Here’s a comparative essay example completed by one of my students taking the “AQA Power and Conflict” poetry module. It was his first comparative essay, so he did amazingly well! However, there is also clear room for improvement – I would expect the same student to be on a minimum of an L7/A-grade by the time he takes his exams. I have given detailed feedback underneath to help him to improve, plus a breakdown of the mark scheme and grade boundaries to show how his essay would convert to a specific grade.
Feel free to use this essay to boost your own knowledge of the poems, you may also want to copy down any good essay vocabulary or techniques that it uses. Train yourself to be critical – understand what is really great about it and try to copy that in some of your own writing; understand what could be improved about it and try to avoid that in your own writing. The ‘feedback’ section will help you with this.
The essay has some small grammar or punctuation errors – in particular, it doesn’t use commas as much as it should! So watch out for those too.
Thanks for reading! If you’re looking for more help with the AQA Power and Conflict poems, you can see our full course here.
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Compare how both poets present the effects of war in “Bayonet Charge” and in one other poem.
The Comparative Essay:
Both poets in “Bayonet Charge” and “Charge of the Light Brigade” present the effects of war as horrific experience for the soldiers. However Hughes explores the individual effects whereas Tennyson shows the effects on the soldiers as extremely negative as the soldiers “King, honour, human dignity, etcetera” are “dropped like herries in a yelling alarm.” This shows that even the positive luxuries of the soldiers have been abandoned as the danger of war is more damaging. The use of the verb “dropped” suggests that the soldier may have been forced to ignore the patriarchal values of being soldier, although these are often seen as the only positives of being a soldier. However in “Charge of the Light Brigade” Tennyson explores the benefits of being a soldier. This is done as he tells the reader to “honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred!” Therefore Tennyson empathises that soldiers will be honoured to highlight the positive effects of war. The use of the adjective “noble” shows to the reader that Tennyson respects the soldiers which may lead them to do the same, further showing the positive effects of war on a soldier. Additionally in “Bayonet Charge” the mental effects of war are shown in stanza two as the soldier “stopped in bewilderment.” This shows that was causing mental conflict within the soldier as he was seemingly prepared to go into war, however he suddenly stops. This links to the first word of the poem, “suddenly” as the reader is almost treated like a soldier as they are thrown into the poem without warning, just like the soldier isn’t warned about the mental effects of war. Comparing to this Tennyson shows the physical effects of war when saying “Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon behind them.” This implies that they are surrounded by danger as cannons are made to kill people. This danger is emphasised through the repetition of “cannon” as it highlights that the soldiers can’t escape. Therefore the readers will understand the physical danger of war and may feel they should “honour the Light Brigade” so Tennyson uses this to show his feelings on the effects of war.
Furthermore the individual soldier in “Bayonet Charge” seems to not have time for anything else as “suddenly he awoke and was running – raw.” This shows that the soon as he wakes up, he has to be ready for war and that he may be unprepared. The adverb “suddenly” shows audience that the soldier way not be ready for war which was also shown in other points of the poem. The soldiers being unprepared for the effects of war is also shown in “Charge of The Light Brigade” although they are unprepared due to lack of weaponry whereas the soldier in “Bayonet Charge” just seems to not be ready. This is because “someone has blundered” which shows to the audience that the soldiers were unprepared and had no chance of winning the Crimean War. However it seems that the mentality of the soldiers helped them deserve that honour that will supposedly be given to them.
Overall both poets paint effects of war as extremely painful both mentally and physically but they are told from different perspectives.
- Clear, focused on the question, one overall comparison with more complex contrasts. Could look at a greater range of effects of war.
- Good clear structure, equal focus on both poems.
- Good essay style, with clear grammatical expression
- Starting to develop a personal response
- Make sure to use “part to whole” – show how one small word or phrase reflects the overall message or meaning.
- Go more sensitively into context rather than quickly moving on from it.
- Use a range of techniques e.g. more poetic devices + deeper analysis of the meaning behind these devices.
- Some development and sensitivity to interpretations, but needs to be explored further – try to push interpretations as far as you can before moving on to the next point.
- Explore different attitudes to war rather than always looking at a similar perspective.
- Don’t repeat analysing the same quotation in different places
- Some awareness of developing a critical argument and exploring double meanings or alternative interpretations
- A little short, but clearly written
- A little vague – it says ‘different perspectives’ but doesn’t say what those are
- Try to add your strongest points and ideas into the conclusion to make it a better summary of your overall essay.
AO1=12 – essay style, thesis, knowledge of text, quotations
AO2=12 – form, structure, language – how these shape meanings
AO3=6 – context / attitudes / themes
8 – 79.4%
7 – 70.6%
6 – 61.3%
5 – 51.9%
4 – 43%
3 – 31.3%
2 – 20.6%
The essay received 19/30 63%, which converts to a L6 (borderline B grade). Grade boundaries always go up and down a little each year, so if you’re aiming for a grade you should always try to get a mid level score rather than a borderline score, just to make sure you’re safe.