Introductions: Paper 2

Clarity, concision and a sense of direction...

Introductions to Paper 2 essays often fall short for various reasons. Sometimes they are too long and identify nitty gritty that really should be kept back for the main body or the essay; sometimes they are too short and/or fail to say very much that isn't obvious or self-evident;  sometimes they fail to indicate proper understanding of the terms of the question. Some key reminders are presented below along with a range of introductions for discussion.

Below are listed some of the key things to keep in mind when writing your Paper 2 introductions:
Identify early on which texts you intend to useSay something like 'This essay will focus on X and Y' (X and Y being the titles of your texts).
Make reference to the terms of the title from the outsetWrite background information about the author, the context or the work itself
Outline the main areas your essay intends to explore in a way that demonstrates 'ownership' of the questionTry to identify everything the essay is going to explore
Broadly indicate how the works compare in the  way they relate to the question

Make empty statements statements such as 'there are similarities and differences between these two texts' or 'the authors achieve this through the use of language and literary devices'

Provide some kind of thesis or argumentSuggest that your essay will focus on a different topic to the one identified in the question

Read the introductions below and decide whether you think they represent good examples or poor ones.  Clicking on the icon in the box on the right will reveal what the examiner thought. (The titles for the essay will appear if you highlight the pop over at the end of the paragraph)


Poets aim to write works that are not only lyrical and interesting to read, but also provoke thought and emotional response from the reader. If a poet can make a reader connect emotionally with the poem, it have can have a profound effect. In this essay, I will be comparing and contrasting the works of Philip Larkin and Thomas Hardy, focusing on how they evoke emotional responses from the reader.

This is a rather weak introduction.  The candidate certainly refers to the terms of the question but does not really 'say' anything more than the fact that Hardy and Larkin 'evoke an emotional response form the reader'.  We would of course hope that this is the case given that s/he has chosen this title!  It would have been better if s/he had identified the kinds of emotions, perhaps, or the main ways in which emotional responses are elicited  - as well as some indication of how the two authors compare with each other. 

Poems are a pathway for poets to express their emotions about a subject, which invoke emotional responses from the reader, even though the poem may be devoid of emotions. In Ted Hughes 'Hawk Roosting', the main predator of the ecosystem, the hawk, is glorified and it depicted as a powerful, godly character, leaving a vivid impression in the reader's mind through its chillingly mechanical and emotionless monologue. On the other hand, in Sylvia Plath's 'Daddy', the perspective of a young girl who fears devilish father, builds up a torrent of emotion as the girl transforms to a victorious avenger who no longer fears her father and conveys a sense of spiteful revenge throughout the poem. Both poems, albeit different in subject matter, are successful in developing strong emotions from the reader.

This is a more successful introduction than the one above, although it is not by any means perfect.  The candidate identifies his or her choice of poems without saying 'the poems I am going to explore are...' and manages to identify some of the emotional content of the poems, which the essay will presumably go on to explore.  It is a pity that s/he did not set out a more clear sense of argument.  The first sentence, for instance, makes an interesting point  - that poems can be emotional in their impact without actually being emotional (although can this really be said to be true of 'Daddy'?).  The last sentence is rather vague and perhaps here s/he could have expressed a more clear sense of direction - which (it seems at least) could well have focused on tone - one poem being somewhat detached and removed from its emotional state, the other being almost precisely the opposite.  

Poems are special writings as they are able to invoke a wide range of emotions in different ways to different people, but only using small number of words compare to other styles of writing. 'At Grass', by Philip Larkin explores feelings associated with identity and human vulnerability in response to the problem of aging and the passing of time.  Thomas Hardy in 'The Darkling Thrush', on the other hand, reflects on the past century, his relationship with faith and the general condition of humanity. Larkin evokes emotion in the reader through a reflective tone that invites us to question the nature of time and our sense of identity, whereas Hardy evokes emotions in the reader through emphasis on communication of his perspective through a particularly lyrical voice. Both of the poets benefit from the use of sound, metaphor and manipulation of meter and rhyme to encourage in the end a somewhat sorrowful, melancholic reaction from their readers.

This is a very strong introduction.  The candidate demonstrates confidence and 'ownership' of the question by setting out clearly the kinds of emotion being expressed through the subject of the poems, as well as say something about the key techniques each author uses.  At the end s/he also provides an indication of what will presumably be argued at the end of the essay - that in spite of obvious differences, the two poets are similar in the nature of emotional reaction they invite from their readers. 

In both Ian McEwan's 'Enduring Love' and Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', protagonists undergo change. In 'Enduring Love' the main character, Joe Rose, prides himself in being rational; he witnesses a traumatic balloon accident at the beginning of the novel, and is then stalked by a young man Jed Parry, whom he meets at the accident. In 'Heart of Darkness', both the narrator Marlow and the character Kurtz, the ivory trader, undergo a mental and physical transformation. Joe's change in 'Enduring Love' is used to explore the incomprehensibility of death and the failure of rationalism as an ideology, whereas Conrad uses his characters' degeneration to comment on the corruptibility and apparent truth of human nature, the darkness behind Empire, and similar to 'Enduring Love', the failure of rationalism. Conrad utilises the linear narrative of his novel, the ghoul-like imagery in the scene where Kurtz attempts to flee from Marlow, and uses physical descriptions of the character to imply that mental state.

This introduction contains many good qualities, but it is also a little rambling and confusing. The candidate focuses clearly and appropriately on the terms of the question, and manages to point out ways in which change or transformation are relevant to the texts.  S/he is on to a really interesting argument  - that both texts in the end point to the characters' recognition of the failure of rationalism as the thing that 'changes' them but this is not stated particularly clearly.  The last sentence is strangely detailed and doesn't really fit in the introduction. 

Playwrights have the ability to manipulate each character they create and all their attributes in order to enhance the impact of their production.  The concept of using contrasting characters and characteristics to highlight elements of a play can be very successful if used correctly.  Two examples concern 'Master Harold and the Boys', written by Athol Fugard and 'A Streetcar Named Desire' by Tennessee Williams.  Both of these works contain two very central, and polar-opposite characters that not only operate as foils or one another but complement the process of conveying the meaning of the play. 

A rather average introduction.  It takes a while for the candidate to make a meaningful point:  the second sentence, for instance, is vague and somewhat self-evident.  When s/he gets into the notion of characters as foils for one another, something more helpful is stated, but it would be have been better if the candidate had said something, perhaps, about what 'meaning' in the play they intend to relate contrasting characters to.

The power of the theatre conveys a sensory experience for audiences, portraying in real-time the trials and tribulations of a play's characters. Recurring elements, especially of images, ideas and symbols conveyed by characters and types of stagecraft, alert the audience to their importance.  The use of these recurring elements is crucial is crucial in communicating the human element of the play, as the patterns we, the audience, witness on stage are mirrored in wider contexts in our own lives.  These patterns encourage the audience to connect with the ideas conveyed by the playwright.  Notably, it is the patterns we witness in Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' and Tennessee Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire', created by their use of recurring use of visual, auditory and linguistic features, which drive the plots and tragic narrative arcs of their respective protagonists, Willy Loman and Blanche Dubois.  In this way, their utilization of recurring elements familiarises audiences with the world of their characters and elicits sympathy as the patterns and behaviours underscore the playwrights' interest in the fate of those who cannot adapt.

This is an excellent introduction.  The candidate moves from general ways in which recurring elements might present themselves in plays, and then focuses on the ways his or her choice of plays make particular use of repeated elements.  There is a sense of confidence with the material here, and the way the candidate signifies a particular thesis - that these patterns in the end are used to present aspects of characters who are unable to change or adapt, feels compelling. 

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