Julian M and A.G Rochelle by Emily Bronte

There’s like minus ten things about this poem on the internet, so I guess I get to be first to decide what’s going on…

What’s it about? 

This is a long one. Julian is a Lord who is visiting a prison, we assume in Gondal, where he sees many people suffering in a dungeon. There, he catches sight of a beautiful girl ,Rochelle, somebody he knew as a child. The jailer gets tired of watching them talk, so he gives Julian the keys, trusting that he will let himself out. Rather than “proving a jailer stern and true”, he decides to set Rochelle free and take her to live with him. Everybody begins to mock him for suddenly becoming a homebody, rather than behaving as a noble solider, but Julian thinks that giving up his status and freedom is worth it for Rochelle’s love.


This poem is told in rhyming couplets, with an iambic rhythm. The number of syllables per line varies roughly between 9 and 11, so at points it does sound a little fragmented, especially if you read it aloud. I can’t call this a traditional ballad, because that would require the 2nd and 4th lines to rhyme, but it certainly draws on ballad conventions because it tells a story from beginning to end. Bronte’s use of couplets creates a sense of unity and closure at the end of each verse, which mirrors the ultimate happy ending that the two characters achieve, while also paralleling the sense of enclosure in the prison setting. It’s a matter of opposing forces, so the structure also works in pairs.

There is also a lot of caesura in this poem, which creates the impression of a conversational tone, without it sounding informal. We can imagine that Julian is recounting the story in a flow of consciousness, which makes it feel more personal and realistic.


“soft and mild as sculptured marble saint or slumbering, unweaned
child” – I won’t lie, I find this line pretty creepy. It certainly draws on the romantic preoccupation with the beauty of childhood, but Rochelle is definitely infantalised to a degree by this description. The word “unweaned” suggests an animal that still takes its mother’s milk, suggesting that she is a dependant character, in need of another person to survive. Julian also refers to Rochelle as his “bird”, suggesting that she is like a captive pet, who he fears “would go” if he let her out of her cage, the prison. While the bird suggests freedom, it is also something to be looked on and possessed, hence the use of the possessive pronoun, “my“. It is totally up to you how you choose to read the relationship between these two characters, but I get the impression that Rochelle somehow feels in debt to Julian, because he talks about “at last” having “earned” an equal love from her, after having “guarded her by day, and guarded her by night.” In a sense, Rochelle enters another prison of a cushy kind when she goes to live with Julian.

“A messenger of hope, comes every night to me” – here we have typical religious references, explaining a similar situation to what we see in “to a wreath of snow.” Like Almeda, Rochelle uses imagination as an escape from her circumstances, but it doesn’t always work. “The soul to feel the flesh and the flesh to feel the chain” is a particuarly strong line which uses a semi-chiastic structure. The repetition of the word “flesh” establishes a link between the two halves of the sentence, it becoming the only barrier between the soul and the chains. In a sense, it is Rochelle’s soul that is harnessed by chains, as well as her physical body. Very Jean Jacque Rousseau – “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”

“terror-blent delight” – this is just a particularly nice oxymoron. The idea of the feelings combined in a blend creates a very visual impression of the juxtapositions we see throughout this poem:  the contrast between the light outdoors and the dark interior, the caged and the free bird, the physical realm of pain, and the unseen one of the imagination. Like I mentioned in the structure section, this is a poem of binaries, and in turn one of conflict.


It’s very difficult to apply context to Bronte, because these poems exist in a world of her own creation. I don’t feel as though it’s my place to decide for definite what this story is about – I don’t even know why Rochelle is in prison, or why Julian is going on a tour in the first place. We might choose to interpret the prison as being metaphorical, as I think that I mentioned for the Almeda poem. Perhaps it is about the confinement of womanhood, and the fact that a woman always had to compromise personal freedom for stability.



Example Shakespeare Essay – Examining Desdemona

Hi there! Someone asked for an idea of how to structure a Shakespeare essay for the Edexcel exam. Here’s one I wrote this morning – it hasn’t been marked by anyone and I certainly can’t promise it’s perfect! I’ll highlight it according to assessment objectives.

Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of Desdemona in Othello.  You must relate your discussion to relevant contextual factors and ideas from your critical reading.

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In his 1604 tragedy “Othello”, Shakespeare explores the roles of men and women, relationships, and gender dichotomy in his contemporary society. Through the character of Desdemona, the audience is introduced to both stereotypes of female subservience and conflicting ideas of power and autonomy, revealing the ultimate complexity of Jacobean womanhood and its relationship to class. Through Desdemona’s decidedly multifaceted character, Shakespeare twists the prescribed notion of woman, instead suggesting that her power lies most in her social background and reputation.

While we might anticipate Desdemona to be entirely submissive, Shakespeare initially constructs her character to be held in high esteem by her male peers.  In the second act of the play, Shakespeare presents an unusual power division in the relationship between Desdemona and Othello through his use of epithet and shared lines. Describing her partner as “my dear Othello”, Desdemona not only employs a possessive pronoun to establish her bond with Othello, but fluidly completes the missing syllables in his previous line: “O my fair warrior!”. This smooth interchange between the two characters stresses their untouched bond and synchronous relationship, elevating Desdemona to the same position as her husband. By describing her as a “warrior”, Shakespeare applies a typically masculine attribute to her character, allowing her to mirror the strength of her partner.

Though this may imply a balanced relationship between the two, it also reveals the powerful weight of Desdemona’s social status as an upper class woman when compared to that of a black man. While Jacobean society typically perceived a woman as lesser than her partner, this dynamic is complicated by Othello and Desdemona’s racial difference, which instead would have dictated Desdemona to be more worthy for her whiteness. While Kenneth Burke describes Othello’s relationship to Desdemona as “ownership in the profoundest sense”, we might dispute that this is instead applicable to Desdemona, who possesses her husband as a exotic treasure, with a love founded on a fascination for his “otherness.” When Othello notes that she loved “[him] for the dangers [he] had passed”,  Shakespeare constructs his character to appear like a trophy in the eyes of Desdemona, allowing her to view him as “hers” as opposed to his possession. While Brabantio and the other Venetians may perceive Desdemona as “subdued and poisoned” by Othello, we might argue that she actually exercises a degree of control over Othello in the first two acts of the play, being free to “devour his discourse” and in turn to fetishise his strength and accomplishments.

As the play progresses, we note how the presentation of Desdemona’s character shifts in accordance with her changing reputation. While in the first two acts of the play she is respected on account of her chastity and noble background, her image is distorted by her suspected infidelity. In act four, Othello labels Desdemona as “that cunning whore of Venice”, equating her position to her sexuality, and that in turn to her Venetian background. As described by Loomba in her essay “Othello, Race and Society”, the “openness of Venice could be seen as dangerous”, hence it appears possible to Othello that his wife is predisposed to sexual promiscuity. This image of an liberal Venice was often employed by English writers as a symbol of sexual deviance among women, corrupting the “virtuous” nature of Desdemona to make her a “strumpet”, “whore” and “devil.” These adjectives strip Desdemona of her high status, instead likening her to a prostitute, which would have been extremely ill-viewed. Shakespeare here reveals the expected feminine weakness of Desdemona, who internalises her husband’s accusations in her own language. Lamenting that she does “abhor” the word “whore”,  Shakespeare uses two homonyms to directly equate whoredom with abhorrence, Desdemona expressing a disgust for herself despite never being unfaithful. The defiling of Desdemona’s sexual purity exemplifies the fragility of Jacobean womanhood and its explicit link to reputation and social position.

In the final act, when Desdemona is smothered, critic David Blamires describes her death as a “tragicomic parody of an erotic death”, the act of extinguishing Desdemona’s “promethean heat” acting as a dark metaphor for her first orgasm. Desdemona, initially presented as the embodiment of a “tender, fair and happy maid”, ultimately epitomises a Jacobean woman’s struggle for agency in a society which values her virginity above all else. While we may anticipate that she be rewarded for her honest nature and unwavering fidelity, it is the irony of her death that encapsulates the tragedy of “Othello”, “killed for being a whore, she dies a virgin.” (Blamires.)

The character of Desdemona emphasises the value placed on a woman’s chastity, and how liable her position in society was to collapse. While she may be privileged for her racial background, she does not exercise any freedoms beyond this, and is ultimately punished for marrying outside of her race and class. Through her doomed relationship with Othello, Shakespeare deconstructs a “fantasy of social tolerance” (Loomba), revealing a society corrupted by sexism, racism, and immorality.

Maria x

Example Essay – Frankenstein vs Handmaid’s

This is an essay my school set. Let me know if there’s a theme you’d like to see some writing on!! And always feel free to email with questions englishlityear12@gmail.com x

Compare the ways in which the writers of your two chosen texts present what it means to be human.

In both Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, issues of emotion, compassion and individuality lie at the core of the text. Exploring both the most primitive and complex aspects of human nature, both writers force us to consider the feeble link between “human” and “humanity”, and moreover how malleable a concept our humanness is.


In “Frankenstein”, the Creature is stripped of human attributes through the use of nomenclature, despite the fact that he built from human parts. Describing him as a “wretch”, “devil”, and “monster”, Shelley reduces our image of Victor’s creation to something sub-human and abhorrent, drawing on gothic tropes of satanic and occult imagery. While these descriptions alienate his character from a typical human, it is also Shelley’s use of determiners which stress his otherness. Defined as “the” creature rather than “a”, we suppose him to be one of a kind, and hence separate from humanity, which we view as a category. Shelley’s choice of the definite article shrouds the Creature in an aura of mystery, permitting him to exist only on the fringes of human society, as a spectator rather than a participant. Shelley’s depiction of the Creature plays on the gothic fascination for the uncanny and perverse, showing how disgusts manifests itself towards the marginalised.


Likewise, in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” nomenclature is used to divest Offred of power and individuality. Offred’s name is formed from the preposition “of”, followed by the name of her commander, hence it is not used to distinguish her from others, but to determine her relationship to a man. By defining her as the possession of a male, Atwood reduces Offred from woman to commodity, no longer a person but an item to be put to use. Atwood draws on philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s theory that the female is seen as a crude imitation of man, that “when she acts as a human, she is said to imitate the male.” Only permitting Offred humanity through association with a man, Atwood implies that our notion of “human” is intrinsically male. Like the Creature, who is a corrupted version of a human man, Offred too is viewed as a lesser copy of this same ideal.


While this may suggest that our idea of humanity is largely prescribed, both writers show that the individual may choose to see humanity where they choose. In “Frankenstein”, Walton notes a respectability and charm in Victor’s character which greatly influences our impression of him. By framing the central narrative with Walton’s letters, Shelley ensures we are first introduced to Victor through Walton’s admiring eyes, allowing us to perceive him as “gentle…wise, and cultivated.” While Victor’s actions may contradict these words, Walton’s unwavering admiration for his friend ultimately shapes our view of his character, allowing Victor to appear complex and three-dimensional. Shelley uses Walton’s voice to project a humanity onto Victor’s character, proving that ideas of human nature are shaped by perspective. Rather than presenting Victor as entirely evil and repulsive, Shelley draws on the Romantic preoccupation with heroism, presenting him both as an protagonist and antagonist who simultaneously attracts and repels us. Through his conflicting character, Shelley reminds us that a human demands flaws as well as strengths.

In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Atwood also proves that we may choose to see human traits in someone otherwise deplorable. When Offred describes her relationship to the Commander, she often applies childish language to his behavior, describing him as “silly” and “juvenile.” Atwood’s flippant choice of words paint the Commander as an innocent and even sympathetic man, who Offred looks upon with a degree of pity. Like Walton, who finds a certain tenderness in the seemingly villainous Frankenstein, Offred permits us to see the Commander as human, assuring us that he is not “an unkind man.” We might argue that Offred’s character suffers from some form of Stockholm syndrome, trying to identify and empathise with her oppressor. Claiming that nothing in her novel had not happened before in the real world, Atwood proves an uncanny truth that acts of violence are committed by other humans who look like ourselves. Considering the depravity that inspired her novel – the Holocaust, the Magdalene Laundries and the Romanian birth control ban – it seems apparent that humans cannot all be characterised by a sense of humanity.


We may draw parallels between these descriptions of the Commander and Offred’s anecdote in chapter 24, where she recounts a documentary about the mistress of a Nazi. Musing that he must have had “some endearing trait” for her to believe in his goodness, Offred recognises that our ideas of a person are easily pliable. The mistress insists the man was not a “monster”, suggesting that anyone may be human if it is an “available temptation.” Ironically, no such allowances are made for the Creature in “Frankenstein”, who is also referred to as a “monster”, despite his initially benign intentions. Both writers pose the uncomfortable suggestion that we pick and choose who we treat as a human, for our own comfort rather than sincerity. Atwood’s poignant choice, to link this back to Nazism, draws a direct parallel between the supposedly fictional society of Gilead, and an atrocity only thirty years older than her novel.


Though essentially very different novels, both “Frankenstein” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” acknowledge the complexity of identity, and how easily this is shaped by voice and circumstance. The two texts question whether being human is a simple as an image or set of attributes, or potentially something indistinguishable, with no set meaning or form. While neither novel may resolve entirely just what it means to be “human”, they certainly reveal how broad an idea it may be – “How easy it is to invent a humanity, for anyone at all.”

Maria x

“I always narrate the text”

In our emails and comments, the most common question at the moment is “how do I stop narrating the text in my essays?” Lots of people get told by their teachers that they are simply recounting the story rather than analyzing, and this can really knock your confidence. In reality, everyone has narrated a text at some point in their writing. It certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t have informed and critical understanding.


Analysis is all about digging underneath a word, phrase or structure. Imagine a box labelled “buttons.” Anyone can look at it and know that there are buttons inside. They won’t know what sort of buttons, or what size, or what colour unless they open the lid. Analysing a text is like lifting a lid on it.

Here’s an example:

“The first hapless victims of my unhallowed arts” – Frankenstein, Volume 1

Narrating the text is to tell us something that we can already decipher by having read the book. Eg. Shelley uses the word “victims” as William and Justine die because of Victor’s work. She uses “first” because Clerval and Elizabeth will also die.

Technically, this is correct, but it isn’t telling us about the purpose of Shelley’s writing. To get underneath a quote, you have to remember that the person marking your essay already knows what will happen to the characters. They want to know why you think we should take notice. So:

To exemplify the danger of Victor’s endeavours, Shelley likens Justine and William to “hapless victims”, suggesting they are paragons of innocence that are tainted by his evil. The choice of the word “unhallowed” emphasises the occult associations of his work, warning us that transgressing nature leads to destruction. Knowing that the two are only the “first” victims, the reader is left to speculate about how the story will escalate. Shelley encourages us to invest ourselves in the text by purposefully withholding information.

I hope this helps. As you can tell by my box analogy, explaining things concisely is not my skill. If you have any questions, you can drop an email and I’m happy to talk one-on-one.

Maria xx


Essay Planning – how do I do it?

Hey again! We’ve got our mock exams coming up and I’m sure that a lot of other people do. To prep for our exams, we’ve been told to work on essay plans, and so we thought we could take you on this less than riveting journey with us.

So this is an essay I got set by my teacher. The most common question we get via email is “how do I approach a exam question like this?” The way I’m going to doing it is just one possible route. There are loads and loads more, and I’m sure the other two bloggers would do this completely differently.

Explore Shakespeare’s presentation of virtue in “Othello.” You must relate your discussion to relevant contextual factors and ideas from your critical anthology.

What is the key word here? Obviously in an exam situation you won’t have a dictionary to hand, but I find that when I’m working at home, it’s useful to write out a definition. Here’s one for virtue. Virtue: behaviour showing high moral standards. 

So now we have a definition, we can think in detail about how this is displayed in the play. I start by asking myself a series of questions: Who displays virtue? What does virtue mean to our characters? What does virtue mean to Shakespeare? 

In an essay, you’ll probably be making three or four points, so I won’t bore you with more than one. Let’s look at Desdemona. Desdemona is seen as virtuous for preserving her virginity. In the 1600s this was a mark of a woman’s worth and purity, and while an entirely patriarchal concept, a measure of her virtue. By reserving her body for Othello alone, she conforms to the moral standards of her era, demonstrating herself as a paragon of subservience and meekness. Later in the play, we know that this image of her is deconstructed by Iago, and her virtuous image is destroyed…

Find your evidence. I’ve chosen this line from Act Four Scene Two. “Oh thou weed who art so lovely fair”. This juxtaposing phrase of Othello’s in act four scene two demonstrates the conflict between the virtuous image of Desdemona, and the corrupt one created by Iago. The imagery of the “weed” is much like the lexical choice of the garden that Shakespeare makes in Iago’s speech (Act One, Scene Three), where he ridicules virtue itself – “virtue, a fig.”

(Now I won’t lie, I spent about twenty minutes just staring at this fig line and wondering what it meant. I figured I couldn’t be writing an essay on virtue, and totally ignoring a line which literally defines it. After typing “fig symbolism” and “figs what do they mean” into google multiple times, I came up with my idea of what I thought it meant. If you have your own interpretation, please email us so I can sleep soundly at night)

In the Bible, figs grow in the garden of Eden, and are used by Adam and Eve to cover themselves when they realise their nakedness. Perhaps Iago perceives virtue as having the same use as figs, an exterior image or “convenient mask” ( EAJ Honigmann) which ultimately is no more than a disguise for sin. Alternatively, the line may be read as ironic: Iago compares virtue to something which is cursed by Jesus in the Bible, suggesting it is essentially worthless and easily destroyed, like the image of Desdemona. 

So we know that Iago doesn’t think highly of virtue. What happens when his language starts to seep into Othello’s speeches? Well, in Othello’s speech to Desdemona, we are effectively listening to Iago. While he may lambast virtue so keenly, he is also aware of its importance to the other characters. By deconstructing the image of the virtuous Desdemona, he essentially devalues her in Othello’s eyes.

So what does this teach us about virtue? It is both highly prized in a woman, and easily manipulated by a man. It is a measure of Desdemona’s worth, but as a concept it is incredibly fickle. Now is the moment to decide your opinion on what Shakespeare is trying to tell us…and that’s your first point complete.

I hope this was at least a bit useful, and that everyone isn’t getting too stressed about their exams. We’d also like to apologise for not replying to all of your comments straight away! If you’ve got a burning question, drop us an email and we’ll always make time 🙂

Maria x


Example Essay – Education and Social Class (Poems of the Decade)

Image © Artistmaterial

Here is another Poems of the Decade essay, this time on the question:

Explore the ways in which poets present the theme of education and social class in ‘Out of the Bag’ by Seamus Heaney and ‘Poetry’ by Tom Leonard

Click here to download the file (PDF)

‘Poetry’ was an unseen poem – it isn’t currently available online (that I can find), but you can read other poems by Tom Leonard on his website.


Sample Essay – Nature and Freedom

ESSAY – Nature and freedom


Here is a sample essay I wrote on how the question…

Compare the methods both poets use to explore the universal theme of nature and freedom in The Furthest Distances I’ve travelled and one other poem

I decided to write about the poems ‘The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled’ and ‘History’. Feel free to use as exemplar material.

My only target was to be a little more succinct. “Comprehensive analysis with effective comparisons throughout. Also, interesting choice of 2nd poem”

By Ella

Pearson Example Essays – PROSE

Image © Bigstock

When it comes to writing essays, it can be really hard to know how to structure them because you cannot keep the style from GCSE, it’s just not complex and sophisticated enough. You may also not know how to write a great introduction or conclusion!

You may have noticed that there are a couple of A grade sample essays that we have been set by our teacher and put up on this blog to help you. But we know that not everyone is aiming for or will be able to write at A grade so Edexcel has provided a document with example essays which were awarded various grades/levels, which not enough students know about.

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