Exam reflection

What went well?

– In the visual text essay, I was able to remember almost all of the quotes and film techniques, and was able to produce a similar essay to the one I had practiced. I managed to stick to my time management plan, and felt that I was able to produce a reasonable essay with the time and preparation available.

– For unfamiliar, I managed to get a good understanding of the question and the text before answering them.

What was challenging/difficult?

– I think that it was hard to put together each paragraph in the way I had originally planned, as I forgot parts and then remembered them halfway through. After remembering them, I tried to re-implement them and it didn’t always fit.

– In unfamiliar, I didn’t always use the most appropriate technique as I didn’t understand what they were, or how they related to the text.

What do you feel you need to do going forward into NCEA next term?

– I feel that my essay was strong enough to get a good mark, but to do well, I will need to go over film techniques, and practice implementing the question into the writing and relating it to the techniques.

– For unfamiliar, I really need to go over a lot more techniques, and practice this style of unfamiliar. In order to get a good mark, I really need to make sure I look at previous exemplars, and get make a good plan for what I will do in the exam.


Connections essay

AS 3.7 (A) Respond critically to significant connections across texts, supported by evidence

Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been at war for 3,132 of them. That’s only 268 years of peace, or just 8 percent of recorded history that has seen no significant conflict. War is often regarded by observers as honorable and noble, and it can be viewed as a contest between nations, a chance to compete and be declared the victor. This raises a discussion of whether there can be a just war. This theme has been explored in several texts, where the characters explore ways in which a war can be considered just or unjust along lines of criteria taken from a BBC website. This can be shown in novels such as The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, which describes the impacts of World War II on a young German girl, orphaned by her communist parents, and narrated by Death, to further discuss whether the impact of war on civilians created circumstances for an unjust war. However, the film The Imitation Game, directed by Morten Tyldum, gives a story of a group of British code crackers in World War II who use their work to help civilians, and create circumstances for a just war. The connection between these texts show a contrasting opinion on World War II, which would question the justification of war through the criterion of limiting the number of innocent people and non combatants who have been harmed during the war. The Book Thief can further be analysed in connection to the short story The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, a text which describes the items a regiment of American soldiers in the Vietnam War must carry, and further how the use of these relate to the criterion of war being just based on the amount of force used in the war. The song The Grave, written by Don McClean, also looks at the impacts of the Vietnam War on an American soldier, which can also be connected with novels such as The Book Thief through the criterion for a just war of having a reasonable chance of success. These texts allow for opinions to be formed on whether a war can be considered just through the contrasting perspectives on this topic, based on criteria fit to represent a war that is morally and theologically justifiable.
One of the most interesting perspectives I have seen in written texts was shown in the novel The Book Thief, as it is narrated from the perspective of Death. A main theme in this text is the criterion of having harm being done to innocent people and non combatants. It questions whether it was just for people to die and be treated so inhumanely, based on Hitler’s view of the perfect race. “They were French, they were Jews, and they were you,” Death described, as he discussed the death of a group of French Jews murdered in a Polish prison. It explains that Hitler’s treatment of anyone outside of his idea of a “perfect race,” would constitute for an unjust reason to harm innocent people and non-combatants. This was further shown in contrasts between the Jews and the Germans, because as a German, “you shouldn’t want to be like black people or Jewish people or anyone who is…not us.” This quote by Alex Steiner would imply that the population were being bred to believe in Hitler’s supremacist ideologies, and gives suggestion towards the weakness and complacency within German society during this time, that would allow for the population to carry out the most unethical and immoral behaviours simply for the sake of order and conformity. This would support the notion that Germany would be fighting an unjust war, based on the treatment of many German citizens as a result of these supremacist ideologies. The links made within this text to the criterion discussed can further be connected to films such as The Imitation Game, a text designed to portray the lives of influential individuals during WWII, who did not need to go to battle to save lives and win the war. This film shows the process of cracking the German transmission codes, and eventuate to a pivotal moment in the story where they discover a problem where “there’s going to be an attack on a British passenger convoy,” as highlighted by a member of the team. This would link to the criterion, as they identified that on these ships there were “civilians. Hundreds of them,” and that they can save their lives. However, they “have to do what’s logical,” as the main character Alan Turing finally tries to explain that their “job wasn’t to save one passenger convoy. It was to win the war.” This idea was further extended by a side character named Hugh, “our job was to break enigma.” This is significant because this text shows a situation where a small code cracking team in the middle of England were able to determine the casualties of the war, which shows that the author wants to explain to the reader that there were ways in which civilian lives could be saved from harm. On this criterion of war being just, The Book Thief and The Imitation Game give contrasting perspectives. The first text was written to give context to how these civilians were being harmed as a result of the supremacist ideologies and drive for conformity that was evident during the German WWII era, and how this created fertile ground for these atrocities to take place. In contrast, the British worked hard to save as many civilian lives as possible, even if sometimes that meant they had to sacrifice the societal views they had been forced to believe as a result of the war, such as needing to save every man they could no matter what the cost was. These contrasting situations allow the reader to draw perceptions from the texts, as it shows how the different authors wanted to portray how significant the societal views were during this time period. This will allow the readers and audience to gain a better understanding of what it would have been like to be in the situations of the characters, which further allows us to sympathise with their situations, and understand the causes of the events outlined in the novel. These texts allowed me to develop my sympathy towards victims of war, but also to empathise with the characters in The Imitation Game through the use of emotive language and contrasting opinions on this criterion of a just war.

The Things They Carried is a short story which looks at the experiences of American soldiers in the Vietnam war, and further looks at whether a war can be considered “just” through separate criteria. Many sources have explained that for a war to be considered “just,” only appropriate use of force should be used. Yet this text suggests an opinion where the soldiers felt “they had no sense of strategy or mission. They searched villages without knowing what to look for, not caring, kicking over jars of rice, frisking children and old men, blowing tunnels, sometimes setting fires and sometimes not, then forming up and moving on to the next village, then other villages, where it would always be the same.” This would suggest that there was an opinion being held of war’s such as the one in Vietnam, where the soldiers often felt they were using inappropriate measures of force and violence, without having a purpose or reason for doing so. This would constitute an unjust war because it shows that they are lacking reason for committing violent acts of this extent, more often than not, on civilians within the towns. The text further explains instances where “Lieutenant Jimmy Cross led his men into the village of Than Khe. They burned everything. They shot chickens and dogs, they trashed the village well, they called in artillery and watched the wreckage,” after witnessing a member of their platoon shot dead. This would imply that these men took this death badly, and resorted to violence to diminish their pain. They felt the town, Than Khe, was responsible for the death, and so they used every means possible to get revenge. This shows how dangerous ideologies formed during this time period, as they felt burning and destroying a town filled with civilians was justifiable because of the death of one of their soldiers. This hints towards American supremacist ideologies, an idea can be further developed when connected with other texts, such as through the events witnessed in the novel, The Book Thief, which will allow the reader to see an alternative perspective on this. During the Nazi time period, many people who did not fit Hitler’s view of the perfect race, often felt the “fists of the entire nation. One by one they climbed into the ring and beat him down,” as described by Max Vandenburg, a Jewish man looking for protection within a German family. He implies that being Jewish in a Nazi world, often felt as though an entire country was against him, and as if his life contained little value, purely because of the religion he was brought up with. This shows that force was used inappropriately by the Germans during WWII, and further pushes the idea seen within The Things They Carried, whereby the soldiers felt as though they could take out the blame of their own economic and social hardships on seemingly innocent civilians who were not directly to blame for the situation. This can further be shown in instances involving the Nuremburg Laws, whereby followers of Jewish religion would no longer be considered as German. These laws were created as a result of judgements made by Hitler, that this population were to blame for huge events such as losing WWI, and the economic crisis. Several people questioned this, as shown in the book where the author described Max Vandenburg’s situation. He explained that there were thoughts within this society that questioned “hang on a second, he was German. Or more to the point, he had been.” This shows that the force used within Germany during WWII was inappropriate, and allowed perceptions of individuals, that were often unsupported, to not only be stated, but enforced, as anyone who did not fit within society were removed. The connection and combination of perspectives shown in texts such as The Things They Carried, and The Book Thief, allow for the significance of the ideologies on the social structures during these time periods to be analysed by the reader, and further show why they should not be considered just wars.
A third criterion of a just war is that there must be a reasonable chance of success. The song The Grave, by Don McClean, describes how “a man barely twenty did answer the calling,” for young American soldiers to fight in the Vietnam war. The author wrote this song in order to portray how many soldiers went to war looking for an adventure, and often did not realise that they had very little chance of surviving. The American propaganda and romanticism of war are evident throughout this text, as the soldier believes the war will be an exciting adventure and an opportunity to see the world, yet he is left to die in a trench yelling “they can’t let me die! They can’t let me die here!” This would make the listener question whether this war could be just when analysing the links the character makes to having little chance of success. The author wants the listener to believe that it is unjust for soldiers to be sent to war simply to die, and that creating such persuasive propaganda to lead individuals to believe that war will be an incredible adventure, rather than just a road to an early grave, is very immoral and would constitute for an unjust war. He further explains that “eternity knows him, and it knows what we’ve done,” to further emphasise the idea that even though this soldier would have very little chance of success, the Americans still pushed the idea that war would be an adventure. It would also allow for connections and comparisons to be made with other texts such as The Book Thief, whereby Death further supports this theory. It explains that it has “seen so many young men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me.” This quote would imply that more often than not, soldiers are taught to believe that going to war and fighting for their country is a way in which to protect their freedom, or fight for what they believe is right, however this quote shows that often these soldiers are just used as pawns in a very large tactical and political game. These soldiers very rarely had a reasonable chance of success. Death also allows the reader to understand the significance of this by relating war to the real world. “They say that war is death’s best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thing, incessantly: ‘Get it done, get it done.’ So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.” This implies that war created more work for Death than what was necessary, and allows the reader to understand that this war in particular, should not be classed as just, simply because of how small the chance of success was for these soldiers. Personally, the most notable part of the story to depict this criterion was when Death explained, “the day was gray, the color of Europe.” I loved this book because of how it portrayed the act of death as a common occurrence, and yet each person had the opportunity to show Death their true colours. However, this quote shows that the atrocities of war were so high, that everyone’s colours would merge into one, suggesting that the war was turning into a massacre rather than a movement for freedom and peace. The connections between The Book Thief, and The Grave raise further questions of whether a war can be considered just or unjust, through the depiction of many situations where the soldiers knew they had no reasonable chance of success.

The idea of whether war can be justified is a complex and detailed issue. The connections highlighted within these texts allow for the suggestion that even if a war can be justified, it does not change how many lives were lost, villages demolished, or families destroyed. A simple list of criteria cannot act as an apology for the exploitation of human beings, and can never be viewed as a means of legitimising the illegal acts witnessed within these texts, that breached many areas of human rights. This has been shown through the connections of the novel The Book Thief, which several texts including the film, The Imitation Game, the short story, The Things They Carried, and the song, The Grave. These texts were connected by criteria used to describe a just war, such as having few innocent people and non-combatants harmed during the war, the appropriate use of force, and how likely it is that the soldiers will be successful, which allowed for perceptions to be drawn from the texts on how significant the societal views were during these time periods, the impacts of supremacist ideologies on different populations, and further the importance of soldiers having a reasonable chance of success on the battlefield. These connections show that the criteria used to justify a war should not be used individually to base your opinions on, rather they should be connected and understood in different contexts to base your own perceptions of whether a war can be considered just.
By Dharma Bratley

Grossman, Nora – Ostrowsky, Ido – Schwarzman, Teddy (Producers) & Tyldum, Morten, (Director) (2014), ‘The Imitation Game’ [Motion Picture], Black Bear Pictures, Bristol Automotive, United States
Hedges, Chris (2003), ‘What Every Person Should Know About War,’ The New York Times, July 6, 2003
McLean, Don. (1971). The Grave, [Song] New York City, United States: United Artists Records.
O’Brien, Tim. (March 28, 1990), ‘The Things They Carried,’ Houghton Mifflin, United States
Zusak, Markus (2007), ‘The Book Thief,’ Black Swan, Great Britain
BBC, ‘What is a ‘just cause’?’ (2014), [Online], http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/war/just/cause_1.shtml, (15.04.16)

Personal responses

Personal response #6 (novel)

Perks of being a wallflower: Highly recommended

Author: Shephen Chbosky

Published: February 1st, 1999

Perks of being a wallflower is an enticing coming of age novel about a boy named Charlie, who faces common struggles and issues that have been shaping teenage society for decades, with anything from depression and anxiety, to underage drinking and partying. The book is a compilation of letters, where Charlie recounts his experiences of all the struggles and joys of high school. It looks into deep but often underlying themes such as love, family, friendship, passivity, and sadness, in a way in which the reader can either relate to their own lives, or understand easily. The author, Stephen Chbosky, has said in several interviews that this novel was loosely based on his own adolescence, even stating “I do see life the way Charlie does. Actually, it was writing the book that made me understand I had so many of these thoughts and feelings about people and the world.” I personally found this book showed me a perspective on the life of a teenager I hadn’t previously seen, read about, or experienced, as many of the issues and actions taken by the characters in the book were not things that have happened to me before.

Charlie and his story had a bigger impact on my life than I could have imagined. I often found it hard to relate to him throughout the novel, as he chooses to live his life on the sidelines, and observe activities rather than get involved, as described in the quote “He’s a wallflower. You see things. You keep quiet about them. And you understand.” It was interesting to read about his character in these parts because it contrasts to how I have previously lived my life, where I have based my perspectives through my involvement in activities, rather than my observations. Charlie has shown me that sometimes, to gain a wider perspective on everything that’s happening, you need to take a step back and just observe and understand the way other people work, as shown by the quote “Sometimes people use thought to not participate in life.” In relation to this however, I also felt that Charlie never really got the most out of his life as he only saw things through the actions of others, and showed me the importance of getting involved, “Standing on the fringes of life… offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.” This view of Charlie’s character contrasted with the character of Alaska in the novel Looking For Alaska, who loved getting involved, and hated living on the sidelines. This comparison would help the reader to understand the message of the importance of getting involved. There were also times where I greatly admired Charlie, such as how he based all of his actions on the actions, thoughts, and feelings of his friends. He would do anything for any of his friends, but never did anything for himself.“If you care about somebody, you should want them to be happy. Even if you wind up being left out.” It showed Charlie as such a caring character, where he was willing to put his friend’s happiness before himself, and reminded me that we often don’t take enough time to care for and appreciate those that surround us. Charlie taught me that sometimes being a wallflower has its perks, but the majority of the time it’s far more valuable to get involved. Charlie’s passive way of living life may not be the best example to show other year twelve students, but it will teach them different perspectives that their peers may hold, and the reasons behind why people are less inclined to get involved. This can be shown by the quote “You can’t just sit there and put everyone’s lives ahead of yours and think that counts as love. You just can’t. You have to do things.”

The main message in the text is the importance of understanding the divergence that is often seen between teenage individuals, and how these experiences shape the way we think, act, and understand. It taught me that there are countless ways in which people are affected by the smallest of things, and to never assume that everyone else views things the same way that I do, as shown by the quote “So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them.” I think that the author used this story to convey his opinions on how teenagers are affected by the society we live in. I loved the way in which he had Charlie posing interesting viewpoints on common experiences, because it showed me how we never really consider the smaller details of things, such as when he said “I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.” This really makes the reader question everyone around them, and be able to link not only Charlie to modern day society and their own lives, but also his ideas, questions, and values.

In today’s society, teenagers and high school students will often face similar issues to those outlined in the book, such as drug and alcohol abuse, homosexuality, or physical and verbal bullying. Students who have had to go through any of these issues might struggle with coming out in the open and talking to others about them. Many times they prefer to keep their struggles to themselves. I think that Perks of Being a Wallflower is an important novel for a year twelve book club to read, because it may help these students to not only relate to the issues discussed and outlined in this book, but it can also help them realise that they are not alone, that they’re not the only people dealing with and facing these issues. Every person should aim to live their life in any way they choose, but this is often conflicted by the fact many people don’t know how to express their feelings and worries to others, without feeling like they’re being judged or laughed at, no matter the issue. “Every person has to live for his or her own life, and then make the choice to share it with other people.”

Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading about the experiences of the characters in the story, because they experienced many aspects of growing up that I haven’t previously been involved in or considered. Charlie once said “It’s strange to describe reading a book as a really great experience, but that’s kind of how it felt,” a quote in which accurately describes my feelings towards the novel. As this novel covers the undeviating truth of growing up, surviving high school, and the importance of everything, I would highly recommend this novel to a year twelve book club. Though the main purpose of the book is to show the readers the advantages of viewing the chaos of the adolescent world as Charlie did, it doesn’t set a great example of how a young person should live life. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend it to readers younger than year twelve, or readers who are still at an impressionable mental age, as Charlie isn’t portrayed as the best of role models. I feel that the most important lesson a reader in year twelve can learn from this is that growing up may be hard, but we have the choice on whether or not we enjoy it.

“Enjoy it. Because it’s happening.”


Personal response #5 (Short story)

The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Recommended

Author: Ernest Hemingway

It was first published in Esquire magazine in 1936

“You know the only thing I’ve ever lost is curiosity”

It is not uncommon for many people in this day and age to lose their curiosity in living. They start to question the ‘what ifs?’ They want to know if they truly got the most out of their lives, and whether their purpose was fulfilled. This short story looks into the life of a character called Harry, who ventured on an African Safari, in an attempt to rid his lazy life of luxury and procrastination. An unfortunate accident meant that a dying Harry and his wife were stranded in a small African village, while waiting for an emergency aeroplane to be sent from Nairobi. During his last few hours, we see Harry begin to reminisce over his life, and it looks into the regrettable decisions he had made. This short story greatly affected the way I viewed the world, because the author used many connections between the characters and other non-human symbols to help portray ideas and themes throughout the text. His use of language features also assisted this. The decisions made by the characters all bring important life lessons that readers in year twelve can learn from, which is why I would recommend this short story to other people my age. The author, Ernest Hemingway, is a well known American author, and is a very talented writer. I would also recommend other works of his to a year twelve book club.

I loved reading the symbolism that was used throughout the text, because it allowed me to easily make links between the story and modern day issues. For example, the mountain was represented as a place of purity and happiness in the story. After some research on what this symbol could represent, I found that historically, it was common for civilisations to chose the tallest mountain in their area to represent where God, or his immortality lives. This not only helped me understand this symbol in the story, but also in today’s society. I feel that without symbolism like this, the story would be hard to relate to as it was written in 1936, and has fewer ideas that other year twelves and myself could relate to modern day, compared to other texts I have studied. The author also used his writing style to project these ideas to the audience in a systematic way, by adapting his sentence structure and language features, depending on the ideas, messages, or themes he was attempting to portray. As the symbol of the mountain represented happiness and religion, it allowed me to understand the connection between Harry’s desperation for a positive afterlife, and why he thought he would find this on the mountain. In the story, Harry saw it as a symbol of an idealistic life that was pure and true. This helped me understand the perspective of a dying person, and why they suddenly began religious practices. This was a perspective I hadn’t previously considered as I have never been in that situation before. At the beginning of the story I didn’t like Harry’s character, as he was very lazy, and used people for the benefits they could provide, as shown by the quote “He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in, by drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions, by laziness, by sloth, and by snobbery, by pride and by prejudice, by hook and by crook…It was strange, too, wasn’t it, that when he fell in love with another woman, that woman should always have more money than the last one?”. However, by the end of the text I felt pity for him, as he mistook taking advantage of his life, for taking advantage of people and was only now realising it, realising that he’d taken so much for advantage and now his time was running out, as shown by the quote “He had seen the world change … He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would.” This links to today’s society because many people are terrified of dying because they feel they haven’t achieved everything they set out to do, but it teaches us that sometimes kindness, even in the smallest of forms, allows us be happy anyway.

An underlying theme in the text was unrequited love, shown in the text as the relationship between Harry and his wife, Helen. Harry explains that he never really loved her, but simply stuck with her because she was able to provide the income and outrageous lifestyle he so desperately desired. This can be linked to the character of Charlie, in Perks of Being a Wallflower, who felt an unrequited love for his best friend. This link may help the reader understand Harry and Helen’s relationship, as Charlie’s feeling would be more relatable to a teenage audience, and was shown from an opposite perspective. He felt guilty for using her like this, but also felt that “if he lived by a lie he should try to die by it.” The author managed to portray these feelings in a way that it was easy to understand Harry’s perspective on this issue, through anecdotes of stories from Harry’s past. While reading this part of the story, I felt that it was unfair of Harry to use Helen for her money, but I also felt that even though he didn’t love her, she still loved him, and he still made her feel much, much happier. It was because of this that I found I wasn’t as angry with Harry over his choices, because in the end, they were both happy with the outcome. This taught me that even though we can make wrong choices in life; these wrong choices can still make us happy, even if it isn’t in the way that was initially intended. The lesson I learnt from this would also be important for other people my age to learn, because many young teenagers often make many mistakes, no matter what areas of their lives it’s in. This teaches us that even if we make mistakes, it’s not the end of the world, and even if things doesn’t go exactly as we planned, good things can still arise from them.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this short story. In some parts I found it hard to understand the wording because it was written a very long time ago, but you can still understand what the author is trying to portray. The lessons, ideals, symbols, and underlying themes that are written throughout the text really show the authors capabilities, and will help readers of any age understand complicated, modern day issues, in a simple and understandable manner. It was because of this that I would recommend this short story to a year twelve book club.


Personal response #4 (Documentary)

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz:  Recommended

Director: Brian Knappenberger

Category: Film (Documentary)

When I watched this documentary, I truly believed it would be another film on some unknown guy that made something that changed the world. However, I did not expect to be so outraged at the American justice system, and to feel motivated to stand up for the rights of people from all over the world. The Internet’s Own Boy is a documentary on a man called Aaron Swartz. He was a child prodigy, and a gifted computer programmer. “If you had a magical power, would you use it for doing good in the world, or for making piles of money?” Aaron believed that programming was a super power. He started working on projects for the good of the people, he started to fight the government when they wanted to pass bills that could harm internet users, he stood up for everything he believed in, and then fought the justice system with it tirelessly. He made me realise that the world was far from perfect, and that that’s okay, through the message that anyone, anywhere, can help change the world, you just have to start by fighting for what you believe in. Young adults and other people in year twelve need to watch this documentary because it enlightens the viewer on how badly corrupted the world is, and how it’s vital that we start to change that. This lesson is invaluable to learn because it’s shaping the future we’re about to grow up in, the future our children will grow up in.

Throughout the film, Aaron signified my ideas on how important it is to change the modern day culture we are forced to live with, and symbolised the links between the individual struggles he faced in the documentary, and modern day society. The lessons he taught in the documentary showed me how ordinary people from ordinary places really do have an undeniable power that will allow us to adapt the political opinions of billions of people. This was represented in the text through his tireless attempts at fighting the government, when the freedom of speech and innovation online was threatened. “On the internet, everyone gets a license to speak, it’s a question of who gets heard”. This quote represents his idea on how the digital freedom of our society is important, especially as technology is ever evolving in this day and age, because the internet has proposed a way in which people from all walks of life have the opportunity to advertise their opinions, and the choice of who gets heard between these millions of people, should be up to us. Not the government. This is why when the government was passing a bill that threatened this freedom, Aaron was right up there trying to stop it getting passed. I greatly admired Aaron’s courage to stand up to such a powerful political body, and now believe in the importance of Aaron’s willingness to sacrifice all he had done, for the good of the people. He saw a problem with the government, and set out to fix it using the power of people. This made me question why the American government was so adamant on keeping the bill, when so many people were against it, and showed me the perspective of someone who felt powerless to the hands of the government, a perspective I hadn’t previously considered. He taught me that it’s easy to feel powerless and like you can’t make a difference in the world, but if you keep persisting and protesting, and doing everything in your power to change something, sometimes you really can. I greatly enjoyed this part of the documentary because it surprised me on how much they achieved. It taught me how powerful a group of people can be. I also think that this part of the film would be valuable for year twelves to see, because it shows how effective protesting is, and how important it is to develop our society.

“Aaron wasn’t trying to make the world work. He was trying to fix it.” This quote portrays Aaron’s ideas on this, where we can understand how he believes that the world doesn’t need to just “work”, it’s already pretty good, we just need to fix it a little bit. By doing this, we can make a safer and more positive environment for everyone. I found this was an important mindset to consider, and enjoyed seeing this message delivered to the people through the eyes of Aaron. “Aaron believed that you ought to be asking yourself all of the time “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now?” and if you’re not out working on that, why aren’t you?” From the whole documentary, I think that this quote had the biggest impact on my views, and the most relation to today’s society, because it showed me that there are so many problems that wouldn’t even exist if people just took their daily lives, and worked on the things that were wrong, the most important taking priority. This message can also be related to the message given in the poem So You Want to be a Writer?, where it shows the importance of pursuing activities that you’re passionate about and can change the world with. Young adults and year twelve could learn so much from this, because not only does this quote aim to push change, but it would also create more positive lives for people. Aaron’s ideas were well portrayed in the documentary, and I felt that the lessons I have highlighted would be very important for year twelves to learn, and therefore I would highly recommend this to other people my age. This part of the film shows how desperately we need change in order for our society to move forward. We are letting modern day be decided by the old world “He was the internet’s own boy, and the old world killed him.” Today, too many people believe that things should be as they were, because that’s how it’s always been, and we need to change that.

The reason I would recommend this documentary so highly to a year twelve book club, is because it showed me the perspectives of victims who hadn’t done anything drastically wrong. People who were actually doing more good than bad by breaking the law, something I hadn’t previously considered. That, for me, really showed how corrupted the American justice system is, if they’re willing to prosecute and bring people to suicide who could be the reason we find the cure to cancer. It made me consider whether sometimes the ethical ways of society are more realistic than the law. Several of the research papers that Aaron gave out helped a young scientist to find a way to detect pancreatic cancer early, a cancer that previously was only detected when it was too late. The American justice system killed Aaron, even though he could be the reason that their children get to live longer, happier lives. If that doesn’t prove there’s a problem, I don’t know what does. I think year twelves would also be interested in understanding the things that Aaron fought for, because even if you don’t go and try to bring down laws and government actions, it’s equally important to question everything.


Personal response #3 (Film)

The Imitation Game: Highly recommended

Director: Morten Tyldum

Category: Film

“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”

The Imitation Game is a war movie, in which the characters are ordinary people, with ordinary lives, from ordinary parts of the world, doing seemingly ordinary tasks. However, they created history. They were the war heroes no one knew, because they fired maths equations rather than bullets. The Imitation Game has characters that we can relate to even though it was based on times far before our ours, and this is possibly why it’s a good recommendation for year 12 students. They can have an understandable and relatable insight into what life was like for those that didn’t go to war, but still changed the world.

Alan, the main character in the movie, was a very strange man. He saw things very differently from everyone else, which was a reason why seeing his character in the movie was so interesting to watch. He thinks logically, and doesn’t let feelings sway his verdicts on how to solve problems, as shown by the quote, “Sometimes we can’t do what feels good. We have to do what is logical.” We get so used to thinking like everyone else, being like everyone else, acting like everyone else, that seeing someone do the opposite shows just how different human beings can be from one another. Personally, Alan was one of my favourite characters in the film because he showed me that humans are still the same, even if perceive and react to situations differently. I preferred him to the other characters, because he was so very different, and made me see how superficial humans can sometimes act in order to impress others. I also thought that this part of the film related well to society because many people worry that being different is wrong. “Now, if you wish you could have been normal… I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren’t.” This is another quote said by Joan, telling Alan that his difference is what changed the world. That because he thought and saw things differently, he made the world different. Better. This is a very important lesson for young adults to learn, that we should embrace our differences, rather than reject them. The film was about a very strange, and different man, who changed the world with his difference. However, it was the same world that changed him. He altered the history of the world. He saved more lives than any soldier could have, yet the world still looked down upon his difference, even when it was the very thing that saved it’s humanity. So many people in today’s society try to be like everyone else because they feel that that’s what the world needs, but one of Alan’s most memorable flaws was that he believed in this too. Alan didn’t want his difference. He wanted to be normal, and to be allowed to live like a normal person. We need to teach people that this is the wrong way of thinking. Joan was one of the few characters who told him: No. The world is better because of you, you might want to be normal but normal doesn’t want to be you. Different does. And that’s okay. I thought that this part of the film was the most relatable because it teaches us that different is okay, and that different is what changes things, not normality, similar to the ideas of accepting who you are written about in Perks of Being a Wallflower, a previous text I read about.

The ideas and themes shown in the film is possibly one of the reasons it had such a big impact on my view of the world. It’s relatable because it’s main message is that people need to be real, be themselves to change the world. A main idea that runs throughout the movie is this perception of the world where anything is possible, similar to the ideas and actions taken by characters in The Internet’s Own Boy, a documentary I also watched. A few men built a supercomputer to crack a code thought to be impossible. There are few lessons more important to teach young adults than the idea that anything is possible, and therefore makes this film such a good recommendation. The plot is filled with unexpected surprises and life changing decisions – not only for the characters, but also for us. The storyline was deep and imaginative, and so were the characters. They were portrayed in such an ordinary way, that it’s easy to relate to them, to understand what they did, even on a basic level, and therefore understand what historic roles they played. They’re the war heroes that make sense. The war heroes that saved more lives than any soldiers, and probably killed more too, just from a room in small town England. Throughout the film, you slowly develop a much better understanding of the characters, and how the roles they played changed the world for good. This film was loosely based on a true story, and therefore students in year 12 would both immensely enjoy the film, and learn many historical things from it.This part of the film taught me the importance of opinions and perspectives. The machine was able to crack the German codes, and allow the British to know exactly where the Germans were, and where they were headed. Alan’s colleagues saw this as a way to save everyone in the firing line of the Germans, but Alan knew that they couldn’t do that. They had to let people die to make sure the German’s didn’t know they’d cracked the code. His unemotional response to killing British soldiers is why people began to question his humanity, and therefore compare him to a machine. “Was I god? No. Because God didn’t win the war. We did.” This quote explains how during the war, they played God. They chose who lived and who died. They sent warnings to people, they ignored others. They defied moral authority. But, like they said, the real god didn’t win the war. The real god didn’t alter history and change who won. They did. The opinions and perspectives of these characters showed sides of war that haven’t previously been portrayed effectively in other war movies. This is another reason why I greatly enjoyed the film, and why it would be such a good recommendation to other people my age.

I would highly recommend this film to a year twelve group because it has taught me so many invaluable lessons that many people are yet to learn. This age group is still impressionable, and can learn some very real, hard hitting lessons that are hard to learn in today’s society, such as the importance of patience and sacrifice. I felt that I could relate easily to Alan through his contrast with the other characters. I feel that people can appreciate how the ideas and messages in the text weren’t sad, depressing, and filled with death and darkness, unlike many other war films or documentaries. War heroes are usually portrayed as innocent boys forced to grow up to be killers, and if they didn’t kill, they would get killed. They make the characters almost unrelatable because of the things they’re put through, and as as result, many people struggle to relate to them because the setting of the film is such a contrast to their own. This film is different. It’s not just a story of war and death. It’s not another depressing, action packed, murderous film, nor is it a scientific documentary on the technological advancements war created. No. It’s a story about a boy, who grows up to be more than anyone could have imagined. It’s a love story. It’s a thriller. It’s a comedy. It’s very relatable for teenagers today, allowing us to learn many important lessons from the characters, and this is why I would recommend this film to a year twelve book club.


Personal response #2 (Poem)

So you want to be a writer?: Recommended

Poet: Charles Bukowski

Category: Poetry

Poets and fiction writers gain their fame and fortune by making stuff up. They lie, they cheat, the words they use are deceitful. This poem is different. It tells the cold, hard, undeviating truth of so many things – do what you love and love what you do. If what you’re doing doesn’t make you excited, if you’re not passionate about doing it, don’t do it. Even if you believe that this is what the world needs, whether that be more writers, doctors, etc., do not do it unless you love it. This is the main message in the poem, in which the author accurately portrays easily. When I researched other poems by this author, they had very similar themes and styles but changes in topic, meaning I would also recommend other pieces by this poet as well.

Possibly one of the parts I enjoyed most about the poem was the way the author wrote it. He managed to write such a complicated truth so simply, in a way that’s not only easy to read, but allows you to really think about what the poem is trying to explain. To me, this is an important quality of any piece of text, and has been developed well in this poem. I think that people could perceive this poem to be promoting not becoming a writer because of the way it’s worded and laid out. He has structured this poem exactly as we would organise our own thoughts on the matter, in a repetitive and structured manner that manages to make as much and as little sense as possible, all at the same time, giving it a more immature feel. However, I believe that this poem explains that writing, and any other career, should not be something you need to force, it shouldn’t be difficult or cause stress, and it shouldn’t be something you tell yourself you should do because it’s what other people are doing. Do not follow other people’s passions. Follow your own. What he means is while writing, it should just happen, it should flow from you and should be your natural way of expressing yourself. He also explains that just because writing may not be your passion, it doesn’t mean that you’re passionless, it simply means you haven’t found yours yet. And that’s okay. As this poem has been written in such a focused, easy to understand way, the use of language features and structured ideas has created a format for the poem that would greatly help a year twelve understand the mess of ideas discussed.

I personally believe that the message and ideas of having a love and passion for what you do with your life that this poem explains, is so relatable to people of many ages, especially young adults. This may be because we are still bouncing ideas around of what we want to do, and who we want to be, we are still ignited by a passionate, frenetic energy that hasn’t yet been substituted for broken dreams and too many debts. This idea can be linked to the messages and themes present in short stories such as The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Charles Bukowski has managed to guide us with his ideas on only following your passions, which is a critical lesson teenagers must learn before making any future choices or decisions. I personally felt that the ideas in this poem were relatable because of this repetitive mantra shown in excerpts like “if you’re doing it for money or/fame,/don’t do it,” where the author explains the real reasons for doing something. Young adults and teenagers can relate to this well because we are all in situations where we need to start deciding on careers, on our future goals, on our lives, and this poem teaches us an important lesson of never do something for its rewards, always follow your passions because the rewards you’d reap from that would be far more valuable than any amount of money or fame could be to you, which can be shown by comparing this poem with the character of Harry in the short story I mentioned previously. My response to this is that these ideas the poet portrayed have been written so angrily and seriously that it makes you want to listen. I like that a poet can draw your attention and make you try and understand the deeper meanings of their poems because it makes the piece of writing more influential on you and your life, and makes you really consider exactly what the poem conveys, and exactly why it was written. This is why it would be an excellent piece of writing for a year 12 book club to read.

I would definitely recommend this poem to a year twelve book club because it has hard-hitting messages that are so relevant. The links between the topic of writing in the poem, and a career is very clear, and can also be related to other aspects of society. In general, a good thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t pursue something because you think that is what’s needed to make a positive change, whether that be becoming a doctor, or a volunteer firefighter, you should pursue something because you can make it into something that changes the world, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you now. This poem is a good recommendation for a year twelve book club, and is important because it shows Charles Bukowski writing as if he were reflecting his own poem – passionate.


Looking for Alaska: Highly recommended

Author: John Green

Category: Teen fiction (novel)

Publisher: HarperCollins

The novel Looking For Alaska by John Green, is a novel looking into the lives of three teenagers from very different backgrounds, who live together in an American boarding school for their senior year. Together they act like your average reckless teenagers: drinking, swearing, pulling pranks, and breaking almost every rule in the book. This is possibly why the characters are so easily relatable and hilarious to read about, because they are based off the stereotypes of today’s generation of teenagers. “The nice thing about the constant threat of expulsion at Culver Creek is that it lends excitement to every moment of illicit pleasure. The bad thing, of course, is that there is always the possibility of actual expulsion”. By taking every opportunity to do something reckless, dangerous, daring, or just plain stupid, the characters in the book are exactly what we want to be, and do the very things that we’ve never quite had the guts to attempt. It takes the time to explain the thought process behind many activities performed by teenagers, and as a result, produces many different lessons that a year twelve book club can learn from.

John Green has managed to pull off a writing style that is both an easy and challenging read, but accurately defines how teenagers act and think through how we communicate best: our actions, arguments, conversations, and confusing mixed signals. He has used witty comments, and quick comebacks, items taken from everyday dialogue, most commonly seen in the vocabulary of teenagers. It’s just a book that’s fun to read. You create a connection with the characters. They make you laugh, cry, worry, and feel like you’re almost as much as part of the story as they are. He describes the characters through conversations between themselves, and is able to express their feelings and perspectives without it being heavy and hard to read. This relates well to society because when we meet new people, we find out who they are through conversations both with the person and with other people about them. He has described and portrayed the characters in a way that we would meet others in real life, rather than just writing down exactly who they were, what they looked like, and how they thought. This connection not only allows us to contrast it with today’s society, but also be introduced to the characters as if we were meeting them on the street, as if they’re actual people. Depending on the topic of conversation, Green is able to alter his style of writing depending on what he wants the reader to understand. For example, the bits of arguments and action between the characters and their relationships are often fast paced dialogue to allow him to fit more into the story, whereas the parts where he wants you to understand deeper meanings and philosophical concepts, he uses long paragraphs with detailed descriptions that are easy to follow, just to ensure the reader doesn’t get too confused. By stretching out these parts of the story, he allows the reader time to absorb the information he’s feeding, and to revitalise the story before speeding off into the next fast paced section of the book. I have found that this makes the story easier to read, and means that you are always able to understand what’s going on in the book. All of the reasons here means it makes Looking for Alaska a good recommendation for a year twelve book club.

“How will I ever escape this Labyrinth?” A simple question that could lead to a million answers, possibilities, and never ending confusion. What is the Labyrinth, and how to escape it is exactly what Miles, Chip, and Alaska spend much of their time wondering, and one of the few constant ideas through a story line packed with mischief, friendship, unrequited love, and life changing plot twists. I loved learning about this because it draws readers in to conclude their own ideas on what the labyrinth is. I think that for young people, the Labyrinth is an important idea that represents this never ending maze of long school days, and what happens when we are no longer teenagers. The characters in the book link it to what happens after you die, but for a teenage audience, this can easily be related to what happens after you leave home – because in some ways, it’s almost like you’re losing one life to start on another. You spend each day searching this maze, learning new paths and occasionally getting a grasp on where you are, where you’re going, and what you’re doing, just as the maze changes, turns, or flips upside down. It represents the idea that we are not able to leave home and go find our way in the world, we’re too young. But we’re also too old to be shown around and told what to do and how to act. Instead we are stuck in this middle ground, the Labyrinth, where nothing is ever as it seems, and the only constant is change and confusion. Looking for Alaska taught me that there is no escape to the Labyrinth, you just have to keep on going, and take every piece of advice and information you can. To escape, you have to try, to get out of your comfort zone, to make new friends, lose old friends, do stupid and reckless activities. But the only way to escape, is to enjoy and value you the time that you have there, because once you escape you’re all on your own – you don’t even have the high walls and shelter from the real world to keep you company.

This book is such a good recommendation for a year 12 book club because gives subtle insight into a deeper meaning for our own lives. It is a book directed at teens, yet has challenging content that has been portrayed in an easy to understand way by involving them into such ordinary lives.

This novel looks into very deep and detailed themes that are very interesting to learn about. I found that the reason I enjoyed this novel was because it had characters who symbolised people that I would want to be friends with in real life, and taught me lessons I wouldn’t have previously learnt about. This can be linked to the themes discussed in another novel, Perks of Being a Wallflower, where the characters teach the reader the importance of getting involved. These two texts contrast each other nicely, and back up the messages portrayed in both stories: the importance of getting involved, and the struggles of high school. This is why I would so highly recommend this novel to a year twelve book club.

English exam reflection

To Kill a Mockingbird:

Overall, I think that the novel essay went well because I remembered most of the content I needed, and managed to adapt the essay to the question I wrote about. There were many areas I think I can improve on however, such as a deeper link to conclude each paragraph, or better relation between the theme and characters.


The first two questions of unfamiliar went well, as I thought I understood the questions quite well, but I think I need to work on answering the question more specifically, as I kind of made some parts up that I know I could probably answer, if I had worked a bit harder on unfamiliar text revision. The third question was slightly harder, and took a bit more understanding to answer the question properly.

Overall, I think that I understood the questions and essay, but there are definitely areas to improve in.

Essay questions

There are 6 essay questions from the 8 provided on the list that I will be able to answer after researching characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. These are:

  1. Analyse how shifts in power were used to illustrate one or more themes in the written text(s).
  2. Analyse how language features were used to reveal the attitudes of one or more characters or individuals in the written text.
  3. Couldn’t be answered
  4. Couldn’t be answered
  5. Analyse how language features were used to shape your reaction to one or more ideas in the written text(s).
  6. Analyse how one or more significant events were used to comment on an aspect of society in the written text(s)
  7. Analyse how cruel or kind behaviour was used to show one or more ideas in the written text(s).
  8. Analyse how the ending created a satisfying outcome in the written text(s)