Our first essay from the current crop of iGCSE students. Well done Krati Jain for stepping up.
I’ve included my comments in red and contained within brackets throughout the essay and then I’ve given a summation and a mark at the end.
Question: Explore how Hunt movingly conveys his feelings for and about the mother in the poem Stabat Mater.
Hunt’s poem `Stabat Mater’ is autobiographical. (as a first statement this is pretty dramatic and doesn’t actually address the question directly, therefore not a good place to begin) This conveys his mother’s story through his perspective and hence impactfully tells the reader his feelings about it. It is impactful because it is directly told to us as if we are having a conversation with Hunt himself. (I don’t think you’ve addressed the question directly at all in this introduction. Also, impactful is not a nice word and you’ve used impactfully earlier in the paragraph, overkill!)
Hunt feels sorry for his mother. (clear and concise, but use a bit of the question to clearly focus yourself – Hunt conveys his feelings of sympathy for his mother through the title of the poem)He feels she is sorrowful and a victim of circumstance – the game of life. He conveys this to us by using the allusion of the title “Stabat Mater” that calls to one’s mind the feelings associated with Mary’s suffering. (explain briefly what Stabat Mater means and how Mary suffered and who she is) This contributes largely to conveying the empathetic feeling of sorrow Hunt feels for his mother and is important for us to view the poem in this perspective of his – as the poem can be open to other interpretations about the mother’s married life. The tense Hunt uses in the poem shifts from past to present to future (“called” —“ calls” —“ must learn”). This elongates her suffering and shows that Hunt feels she would suffer her entire life. (I think you are making multiple points here that are a bit squashed together. Focus on the title, explain its significance clearly. You can mention the stuff about tense later. Also don’t mention her married life unless you are going to explain this and analyse its significance – you don’t here)
The tense used and the rhythm of the stanzas gives a sense of the irreversible passage of time. There is enjambment in the first two stanzas “Hunt’/for”, “had been/ to call” which imply the fast pace of time flow in the earlier years of one’s life and the third stanza shows the effect of ageing with caesura “way, still” and a slowed rhythm. (don’t worry about quoting to show enjambment, just tell us where it is and why it has been used) This conveys to us the regret in Hunt’s mind of the passage of the mother’s youth and father’s ability that has lapsed into an aimless old age (“roams”). Hence Hunt feels regretful for his mother’s new position, where she is nostalgic of her husband’s former glory. (good effort at commenting on structural elements, but I think this is in the wrong place in your essay. So far I don’t think you’ve established why we feel sorry for Hunt’s mother, deal with the major points first before bringing in supporting structural elements)
Hunt feels close enough to his mother to ask her about her married life- “when I asked her why”. (think about the flow between your paragraphs, at the moment they are disjointed and unconnected. Also, what do you want to say in this paragraph? If you gave it a subheading, what would it be? At the moment your ideas are all jumbled up) It seems as if he asked her directly and without hesitation; yet on the other hand it is possible he feels distanced because of his mother’s hesitation in answering him (“But later on explained”). He feels she is “embarrassed” and slightly uncomfortable with this relationship with her husband. Hunt tells us he “learned this from a book” which shows that this is the reason for him to need to get to know his mother from a book. Clearly, his mother wanted to mask he sadness and felt uncomfortable in openly sharing it with her son. This could have been because she felt awkward or possibly because she wanted to protect her son from this sorrow by making it look like a mere “game”. The indirect speech used throughout the poem (“explained how hard it had been”) highlights her inability to directly express her emotion; even the mix-up of formal and loving diction in the first stanza – “dear”, “loving”, “Mr”, “To.. from” -portrays a lack of clarity in the expression of her feelings and suggested that Hunt felt she had mixed emotions and tried to conceal them from him. (there are some excellent ideas here, but organisation needs to be worked on. Try to make sure you are not simply relating the overview of the poem, but are highlighting the impact of phrases, structural features etc)
This ambivalence of feelings is conveyed to us by the contrasts Hunt uses. (good, natural link here to the end of the previous paragraph) Hunt is confused whether his mother seems different after a while, or still the same – “in a different way, still like a girl”. (explain this better and dive into the significance as I don’t understand the point you are making) He also places this against the contrasting image of his father ravaged by time and in his second childhood (Here we see a reference to Shakespeare’s thoughts of old age being a second childhood). There is a contrast between how Hunt feels about their relationship before and now. Before he felt they were distanced and awkward with the father the more senior and mature figure (mother “seem(s) so small”) and now there is a flip, with the mother being the responsible one – “guiding him”. (this is excellent, but can be taken further. Go back and address the question clearly at this point) Hunt also uses allusion in the title but no religious reference in the poem. (this comment seems completely out of place in this paragraph to me, it is also unsubstantiated) This incongruity is probably meant to help convey the mismatch of the mother-father relationship.
Hunt feels respect for his mother’s good spirit and braveness in handling her game of life. (think about varying the way you open paragraphs as this is the third Hunt feels so far. Also, consider links) He feels she is responsible, respectful and dutiful despite the conditions she is thrown in. The sibilance of “seem so small” conveys that she `always’ considered the father more superior and respected him naturally. The assonance of the M sounds in “my mother called my father Mr Hunt” conveys that it was as if in the nature of the mother to address him respectfully despite the awkwardness. (this is not explained clearly and I don’t understand how the M sound shows awkwardness – also assonance?) Also, inspite of her “embarrassment”, sorrow and difficulty, she “guides him”, performing all her duties. She is brave and she faces up to his miserable reality of deterioration. We don’t see her moaning or wailing like Mary, but instead she tries to be strong and position Hunt’s father’s old age “as if it were a game”. (this is your best paragraph, for me. Just add a final anchoring sentence to directly address the question)
Hunt’s poem also suggests that he feels indebted to his mother’s sacrifice and teaching for his betterment. Here we see a similarity to the poem `Father returning home’ where the idea of Parent’s sacrifice for the children and them hiding their sorrows is concerned. (fine, but you won’t get any marks for linking it to another poem) She tries to cover up her sorrows to protect him and give him important messages about life. The rhyme of the last couplet is quick and consecutive unlike the alternative rhymes of the other stanzas. This makes it feel as if it is planned, calculated and organized conveying that this lesson of life is taught to Hunt so well by his mother. The shortness of this final stanza (the fact that future tense is attributed the least fraction of the poem) conveys her thoughts about morality and the fact that life gets over very quickly and we should make the most of it to not repent later on. (not sure I agree, but well presented and expressed – apart from gets over very quickly) We can also see it as truncated, falling short compared to the other four line stanzas which could reflect what Hunt feels the mother’s life is like. The mother’s encouragement to the poet stand out here as she expects him to stand on his feet (“stand up straight”) one day not to repeat her own mistakes. Therefore the mother juggles her responsibilities towards he son, husband, house and her own sorrows to manage the household alone – this makes Hunt feel proud, respectful and indebted towards her. (better and better, you’re now sounding like a genius! I love the last sentence as it sums up your ideas really well in relation to the question)
Hunt feels curious about his mother’s relationship and feelings. This shows he cares for her and hence, probably finds out that her embarrassment is due to society and its reaction to her marriage. This adds to his pride in her standing up brave not only to her own relations but also to the world. The ellipsis he uses at the end of the third stanza show that Hunt feels her sorrows are endless. It could also imply he is curious to know more about what she feels. It perhaps implies that Hunt has a very inconclusive perception of his mother.
Therefore, Hunt’s feelings and thoughts regarding his mother are conveyed movingly and effectively to the readers through his allusion, contrasts, tense, alliterative phrases and an autobiographical style. (feels like you have run out of steam here. A decent conclusion can make the difference, so it is worth reading my advice below)
I’m not one for reciting useless cliches relentlessly, but I fear I am going to have to here: First impressions count. If I read your opening paragraphs and think you are a C-level, then it is going to be extremely difficult for you to win me round with the rest of your essay. However, if you start well I am likely to be more generous if things get a bit ropey towards the end.
Basically I think your essay begins poorly. You don’t have a clear outline of your arguments in the introduction, then your ideas seem to bob around a little bit without reason. However, the last few paragraphs are well composed, thoughtful and well developed.
Here are some tips that would help you to improve considerably:
– Introduction – answer the question, you just give a bit of an overview of the poem. You should mention the points you are going to write about in full in the body of your essay, but in brief and without deeper exploration. This shows an examiner that you know exactly what you want to say and puts you in control of the question.
– Organisation – linked closely to the above. You really need to plan out what the main ideas you are going to talk about are. This way you’ll start strongly with the most significant and easy to develop point and you will understand how to link up ideas as you go.
– Linking paragraphs – an essay is one entity and not a selection of unrelated points. A top, top essay with flow from idea to idea effortlessly. Without links each paragraph ends and begins abruptly. Your links only need to be simple connectives, not always complicated interrelated points.
– Analyse – this is not meant to sound harsh, but at times you are guiding me through the poem without ever really stopping to examine key language or structural features. All your points should be developed through close examination and discussion of relevant quotations.
– Anchors – you do this for some paragraphs, but not for others. Sometimes we go off track when writing an essay, but a quick summing up sentence that directly addresses the question gives some clarity to the marker and gets you back on track for the beginning of your next paragraph.
– Conclusion – must be smooth and developed. You should briefly recap all of your points together and use them all to address a direct answer to the question.
Mark wise, I’d probably say somewhere between a low Band 4 or a high Band 5. You’ve definitely got potential to reach the top two bands, but you need to ensure your organisation and structure for essay writing is better managed. I’ve bolded the things I think you are doing currently.
Let’s call it 15/25 = 60% = C.
Band 4 16-14
– Makes a reasonably developed relevant personal response;
– shows understanding of the text and some of its deeper implications;
– makes some response to the way the writer uses language;
– shows some thoroughness in the use of supporting evidence from the text .
Band 5 13-11
– Begins to develop a relevant personal response;
– shows some understanding of meaning;
– makes a little reference to the language of the text;
– uses some supporting textual detail.