Answer Higher English Essay Questions


Writing an essay in response to this question demands that you show detailed knowledge of a key incident in the novel. You must show that you understand the incident in terms of its importance to the novel as a whole and identify the relevant aspects of the text. The structure of the novel would probably suggest ideas about the positioning of that key incident. The incident is probably associated with a main character or with the development of a theme within the novel.

Your notes might look like this:

Example: Web diagram - Novel

  • theme

    • what are the central ideas in the novel?
    • does the key incident draw on these ideas?
    • is the theme specific to the novel/ does it echo universal ideas?
  • characterisation

    • who is involved in the key incident? characters - major and minor
  • narrative

    • who tells the story? narrator - 1st/ 2nd/ 3rd person
  • structure

    • is the incident a key point in the structure of the novel? when does it come?
  • plot

    • does the incident affect the action of the novel? why is it important?
  • setting

    • where/ when does the incident occur? time/ period/ place - are any of these a focus of the novel?

Choose a novel which you think has a definite turning point or decisive moment.

Explain briefly what happens at that point or moment and go on to explain why you think it is so important to the rest of the novel.

In Higher English Close Reading Tone is structure, usually sentence structure, and word choice. In an Higher English Tone question you will usually be asked to identify a writer’s tone or attitude and then explain how that tone has been created by (sentence) structure and word choice.

Some students find it quite difficult to identify the tone. Remember, it is an emotional mood like angry, whimsical, mocking/ironic, humorous and so on. You have to bring a little bit of emotional literacy/sophistication to this part. Understand what the writer means. Is he or she attacking an idea? Mocking it? Supporting it? Being humorous? Ironic? Being dismissive, contemptuous or aggressive about ideas or people?

When you’ve got a feel for what the tone is you need a range of words to describe. It’s no good just writing a ‘positive tone’ or a ‘negative tone’ or a ‘happy tone’. That’s far too vague! Always be as accurate with identifying tone as you can be. You might need to get a thesaurus and look up some alternative words. Words like those above are what you are looking for – aggressive, contemptuous, dismissive, enthusiastic, ironic, humorous, bitter, joyful, exuberant and more.

Once you’ve identified the tone then the process to answer the question should be following the formula of how the techniques used create effects that generate this tone.

So it’s a case of -

  • Name the literary technique(s) – word choice or a feature of sentence structure
  • Quote the example
  • Write about the effects with a bit of detail, depth and creativity, showing how it creates the tone

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