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Gcse English To Kill A Mockingbird Essay

Essay writing

In the exam you will also be asked to write an essay. There will be a choice of two essay titles and you will be asked to pick one. Your essay must focus on the novel as a whole and therefore it is very important that you know the novel extremely well before you sit your exam. You must make sure you have a clear idea about:

  • plot
  • themes
  • characters
  • language, form and structure
  • context

When you are in the exam, it is a good idea to write a brief essay plan before you start writing the actual essay. This will help you to have control of the structure of your essay and make sure that you do not end up repeating points or even worse, missing out valuable points.

Below there are examples of essay titles from a higher tier and foundation tier exam on To Kill a Mockingbird.

Higher tier

Who are the mockingbird figures in the novel and what is their significance to the novel as a whole?

Foundation tier

Why are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson considered to be the mockingbird figures inTo Kill a Mockingbird?

Planning your answer

  1. Introduction. explain who the mockingbird figures are and why they are important to the novel.
  2. Comment on Atticus’ belief that mockingbirds should not be shot and include details of why he believes this.
  3. Comment on Boo Radley and why he is considered to be a mockingbird figure.
  4. Comment on Tom Robinson and why he is considered to be a mockingbird figure.
  5. Conclusion - here you should provide a general summing up of your main points.

Higher tier sample answers

Here are two sample answers that refer to point one of the essay plan set out in step 4.

Sample answer one

The mockingbird figures in To Kill a Mockingbird are Boo Radley and Tom Robinson. They are the mockingbird figures because they are kind men who do not do anything wrong but they are still treated badly by the rest of the townspeople in Maycomb. Boo Radley rescues Scout and Jem from Bob Ewell and Tom Robinson is kind towards Mayella Ewell and helps her when she needs a wardrobe chopped up. In this essay I will be writing about Boo Radley and Tom Robinson and explaining to you how they are considered to be the mockingbird figures in Harper Lee’s novel.

Feedback comments – good but improvements need to be made

This answer does not clearly state what a mockingbird figure actually is. This needs to be included in the introduction.

Phrases such as should be avoided as they are a little basic. In fact you should try to avoid using the first person (I) completely.

In the introduction there is no need to mention specifics such as Tom Robinson chopping up the wardrobe. This should be saved for the main body of the essay.

The name of the author should be included at the start of the paragraph instead of at the end.

Sample answer two

Harper Lee’s novel To kill a Mockingbird includes several characters who could be referred to as mockingbird figures. Mockingbird figures are characters who are kind and caring and yet are treated badly in some way by the rest of society. They are linked to the actual mockingbird, who does nothing wrong except sing for the enjoyment of others and so should therefore never be hunted and killed. There are several episodes during the novel which highlight the fact that both Tom Robinson and Boo Radley can be considered as mockingbird figures and these will be examined over the course of this essay.

Feedback comments – a much improved answer

This answer begins with the author’s name and makes it clear what the essay will be about.

There is no use of the first person here which provides the answer with a more polished feel.

This answer makes it clear what a mockingbird figure is, giving a clear link to the next paragraph, which will be about Atticus’ views on mockingbird figures.

This answer does not give too many specifics about the actions of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley, meaning that there is scope to include these points later in the essay.

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  1. Heyyy everybody!

    Im doing To Kill a Mocking bird for the novel, but to be honest Im really struggling with what you are meant to include in your answer? Are you meant to retell the story in your own words ? do you write part a and b in one essay ? do you include all the key episodes in one answer even though they would give you an extract ??
    Im aiming for a minimum of an A. Thanks alot
  2. I'm writing this with the assumption that you're doing AQA English Literature.

    Retelling the story is precisely what you're not meant to do. Your job is to answer the questions, which are very specific. Whilst you probably want to situate the paragraph briefly in your introduction, simply paraphrasing the story is a part of Unit 1 English Language, not English Literature. If you want more detailed information, you can take a look at the general markscheme here but here's a quick synopsis of what you're meant to do.

    In section A, you're simply analysing the given passage -nothing else. The question changes from year to year, but it generally is along the lines of "How does Lee use details in this passage to present...", followed by a theme or a character. Your task is to do precisely that, to analyse details in the passage. The top band in part A says you need to give an "insightful and exploratory response to the task and text", but more importantly you need to give "close analysis of detail" and give an "evaluation of the writer's uses of language and/or structure and/or form and effects on the readers". You're going to want to pick out relevant quotations to support your argument and you need to not only analyse what techniques are being used but the effects they have on the reader. The final criteria for section A is a "convincing interpretation of ideas/themes", so you do need to link your answers back to the key themes of the novel. However, you must remember that section A is focused on the paragraph. Do not go off talking about the use of techniques in other parts of the novel, because it's completely irrelevant in this section. Also, context isn't part of part A. You're more than welcome to talk about it if it supports your point, but you'll get no credit for context alone; that's in part B.

    Section B is generally related to the passage in Section A, asking you to expand on an idea of character throughout the novel. For example, I'm looking at a past paper where part a) asks you to show how Miss Maudie presents her view of Maycomb and part b) asks you to show how life was like in a small town such as Maycomb in 1930s America. Part B is actually pretty similar to Part A, there are just a few more things you need to add. Just like in Part A, you need a "close analysis of detail" which means picking out quotes, identifying techniques and explaining the effect on the reader. However, you also have to remember to relate what you're talking about to the context, which you'll hopefully know all about. This isn't too difficult since the questions generally relate quite obviously to the context. You just need to find convenient points to say "Indeed, in 1930s America... ".

    Remember that you only have 20 minutes for each section (plus 5 minutes of thinking time), so there's absolutely no expectation for you to come up with an incredibly complex, 10 page essay. You're not going to be able to analyse every detail in section 1, nor are you going to be able to give every instance of the theme/character you're supposed to write about in section 2. The important thing is that you're ticking the boxes, and that you're packing in enough detail so that you're explaining the impact on the reader rather than just identifying which techniques are being used.

    Hope this helps!
    (Original post by mandy123mandy123)
    Heyyy everybody!

    Im doing To Kill a Mocking bird for the novel, but to be honest Im really struggling with what you are meant to include in your answer? Are you meant to retell the story in your own words ? do you write part a and b in one essay ? do you include all the key episodes in one answer even though they would give you an extract ??
    Im aiming for a minimum of an A. Thanks alot