I often use model essays with students to help them to develop their own essay writing style. Here are some examples of model essays that I share with students I have worked with.

Get in touch if you would like to work with me to improve your essay writing style.

The Horror of Power in Women’s Writing: Plath and Duffy

The horror of power is a key theme in women’s writing. In ‘The Bee Box’, Plath describes her attempt to inhabit patriarchal power through the bee hive she orders, taking in models of colonialism, slavery, and empire through inhuman imagery of coffins and a ‘square baby’, a hideous corruption of nature – yet in the end, it appals her. She cannot be this God. In ‘Daddy’, she bitterly attacks the forces that control her – father and husband, linked to Nazi rule, an emptying out, yet by the end of the century, Duffy’s speakers in The World’s Wife absorb the cruel and violent modes of toxic masculinity with apparent ease… [see more]

The Use of Sounds in Tennyson’s Poetry

Tennyson often uses soft sounds in his poetry combined with the rising rhythm of the iambic pentameter to give a feeling of melancholy, which helps him handle the theme of death wish, which is often the focus of his poetry. This can be seen in his poem “Tithonus”, which he opens with the line “The woods decay, the woods decay and fall”, where the alliteration of ‘w’ and ‘d’ in this almost exact repetition creates a feeling of harmony and a certain control, mirroring Tithonus’ controlled reflection on eternal life and the beauty of death, also giving the readers insight into the author psychology, who was likely suicidal, because he could not reconcile with the death of his best friend – Hallam. On the other hand, Larkin often chooses to focus his poetry on the contemporary problems of reality and the impossibility of beauty, which is reflected in his frequent use of falling rhythm created by trochees in “Sunny Prestatyn” and the “Arundel Tomb” and use of fricatives and other harsh sounds. Those harsh sounds are also used by Keats in his “La Belle Dame sans merci”, where he uses plosives to create a violent image of death in the dream state. As in “Tithonus” where he uses the decaying woods, in the “Lotos Eaters” Tennyson uses the quote “ripens fades and falls, and hath no toil”, where he uses strong and harsh fricative sounds to contrast the life of men with nature who does not have to “toil” – a word that is repeated throughout the poem giving an intense sense of exhaustion which also can be linked to the use of fricatives that create a breathless effect. Significantly, the poem starts off with a very definite command verb “Courage” in direct speech, but quickly slows down its pace through the use of dull rhyme, such as “fall/fall” and the “afternoon/moon”, eventually transforming the initial command verb into the quote “We will not wander more”, which also creates a dull feel with the alliteration of ‘w’, again echoing the sense of exhaustion and giving a sense of pity that mirrors the resolution of the story opposite to the men’s desires. However, the rhythm and sounds used in those two poems strongly contrast with another Tennyson’s poem – “Charge of the Light Brigade”, where Tennyson uses a much more forceful rhythm established in the repetition of “Half a league”, which create an almost hypnotic effect on the reader, which is later echoed in the overwhelming imagery of the cannons achieved through the repetition: “Cannon to the right of them / cannon to the left of them / cannon in front of them”. Those three lines combine very effectively with the dactylic dimeter in which the poem is written to create an almost onomatopoeic sound of the explosion in the battle, which even further increases the overwhelming effect, putting the reader in the middle of the action almost sensing the same fear that the soldiers had experienced… [see more]

Top Girls and A Streetcar Named Desire

In both plays, femininity is under attack or in conflict, revealed through the antagonist-protagonist structure. Streetcar uses a women versus men structure, with Blanche set against a typical ‘caveman’. Top Girls marks the shift in society by setting women against each other, presenting Thatcherite feminism as breaking down femininity. Dresses can be seen as a symbol for femininity as a construct, which can be given, worn and even ripped off. Most characters seem to enjoy the dresses, yet a tension is created as they shackle and humiliate the women as where Marlene presents Angie with a dress. Angie sees it as a precious gift of a relationship, even the initiation of her womanhood. For the audience, Marlene has presented Angie with a terrible ordeal, as this teenager awkwardly tries to fit into a childish shape which humiliates her, as if femininity brings shame. Furthermore, in Churchill’s play both Nijo and Griselda are at first dressed by men, but are then stripped to nothing more than a ‘slip’ by men. Nijo’s obsession with clothes – ‘thin’ silk with ‘three’ layers – emphasises the extent to which her identity is constructed by the male hegemony as symbolised by the Emperor. Stripped of these she is ‘nothing’. Williams uses a similar technique in his characterisation of Blanche. Her ‘soiled, crumpled, white satin gown’ is a grotesque parody of a wedding dress, an ‘illusion’ for others that is also self-deception, presenting femininity as theatre for men. In places, it seems the dress is Blanche: its collapse paralleling her mental collapse. The dress symbolises a femininity that seems designed for destruction. The rape scene in Streetcar echoes this, giving Blanche a twisted wedding night with Stanley. The symbolism of the wedding dress links Blanche and Stella, replaced in her marital bed. Blanche even says ‘I want my sister’s clothes’, as if they are interchangeable. Williams may be arguing that for ‘real men’, like Stanley, only the sexual aspects of femininity are required, interchangeable body parts. Yet neither playwright explicitly criticizes the women for this: they are shown to be trapped. Femininity is presented in contrasting ways through the dramatic structures used by both playwrights. In Act One of Top Girls, dramatic unities of place and time, even the laws of physics, are broken, giving the Act a dreamlike, and perhaps a feminine quality. Churchill’s post modern approach fractures femininity into different types, some of which do not conform to Marlene’s perception of ‘Top Girls’, exposed through the interview like structure of the Act… [see more]