I’ve been teaching the AQA Language Paper 1 ‘Rosabel’ extract a lot recently, and I find that students generally enjoy it the most out of all of the different sample papers that are available. But, there’s always a huge debate when we get to Question 4: Is Rosabel right to be annoyed by the rich girl? Lots of my students think not, and that she’s just projecting her frustration of society and jealousy onto the girl, that her reactions are a bit extreme and unfair. But I think “yes! She absolutely is justified in her response.”.
Bear in mind though that it doesn’t matter whether you agree or disagree with this question: you can get a perfect mark either way! All that matters is how well you structure an argumentative essay (‘evaluation’) and how thoughtful and sensitive your analysis can be (‘perceptive and detailed’).
Below, I’ve written an exam answer – in roughly timed conditions – that would receive full marks for this answer. This is according to the following mark scheme:
AO4: Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references
This is the only objective assessed for this question, and it’s worth 20 marks in total. To get the full marks you have to ‘evaluate’ – make your own judgements and have personal opinions. You also have to be ‘critical’ – sensitive to different opinions and interpretations. You also have to use ‘references’ – quotations that are selected to perfectly illustrate the point that you’re making. The top band of the mark scheme looks like this:
Shows perceptive and detailed evaluation:
- Evaluates critically and in detail the effect(s) on the reader
- Shows perceptive understanding of writer’s methods
- Selects a judicious range of textual detail
- Develops a convincing and critical response to the focus of the statement
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AQA GCSE English Language Paper 2
AQA GCSE English Language Paper 1
Focus this part of your answer on the second part of the source, from line 19 to the end. A student said, ‘This part of the story, set in the hat shop, shows that the red-haired girl has many advantages in life, and I think Rosabel is right to be angry.’ To what extent do you agree? In your response, you could:
• Consider your own impressions of the red-haired girl
• Evaluate how the writer conveys Rosabel’s reactions to the red-haired girl
• Support your response with references to the text. [20 marks]
ROSABEL ESSAY: SHE IS RIGHT TO BE ANGRY
Though it could be argued that the red-haired girl is simply a product of her environment and is not intentionally trying to upset Rosabel, this doesn’t discount Rosabel’s emotions and she most certainly has a right to be irritated and upset by her – given their significant differences in privilege.
Rosabel certainly projects all of her personal frustrations upon the red-haired girl, which some may argue translates into an unfair assessment of the girl’s character and intentions. The use of free indirect discourse in the description of the girl ‘with beautiful red hair and a white skin and eyes the colour of that green ribbon shot with gold’ demonstrates the writer’s attempt to see Rosabel’s immediate judgement of the girl, based purely on her aesthetic appearance. In particular the analogy of her eyes the ‘green ribbon shot with gold’ arguably betrays Rosabel’s jealousy, with the adjectives ‘green’ being a colour that symbolises envy and ‘gold’ carrying connotations of wealth and riches. Furthermore, the line of dialogue ‘it suits you beautifully’ is playfully ambiguous, it could certainly be that the red-haired girl is simply paying Rosabel a compliment, and that she genuinely admires Rosabel. However, Rosabel herself is more than justified in interpreting the comment as an ironic remark, given her relative poverty and the girl’s ostentatious display of wealth and privilege. Perhaps the writer is trying to encourage her readers to understand how offhand or even genuine comments could be taken offensively if said in the wrong context: in this case, Rosabel is working hard to earn a living, and the girl clearly lives a life of luxury, so the girl should be more sensitive to Rosabel’s position.
Furthermore, the tension that has been building between the two characters must also be taken into account. Rosabel ‘took the pins out of her hat’, ‘untied her veil’, then was asked to perform an almost ‘impossible’ task of finding a hat that suited Harry’s demands. She thinks quickly and ‘runs, breathlessly’ to fetch an extra box – the adverb ‘breathlessly’ indicating her exasperation and stress in the moment. Though her behaviour ‘charmed’ the couple, they both continue to demand further assistance from her, in her already worried state. Some may argue that Rosabel is simply performing the job required of her, but it is plain to see that she has gone above and beyond in searching for an item that exactly suits the particular demands of the couple, and that they demonstrate no sympathy for her or even respect or admiration for her quick thinking and attentiveness. This build-up to the moment of anger demonstrates perhaps that Rosabel was not initially angry with the girl, though she may have been a little jealous; therefore, the anger she feels is a natural product of the couple’s insensitivity and the stress they have put her through – together with a lack of consideration.
Finally, Rosabel herself appears to acknowledge that her anger is somewhat unexpected and perhaps irrational. We are told that ‘a sudden, ridiculous feeling of anger seized’ her. The adjectives ‘sudden’ and ‘ridiculous’ imply her lack of control, and also suggest at the same time that she was aware of her response being unprofessional and tried to control it. However, we could also interpret the term ‘ridiculous’ as Rosabel’s own harsh criticism of herself, as the emotion has clearly been building for a while and she has been trying her best to suppress it. The dynamic verb ‘seized’ implies that it suddenly burst out of her, perhaps as a response in her own being to the lack of respect she had been shown, which would in fact suggest that it is very rational and certainly justified. Additionally, the girl’s imperative statement ‘Let me see how it looks on you’ may have been the direct trigger for this emotional response, as this breaks the standard etiquette between customer and shop assistant – it appears that the girl thinks of the process of trying on clothes as somewhat of a game, whereas for Rosabel the job is serious. There is perhaps no purpose in getting a shop assistant to try on clothes that are intended for yourself, other than to mock the assistant or for your own amusement. Consequently, it could certainly be argued that Rosabel’s anger is a product of this clear transgression of professionality and custom – on the red-haired girl’s part, after Rosabel herself has tried so hard to help her with all of her demands.
Despite the fact that the red-haired girl and her companion are clearly behaving in a way that is no different from others in the privileged classes, it appears that Rosabel’s anger is more than understandable in this case. The girl makes difficult demands and finally breaks standard etiquette, making it seem as though Rosabel is a plaything for her own amusement, therefore Rosabel’s response is not at all ‘irrational’ but very much justified.
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