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  Tips for Writers by Brad Hyde (November 12, 2005)

Comments and Suggestions for Writing about Literature



Students requested that I provide models for your writing about literature. I’ve used the students’ written work as models and give detailed feedback and impressions. Enjoy reading and learning!


Student Answer:  Sensuous Qualities; Dominant Impression; Why Created?

Katherine Mansfield chose this setting to create the feeling of cosiness and comfort between two friends who are having their weekly conversation, and nothing unexpected is going to happen. The author goes on describing the contents of the office and how wonderful things are. This impression has been created for the purpose of irony, because surprise after surprise is happening. First, with Mr. Woodifield’s surprise over the sight of “a dark, squat bottle,” and then the boss’ “terrible shock” which comes from old Woodifield’s sudden remark.

Teacher’s Comment and Suggestions:

The first sentence does a nice job of “orienting” the reader to the discussion. It mentions the term, setting, the author’s name, and two key adjectives. The second part of the sentence would be better by itself: “Nothing unexpected would likely happen in such a setting.”

You could say, “and its wonderful things” to avoid ending a sentence with a verb. Use “happens” instead of “is happening.”

The final sentence gives good specific details about the bottle and the boss’s shock. The use of setting is thus clearly stated and complete.


Student Answer: Sensuous Qualities; Dominant Impression; Why Created? (2)

The action takes place in the boss’s office, and the narrator spends a great deal of time describing how grand it looks: “the great green-leather armchair,” “the bright red carpet,” and so on. The boss is showing off to Woodifield as well as to the readers. He looks as if he made it all, exactly “at the helm.” But then, the narrator says, “he did not draw old Woodifield’s attention to the photograph”; here, we are introduced to the boss’s weak spot and complexity. Because of the grandness of the room, this sentence catches our attention more effectively and makes us wonder, what is going on?

Teacher’s Comment and Suggestions:

Instead of saying “and so on” use a third example. Such “etceteras” use space without adding meaning.

Interesting that the boss might think to show off to us readers. One might better say that “the readers may also be impressed by the luxurious office.”

Good try here on “he made it all”; I think you mean “had it made” in English idiom. Try ending like this: “ ‘at the helm’ of all his affairs.”

Very nice transition with “But then,”

Say “this detail” rather than “this sentence.”


Student Answer: Irony and Theme

Since he recollected his son, his action appears more awful; he repeatedly tortures the dying fly. On the other hand, at the same time, he hopes it to be alive. He encourages the fly saying, “Look sharp!” even though he is killing it. Finally, he becomes normal as if nothing has happened to him.

Teacher’s Comment and Suggestions:

Better and easier to say “After he had remembered his son.” “appears”? Say “is” as it is not a doubtful fact.

Better to say, “stay alive.”

The student writer gives the example well, especially in the final two sentences. The connection to irony needs to be explicitly stated. Don’t be afraid to use the literary terms!


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