Pupil Analysis – The Clod and the Pebble (Riya Yadav)

Apologies to Riya for it taking so long to post some feedback, but I have been swamped with the baby, my wife and some job interviews! Hopefully it is worth the wait and my comments can help.

As always, my comments are in red. I’ve also made an overall comment, awarded a mark and explained the rationale behind it at the bottom of this post.

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Question: With detailed reference to the poem analyse the theme of love from the perspective of The Clod and the Pebble.

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‘The Clod and the Pebble’, like a lot of William Blake’s other works, presents the two different sides and perspectives from which everything can be seen. In this particular poem, the theme of ‘love’ is explored through the perspectives of a clod, and a pebble. The two opposing views are kept well balanced throughout the poem, with Blake using a similar style of writing for the main stanzas. (what have you actually said in this introduction? As far as I can make out you have said just ‘we have two opposing views of love in this poem’ and nothing else. Try to attack the question and give an overview of your answer.)

The clod’s perspective of love is similar to religious love, and the clod itself can be taken as a symbol to represent selfless, kind and holy love. The clod begins his song by singing that love ‘seeketh not itself to please’ (your writing style is confident so far, but I would’ve liked you to comment on what a clod is and the significance of that first of all). This emphasizes on (not good English ’emphasises on’ – this emphasises love as something selfless) love being selfless, and how the clod believes that truly loving someone means to aim to please others, not oneself (good analysis). The clod says love has no care ‘for itself’, and therefore the idea of love being divine and heavenly is further developed (no, this isn’t demonstrated – how does it become divine simply for being selfless? Explain more). The clod sings about how love ‘for another gives it ease’, similar to a lot of teachings in the Bible, which tells people to be selfless and count others more significant than themselves (okay, now you’ve answered my earlier question, but you were a bit decisive before you’d demonstrated your point). In terms of the clod, it is malleable and changes shape easily to bend to the will of others (you are definitely shifting to a new point here. Begin a new paragraph to make it clear to your examiner). The clod is being ‘trodden with the cattles feet’ and yet it does not complain, eager to provide the cattle with comfort. The clod ends his little song with the line that love can ‘build a heaven in hells despair’. Despair is considered to be the worst sin in Christianity, because it is believed that as long as God is present, there is always hope. When the clod says love can even get rid of despair, it is further developing on the idea that it views love in a very religious light, thinking of it as divine and selfless- like God (these last three sentences link more easily with your initial point – but I think you’ve combined three paragraphs into one here and I’d dock you marks for this. I also think you could do with an anchor sentence here just to show the examiner exactly what you’ve just demonstrated – as it is, I think you’d need three separate anchors!)

The pebble, in contrast, can be taken a symbol for the selfish, dark and ugly side of love (confident linking and still fully focused on the question – perhaps room to say that it presents the opposite perspective on love). It counters the clods perspective by saying that love seeks ‘only self to please’, and is not as selfless as the clod thinks it is (understatement here). Love, as seen by the pebble, is about seeking pleasure only for oneself. It is a selfish act, one that ‘binds another to its delight’. It goes on to say that love gets ‘joys in another loss of ease’, which presents the idea that love is only happy and comfortable when people are getting hurt. The pebble seems harsh and cynical, and comes as across as having no feelings. It clearly does not believe in love, and thinks of it to be a waste of time. It can be said he said he has a heart of stone- quite literally (no, not quite literally – it doesn’t have a heart of stone, it is a stone. Better here if you explain the significance of being a stone – cold, hard, not able to mould it like the clod). Blake uses a hard pebble to sing out the cold, harsh truth. It ends with twisting the clods last words around and saying that love has the power to ‘build a hell in heaven’s despite’, which implies that love is so cruel and harsh, it can turn the most peaceful of places into a hell. (good, but another anchor here. This paragraph is pretty awesome though!)

With their respective perspectives, the clod comes across as innocent, young and naive, still believing in the power of love (excellent, but I would say the clod represents an innocent…). The pebble, however, comes across as someone who has had a lot of experience, and therefore has hardened over the years (with the influence of seeing the realities of failed love affairs). The poem can also be seen as a contrast of not only their conflicting views on love, but also their innocence and experience. Blake presents both views of love in this poem, but keeping in mind that a pebble is more attractive, and hence more preferred than a clod, is it possible that Blake is favouring the pebble? (avoid asking rhetorical questions as you are supposed to be telling me what the poem means rather than posing additional questions) The pebble does come across as more mature, experienced and therefore reliable. Compared with the naivety and innocence of the clod, the odds seem to be in the pebbles favour. (this is also an excellent paragraph, but I would suggest rearranging elements of your essay in order to make this paragraph a bit more focused on the text. Discuss the qualities of a clod and a pebble here and thus relate it to their view of love. You’ve included these ideas in your earlier paragraph, but they’d make more sense here.)  

Blake presents a balanced argument from both sides, leaving the choice of which is right to the reader. However, he could also be trying to remind everyone that while we often view love from a similar perspective like that of the clods, we often forget that love can be a cruel and destructive force as well.  (excellent conclusion if you just also sum up one last time exactly what the two perspectives of love presented are).

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Comment

You are an excellent writer and have a very firm understanding of the poem that has been confidently expressed throughout. The improvements that you make do not need to be drastic, but ordering your ideas slightly more appropriately would help with the flow. Do not be afraid to divide associated/linked ideas into separate paragraphs, you will find that giving each idea its own space will make sure you develop and explore them that much more probingly.

Targets:

Introduction – make sure you explicitly answer the question and give an indication of what is to come in your essay;

End mega paragraphs – when you start talking about a new aspect of the poem or reveal a new piece of your interpretation, you need to start a new paragraph to make sure it is fully developed and explored;

Structuring of arguments – this isn’t a major criticism, but there was a bit of room to move your points around so they were more complimentary to the ideas being discussed around them. I am thinking particularly of the third body paragraph here.

Band  2/1  – Mark 22/25

Your analysis sustains depth and thoughtfulness. It is almost always tied closely to the text and uses well-selected references to develop points perceptively and convincingly.

iGCSE Mark Criteria

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

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