An Inspector Calls – exam response planning maps

Below are some planning maps containing past questions from Section A of the GCSE English Literature Unit 1 exam. You can use these to plan questions when revising An Inspector Calls. Find quotes to support your response and write them in the first box, then explain your point, explore alternatives, analyse the language and evaluate why Priestley may have done this. Remember: the more responses you plan, the more prepared you will be for your exam.

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The Dust Bowl

Below is a documentary by Ken Burns (iMovie users – you might recognise that name) about the Dust Bowl in America in the 1930s. Alongside the causes of the dust storms, there are interviews with survivors as well as images of the dust clouds.

This is useful in giving context to the situation of migrant workers in California at the time in which Steinbeck’s novel is set.

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References to light and dark in ‘Of Mice and Men’

Here are a selection of references to light and darkness in ‘Of Mice and Men’. What do each of these references symbolise? Can you link these symbols to the wider context?

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John Steinbeck’s ‘The Harvest Gypsies’

At around the time that Steinbeck was writing Of Mice and Men, he also wrote a series of articles for The San Francisco News newspaper on the migrant workers in the Salinas Valley. Published daily between 5th-12th October 1936, they were collected and published under the title The Harvest Gypsies two years later.

The exam specifically asks you to respond to the text in relation to the context of the novel, as well as asking you to explore the choices that the writer has made about language, structure and form.

Reading about the factual background to the novel – particularly in Steinbeck’s own words – is an excellent way to develop a deeper understanding of the context. Below is the full text of the collected articles, a really valuable resource for anyone undertaking the GCSE exam:

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English Unit 1 Higher Paper Section A – revision

Here is a movie of the slides from Mr Theobald’s revision session on Section A of the Unit 1 Higher Paper. I’ve put it into a movie so that it didn’t lose any of the formatting from the slideshow. I’ve also uploaded the sources that I put together to go with the questions on the slides.


Use these resources to practice each of the 4 questions that make up the Reading section of the paper.

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‘The Right Word’? A topical article on the events in Boston

If you are studying the Conflict poems for your AQA English Literature Unit 2 exam, you will have studied Imitiaz Dharker’s ‘The Right Word’. In the aftermath of the tragic events at the Boston marathon last week, there is an interesting article in The Guardian today by Glenn Greenwald, in which he discusses the language used to report this tragedy alongside the language used to discuss other recent American tragedies.

Why is Boston ‘terrorism’ but not Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine?

Can an act of violence be called ‘terrorism’ if the motive is unknown?

(updated below – Update II)

Two very disparate commentators, Ali Abunimah and Alan Dershowitz, both raised serious questions over the weekend about a claim that has been made over and over about the bombing of the Boston Marathon: namely, that this was an act of terrorism. Dershowitz was on BBC Radio on Saturday and, citing the lack of knowledge about motive, said (at the 3:15 mark): “It’s not even clear under the federal terrorist statutes that it qualifies as an act of terrorism.” Abunimah wrote a superb analysis of whether the bombing fits the US government’s definition of “terrorism”, noting that “absolutely no evidence has emerged that the Boston bombing suspects acted ‘in furtherance of political or social objectives'” or that their alleged act was ‘intended to influence or instigate a course of action that furthers a political or social goal.'” Even a former CIA Deputy Director, Phillip Mudd, said on Fox News on Sunday that at this point the bombing seems more like a common crime than an act of terrorism.

Over the last two years, the US has witnessed at least three other episodes of mass, indiscriminate violence that killed more people than the Boston bombings did: the Tucson shooting by Jared Loughner in which 19 people (including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords) were shot, six of whom died; the Aurora movie theater shooting by James Holmes in which 70 people were shot, 12 of whom died; and the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting by Adam Lanza in which 26 people (20 of whom were children) were shot and killed. The word “terrorism” was almost never used to describe that indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people, and none of the perpetrators of those attacks was charged with terrorism-related crimes. A decade earlier, two high school seniors in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, used guns and bombs to murder 12 students and a teacher, and almost nobody called that “terrorism” either.

In the Boston case, however, exactly the opposite dynamic prevails. Particularly since the identity of the suspects was revealed, the word “terrorism” is being used by virtually everyone to describe what happened. After initially (and commendably) refraining from using the word, President Obama has since said that “we will investigate any associations that these terrorists may have had” and then said that “on Monday an act of terror wounded dozens and killed three people at the Boston Marathon”. But as Abunimah notes, there is zero evidence that either of the two suspects had any connection to or involvement with any designated terrorist organization.

More significantly, there is no known evidence, at least not publicly available, about their alleged motives. Indeed, Obama himself – in the statement he made to the nation after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night – said that “tonight there are still many unanswered questions” and included this “among” those “unanswered questions”:

“Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”

The overarching principle here should be that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is entitled to a presumption of innocence until he is actually proven guilty. As so many cases have proven – from accused (but exonerated) anthrax attacker Stephen Hatfill to accused (but exonerated) Atlanta Olympic bomber Richard Jewell to dozens if not hundreds of Guantanamo detainees accused of being the “worst of the worst” but who were guilty of nothing – people who appear to be guilty based on government accusations and trials-by-media are often completely innocent. Media-presented evidence is no substitute for due process and an adversarial trial.

But beyond that issue, even those assuming the guilt of the Tsarnaev brothers seem to have no basis at all for claiming that this was an act of “terrorism” in a way that would meaningfully distinguish it from Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine. All we really know about them in this regard is that they identified as Muslim, and that the older brother allegedly watched extremist YouTube videos and was suspected by the Russian government of religious extremism (by contrast, virtually every person who knew the younger brother has emphatically said that he never evinced political or religious extremism). But as Obama himself acknowledged, we simply do not know what motivated them (Obama: “Tonight there are still many unanswered questions. Among them, why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”).

It’s certainly possible that it will turn out that, if they are guilty, their prime motive was political or religious. But it’s also certainly possible that it wasn’t: that it was some combination of mental illness, societal alienation, or other form of internal instability and rage that is apolitical in nature. Until their motive is known, how can this possibly be called “terrorism”? Can acts of violence be deemed “terrorism” without knowing the motive?

This is far more than a semantic question. Whether something is or is not “terrorism” has very substantial political implications, and very significant legal consequences as well. The word “terrorism” is, at this point, one of the most potent in our political lexicon: it single-handedly ends debates, ratchets up fear levels, and justifies almost anything the government wants to do in its name. It’s hard not to suspect that the only thing distinguishing the Boston attack from Tucson, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Columbine (to say nothing of the US “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad and the mass killings in Fallujah) is that the accused Boston attackers are Muslim and the other perpetrators are not. As usual, what terrorism really means in American discourse – its operational meaning – is: violence by Muslims against Americans and their allies. For the manipulative use of the word “terrorism”, see the scholarship of NYU’s Remi Brulin and the second-to-last section here.

I was on Democracy Now this morning discussing many of these issues, as well as the legal and civil libertarian concerns raised by this case, and that segment can be viewed here (a transcript will be posted here later today):


Andrew Sullivan, back in his fight-the-jihadis mode, proclaims that – unlike President Obama – he knows exactly why the Tsarnaev brothers attacked Boston. “Of Course it Was Jihad”, he declares in his headline, and adds that it was “an almost text-book case of Jihadist radicalization, most likely in the US.” He then accuses me “veer[ing] into left-liberal self-parody” for suggesting today that the evidence is lacking to make this claim.

But in trying to negate my point, Andrew instead demonstrates its truth. The only evidence he can point to shows that the older brother, Tamerlan, embraced a radical version of Islam, something I already noted. But – rather obviously – to prove that someone who commits violence is Muslim is not the same as proving that Islam was the prime motive for the violence (just as the aggressive attack by devout evangelical George Bush on Iraq was not proof of a rejuvenation of the Christian crusades, the attack by Timothy McVeigh was not proof of IRA violence, Israeli aggression is not proof that Judaism is the prime motivator of those wars, and the mass murder spree by homosexual Andrew Cunanan was not evidence that homosexuality motivated the violence). Islam or some related political ideology may have been the motive driving Tamerlan, as I acknowledge, but it also may not have been. You have to produce evidence showing motive. You can’t just assert it and demand that everyone accept it on faith. Specifically, to claim this is terrorism (in a way that those other incidents of mass murder at Aurora, Sandy Hook, Tucson and Columbine were not), you have to identify the “political or social objective” the violence was intended to promote: what was that political or social objective here? Andrew doesn’t have the slightest idea.

But this proves the point: “terrorism” does not have any real meaning other than “a Muslim who commits violence against America and its allies”, so as soon as a Muslim commits violence, there is an automatic decree that it is “terrorism” even though no such assumption arises from similar acts committed by non-Muslims. That is precisely my point. (About the younger brother, Andrew asserts that “the stoner kid [] got caught up in his brother’s religious fanaticism” but he has no evidence at all that this is true, and indeed, his friends say almost uniformly that he never evinced any religious fanaticism).

The most bizarre statement from Andrew is also quite revealing: “but does Glenn wonder why Tamerlan thought it was ok to beat his wife, whom he demanded convert to Islam?” In case Andrew doesn’t know, domestic violence in the US is at epidemic levels, and the overwhelming majority of men who abuse women have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Yet with this claim, Andrew simply assumes that any bad act done by a Muslim – even a bad act committed mostly by non-Muslims – must be caused by Islam, even though he has no evidence to prove this. This irrational, evidence-free assumption of causation that Andrew so perfectly illustrates here (any bad act committed by a Muslim is, ipso facto, motivated by religious or political Islam) is precisely what I was describing and denouncing. And it only rears its ugly head when the perpetrator is Muslim.


The New York Times today reports that “United States officials said they were increasingly certain that the two suspects had acted on their own, but were looking for any hints that someone had trained or inspired them.” It also reports that “The FBI is broadening its global investigation in search of a motive.” There’s no reason for the FBI to search for a motive. They should just go talk to Andrew Sullivan. He already found it.

In sum, neither the President nor the FBI – by their own admission – know the motive here nor have evidence showing it, but Andrew Sullivan, along with hordes of others yelling “terrorism” and “jihad”, insist that they do. That’s the special species of rank irrationality that uniquely shapes public US discourse when the issue is Muslims. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

from Comment is free: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty |

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‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ by Alfred Tennyson

The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava by William Simpson (1855)

The Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava by William Simpson (1855)

Tennyson’s poem is based on a real historical event during the Crimean War (1853-56). There have been many reports, retellings and responses to the story of the the Charge of the Light Brigade and the video below briefly explains the events and shows a report on it from a letter written by a soldier who witnessed it:

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Tennyson’s poem is the most famous of all the retellings of the story. The following videos show how he came to write the poem. They also contain some useful discussion of the way that Tennyson uses language in the poem. It’s well worth annotating your copy of the poem with some of the ideas expressed in these videos, to help you with your revision.

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The report referred to in those videos – that inspired Tennyson to write the poem – was published in the London Times newspaper on November 14, 1854. It was written by William Howard Russell from the front of the Crimean War. Below is the full text of that report. Can you see where Alfred Tennyson has taken the ideas in his poem from?

HEIGHTS BEFORE SEBASTOPOL, OCTOBER 25 — If the exhibition of the most brilliant valor, of the excess of courage, and of a daring which would have reflected luster on the best days of chivalry can afford full consolation for the disaster of today, we can have no reason to regret the melancholy loss which we sustained in a contest with a savage and barbarian enemy.

I shall proceed to describe, to the best of my power, what occurred under my own eyes, and to state the facts which I have heard from men whose veracity is unimpeachible, reserving to myself the right of private judgement in making public and in surpressing the details of what occurred on this memorable day…

[After losing ground to a British force half its size, the Russians retreated to the heights above Sebastopol, a port town on the Black sea] .

At 11:00 our Light Cavalry Brigade rushed to the front… The Russians opened on them with guns from the redoubts on the right, with volleys of musketry and rifles.

They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendor of war. We could hardly believe the evidence of our senses. Surely that handful of men were not going to charge an army in position? Alas! It was but too true — their desperate valor knew no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better part — discretion. They advanced in two lines, quickening the pace as they closed towards the enemy. A more fearful spectacle was never witnessed than by those who, without the power to aid, beheld their heroic countrymen rushing to the arms of sudden death. At the distance of 1200 yards the whole line of the enemy belched forth, from thirty iron mouths, a flood of smoke and flame through which hissed the deadly balls. Their flight was marked by instant gaps in our ranks, the dead men and horses, by steeds flying wounded or riderless across the plain. The first line was broken — it was joined by the second, they never halted or checked their speed an instant. With diminished ranks, thinned by those thirty guns, which the Russians had laid with the most deadly accuracy, with a halo of flashing steel above their heads, and with a cheer which was many a noble fellow’s death cry, they flew into the smoke of the batteries; but ere they were lost from view, the plain was strewed with their bodies and with the carcasses of horses. They were exposed to an oblique fire from the batteries on the hills on both sides, as well as to a direct fire of musketry.

Through the clouds of smoke we could see their sabers flashing as they rode up to the guns and dashed between them, cutting down the gunners as they stood. The blaze of their steel, like an officer standing near me said, “was like the turn of a shoal of mackerel.” We saw them riding through the guns, as I have said; to our delight, we saw them returning, after breaking through a column of Russian infantry and scattering them like chaff, when the flank fire of the battery on the hill swept them down, scattered and broken as they were. Wounded men and dismounted troopers flying towards us told the sad tale — demigods could not have done what they had failed to do. At the very moment when they were about to retreat, a regiment of lancers was hurled upon their flank. Colonel Shewell, of the 8th Hussars, saw the danger and rode his men straight at them, cutting his way through with fearful loss. The other regiments turned and engaged in a desperate encounter. With courage too great almost for credence, they were breaking their way through the columns which enveloped them, where there took place an act of atrocity without parallel in modern warfare of civilized nations. The Russian gunners, when the storm of cavalry passed, returned to their guns. They saw their own cavalry mingled with the troopers who had just ridden over them, and to the eternal disgrace of the Russian name, the miscreants poured a murderous volley of grape and canister on the mass of struggling men and horses, mingling friend and foe in one common ruin. It was as much as our Heavy Cavalry Brigade could do to cover the retreat of the miserable remnants of that band of heroes as they returned to the place they had so lately quitted in all the pride of life.

At 11:35 not a British soldier, except the dead and dying, was left in front of those bloody Muscovite guns…

Just for some further context, here are some videos that discuss William Howard Russell’s original report:

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‘Out of the Blue’ by Simon Armitage

I’ve posted the video below before. In it, Simon Armitage discusses the image from 9/11 that was the stimulus for his poem ‘Out of the Blue’.

Scroll down below that video and you can see another reading of the poem, this time by the actor Rufus Sewell. The poem from the AQA Moon on the Tides Anthology is actually an extract from a longer poem, and you can listen to Sewell read the whole poem here. The video I’ve posted contains the section you have been studying. In this section, Sewell reads the poem over shots of the original image. This is useful as you can see the images created by Armitage’s language. If you wish to watch the video, you might want to see how many of Armitage’s images you can identify in the original film and think about how he uses language to create these. However, I should warn you that THIS VIDEO CONTAINS IMAGES THAT YOU MAY FIND UPSETTING.

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