Standard Mod C Discursive (2018 HSC sample paper)

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Use this as the stimulus for the opening of a creative, discursive, or persuasive piece. Use at least one example of figurative language that you have learned about in Module C.


So here’s an odd thing from the venerable Winston – who was no mean lie-monger himself. What is the truth doing without its pants on? It’s all the more pressing when you consider that, to Churchill, pants meant underpants, not trousers. What is the truth doing, pants-less and unready to assert itself, while the fully-dressed, itchy-footed lie is gadding around the world?

I’m doing a quick mental survey of my entries under ‘Truth’. There’s the helmet of truth, which nuns symbolically call their wimple, as they get dressed each morning in the armour of Christ, ready to go out and do battle with the ignoramuses (like me) that they’re good enough to teach. There’s Aletheia, which is the Greek version of Truth, whom art and statuary have portrayed as buff enough to flatten you if you asked her about her underpants. Then there’s ‘My Truth’ – the Megan Markle, Oprah Winfrey brand of truth, where ‘You get a truth, and You get a truth, and Everyone gets a truth!!! – and for only an extra $100 you can get their endorsement of your truth!’

To be honest, none of these mental pictures (all female, strangely enough), seem likely to be faffing about, de-panted (?pantless? ?unpantsed? We don’t even have a word for this figurative state), while a lie is swanning about getting into the canapes.

I’ve always thought of truth as robust, forthright, properly dressed and with a spare hanky. Truth is organized. This is because truth is just the verbal reflection of the state of the world – and my world (white, Australian, well-educated, female) has always been educated. Switch any of those categories for its opposite, and it’s amazing how quickly truth looks as if a cold wind is blowing about its nether-regions.

There are any number of reasons why the truth might be sluggish nowadays, or rather, why a lie is faster to get about.

  1. A plain old, wholegrain, fibre-filled, unexciting truth isn’t nearly as quick off the mark as a slither-down-your-throat lie. A lie is like an oyster: slippery, fascinating, with the lure of the exotic and expensive. Yes, also likely to have you sitting on the loo at the head of stream of unmentionables at 2am, but it’s sexy. Truth is like brown pasta. Unsexy but regular.
  2. We don’t really respect truth, or the people who tell it. They sound repetitive. They don’t have a ‘narrative’. Truth rarely has interesting ‘optics’. And the people who tell it are usually called Gavin. If you don’t respect something, you hardly let it on the bus first, do you? You let it get shoved aside as laughing, jostling, body-spray smelling lies pack on, screeching and fiddling with their phones, filling up the space until truth is left at the bus-stop to catch the next one.
  3. It’s hard to headline truth, which is to say that it’s complex. Lies are easy and interesting, like those ‘Can You Solve This?’ puzzles that your mother sends you from Facebook. Either you can, because the puzzle-setter wants to flatter you, or you can’t because it’s a badly set puzzle. Flattery and incompetence – our age loves them a lot more than the posts about truth which usually tell you about your uncle’s chillblains, or a school-friend’s boring baby.
  4. Because truth is intrinsically connected to reality, it doesn’t change that much. It doesn’t have the chimerical quality of a lie, like that stupid ‘Is it blue or Is it white?’ dress that obsessed the internet a few years ago. Lies fit in with everyone. They’re go anywhere, do anything fun kids because if something goes wrong there’s nothing solid to grab hold of and shackle them down with. Truth, well, a pessimist would say it was all shackles.

Explain how your writing was influenced by what you have learned about figurative language through Module C.

In my study of Judith Wright’s poem ‘The Surfer’, the Old English device of the kenning, or figurative description disguising a noun (such as head-harrowmaker for a comb, or wave-rider for a ship) is part of her repertoire of stylistic devices. Having discovered that kennings could often be extended for many lines, to the point where the text took on the appearance of a conceit or even riddle, I decided to reverse this strategy and take up Churchill’s figurative remark about the truth and its pants, and treat it as if it were literal. I therefore began by asking why the truth was minus its pants, whom the truth really was, and in what ways we see it today. This helped me to understand how Churchill saw truth – as a stalwart, conventional figure which didn’t play fast and loose with rules of undergarments. (I’d have liked to continue with how much this differs from the very unconventional Churchill, although I admit that I have no idea what his attitudes to undies were. I don’t think very many people saw them – he was extremely faithful to his wife, Clemmie, whom I have no doubt chose his pants for him, just as he chose the truth for her).

This led me to the idea that truth is perceived nowadays as being rather boring. So I examined some of the things from my own set of mental associations which spring to mind when I think of that particular kind of boredom. Although I eat it, brown pasta is unspeakably boring. I says you’ve given up interest in favour of bowel health. It’s also stolid and fairly quiet – which reminded me of the unpleasant and repeated experience of being stolid and quiet at school and often shoved aside by the Renees and Jacintas who could screech it up. Following on from that, it seemed that those very girls couldn’t deal with complexity, which is another feature of truth. They liked stuff simple, and they liked it loud.

So there it is – I began by interrogating Churchill’s turn of phrase and, by following my own associations and allusions, ended up thinking about the trauma of high school But it’s all true. Pinkie-swear.

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