Looking for feedback on my sample essay!

I am looking for some feedback on an essay I did for question 1 of the 2021 paper: The power of a persuasive text comes from well-crafted language.

It would be helpful to get an indication of what grade I am currently at, and how I can improve it to the next level (such as adding anything, or taking out unnecessary details)!

Thank you so much :slight_smile:

“On the Rainy River” is one of the short stories in Tim O’Brien’s collection “The Things They Carried,” published in 1990. The author skillfully manipulates and craft language well throughout the story, using symbolism, contrast of tone, and perspective. The story follows the narrator, Tim O’Brien (the character shares the author’s name but is a fictionalized version of him), when he is drafted into the Vietnam War, highlighting his internal conflict. He was torn between the pressure to conform to societal expectations to enter war, but also his own personal beliefs that war is unjust and that he shouldn’t be a part of it. “On the Rainy River” is a powerful examination of the moral dilemmas faced by individuals during times of war and the emotional burdens they carry, which highlight themes of courage and vulnerability. Overall, this allows this communicates a persuasive idea to the audience about the truth of war that O’Brien wants to display. He is able to successfully achieve his purpose to make the audience “feel it in the gut”, meaning to understand war as he understands it as a soldier. Society’s past subjective ideas of war are challenged, revealing ugly truths of the consequences that war has, especially on our soldiers.

Firstly, the author uses symbolism throughout the short story, using language to describe seemingly normal things. An example of this is portraying his job at the pig factory before the war started, describing it as squeezing a gun trigger to cause “quick splattering sounds as the clots [pig’s blood] dissolved into a fine red mist”. This descriptive and well-crafted language used by Tim allows the audience to fully feel the gruesome and disgusting nature of the pig factory. This was done effectively by the author to use as symbolism of the brutality of war, where the animals which parallels the soldiers in war, those who are dehumanized. They can be viewed simply as a killed object/to be killed, stripped of dignity. This is a commentating on the lack of morality of war, and the grim environment that it forces the soldiers into. The author also uses symbolism again in the crossing of the rainy river, which is the separation between the USA and the Canadian borders. It symbolizes Tim crossing a threshold to enter a new life. His inner conflict whilst he is on the river, struggling to make the decision of plunging himself into his new life is again a commentary from the author’s about the emotions of a person when they face an important decision. Tim is recognizing the uncertainty ahead of him, and the difficult choices that he must make. This engages the audience who gain a deeper understanding of the human experience when confronted, especially with war which lacks the human spirit and morality. Overall this is used by the author to slowly persuade the audience about a soldier’s emotional journey, and their human spirit as they are confronted by the unjust war. We are guided to reflect on our own human spirit, and the way it might react during conflict. The author is persuading the audience to deeply empathize and see ourselves in this conflicting situation, using quotes such as “All of us, I suppose, like to believe that in a moral emergency, we will behave like the heroes of our youth”. Despite our highly mindset of ourselves, we see that within society, many will fall short of this once conflict actually occurs. The audience is urged to reflect back on our society and the human spirit.

Tim O’Brien also purposely wrote this short story from the first person’s perspective which particularly engages and persuade the audience in his storytelling. The story includes an inner monologue from Tim (the character) as he is faced with these difficult decisions. This is particularly shown through the quote "I was too good for this war. Too smart, too compassionate”. The audience is expertly engaged with the well-crafted language to understand the mindset of the young Tim who was forced to make complex wartime decisions, causing him to go into conflict about leaving behind his dreams and academic aspirations. The author successfully persuaded the audience to understand Tim’s strong opinion on this war that he deemed to be wrong and against his beliefs, “certain blood was being shed for uncertain reasons”. However, Tim later contradicted himself when he made his decision with overwhelmed emotions from societal expectations formed around war. The audience is able to see this because the author purposefully portrayed Tim’s inner thoughts that “I would go to the war because I was embarrassed not to”. The author also creates contrast within the story, purposefully manipulating language to expertly engage the audience using second person perspective. He states “You’re 21 years old, what would you do?” This creates conflict within the audience, engaging us into the mindset of a soldier. This fully engages the audience into the story not just as an outsider but as a participant in the moral dilemma that is faced by Tim. The connection successfully helps the audience gain a deeper appreciation of the human spirit, as well as the hardship that soldiers were forced to face. This is a reflection of the experiences of real life soldiers from the Vietnam War. A soldier named Terry Hairrell talked about this in an interview conducted to establish Oral History with the Presidential Library of Abraham Lincoln. When talking about drafting, he expressed his experiences and those drafted around him, stating “Why do I need to go there? I think their parents probably had something to do with it also”. We can see Tim’s conflicted experiences is an accurate representation of a lot of drafted soldiers to the Vietnam War who felt the unjustness of the Vietnam War. Yet their decisions were influenced by societal pressure which expected them to go to war, and to put aside their morals and beliefs. It persuades us that in our society, we value pride over the beliefs and the human spirit of our very soldiers. We are urged to reflect on this, and recognize where society went wrong to lead to this outcome.

Tim O’Brien also craft language by using varying degree of tones throughout the story, ones that change as he grapples with the complex decision amongst wartime. The story starts off with his description for life in a small town. He had “felt no sense of an impending crisis in my life” and believed that “in a moral emergency, we will behave like the heroes of our youth, bravely”. This can be contrasted by the tone towards the end of the story of his desperation and panic when confronted with the draft notice. The audience can deeply feel these emotions experienced by Tim due to his expert manipulation of language through quotes with emotive and dramatic language such as “I could hear people screaming at me. Traitor! they yelled. Turncoat! Pussy!” and “I couldn’t make myself brave”. The author had purposefully portrayed the stark contrast between Tim’s believing he would be brave, and his actual experience when the war notice came. The audience is urged to notice the change in mentality due to the war and the societal expectations that come with it. We are able to more fully understand the emotional journey that comes with war, the internal struggle, and the psychological effects. We see people such as Tim that are controlled by war that forces young soldiers to go against their initial beliefs, changing who they are as a person before the war started. The author had intentionally allowed the audience to gain a deeper understanding on how war urges people to go and kill, going against morals and human nature. This is the shared experience of many soldiers, those of the Vietnam War and many more. This fact is supported by an ethicist named “Jessica Wolfendale’’ who participated in a national television interview called “Trained to Kill”. Here, she spoke about the burden placed on soldiers to kill and go against their own morals, causing them to be heavily affected mentally for the rest of their life, potentially changing a person completely. She raises a question, just like the author wants us to question, about if we can justify asking people to kill, for the burden for the rest of their life. Additionally, she states “we should be far more cautious before we ask people to kill”. We are persuaded to reflect on our own society which has exposed our young people to emotionally damaging events, asking them to do such. The audience also asks the question to ourselves about how one can possibly heal themselves, and the healing methods available to heal from such emotionally traumatizing events.

Overall, "On The Rainy River ‘’ successfully use wellcrafted language to portrays the truth in war from the soldier’s perspective, commenting on the unjustness of it. Society’s previous understanding of war being heroic is challenged by Tim. We are able to experience the emotions of fear, and moral uncertainty, especially when experienced by a mere young 21 years old. This story was released 1990, back when society was still shrouded by heroic ideals about war, and the victory that it brings. The author’s purpose is to persuade the audience to expand their understanding of the effects of war beyond just those who are physically killed and wounded, but also recognize the psychological and mental trauma gained by those involved in war. The short story allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the human experience when faced with things such as war that goes against human nature and morals, and instead is now encouraging killing and slaughtering. "On The Rainy River ‘’ doesn’t tell us statistics or facts, but reveals the truth of war through emotional effects and comments on the human experience in times of conflict. The author had allowed us to gain an understanding about ourselves, questioning our human spirit and what we would do if confronted. We can empathize with Tim who was controlled by societal expectations, recognizing if we would have been the same. We also learn more about society and their incorrect ideas about war, forcing young soldiers to go to war and ignore their morals. Overall, Tim persuades the audience and society to finally gain an understanding of the truth of war.

Hi Cheeseman - great to see you back!

Unfortunately the Studyit forums were not open at the time of this post, but we have now opened for the year. Would you still like some feedback on this essay or is it no longer required?


Yes I would love some feedback as I’m currently preparing for externals. Thank you and have a good day :slight_smile:

Hi Cheeseman

So many things to love in this essay - some wonderful evidence, sophisticated style and you respond well to the question. You also refer well to other sources.

This would be an E7 level essay - your ideas are E level but you do tend to be a little repetitive at times - try to keep it succinct - statements like this “Overall, this allows this communicates a persuasive idea to the audience about the truth of war that O’Brien wants to display” - don’t really say too much - could have just dived straight into the idea itself.

Your conclusion is very strong - It is great how you point out that the author does not use facts but instead language of persuasion - you could also set this idea up in the intro. you might consider whether O Brian achieved his purpose - has our society’s idea on war changed?

Hope that helps - I think you will do very well in the exam!

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