General Vision and Viewpoint 2016: Sample answers

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Below you will find partially completed answers for three previous Leaving Cert Comparative questions on the General Vision and Viewpoint.

Comparative Study 2007

A THE GENERAL VISION AND VIEWPOINT

 

  1. “A reader’s understanding of the general vision and viewpoint is influenced by key moments in the text.”

 

(a) Choose a key moment from one of your chosen texts and show how it influenced your understanding of the general vision and viewpoint. (30)

 

The texts that I studied as part of my comparative course were ‘Foster’ by Claire Keegan, ‘Death of a Superhero’ (DOAS) by Ian Fitzgibbon, and ‘A Doll’s House’(ADH) by Henrik Ibsen.

 

There is little doubt that when a reader is coming to an understanding of the general vision and viewpoint in a text, key moments are particularly influential in helping to highlight certain crucial aspects.

In ADH, a key moment that really helped me to understand the general vision and viewpoint came towards the end of the play. Here, Nora has discovered Nora’s ‘crime’ from Krogstad’s  letter and his response is sudden and brutal. He calls her a ‘wretched woman’, a ‘liar’ and, most ironically of all, a ‘hypocrite.’ This man who has spent most of the play professing his undying love now tells her that their marriage is effectively over and that she is to have no more to do with the children. I felt his initial reaction was bad enough,  but when he goes on to only dismiss her offer of suicide because he feels it ‘wouldn’t assist me in the slightest’, I was genuinely horrified. The fact that he attempts to retract much of what he says when another letter from Krogstad ends the blackmail did nothing to salvage his reputation as a true ‘hypocrite’.

What this key moment helped me understand more than anything else was the setting of a text has a huge bearing on the general vision and viewpoint. The world that Torvald and Nora inhabit is one where appearance, reputation and wealth are much more important than decency, morality and love. Torvald’s over reaction to the news that Nora has forged a signature in order to borrow money to save his life is completely out of synch with what she has done. Instead of focussing on the difficult and brave thing she has done for her sick husband, Torvald instead obsesses over the forgery and what it might do to his status in society. Torvald’s reaction highlighted for me the unpleasantness of the setting which was a major factor in influencing my understanding of the general vision and viewpoint.

Another aspect highlighted in that key moment was the way a central character can influence the general vision and viewpoint. Initially in the text, Nora was a character who really got under my skin. She came across as superficial and silly, happy to play the dim performing wife for her overbearing husband. However, this particular key moment highlighted how difficult life must have been for her in that world. Married to Torvald, playing the role of the ‘lark’ or ‘songbird’ or ‘doll’, there was little scope for her to assert either her individuality or her independence. This key moment showed that Nora was trapped playing a particular role in order to achieve a comfortable existence; and when she made the mistake of straying from her script in life, her erstwhile devoted husband was immediately ready to cast her cruelly aside. It was at this point that I started to feel real empathy for Nora as a central character and that really had a big influence on how I came to understand the general vision and viewpoint of ADH.

This key moment also highlighted for me how a relationship in a text can really influence how you understand the general vision and viewpoint. From the first point in the play where we meet Torvald and his ‘skylark twittering’, you could easily make the mistake of thinking that this is some sort of romantic idyllic Victorian marriage, based around love and devotion. However, the more the play progressed, the more I was disturbed by the way Torvald interacts with his ‘expensive pet’. The relationship seems to be a worryingly imbalanced one, with Nora playing the role of the vacuous WAG; and it is in this key moment that I feel the reality of their relationship is really laid bare. For Torvald, his relationship with Nora is as much about status as his house and his job. Consequently, when she threatens his position in society, he wants to cast his ‘lark’ aside, but at the same time wanting her to keep up the pretence of a happy marriage for the sake of appearances. To me, this moment really exposes the falseness of their relationship and really influenced my understanding of the general vision and viewpoint.

There’s no doubt that this key moment heavily influenced my understanding of the general vision and viewpoint of this memorable play.

 

(b) With reference to two other chosen texts compare the way in which key moments influence your understanding of the general vision and viewpoint of those texts. (40)

 

Both ‘Foster’ and DOAS feature key moments that greatly assisted my understanding of the general vision and viewpoint.

In Foster, a key moment that really influenced my understanding was when John Kinsella brings the girl down to the strand by moonlight. It occurs later in the text where the girl has learned to trust Kinsella and is happy to listen to his friendly chat and is pleased by the way he holds her hand and cares for her, clearly contrasting with her ‘father who has never once held my hand.’ The girl and Kinsella splash in the water, chat and laugh, and generally enjoy each other’s company, culminating in him putting his arm around her ‘as though I were his.’

What this key moment really highlighted for me was the crucial role that the way in which we view the central character plays in helping the reader understand the general vision and viewpoint of a text. I really felt heartened by the way that this unfortunate girl, who is finally getting the affection she craves from Kinsella after a lifetime of neglect by her own father, is starting to grow and develop on an emotional level through the love she is experiencing in her ‘foster’ home. Her development as a character certainly had a positive effect on the general vision of the text as we start to see her achieve what every person craves – a form of stable happiness. How we view the central character is equally important in DOAS. Here, there is a similar situation in that I personally found it difficult to warm to Donald in the early stages of the text – but grew quite fond of him as his true character emerged as the film progressed. Both characters evolved significantly throughout their respective texts – the girl in Foster has ‘learned enough, grown enough’ with the Kinsellas for her true character to emerge, while Donald eventually manages to come to term with the cruelty of his fate.  In both cases, it was the genuine fondness I developed for the central character that had a positive influence on my overall understanding of the general vision.

This key moment also highlighted the importance of themes in influencing our understanding of the general vision and viewpoint of a text. A theme that was central to ‘Foster’ and one that is particularly highlighted in this key moment is the healing power of love. One of the saddest things about this text is the neglect that this girl has left behind, leading to a situation where her family have to send her away because another child is on the way. But I really felt that Claire Keegan powerfully conveys how even a brief experience of warmth and love – in this case only a summer – can change a person completely. The genuine affection that Kinsella (and his wife) have for the girl brings her out of herself and shows just how powerful an influence a loving environment can have on the development of a young person. I was really struck by the similarities between ‘Foster’ and DOAS in that respect, where the same theme is also central to the text and also has an equally positive influence. When we meet Donald first, he is an angry young man, failing miserably to deal with the horrific reality of the terminal disease that has been inflicted on him. However, through the loving support of his devoted family and friends, he not only manages to come to terms with his tragic fate, but he eventually manages to become an incredible figure of strength for them. The result is that he ends up leaving a powerful legacy. I personally felt that both texts shared a similarly important message – that love can really do wonders for a person. The role of this message was central in shaping how I came to understand the general vision.

  TEXT 2  (KM 1) Describe

      Reveals Aspect (a) + Compare with text 1

      Reveals aspect (b)  + Compare with text 1

Ultimately all three texts highlighted the significance of key moments in influencing my understanding of the general vision and viewpoint.

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man.writing

LCII 2016       General Vision and Viewpoint    2014

  1. (a) “The extent to which a reader can relate an aspect of a text to his or her experience of life, helps to shape an understanding of the general vision and viewpoint of that text.” Discuss this view in relation to your study of one text on your comparative course.

The fact that every person is so unique means that each reader brings their own identity, their own prejudices and perspectives, to any text they encounter. It is natural then that our view of a text is often heavily guided by our experience of life. I found this to be particularly true when it came to studying the text ‘Foster’ by Claire Keegan as part of my comparative course. In this text, the general vision and viewpoint was so open to interpretation that our entire class struggled to reach any kind of consensus.

The aspect of the text that that I related to the most, and one that consequently had a huge influence on shaping my understanding of the general vision and viewpoint, was the way family life was represented in the text. Everybody has some experience of family and also some sense of the pivotal influence our home environment can have on our development, and indeed our prospects for happiness. As a result the cold indifference that Dan shows as he ferries his daughter to a relative stranger’s house, where she will stay for an indefinite period, is very disturbing. Here is a man, supposedly a provider for his family, who we learn has ‘lost our red shorthorn in a game of forty-five.’ This seems to give a depressing insight into why his family are in a situation where one child has to be fed and partly raised elsewhere. The act of handing her over to the Kinsella’s seems cold enough in itself but the way he advises them that ‘she’ll ate but you can work her’ paints a picture of a dark and troubled family situation. Being blessed enough to come from a warm and caring home, I found this particularly disturbing. The very idea of giving away a child, however temporarily, would thankfully seem completely socially unacceptable today.  The thing that I found the most callous was the way he leaves his daughter behind with a parting remark that advises her to ‘try not to fall into the fire, you’, a comment that gets the text off to a very pessimistic start.

The role the father plays in the family is an important aspect of the text and contributes significantly to making the story much darker. Aside from gambling away the family’s meagre resources, he seems to have little time or love for his wife or children. When we next encounter him towards the end of the text, his first words about his returning daughter are ‘did she give trouble?’. These harsh and unfair words come after he arrives home, having been out having a ‘liquid supper.’ Most of us are blessed to have decent and kind fathers, which makes Dan – drinking and gambling – while his daughters get ‘thinner’ seem particularly terrible as a parent and provider.

The other aspect of the way family life was represented that helped shape the general vision and viewpoint particularly for me was the bleakness of the family home that the girl comes from. The fact that she is given away in the first place was shocking to me, but when we hear more about the poverty, that despite the scorching weather that they have been experiencing, the hay has not been cut – because  Mary has only recently got enough money together to pay the man for last year. Coming from a farming background myself, I was in no doubt about the consequences for a family farm when there is no fodder to feed the animals with in the winter. The description of the ‘damp and cold’ house at the end of the text with its dirty lino and lack of running water painted a bleak picture of what family life must have been like in that house. The desperate situation in the house was further highlighted when the narrator describes her sisters as ‘thinner’. The apparent poverty of the house certainly stood in stark contrast to the relative comfort of my own family home.

The fact that our own experiences of family life are always with us means that we can easily relate to, and compare, the way life is represented in a particular text. This is particularly true in ‘Foster where the bleak perspective on family life has a considerable influence on shaping our understanding of the general vision and viewpoint

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exam.3

2007      COMPARATIVE STUDY                                                                                            

  1. “The general vision and viewpoint is shaped by the reader’s feeling of optimism or pessimism in reading the text.”

 In the light of the above statement, compare the general vision and viewpoint in at least two texts you have studied in your comparative course. (70)

 

The general vision and viewpoint is hugely influential in how we view a particular text. Through the plot, the central characters and how their lives unravel; as well as the manner in which the author decides to present the text, we are left with varying degrees of optimism or pessimism, light and dark. This naturally has a huge effect on both our enjoyment of the text, as well as how our personal reactions to the texts are shaped. For me, I have come from a point of being completely ignorant of the true meaning of the term general vision and viewpoint, to a position of realising the huge role it has in my comprehension of a particular text. Naturally, the overall general vision and viewpoint is intrinsically linked to the feeling we get from reading the text. In the case of the three texts on the course that I studied, this is particularly true.  ‘Foster’, written by Claire Keegan, ‘Death of a Superhero’ (DOAS), directed by Ian Fitzgibbon, and ‘A Doll’s House’ (ADH), written by Henrik Ibsen, are all typical of how important the sense of optimism or pessimism we get from reading the text is to our views.

One aspect that always has a hugely significant bearing on the general vision and viewpoint is how we view the central characters in the texts. This is particularly true here, as in all three texts I found that my attitude to the central characters really shaped my optimism or pessimism about them. With ‘Foster’, in the beginning I found myself initially uncertain about the girl, as her reticence made her hard to get a real sense of. Naturally I felt sorry for her particular situation, which was similar in many ways to how I felt about Donald at the start of DOAS, as despite the angry cloud that he seemed enveloped by, nobody could feel anything but sorry for the misery of his fate. In the case of Nora in ADH my attitude was quite different. Even though she came across as bubbly and cheerful, there was something about the shallowness of her personality that gave me an unsettling feeling about the text as a whole. However, by the time I’d finished reading the play, I had at least begun to admire her bravery in standing up to the rigid expectations of her society, and even though I certainly wouldn’t claim to have been fond of her as a character, she had certainly earned my respect. Don, on the other hand, had won both my respect and affection by the end of DOAS. Once he had come to terms with the tragedy of his fate, the angry exterior dissipated and a kind, compassionate and brave young man was revealed. The care he showed for those he would leave behind gave him an almost heroic air in my estimation and I felt really conveyed a positive message from the text. The change in the girl in ‘Foster’ was only slightly less dramatic. Although it was more subtle than the change apparent in DOAS, the way the girl asserts her true wishes by the end of the text by running after the Kinsellas shows how much she had developed as a person, how she has ‘learned enough, grown enough’ during her brief time with them. It left me feeling very positive towards her even though her future itself seemed less than optimistic. In general, there’s no doubt that my feelings towards the central characters had a huge bearing on the feeling of optimism or pessimism I got from each text.

Another aspect that has a significant influence in how the general vision and viewpoint is shaped for the reader is the fate of the central character. In the case of both the girl in ‘Foster’ and Nora in ADH, their futures were shrouded with uncertainty. It seemed to me that……………………

A further aspect that is crucial in shaping the reader’s feelings about a text is the setting. Despite all three texts being set in different locations and time periods – 1980s rural Ireland, Contemporary urban Ireland and 1890s Copenhagen, all three are also similar in some ways. From my point of view, ‘Foster’ is a particularly bleak setting. To me, the Ireland of 30 years ago is barely recognisable. Dark as things are today, the idea that a child from a farming background would have to be sent to relatives because of issues around poverty is hard to imagine. How little people have in this rural community is particularly highlighted by the jealousy that the Kinsellas face from people like nosey Mildred, who equates wealth with having the ‘freezer packed solid’. This kind of insular setting, where neither poverty nor begrudgery is ever far away, set a dark tone for the text. The setting of DOAS on the other hand, could not be more different, given that it is also set in Ireland. The Dublin seen in the film is generally one of affluence and beauty, a place where the comfortable house and leafy suburbs in which the Clarke family reside contrast sharply with the things money cannot buy them – time and a future for their beloved son. The setting of DOAS, with its picturesque scenes on Dublin bay, and its lingering shots of the Dublin skyline at night, paint an idyllic view of our capital city. In the end I felt that the idealised setting on view served to highlight the positive possibilities of life, something Donald eventually embraces with gusto. There is also a comfortable and privileged existence on display with the Helmer family in ADH. In contrast to DOAS however, it seemed to me that the true reality of this world was that status, class and wealth are much more important than relationships, family and love – a world that is in its own distinctive way was equally bleak to that of ‘Foster’. At least in Foster, the misery caused by the setting was plain to see, whereas in ADH, it existed hidden beneath a veneer of respectability and decency. There’s no doubt that the pessimism or optimism of all three texts was clearly heavily influenced by the various worlds in which the texts are set.

PP#4 – Opening

PP#5 – Ending

PP#6 – Relationships

One aspect that I feel is absolutely crucial to shaping the general vision and viewpoint for the reader is the role played by the themes that are central to each text. In Foster, I believe that one theme that was at the heart of the text was the healing power of love, a theme that I felt contributed in an optimistic way to the general vision and viewpoint. The girl arrives at the Kinsellas as a reticent and rejected soul, with little confidence or self-esteem. However, I couldn’t help but be heartened by the way the relatively short period of time she spent with the Kinsellas was sufficient to really bring her out of herself. An all too brief summer spent with the warm and compassionate pair was enough to already undo a considerable amount of the damage inflicted by her own poverty-stricken and neglected homestead. In the time with them she has ‘learned enough, grown enough’ to have helped her to become a much more sure and confident person, perhaps ready now to face the undoubted challenges of her future with some hope. It seemed to me that the same theme runs through DOAS, where the love of Donald’s family allows him to finally come to terms with his horrific fate. Again, the theme here added a genuinely optimistic air to what would otherwise have been an extremely dark text. Even though his anger overshadows almost everything else when we meet him first, by the end of the text the love and support of his devoted family and friends has allowed him to move beyond the anger, allowing the real Donald to emerge. We start to see the compassionate person he really is, particularly when we see him hugging his long-suffering mother and expressing concern about his father who he thinks might need ‘looking after’. Similarly to ‘Foster’, we get a striking sense of the huge influence love can have on a person’s development in life. In ADH, we see a very different theme appear to be central to the text. In this case, I found that it was the restrictive influence of society on the individual that appeared to be the central theme. Conversely to the way the central characters are influenced positively by their surroundings in Foster and DOAS, Nora in ADH is severely damaged by the expectations placed on her by such a patriarchal world. She is forced to become a false version of herself in order to conform to the expectations of both her husband and her society. Personally I really found this to be quite bleak, particularly from the vantage point of the free and open society which we enjoy today. There’s no doubt however that this just further highlights how the general vision and viewpoint of the texts was heavily influenced by the themes that were apparent.

I have certainly learned that the significance of imagery can never be overstated when it comes to how our sense of the general vision and viewpoint of a text is formed. I found this to be particularly the case in DOAS where how the director set up some of the shots really influenced my perception of how optimistic or pessimistic the film was. One clear example of this was the scene towards the end of the film where Donald’s struggle has finally come to an end. We see the animated character that represents Don defy the personification of death, as a blinding white light starts to emanate from his body. This light is then used to link with the next shot where the body of Donald is bathed in an equally glowing, almost celestial, light as he lies in his hospital bed. For me the imagery was pointing clearly towards the possibility that Donald has ascended to some kind of heavenly place. This divine imagery is crucial to the film ending on a positive note, leaving us with the sense that Donald’s soul has left his diseased body behind. In Foster, the imagery is often much more subtle. Simple images of the ‘small iron gate’ and the ‘white butterflies’ gave a sense of the peace and sanctity of the Kinsella’s home. This was something I really enjoyed about Claire Keegan’s writing, how the simplicity of her prose left me with this evocative sense of the warmth and calm order of the lives of these people, giving the text a very uplifting air. The imagery in ADH also adds to the atmosphere but it this case it creates more of an unnerving air. Helmer’s repeated infantile language towards his wife as he refers to her as ‘squirrel’ and ‘lark’ really captured for me the darkness lurking in their relationship; the clear sense that something was badly amiss at the heart of their marriage. Ultimately, it was this dysfunctional relationship that poisoned the atmosphere of the text. In general, there’s little doubt that all three authors successfully used imagery to help shape the general vision and viewpoint of their respective texts.

Overall I felt that  there were enough areas of all three texts – ranging from the Kinsella’s warmth and compassion, to Donald’s extraordinary bravery, to Nora’s transformation – to gift us with moments of genuine optimism at various times. These I felt were enough to compensate for the bleaker aspects that at times pervaded in all three texts – particularly the uncertainty and grief surrounding the central characters and their ultimate fates. In the end I was surprised myself by the varying levels of optimism I was left with from all three texts.

 

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English@BanagherCollege

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