This was from Fort St’s 2020 Trial Paper, so was designed to be done in 40 minutes.
“There is a part of everything which is unexplored, because we are accustomed to using our
eyes only in association with the memory of what people before us have thought of the thing
we are looking at. Even the smallest thing has something in it which is unknown. We must
find it.” Gustave Flaubert
Use this passage as a stimulus for a piece of imaginative, persuasive or discursive writing that
explores something unknown. 15 marks
The gun, when Parker turned it on her, had an acrid, oily smell. If she had lived, Lizzie might have found out one day that it was the smell of gun oil, and that the gun smelled like that because Parker had bought it (entirely legally) from a reputable shop where the owner cleaned and oiled his stock regularly. Parker also hadn’t fired the gun yet, so the oily smell had not been replaced by a different acrid smell, of burned cordite, hot brass, and melted plastic. But the smell was all that Lizzie thought – that and how shiny black the muzzle was, almost like a beetle – before Parker fired, and all her thoughts ended.
She had been sitting on the floor, under the window beside the radiator, trying to make herself as small as possible. This wasn’t difficult, in one way, because Lizzie had spent most of her sixteen years trying to be as small and unobtrusive as possible. The school, and her year group in particular, fostered a culture of living large, being large, taking the large view. Maybe this was why Parker, who had tried to fill the demand for largeness in his first years at high school and failed, was so angry – angry enough to come armed to school and prowl the mid-afternoon hallways taking out his anger at being small, unknown, unexplored, undiscovered. In another way, however, it was difficult for Lizzie to make herself truly small because was pretty, and averagely clever, and a good person – three things which are almost certain to gain people’s attention and affection, making you larger, and known. But Lizzie, like so many of the students that afternoon, had the same corners and crevices in her character, seeds of things which would bloom and which would wither away, aspects of herself and her effect on the world, as everyone at sixteen. These things are unknown even to ourselves, and whose discovery is what we call life. Sometimes it is a delightful discovery, and sometimes it is dismal – most often it is simply a mild surprise, like someone pulling out in front of you in traffic, this discovery that you have a flair for Mexican cooking, or can do trigonometry, or that you have a good listening face – all unfolded in the business of becoming.
But here’s the problem about the unknown things that we’re so keen to find, and which we grieve for when someone dies too young to find them: we cannot lament the loss of Lizzie’s unknown talents and secrets, without also lamenting the loss of Parker’s.
In the aftermath there was a kind of token reckoning, an attempt to establish why Parker had shot the students and teachers that he had. There was some surprise that he had taken out the small along with the great, the untalented along with the brilliant, the barely-known along with the popular. In the absence of any obvious pattern, the investigation palled and died away. Sometimes, however, a surviving student would look at the spot beneath the window where a girl – whose name no one could remember – had tried to be even smaller than ever, and think that some things will always remain unknown. It would come to them, with a chill, that we’re wrong to expect those whom life has made small and unknown and angry to have any pity at all for those who choose to be that way.
Compare how you have used language in Part 1 to explore something unknown with the way
writing has been crafted in at least ONE prescribed text from Module C. 5 marks
None of the texts which I studied for Module C have directly influenced my composition, but the idea of an exploded moment, which Kate Tempest uses in ‘Picture a Vacuum’, was both interesting and useful to my writing this year and in this piece. Tempest’s poem is an exercise in both diminution of scale and concentration of focus – from the Big Bang, on a universal scale, down to the ordinary human standing on a London street, and from the vast and impersonal to the entirely personal and subjective – and this seemed to be at the heart of significant moments in which we discover something both unknown and undeveloped, a kind of raw power which can often be destructive. Although Tempest stops her poem with the person simply wondering at the scope and size of the chain of which they’re only a single link, I wanted to focus on the nature of the action which people are likely to take when they realize this. I doubt, fundamentally, the idea of ‘kindred’ which Tempest raises, and wanted to show that this is one of the unknown things which lies beneath the skin of many violent acts – that the notion of connection between people, perhaps people who only ostensibly seem similar, is pretty much non-existent. The question which ends her poem, ‘What am I to make of all this?’ is an effective one, because I think that most of the time we don’t get a chance to answer it, and if we do, very few people care to hear that answer. It takes an outsize act to make people pay attention to your own answer; and frequently that act has consumed the actor.
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