how to answer a "to what extent..." essay question properly?

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velvethopes
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For example, let's say the question was "To what extent is the concept of love explored in [book]"

I know I'd have to give evidence that love is explored in the book, how it's explored, etc.

But then how do I show its extent in this sort of question? I know for some questions it's possible to suggest other factors, like if a question was "to what extent does [character] cause [event] in [book]" then it'd be easy to give other factors than the character for causing the event to happen, which would show their extent.

But how is it possible for the first sort of question? I feel like the only way about it would be to discuss other concepts, but then they don't really have any relevance to the question?

Help please!!
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hungrywhale21
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So if the question was "To what extent is the concept of love explored in [book]", I would make three or four points, depending on how detailed your paragraphs would be and how much time you have in the exam.

I would start with an introduction briefly summarising what the significance of love is in the book but also briefly mention that "oh, but there's also the theme of X which is extremely prevalent in this book".

It depends on what you're arguing, but for my A-Level English Essays I would structure it like:
Introduction
A paragraph how love shows power of society? (I'm clutching at straws here)
A paragraph on how love brings together individuals?
BUT, a paragraph on how there's a tyrannical government which is explored throughout the book.
Then a conclusion on "while there is the tyrannical government, the concept of love is the most explored theme in this book because..." and then briefly summarise your points on love.

Hope this helps!
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Parker Tracy
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(Original post by velvethopes)
For example, let's say the question was "To what extent is the concept of love explored in [book]"

I know I'd have to give evidence that love is explored in the book, how it's explored, etc.

But then how do I show its extent in this sort of question? I know for some questions it's possible to suggest other factors, like if a question was "to what extent does [character] cause [event] in [book]" then it'd be easy to give other factors than the character for causing the event to happen, which would show their extent.

But how is it possible for the first sort of question? I feel like the only way about it would be to discuss other concepts, but then they don't really have any relevance to the question?

Help please!!

The "to what extent" question is a lazily worded question. You can't answer: 54%. You have to just recognise the examiner is wanting to ask you whether the theme of love is the over riding theme of the novel, or whether there are other factors at play.

So let's try it with a real life question.
"to what extent is the concept of love explored in 'The Great Gatsby.'"

Introduction - here, I'm going to set up how I intend to respond to the question. I'm going to tell the examiner, in other words, how I intend to deal with her vague question. I'll say something like - yes, the writer deals with the doomed romance of Jay and Gatsby, but also suggests the illusionary nature of love in general through the relationships of Nick/Jordan, Myrtle/Tom, and Nick's commentary on Gatsby's story. In addition to the emptiness of romantic love, the novel also explores other themes - such as (greed; hedonism; the American dream - whatever you want to add)

Now we write the essay.

So - thesis - how does the novel explore love? Though the main plot - Daisy and Jay. Through the sub plots - Nick and Jordan, Myrtle and Tom. Through the narrative form - we have Nick's admiration (not romantic love, but friendship) for Gatsby, and the novel is told from this point of view, being very forgiving of Gatsby's actions and portraying him as a romantic hero. Look at the characters here, and the main plot points and show us how love is not celebrated but revealed to be short term and perhaps just a romantic illusion.

Anti-thesis - now let's explore all the ways in which the novel is not primarily concerned with love. Again, go back to the text and look for examples where love does not drive the plot, or the characters. We have Tom Buchanan, who is obviously not in love with his wife as he betrays her. Nick, who is indifferent to Jordan. We have Gatsby as a bootlegger, as a party host, involved with criminals - aspects of the novel that seemingly are not about love. YET - we recognise that the motivation for Gatsby getting involved in these activities is to become a self made man, and earn the respect of Daisy. So, he is motivated not by greed, but love.

synthesis -where we bring these ideas together. This is your conclusion, where you have finished arguing for and against. Yes, a lot of the novel is about love - the plot, the sub-plot, the relationships between the main characters. Thematically we may be in the terrain about the falsehood of the American dream, but much of the novel is concerned with failed love.

I hope this helps
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