English Standard – 2022 HSC Sample Response
QUESTION 1 (4 MARKS)
|Travelling by train was different, for even if there were occasional delays and breakdowns there was never any traffic on train rides, no effort or strain required as you were borne smoothly and inexorably toward your goal. Looking out at the silhouettes of the city passing by in the darkness, Krishnan thought of all the hours he’d spent on trains during his time in India, when he was on holiday from university and had the chance to leave Delhi, to see other parts of that vast, seemingly endless country. He’d spent most of those journeys sitting or lying on his seat or berth, reading, listening to music, or simply looking out at the small, unpeopled rural stations, the hot wind rushing into the carriage through the open doors and windows, allowing him to breathe in the air of the places they passed and absorb their smells, as if he were in some kind of communion with these small towns and villages as they flitted by. The constant movement of wind through the carriage would feel like a calling to him from outside, and leaving his seat he would go down every so often to the linking section between carriages, where standing in a corner he would look to make sure nobody was watching… and pull open one of the heavy train doors, one hand tightly clasping the grip on the door frame so he didn’t fall into the passing landscape… The warm, fragrant air of the countryside buffeting his face, he would look out at the wide expanses of farmland, brush, and forest, at the plains that went by for sometimes hours at a stretch without stopping, and he felt, at such moments, something close to a sense of liberation, if not quite liberation then the sense of at least being on the verge of liberation.|
© Arudpragasam, A. (2021). A Passage North. Granta Books.
Text 1 – Prose Fiction Extract (Anuk Arudpragasam – A Passage North)
Analyse how Arudpragasam creates a sense of freedom in this extract. © NESA 2022
This response requires:
- A statement that adds detail on what idea about freedom the extract is exploring.
- At least three analysed examples, with language techniques and links back to how each one creates a sense of freedom.
Text 1 captures a character pursuing a sense of freedom, and captures the anticipation of being on the verge of finding it. Throughout the extract, the movement of the train symbolises a journey towards freedom and escape from the character’s previous life, with Krshnan contemplating his past journeys through “that vast, seemingly endless country.” The superlative ‘endless’ evokes a sense of possibility that is associated with the freedom of leaving your past behind. Arudpragasam further describes “the constant movement of wind” as feeling “like a calling to him from outside,” using a simile to capture the urgent desire the protagonist feels to go on this journey, and capturing the inherent desire for freedom felt by individuals. Once outside, sensory imagery of “warm fragrant air” and the vivid visual description of “wide expanses of farmland… plains that went by for sometimes hours…” immerses readers in the feelings of joy and tranquillity felt by the protagonist now that they have begun their journey, with the closing line repeating the word “liberation… if not quite liberation… at least being on the verge of liberation” to emphasise that it is freedom that the character is pursuing and which is bringing them this sense of fulfilment.
QUESTION 2 (5 marks)
|I was in a long, dark, wood-panelled corridor lined with bookshelves that reached from the richly carpeted floor to the vaulted ceiling. The carpet was elegantly patterned and the ceiling was decorated with rich mouldings that depicted scenes from the classics, each cornice supporting the marble bust of an author. High above me, spaced at regular intervals, were finely decorated circular apertures through which light gained entry and reflected off the polished wood, reinforcing the serious mood of the library. Running down the centre of the corridor was a long row of reading tables, each with a green-shaded brass lamp. The library appeared endless; in both directions the corridor vanished into darkness with no definable end. But this wasn’t important. Describing the library would be like going to see a Turner and commenting on the frame. On all the walls, end after end, shelf after shelf, were books. Hundreds, thousands, millions of books. Hardbacks, paperbacks, leather-bound volumes, uncorrected proofs, handwritten manuscripts, everything. I stepped closer and rested my fingertips lightly on the pristine volumes. They felt warm to the touch, so I leaned closer and pressed my ear to the spines. I could hear a distant hum, the rumble of machinery, people talking, traffic, seagulls, laughter, waves on rocks, wind in the winter branches of the trees, distant thunder, heavy rain, children playing, a blacksmith’s hammer – a million sounds all happening together. And then, in a revelatory moment, the clouds slid back from my mind and a crystal-clear understanding of the very nature of books shone upon me. They weren’t just collections of words arranged neatly on a page to give the impression of reality – each of these volumes was reality. The similarity of these books to the copies I had read back home was no more than the similarity a photograph has to its subject – these books were alive!|
© Fforde, J. (2004). Lost in a Good Book: A Thursday Next Novel. Penguin.
Text 2 – Prose Fiction Extract (Jasper Fforde – Lost in a Good Book)
Analyse how Fforde captures the narrator’s experience of awe and wonder. © NESA 2022
This response requires:
- An understanding of what sort of ‘awe and wonder’ is being experienced – the cause or consequence of these emotions.
- A focus on the language techniques used to capture this experience – at least three analysed examples, with a focus on the language techniques used and their effect.
Text 2 captures the powerful feelings of awe and wonder that accompany an individual’s realisation about the power of literature. Fforde creates a tone of intense excitement throughout the extract through his use of cumulative listing and italicisation. “On all the walls, end after end, shelf after shelf, were BOOKS… hardbacks, paperbacks… handwritten manuscripts, EVERYTHING.” The listing creates a building sense of suspense that shows the vast nature of the library, while the italicisation indicates the narrator’s tone of awe, showing that they are overwhelmed with wonder at the scale of the library. This wonder is amplified further by their realisation of the power of literature depicted through the auditory imagery when they are listening to the books and “heard… the rumble of machinery, people talking, traffic, seagulls…” The list of such a diverse range of sounds immerses readers in the vast array of experiences that can be captured by literature, and is used to show the narrator’s amazement at the range of worlds that literature can transport readers into. The powerful sense of wonder felt at this realisation is expressed through the metaphor of “clouds (sliding) back from my mind and a crystal-clear understanding of the nature of books (shining) upon me.” Images of light and clarity evoke the intense, positive emotional response felt by the narrator, while the final exclamatory statement – “these books were alive!” – further expresses their awe and exhilaration at this realisation.
QUESTION 3 (4 marks)
|A LINE IN THE SNOWAntarctica’s preservation has been a glorious feat – let’s keep the continent this way.|
At the end of our world there’s a wonderland that has an innocence to it, a purity, that feels fragile and spiritual. This extraordinary region is relatively untouched. It’s a region that demonstrates humanity at its best; for that pesky, rapacious species known as human has actually left this place largely alone except in the noble, light-touch pursuit of scientific inquiry. This gentleman’s agreement is honourable and altruistic – astonishingly so, in this day and age – and has been respected for 60-odd years. But how much longer can this arrangement be preserved?
I’m talking about Antarctica, of course. The vast continent that’s a barometer of human goodness. It shows us that wealthy nations can act with consensus and without greed and selfishness when it comes to valuable land and its resources; it’s actually possible. Because, well, humans. What are they, exactly? An entity looking at us from elsewhere would be hard-pressed to come to any other conclusion: we are killers. Plunderers, predators, polluters. The alpha species of a planet we’ve done untold damage to and continue to destroy for our own selfish appetites.
But the marvellous ice-helmeted land at the end of this Earth arrests this image. It is the continent upon which no human lives permanently; just a handful come and go for the good of science. I visited Antarctica on a trip resupplying Australia’s research bases and it felt as if we were intruders in this wonderland. The scientists treated it as an honour to be working with the singular wildlife.
The animals that greeted us seemed fearless and open and curious because they had no knowledge of what we do; of how dangerous humans are. Animals such as a baby seal with its umbilical cord still attached, snap frozen to its belly, who stared at us with deep, soft brown eyes clear with curiosity and trust. Snow petrels circled our ship, calling and dipping and soaring like angels. Penguins fanned away on the ice, waddling like fast metronomes; on land they peered with voracious curiosity, inching forward, movingly trusting. (We would crawl on our stomachs to observe the wildlife, out of respect, because the animals had never known anything taller than them.)
…Antarctica’s preservation in its pristine condition has been a glorious feat of global generosity. It shows that the strange, self-interested species known as human can actually be selfless and bold; it demonstrates the best of our instincts. Let’s keep the continent this way – as a tuning fork for how we want to work with other vulnerably wild regions of our beautiful planet in the long term.
© Nikki Gemmel 2021
Text 3 – Feature Article Extract (Nikki Gemmel – A Line in the Snow)
Explain how Gemmell explores the paradoxes of human behaviour in this extract. © NESA 2022
This response requires:
- A statement articulating what the “paradox” of human behaviour actually is.
- At least three analysed examples, with language techniques and links back to what each one reveals about the paradoxes of human behaviour.
Text 3 explores the paradoxical contradiction between how humans are inherently greedy and destructive creatures, yet their behaviour towards Antarctica shows their capacity to respect and preserve the natural world. Gemmell establishes humans’ fundamentally selfish nature when she states, “We are killers. Plunderers, predators, polluters.” The collective pronoun “we” creates a generalisation that shows how widespread humanities’ destructive tendencies are, while the listing and alliteration draw attention to the multitude of ways in which mankind has damaged and corrupted the natural world. Despite this, Gemmell reveals how paradoxically, humankind has come to a “gentleman’s agreement” to preserve Antarctica, keeping it in “pristine condition” in “a glorious feat of global generosity.” The use of positive connotations contrasts with her previous description and reshapes humankind as a civilised species with the capacity to treat nature with sensitivity and respect. This shows how two opposing qualities may paradoxically be held within a single species. Moreover, Gemmell highlights how humankind’s more destructive behaviours are inherently contradictory because in trying to sate “our selfish appetites” we harm ourselves by destroying the beauty of the natural world which can provide untold fulfilment. Her vivid description of the curious and fearless wildlife, captured through a series of powerful similes – “petrels… soaring like angels. Penguins… like fast metronomes” – reveal the magical wonders that nature can provide, which humans paradoxically deprive themselves of experiencing because so much of nature has been destroyed.
QUESTION 4 (3 marks)
|The house where I was born no longer exists, not that it matters, because I have no memory of having lived in it. The other house, the impoverished dwelling of my maternal grandparents, Josefa and Jerónimo, has also disappeared beneath a mound of rubble, the house which, for ten or twelve years, was my true home, in the most intimate and profound sense of the word, the magical cocoon in which the metamorphoses vital to both the child and the adolescent took pace. That loss, however, has long ceased to cause me any suffering because, thanks to the memory’s reconstructive powers, I can, at any moment, rebuild its white walls, replant the olive tree that shaded the entrance, open and close the low front door and the gate to the vegetable garden where I once saw a small snake coiled and waiting, or I can go into the pigsties and watch the piglets suckling, enter the kitchen and pour from the jug into the chipped mug the water which, for the thousandth time, will quench that summer’s thirst. Then I say to my grandmother: ‘Grandma, I’m going for a walk.’ And she says: ‘Off you go, then,’ but she doesn’t warn me to be careful, no, in those days, grown-ups had more confidence in the children they brought up.|
© Saramago, J. (2009). Small memories. Random House.
Text 4 – Memoir Extract (José Saramago – Small Memories)
Analyse how Saramago conveys the value of memory in this extract. © NESA 2022
This response requires:
- A statement about why memory is valuable.
- At least two analysed examples from the extract, including the language technique used and its effect.
Text 4 establishes how memories allow us to revisit valuable moments from our pasts, providing a sense of comfort. The writer reflects on how memory has “reconstructive powers” that allow him to “rebuild” the “white walls” of his childhood home, “replant the olive tree, open and close the low front door…” The word ‘reconstructive’ evokes a sense of healing and restoration, while the metaphor of him “rebuilding” the house that has been literally destroyed reveals the power of memories to restore elements from our past that have been physically lost. The sense of comfort this provides is apparent when the writer states he has “ceased to (feel) any suffering” from the loss of his home because of the power of his memories, with the emotive term ‘suffering’ showing the pain that has been eased through memory. Moreover, the powerful positive diction of “intimate,” “profound” and “true” show how valuable the memories of his home were and how vital a part of his life and identity they have become.
Question 5 (6 marks)
|This is my favourite Sydney story. For a few decades, in the middle of last century, a hospital on the north shore sent each mother of a newborn home with a jacaranda seedling. And so when the valleys on either side of the city’s train lines flare violet in October and November, each bright burst represents the beginning of a life. I was born in the old Crown Street Hospital in Surry Hills, long since demolished, so I will not leave my own living ghost behind me, a cloud of bright mauve light.|
Unlike Kyoto with its cherry blossom, there is no official aesthetic tradition of jacaranda viewing here. But I cannot be the only person to divert my car up past the long run of trees on Oxford Street to enjoy the way they bloom against the colonial sandstone wall of the barracks, or to look forward to the weeks when their glowing corridors rain purple on to the streets of Elizabeth Bay. There is an uncanny moment, which lasts only for a day or two, when the purple on the trees and the fallen flowers reaches equilibrium, and the trees appear, quite eerily, to cast their own reflections on the ground.
Japan’s flowers are a delicate reminder of the transience of feelings, of life’s bittersweetness. Our traditions are more robust. At Sydney University, the blossoming of the bare tree in the quadrangle – like the cherry, the jacaranda flowers before it leafs – is a sign to lazy students that it is too late to study for their end-of-year exams. In my childhood, they were planted foolishly. Or perhaps sadistically, beside public swimming pools, to the peril of the bare-footed, since the fallen flowers are home to drunken bees. They are often planted next to Illawarra flame trees, marking the streets of our suburbs with companion bursts of violent red and purple. Their unnerving fluorescence and feral vigour, for they are also able to seed themselves in bush and gardens, makes them less filled with gentle longing than Japan’s blossom. They invoke something closer to a hallucinatory yearning. Their colours appear unreal, as if you have suddenly developed the ability to see ultraviolet. But there is more to this uncanny feeling. They are an introduced species, from Central America and Brazil, whose purity of colour does not really fit the dappled tones of our nature.
And so it shouldn’t surprise us to hear that the same stories are told in Brisbane, of a hospital sending mothers of newborns home with jacaranda seedlings, of a tree flowering in the university quadrangle a week before exams. These plants are so lovely we can scarcely call them our own. While I always mourn them, it is almost a relief, a month before Christmas, when their ferny leaves crowd through, and the flowers brown and rot upon the ground.
© Falconer, C. (2020). Sydney. NewSouth Publishing.
This response requires:
- Specific ideas about what type of interactions humans have with nature, and what consequences this has.
- Explicit comparison of the similarities and differences between the two texts’ ideas and approaches to this common topic.
- Analysis of at least five examples, split as evenly as possible across the two extracts. You should try to alternate between the two texts to make sure you are constantly comparing them.
Text 5 – Nonfiction Extract (Delia Falconer – Sydney) and Text 6 – Photograph (Clancy Paine – Dust Storm Daisy)
Compare how Falconer and Paine represent interactions between humans and the natural world. © NESA 2022
Both Text 5 and Text 6 represent how a positive relationship can be shaped between humans and nature that results in a sense of connection. However, while Text 5 focuses on how an element of the natural word can become part of a city’s collective identity, Text 6 is about a more impulsive moment of individual joy.
Both Text 5 and Text 6 represent the beneficial emotional impact of a connection forged between humans and nature. In Text 5, the jacaranda tree is a central motif representing the happiness humans gain from nature’s beauty. The anecdote about the newborns sent “home with a jacaranda seedling” resulting in “bright bursts” that “flare violet” across the valleys creates a vivid visual image of humans can come to associate the cycles of nature with their own memories of joy, and how sentimental significance can be attached to parts of the natural world. Moreover, the composer explains how she “cannot be the only person to divert my car up… on Oxford Street to enjoy the way they bloom… to look forward to the weeks when their glowing corridors rain purple on to the streets of Elizabeth bay.” Her metaphorical description paints a vivid and immersive picture of the powerful beauty of the jacarandas, which she suggests is a view shared by many inhabitants of Sydney. It is apparent that humans often appreciate the beauty of nature and feel a sense of happiness as a result of it. Text 6 also shows a positive connection forged with nature; the facial expression of the subject is an exhilarated smile, while her stance is one of power and strength, allowing viewers to feel her sense of excitement when in the midst of a natural event. In contrast to Text 5, the photograph does not depict what viewers would typically associate as a ‘beautiful event’; the picture primarily contains bleak and desaturated colours as a result of the titular ‘dust storm.’ This, however, shows that when connected to their environment, humans may find beauty in unlikely places within nature.
While Text 5 depicts a collective identity founded on part of the natural world, Text 6 has a more individual focus. In Text 5, Falconer refers to the anecdote about the jacarandas as her “favourite Sydney story.” This immediately establishes to the reader that the jacaranda tree is an icon of life in Sydney and part of a shared sense of identity. This is reinforced when Falconer uses the collective pronoun “our” when she states “our traditions are more robust,” creating a sense of inclusion, followed by the collective understanding among university students that the jacaranda “is a sign… it is too late to study for their end-of-year exams.” The article therefore represents how humans’ associations with the natural world can be a central part of a shared identity, traditions, and understandings. Contrastingly, Text 6 focuses only on a single subject. The most salient point is the little girl, created through her vivid red clothing and bicycle against an otherwise desolate, empty background. The vector lines created by the road leading into the distance emphasise that there is no one else in this natural landscape. The composition of the image therefore places focus on how the joy and connection found in nature is unique to the individual subject rather than being the foundation for a shared experience.