Act 1 when both Eric and Sheila
express sympathy for the strikers - an idea which horrifies Birling, who can only think of
production costs and ignores the human side of the issue.
The old will do anything to protect themselves: Mrs Birling lies to the Inspector when he first
shows her the photograph; Mr Birling wants to cover up a potential scandal.
The young are honest and admit their faults. Eric refuses to try to cover his part up, saying, "the
fact remains that I did what I did."
They have never been forced to examine their consciences before and find they cannot do it now
- as the saying goes, 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks.'
Sheila and Eric see the human side of Eva's story and are very troubled by their part in it. They do
examine their consciences.
Mr and Mrs Birling have much to fear from the visit of the 'real' inspector because they know
they will lose everything.
Sheila and Eric have nothing to fear from the visit of the 'real' inspector because they have
already admitted what they have done wrong, and will change.
Gerald Croft is caught in the middle, being neither very young nor old. In the end he sides with the
older generation, perhaps because his aristocratic roots influence him to want to keep the status
quo and protect his own interests. Ultimately, we can be optimistic that the young - those who will
shape future society - are able to take on board the Inspector's message.
An Inspector Calls: EXAM QUESTION PRACTICE – practice responding in 45 minutes
1. How does Priestley show that tension is at the heart of the Birling family?
2. Priestley criticises the selfishness of people like the Birlings. What methods does he use to
present this selfishness?
3. Arthur Birling says, ‘If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody
we’d had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn’t it?’ How does Priestley
present ideas about responsibility in An Inspector Calls?
4. How do you respond to Gerald in An Inspector Calls? How does Priestley make you respond
as you do by the ways he writes?
5. An Inspector Calls has been called ‘a play of contrasts’. Write about how Priestley presents
some of the contrasts in the play.
6. How does Priestley present the change in Sheila during the course of the play An Inspector
Calls? How do you think this change reflects some of Priestley’s ideas?
7. In Act 2 of An Inspector Calls, Sheila says to her mother, Mrs Birling, “But we really must stop
these silly pretences”. How does Priestley show, in his presentation of Mrs Birling, that she
often pretends to be something she is not?
8. How important do you think social class is in An Inspector Calls and how does Priestley
present ideas about social class?
9. What do you think is the importance of Inspector Goole and how does Priestley present
10. Remind yourself of the stage directions below from the start of Act 1. In the rest of the play,
how does Priestley present and develop some of the ideas shown here?
‘The dining-room of a fairly large suburban house, belonging to a prosperous manufacturer. It has
good solid furniture of the period. The general effect is substantial and heavily comfortable, but not
cosy and homelike. (If a realistic set is used, then it should be swung back, as it was in the production
at the New Theatre. By doing this, you can have the dining-table centre downstage during Act One,
when it is needed there, and then, swinging back, can reveal the fireplace for Act Two, and then for
Act Three can show a small table with telephone on it, downstage of fireplace; and by this time the
dining-table and its chairs have moved well upstage. Producers who wish to avoid this tricky
business, which involves two re-settings of the scene and some very accurate adjustments of the
extra flats necessary, would be well advised to dispense with an ordinary realistic set, if only because
the dining-table becomes a nuisance. The lighting should be pink and intimate until the INSPECTOR
arrives, and then is should be brighter and harder.)
At rise of curtain, the four BIRLINGS and GERALD are seated at the table, with ARTHUR BIRLING at
one end, his wife at the other, ERIC downstage, and SHEILA and GERALD seated upstage. EDNA, the
parlour maid, is just clearing the table, which has no cloth, of dessert plates and champagne glasses,
etc., and then replacing them with decanter of port, cigar box and cigarettes. Port glasses are
already on the table. All five are in evening dress of the period, the men in tails and white ties, not
dinner-jackets. ARTHUR BIRLING is a heavy-looking, rather portentous man in his middle fifties with
fairly easy manners but rather provincial in his speech. His wife is about fifty, a rather cold woman
and her husband’s social superior. SHEILA is a pretty girl in her early twenties, very pleased with life
and rather excited. GERALD CROFT is an attractive chap about thirty, rather too manly to be a dandy
but very much the easy well-bred young man-about-town. ERIC is in his early twenties, not quite at
ease, half shy, half assertive. At the moment they have all had a good dinner, are celebrating a
special occasion, and are pleased with themselves.’
Marking Criteria:
How to Revise ‘Of Mice and Men’
Reread the novella – focussing on themes and characters
Review language, structural and dramatic devices
Review the context of the text and try to link it into characters and themes
Practice answering questions, which you can find further on in this booklet
John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California in 1902. Although his family was wealthy, he was
interested in the lives of the farm labourers and spent time working with them. He used his
experiences as material for his writing. He wrote a number of novels about poor people who worked
on the land and dreamed of a better life, including The Grapes of Wrath, which is the heartrending
story of a family's struggle to escape the dust bowl of the West to reach California. Steinbeck was
awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, six years before his death in 1968
The Depression
On October 29 1929, millions of dollars were wiped out in an event that became known as the Wall
Street Crash. It led to the Depression in America which crippled the country from 1930 - 1936.
People lost their life savings when firms and banks went bust, and 12 - 15 million men and women one third of America's population - were unemployed. There was then no dole to fall back on, so
food was short and the unemployed in cities couldn't pay their rent. Some ended up in settlements
called 'Hoovervilles' (after the US president of the time, Herbert C Hoover), in shanties made from
old packing cases and corrugated iron.
Migrant farmers
Added to the man-made financial problems were natural ones. A series of droughts in southern midwestern states like Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas led to failed harvests and dried-up land. Farmers
were forced to move off their land: they couldn't repay the bank-loans which had helped buy the
farms and had to sell what they owned to pay their debts. Many economic migrants headed west to
'Golden' California, thinking there would be land going spare, but the Californians turned many back,
fearing they would be over-run. The refuges had nowhere to go back to, so they set up home in huge
camps in the California valleys - living in shacks of cardboard and old metal - and sought work as
casual farmhands.
Ranch hands
Against this background, ranch hands like George and Lennie were lucky to have work. Ranch hands
were grateful for at least a bunk-house to live in and to have food provided, even though the pay
was low.
The story begins when George and Lennie prepare to arrive at a ranch to work - and ends in tragedy
just four days later. The story is told in the third person, so we are provided with a clear, unbiased
view of all the characters.
Chapter 1
George and Lennie camp in the brush by a pool, the night before starting new jobs as ranch hands.
George finds Lennie stroking a dead mouse in his pocket. He complains that caring for Lennie
prevents him from living a freer life. We find out that Lennie's innocent petting of a girl's dress led to
them losing their last jobs in Weed. However, when they talk about their dream of getting a piece of
land together, we know they really depend on each other.
Chapter 2
When they arrive at the ranch in the morning, George and Lennie are shown around by old Candy.
They meet their boss and, later, his son, Curley - George is suspicious of Curley's manner and warns
Lennie to stay away from him. They see Curley's pretty and apparently flirtatious wife and meet
some of their fellow workers, Slim and Carlson.
Chapter 3
Later that evening, George tells Slim about why he and Lennie travel together and more about what
happened in Weed. The men talk about Candy's ancient dog, which is tired and ill. Carlson shoots it,
as an act of kindness. George tells Candy about their dream of getting a piece of land and Candy
eagerly offers to join them - he has capital, so they could make it happen almost immediately. Curley
provokes Lennie into a fight, which ends up with Lennie severely injuring Curley's hand.
Chapter 4
The following night, most men on the ranch go into town. Crooks is alone in his room when Lennie
joins him. They talk about land - Crooks is sceptical, not believing that George and Lennie are going
to do what so many other men he's known have failed to do, and get land of their own. Yet when
Candy happens to come in as well, Crooks is convinced and asks to be in on it too. Curley's wife
arrives. She threatens Crooks and an argument develops. Crooks realises he can never really be part
of George, Lennie and Candy's plan.
Chapter 5
Next afternoon, Lennie accidentally kills the puppy that Slim had given him by petting it too much.
He's sad. Curley's wife finds him and starts talking very openly about her feelings. She invites Lennie
to stroke her soft hair, but he does it so strongly she panics and he ends up killing her too. He runs
away to hide, as George had told him. Candy finds the body and tells George. They tell the other
men - Curley wants revenge.
Chapter 6
Lennie hides in the brush by the pool. He dreams of his Aunt Clara and the rabbits he will tend when
he and George get their land. George finds Lennie and talks reassuringly to him about the little place
they will have together – then shoots him with Carlson's gun. When the other men find George, they
assume he shot Lennie in self-defence. Only Slim understands what George did and why.
Not many people had real friends in the American West in the 1930s - it was a case of every man for
himself. That is one of the reasons why the story of George and Lennie's unusual friendship is so
poignant. They have each other. No one else in the novel is so lucky.
George Milton
• He is a small man, but has brains and a quick wit.
• He has been a good friend to Lennie, ever since he promised Lennie's Aunt Clara that he would
care for him. He looks after all Lennie's affairs, such as carrying his work card, and tries to steer him
out of potential trouble.
• He needs Lennie as a friend, not only because Lennie's strength helps to get them both jobs, but so
as not to be lonely. His threats to leave Lennie are not really serious. He is genuinely proud of
• He shares a dream with Lennie to own a piece of land and is prepared to work hard to build up the
money needed to buy it.
• "...with us it ain't like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about
us. We don't have to sit in no bar room blowin' in our jack 'jus because we got no place else to go. If
them other guys gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a damn. But not us."
• He is honest with people he trusts. For example, he tells Slim that he used to play tricks on Lennie
when they were young, but now feels guilty about it as Lennie nearly drowned.
Lennie Small
• He is a big man, in contrast to his name.
• He has limited intelligence, so he relies on George to look after him. He copies George in
everything George does and trusts George completely.
• "Behind him (George) walked his opposite, a huge man, shapeless of face, with large, pale eyes,
with wide, sloping shoulders; and he walked heavily, dragging his feet a little, the way a bear drags
his paws. His arms did not swing at his sides, but hung loosely."
• He shares a dream with George to own a piece of land. Lennie's special job would be to tend the
• He likes to pet soft things, like puppies and dead mice. We know this got him into trouble in Weed
when he tried to feel a girl's soft red dress: she thought he was going to attack her.
• He can be forgetful - George continually has to remind him about important things.
• He is very gentle and kind, and would never harm anyone or anything deliberately.
• He is extremely strong: he can work as well as two men at bucking barley.
• He is often described as a child or an animal - he drinks from the pool like a horse and his huge
hands are described as paws.
• Slim is the jerkline skinner (lead mule-team driver) at the ranch. He is excellent at his job.
• He is the natural leader at the ranch. Everyone respects his views and looks up to him.
• He has a quiet dignity: he doesn't need to assert himself to have authority.
• "there was a gravity in his manner and a quiet so profound that all talked stopped when he spoke.
His authority was so great that his word was taken on any subject, be it politics or love."
• He understands the relationship between George and Lennie. He helps George at the end and
reassures George that he did the right thing.
• Curley is the boss's son, so he doesn't need to work like the ordinary ranch hands, and he has time
to kill.
• He's little - so he hates big guys.
• He is a prize-fighter and looks for opportunities for a fight.
• "He glanced coldly at George and then at Lennie. His arms gradually bent at the elbows and his
hands closed into fists. He stiffened and went into a slight crouch. His glance was at once calculating
and pugnacious."
• He is newly- married and is very possessive of his wife - but he still visits brothels.
• There is a rumour that he wears a glove filled with Vaseline to keep his hand soft for his wife.
Curley's wife
• She is newly married to Curley.
• We never know her name - she is merely Curley's 'property' with no individual identity.
• She is young, pretty, wears attractive clothes and curls her hair.
• She seems flirtatious and is always hanging around the bunk-house.
• She is lonely - there are no other women to talk to and Curley is not really interested in her.
• "What kinda harm am I doin' to you? Seems like they ain't none of them cares how I gotta live. I
tell you I ain't used to livin' like this. I coulda made somethin' of myself."
• She doesn't like Curley - she tells Lennie that she only married him when she didn't receive a letter
she'd been promised to get into Hollywood.
• She is naive.
• Crooks is the black stable hand or buck.
• He is the only permanent employee at the ranch, since he injured his back in an accident. His back
gives him constant pain.
• He is the only black man around and is made to be isolated by his colour – he can't go into the
bunk-house or socialise with the men.
• He is always called the 'nigger' by the men, which shows how racism is taken for granted. The men
don't mean to insult Crooks every time they call him this, but they never think to use his name
• All this has made him proud and aloof.
• He is lonely
• "S'pose you didn't have nobody. S'pose you couldn't go into the bunk house and play rummy
'cause you were black...A guy needs somebody-to be near him....I tell ya a guy gets too lonely an' he
gets sick."
• The only time he mixes with the ranch hands socially is when they pitch horseshoes - and then he
beats everyone!
• He has his own room near the stables and has a few possessions. He has books, which show he is
intelligent and an old copy of the California Civil Code, which suggests he is concerned about his
• He has seen many men come and go, all dreaming of buying a piece of land, but is now cynical, as
no one has ever achieved it
• Candy is the oldest ranch hand. He lost his right hand in an accident at work.
• He is the 'swamper' - the man who cleans the bunkhouse. He knows he will be thrown out and put
'on the county' when he is too old to work.
• Because of this, he accepts what goes on and doesn't challenge anything: he can't afford to lose his
• He has a very old dog, which he has had from a pup. It is his only friend and companion.
• "The old man came slowly into the room. He had his broom in his hand. And at his heels there
walked a drag-footed sheep dog, gray of muzzle, and with pale, blind old eyes."
• Carlson insists on shooting the dog because he claims it is too old and ill to be of any use. Candy is
• He is lonely and isolated, but makes friends with George and Lennie and offers his compensation
money to help them all to buy a ranch together and achieve their dream.
• When he finds Curley's wife dead, he is furious, as he knows instantly that Lennie was involved and
that they have lost their chance of achieving their dream.
A theme is an idea that runs through a text. A text may have one theme or many. Understanding the
themes makes the text more than 'just' a text – it becomes something more significant, because
we're encouraged to think more deeply about the text, to work out what lies beneath its surface.
Of Mice and Men
The title of the book comes from a poem by the 18th century Scottish poet Robbie Burns. It is about
a mouse which carefully builds a winter nest in a wheat field, only for it to be destroyed by a
ploughman. It is written in Scots dialect:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For
promised joy!
(The best laid schemes of mice and men Often go wrong And leave us nothing but
grief and pain, Instead of promised joy!)
The mouse had dreamed of a safe, warm winter and is now faced with the harsh reality of cold,
loneliness and possible death. There is a parallel here with George and Lennie's joyful fantasy of a
farm of their own, and its all-too predictable destruction at the end of the story. Perhaps the is also
meant to suggest to us how unpredictable our lives are, and how vulnerable to tragedy.
Loneliness and Dreams
The two main themes in 'Of Mice and Men' - foreshadowed by the reference to Burns' mouse - are
loneliness and dreams. They interlock: people who are lonely have most need of dreams to help
them through.
Isolation and Loneliness
Different from the other ranch hands, “we got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us”
because they have each other.
George enjoys the dream of the two friends owning land together as much as Lennie “An’ if a fren’
come along….we’d say “Why don’t you spen’ the night?”
George tells Slim, “I seen the guys that go around the ranches alone. That ain’t no good”, revealing
that he benefits by avoiding their loneliness. He says that he and Lennie ”got kinda used to each
other” and “it’s nicer to go around with a guy you know.”
George tells Slim how he once used Lennie for fun but he learned his lesson after an incident in the
river and “I ain’t done nothing like that no more.” He protects and defends Lennie, for example not
allowing Slim to call him “cuckoo”, proudly telling the Boss that “he can put up more grain alone
than most pairs can” and not allowing Curley to beat him up.
Lennie, despite being slow and easily confused, is sure of this friendship, answering Crooks’s threat
that George might abandon him, “George wouldn’t do nothing like that.”
Lennie is also protective of George “Ain’t nobody goin’ to talk no hurt to George.”
When he kills Lennie, George makes sure that he dies happy, Lennie’s last words being, “Le’s get
that place now” as George pulls the trigger behind his head.
In the first meeting, Steinbeck stresses how incongruous her clothes and appearance are, with her
”full, rouged lips”, “heavily made up” eyes, “red fingernails” and “red mules on the insteps of
which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.” She is immediately isolated, partly by being the
only female here and also by being the sort of woman who would not easily fit in on a hardworking ranch. Steinbeck makes her seem more friendless and
Remote by never giving her a name.
This is the first of several visits to the bunkhouse, always claiming that she is looking for Curley but
clearly she is looking for company.
The men know that, as Curley’s wife, she is too dangerous to befriend and so they are never chatty,
and just want her to leave. George has to teach this to Lennie, telling him to “leave her be.”
On Saturday night, she wanders in to the barn where there is a gathering of those excluded from
going into town. Though she knows Curley has gone to the cat-house, she asks if he is here; clearly,
she is lonely.
She announces her isolation to these men, “Think I don’t like to talk to somebody ever’ once in a
while? Think I like to stick in that house alla time?”
She lashes out viciously because they do not want her to talk to them, calling them “a bunch of
bindle stiffs” and claiming that she is only here because “They ain’t nobody else.”
In the barn with Lennie she pleads, “I never get to talk to nobody. I get awful lonely.” She is,
perhaps, more friendless than anyone else.
As she realises that she can talk to Lennie, she confides that she only married Curley to get away
from home. The dream world that she lives in, the belief that she could have been a film star only
isolates her further; her real world is lonely and miserable whilst her dream is unattainable.
His dog is his company and his equivalent of a friend, “I had ‘im since he was a pup.”
The other men, all loners and migrant workers, cannot understand the idea of friendship and
simply want the dog shot because it is no longer useful and is a nuisance in the bunkhouse.
They do not recognise, nor sympathise with, Candy’s affection for the dog as he pleads with them
to let the subject drop, ”I’m so used to him” and “he was the best damn sheepdog I ever seen.”
He offers his money to George and Lennie to buy the property because “I ain’t got no relatives nor
He knows that his future is more loneliness and then death, ”They’ll can me purty soon…I won’t
have no place to go to.”
When Crooks sneers at the idea of owning their own place, his answer shows the comfort he gains
from his new friends and the end to loneliness, “we gonna do it…Me and Lennie and George.”
The importance of friendship and the self-esteem it now gives to him is also shown in the way that
he answers back to Curley’s wife when she insults him and Crooks and Lennie, “We got fren’s,
that’s what we got.”
Seeing the collapse of his dream, he takes out his anger on Curley’s wife’s corpse, “You wasn’t no
good….I could of hoed the garden and washed dishes for them guys” but now there is only his
lonely old aged existence on the ranch.
He is segregated in the barn, demonstrating racial discrimination of the 1930s.
Candy tells a story from Christmas when “they let the nigger come in that night.”
Excluded from the companionship that exists in the bunkhouse – no cards or chat. When he comes
to speak to Slim about a mule’s foot, he does not enter - “the stable buck put in his head.”
At the beginning of Section 4, we see where and how he lives, his possessions including books as
he reads instead of having company.
”Crooks was a proud, aloof man” because he has no choice but to endure this prejudice and
isolation. Consequently, he bitterly guards his enforced privacy, saying to Lennie, ”This here’s my
room…I ain’t wanted in the bunkhouse, and you ain’t wanted in my room.”
He is regretting the way that he taunted Lennie, “A guy needs somebody – to be near him” and “a
guy gets too lonely “ and “A guy sets alone out here at night.”
The ranch is isolated as suggested by Lennie and George’s long walk to reach there and by the
town’s name Soledad, the Spanish for “loneliness.”
This remoteness is further emphasised by the fact that the Steinbeck’s location never changes; the
reader hears of, but never sees, the men going “into town” and of Curley’s going to a doctor when
his hand is smashed.
The Boss is suspicious of George because he is unaccustomed to the idea of friendship among the
men- “I never seen one guy take so much trouble for another guy.”
The workers are all nomadic and solitary, like the man used George’s bed before him, “he just quit,
the way a guy will….just wanted to move.”
When telling the details of the dream to Lennie, George describes ranch workers as “the loneliest
guys in the world” with “no family” and “nothing to look ahead to.”
Slim talks to George of the rarity of guys travelling together and being friends “I don’t know why.
Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
The men on the ranch are all passing through except Candy and Crooks who are forced to stay
because of their disabilities. No-one seems to have a family and they all go to town to pay for the
temporary company of women.
1. Read the following passage and then answer part (a) and part (b):
Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing
there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fi ngernails
were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red
mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. ‘I’m lookin’ for Curley,’
she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.
George looked away from her and then back. ‘He was in here a minute ago, but he went.’
‘Oh!’ She put her hands behind her back and leaned against the door frame so that her body was
thrown forward. ‘You’re the new fellas that just come, ain’t ya?’
Lennie’s eyes moved down over her body, and though she did not seem to be looking at Lennie she
bridled a little. She looked at her fingernails. ‘Sometimes Curley’s in here,’ she explained.
George said brusquely, ‘Well he ain’t now.’
‘If he ain’t, I guess I better look some place else,’ she said playfully.
Lennie watched her, fascinated. George said, ‘If I see him, I’ll pass the word you was looking for him.’
She smiled archly and twitched her body. ‘Nobody can’t blame a person for lookin’,’ she said. There
were footsteps behind her, going by. She turned her head. ‘Hi, Slim,’ she said.
Slim’s voice came through the door, ‘Hi, good-lookin’.’
‘I’m tryin’ to fi nd Curley, Slim.’
‘Well, you ain’t tryin’ very hard. I seen him goin’ in your house.’
She was suddenly apprehensive. ‘Bye, boys,’ she called into the bunk house, and she hurried away.
George looked around at Lennie. ‘Jesus, what a tramp,’ he said. ‘So that’s what Curley picks for a
Part (a)
In this passage, what methods does Steinbeck use to present Curley’s wife and the attitudes of
others to her? Refer closely to the passage in your answer.
and then Part (b)
How does Steinbeck present attitudes to women in the society in which the novel is set?
2. Read the passage and then answer part (a) and part (b).
The old man was reassured. He had drawn a derogatory statement from George. He felt safe now,
and he spoke more confidently. ‘Wait’ll you see Curley’s wife.’
George cut the cards again and put out a solitaire lay, slowly and deliberately. ‘Purty?’ he asked
‘Yeah. Purty ... but ––’
George studied his cards. ‘But what?’
‘Well – she got the eye.’
‘Yeah? Married two weeks and got the eye? Maybe that’s why Curley’s pants is full of ants.’
‘I seen her give Slim the eye. Slim’s a jerkline skinner. Hell of a nice fella. Slim don’t need to wear no
high-heeled boots on a grain team. I seen her give Slim the eye. Curley never seen it. An’ I seen her
give Carlson the eye.’
George pretended a lack of interest. ‘Looks like we was gonna have fun.’
The swamper stood up from his box. ‘Know what I think?’ George did not answer. ‘Well, I think
Curley’s married ... a tart.’
‘He ain’t the first,’ said George. ‘There’s plenty done that.’
The old man moved toward the door, and his ancient dog lifted his head and peered about, and then
got painfully to his feet to follow. ‘I gotta be settin’ out the wash basins for the guys. The teams’ll be
in before long. You guys gonna buck barley?’
‘You won’t tell Curley nothing I said?’
‘Hell no.’
‘Well, you look her over, mister. You see if she ain’t a tart.’ He stepped out the door into the brilliant
Part (a)
(a) What methods does Steinbeck use in this passage to present Candy?
and then Part (b)
(b) How do you think Steinbeck uses the character of Candy in the novel as a whole to convey
important ideas about society at that time?
3. Read the following passage and then answer Part (a) and Part (b).
Crooks possessed several pairs of shoes, a pair of rubber boots, a big alarm clock and a singlebarreled shotgun. And he had books, too; a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California
civil code for 1905. There were battered magazines and a few dirty books on a special shelf over his
bunk. A pair of large gold-rimmed spectacles hung from a nail on the wall above his bed.
This room was swept and fairly neat, for Crooks was a proud, aloof man. He kept his distance and
demanded that other people kept theirs. His body was bent over to the left by his crooked spine,
and his eyes lay deep in his head, and because of their depth seemed to glitter with intensity. His
lean face was lined with deep black wrinkles, and he had thin, pain-tightened lips which were lighter
than his face.
It was Saturday night. Through the open door that led into the barn came the sound of moving
horses, of feet stirring, of teeth champing on hay, of the rattle of halter chains. In the stable buck’s
room a small electric globe threw a meager yellow light.
Crooks sat on his bunk. His shirt was out of his jeans in back. In one hand he held a bottle of
liniment, and with the other he rubbed his spine. Now and then he poured a few drops of the
liniment into his pink-palmed hand and reached up under his shirt to rub again. He flexed his
muscles against his back and shivered.
Noiselessly Lennie appeared in the open doorway and stood there looking in, his big shoulders
nearly filling the opening. For a moment Crooks did not see him, but on raising his eyes he stiffened
and a scowl came on his face. His hand came out from under his shirt.
Lennie smiled helplessly in an attempt to make friends.
Crooks said sharply, ‘You got no right to come in my room. This here’s my room. Nobody got any
right in here but me.’
Part (a)
In this passage, how does Steinbeck present Crooks? Refer closely to the passage in your answer.
and then Part (b)
In the rest of the novel how does Steinbeck use Crooks to present attitudes to black people at the
time the novel is set?
Marking Criteria:
How to Revise for Conflict Poetry
Reread the poems in the Conflict Section of the Anthology
Reread all of the poems in the Conflict Anthology
Make links between each poem based on theme – there is a table further on for you to fill in
Consider the influence of context on the writers – where they are from, when/where the
poems were set, what happened to them/their family, etc
Review poetic techniques – see below
Practice writing responses to questions in 45 minutes
Metaphor: when you say something is something else
Simile: when you say something is like or as something else
Personification: when an inanimate object is given human qualities or traits
Alliteration: the use of the same sound at the beginning of two or more words
Sibilance: the use of the ‘s’ sound at the beginning of two or more words
Anaphora: the use of the same word or phrase at the beginning of two or more consecutive lines in a
Oxymoron: when two opposite words are used next to each other (e.g. walking-dead, friendly bomb)
Juxtaposition: two opposite images within a text
Adjective: a descriptive word
Emotive language: vocabulary used to create a specific emotional response
Imagery: language used to create a sense of a particular thing
Stanza: a verse
Rhyming couplet: when two lines consecutively end with the same sound
Alternate rhyming couplet: when two lines, separated by one in the middle, end with the same
Rhythm: the pace of a poem or line, created through a set pace or syllable count
Onomatopoeia: sounds words which are spelt as they sound (e.g. bang, moo, kapow)
Use the table below to help you organise your poems by theme.
Try to think of other themes for the bottom rows.
Poems which use this theme
Which would you compare and why?
Practice Questions
1. Compare how poets use language to present strong feelings in ‘Poppies’ (page 41) and one
other poem from Conflict.
2. Compare how poets show attitudes to war in ‘Futility’ (page 42) and one other poem from
3. Compare the ways poets show how conflict and war affect feelings about a place in ‘At the
Border, 1979’ (page 39) and in one other poem from Conflict.
4. Compare the methods poets use to present their points of view in ‘next to of course god
america i’ (page 48) and in one other poem from Conflict.
5. Compare how poets present the effects of conflict in ‘Belfast Confetti’ (page 40) and one
other poem from Conflict.
6. Compare how poets present the experience of soldiers in ‘Bayonet Charge’ (page 44) and
one other poem from Conflict. (36 marks)
7. Compare how poets present the effects of war in ‘Mametz Wood’ (page 36) and in one other
poem from Conflict. (36 marks)
8. Compare how poets present bravery in ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ (page 43) and in
one other poem from Conflict. (36 marks)
Marking Criteria for Poetry Section A:
Planning a Poetry Response – The Timeline Approach
One very logical way to plan a poetry response is to use the Timeline approach which allows you to think about precisely
where in the essay each point of comparison will be made, with specific reference to key details you will use and
explanations you will give. It is an effective visual way that you can check that you have included everything necessary in
your answer. You simply use the timeline to sequence the structure of your essay in the same way would use a timeline to
record a sequence of events in history.
Compare the ways that poets present death in Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney, The Affliction of Margaret
by William Wordsworth and two other poems.
‘Death’ – processes of death, each poem shows
different aspect.
Poems – Mid-Term Break, Affliction, Field
Mouse, Sonne. Body Paragraph 2
Clarke – a tension between distance & immediacy
of death – ‘radio’ & ‘field bleeding’.
Body Paragraph 1
Heaney – grieving, confusion over ‘how’ to feel
Jonson – despondent, loss of self (ie. ref ‘father’)
Cf. rigidity of language in SH with much more
elaborate rhythm/structure Jonson.
Rigidity SH reflects persona’s confusion Vs.
of inJonson
much ways
more– of
death. – key difference…
internal others
Wordsworth is distant because its hypothetical –
death isn’t assured but still personal.
The internalised imagery of hell in W’Worth cf.
But, also they form an interesting dialogue with
one another about the process of death…death,
grief, regret…
is writing
that holds
logically. That is, text that has a clear sense of structure and progression and
with theprose
of the
of death.
the reader
through the use of discourse markers the direction that it is taking. It is important that your essays are
about argument
how we value
cohesive – the effects of writing cohesively are two fold: firstly, Also
it willanensure
that your
can be followed in
a logical fashion and secondly, it will demonstrate that you understand the importance of carefully constructed prose.
Discourse Markers
Creating cohesive prose can be easily achieved by using discourse markers, in the tables below are a range of discourse
markers that have a range of purposes in written text. It is absolutely imperative that you use discourse markers in a poetry
response because it is another way of indicating to the examiner that you are writing in a comparative way.
Transitions that indicate you want to add information to what you are saying
In addition
In fact
Firstly, secondly…
Transitions that indicate a cause or reason
As a result
For that reason
Because of
Transitions that indicate a purpose or reason why
For fear that
In the hope that
In order to
With this in mind
Transitions that indicate you are giving an example
For example
For instance
In particular
To demonstrate
To illustrate
This exemplifies
Transitions that indicate a result or an effect
Transitions that show you are comparing or contrasting
In comparison
In contrast
How to Revise the Unseen Poem
Read a range of poems from different time periods and set on different themes
You can use BBC Bitesize for you to look at other Anthology poems or check other websites
such as or
Practice reading and writing for short periods of time – you only have 30 minutes to respond
to this question. 10 minutes should be spent reading and planning, 20 minutes should be
spend writing
Review poetic techniques
Answer practice questions
Past Unseen Poems and Questions:
1. Read the poem below and answer the question that follows.
How to Leave the World that Worships Should
Let faxes butter-curl on dusty shelves.
Let junkmail build its castles in the hush
of other people’s halls. Let deadlines burst
and flash like glorious fireworks somewhere else.
As hours go softly by, let others curse
the roads where distant drivers queue like sheep.
Let e-mails fly like panicked, tiny birds.
Let phones, unanswered, ring themselves to sleep.
Above, the sky unrolls its telegram*,
immense and wordless, simply understood:
you’ve made your mark like birdtracks in the sand now make the air in your lungs your livelihood.
See how each wave arrives at last to heave
itself upon the beach and vanish. Breathe.
Ros Barber
* ‘telegram’ – an early form of urgent messaging
What do you think is the poet’s attitude towards the way we live and work in the modern world and
how does she present this attitude to the reader?
2. Read the poem below and answer the question that follows.
A Marriage
You are holding up a ceiling
with both arms. It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you. Your arms are tired, terribly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceiling
will soon collapse.
But then
something wonderful happens:
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arms up
to the ceiling beside you.
So you finally get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood fl owing back
to your fingers and arms.
And when your partner’s arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.
And it can go on like this
for many years
without the house falling.
Michael Blumenthal
What do you think are the feelings about marriage in this poem and how does the poet present
these feelings to the reader?
3. Read the poem below and answer the questions that follow.
Slow Reader
He can make sculptures
and fabulous machines,
invent games, tell jokes,
give solemn, adult advice –
but he is slow to read.
When I take him on my knee
with his Ladybird book
he gazes into the air,
sighing and shaking his head
like an old man
who knows the mountains
are impassable.
He toys with words,
letting them go cold
as gristly meat,
until I relent
and let him wriggle free:
a fish returning
to its element,
or a white-eyed colt – shying
from the bit *– who sees
that if he takes it
in his mouth
he’ll never run
quite free again.
* ‘bit’: the metal mouthpiece of a bridle, used to control a horse
How do you think the speaker feels about the child and his experience of learning to read and how
does the poet present the speaker’s feelings?
4. Read the poem below and answer the question that follows.
Children In Wartime
Sirens ripped open
the warm silk of sleep;
we ricocheted to the shelter
moated by streets
that ran with darkness.
People said it was a storm,
but flak*
had not the right sound
for rain;
thunder left such huge craters
of silence,
we knew this was no giant
playing bowls.
And later,
when I saw the jaw of glass,
where once had hung
my window spun with stars;
it seemed the sky
lay broken on my floor.
Isobel Thrilling
*flak: anti-aircraft fire
How does this poet present the ways children are affected by war?
Marking Criteria for Unseen Poem:
Revision Websites and Resources – Year 11 revision materials are available on our website – GCSE English Literature. Under ‘Key Materials’ you can access Unit 1 and
Unit 2 Exams (Higher and Foundation) as well as marking criteria - this has GCSE revision materials for ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘An
Inspector Calls’ and Conflict Poetry – video about the Conflict Poetry – this website has a range of poems which you can read to help you
prepare for the Unseen Poetry Exam. They are classed by theme and poets, so there is
something for everyone
f – although this is another school’s website, they have a number of unseen poems and
questions which you may find helpful
York Notes Advanced (from £4.50 new through Amazon)
CGP Revision Guides (from £3.50 new on Amazon)
Letts Revision Guides (from £3.44 new on Amazon)
*prices vary depending on literary text they are for