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2007 Higher English Critical Essay

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Key Scenes

This section will deal with treatments of two key scenes (turning points) in the novel.

  • The Assembly at Night
  • Simon's encounter with the Lord of the Flies

As with other sections, any essay dealing with Key Scenes should show understanding (context), reference to the text (quotation / evidence) and evaluative response (analysis and personal comment).

Please note: it is unlikely you will be expected to treat both scenes in the same essay!

Key Scene I

The Assembly at Night

We have already looked the revelation of character and the revelation of theme through character – man's inhumanity to man and his relationship with nature.

Now we shall explore how these aspects of the novel contribute to a key scene or turning point in the narrative.

The Assembly at Night is a key scene because it heralds the change in power on the island between Ralph and Jack.


Jack and Ralph have very different priorities on the island; Jack wants to hunt and kill, while Ralph wants to build shelters, maintain a fire and keep order. This conflict in outlook leads to a clash when Jack ignores the most responsible duty he has – the maintenance of the fire. A ship passes and there is no smoke – battle lines between Jack and Ralph are drawn. Ralph fails to humble Jack who has produced meat for the camp. By appealing to the boys' immediate needs Jack wins favour from the majority of the boys who quickly forget the disappointment of the passing vessel. In frustration, Ralph calls an immediate assembly. It is late at night and Ralph's decision rebounds on him. He has played directly into Jack's hands.

In dealing with this scene as a turning point, you should be comfortable discussing the following aspects.

  • Ralph's motivation for calling the assembly
  • Ralph's performance at the start of the assembly
  • Ralph's inability to control the meeting
  • Jack's contribution to the assembly
  • The concerns and contributions of the other boys
  • The effect the assembly has on Ralph's leadership and Jack's emerging dominance

While working through these scenes, keep an eye on the SQA Higher Exam questions.

SQA Higher English Critical Essay paper – 2007

Prose – Choose a novel in which a character reaches a crisis point.

Explain briefly how this point is reached and go on to discuss how the character's response to the situation extends your understanding of him/her.

SQA Higher English Critical Essay paper – 2008

Prose – Choose a novel in which a confrontation between two characters is of central importance in the text. Explain the circumstances of the confrontation and discuss its importance to your understanding of the novel as a whole.

SQA Higher English Critical Essay paper – 2009

Prose – Choose a novel in which there is an incident involving envy or rivalry or distrust. Explain the nature of the incident and go on to discuss its importance to your understanding of the novel as a whole.

You can see in each that you are being asked to address a Key Scene or Turning Point. Don't expect the words in bold to be staring you in the face! Seek and ye shall find!

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