The current educational situation is more challenging than ever, with closing schools and exam uncertainties impacting students all over the country. This is especially for GCSE students looking to keep up their essay and study skills, which is why I have moved all lessons online and will be providing as many digital resources, hints and tips as possible over the coming months.
When it comes to poetry, many students find essay structure the hardest part to master. There is really nothing complicated to this though, and if you follow the trusty PEEZAP structure (useful for all essay subjects, not just English), then your analysis will be off to a flying start. I have provided a model example of this structure below – comparing Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Kamikaze by Beatrice Garland below. But first, what exactly is PEEZAP?
- P – Point (i.e. make your key statement or argument)
- E – Evidence (back this up with a quotation from the text)
- E – Explanation (tell me why this piece of evidence supports your point)
- Z – Zoom (go into more detail, i.e. is there anything else in the text that backs up your argument, or any other way you can develop your point)
- A – Analyse (another quote and some terminology to support your “zoom”)
- P – Perspective (poems, plays and novels are all written by people, for people – how does all this impact the reader, do you have any context to explain the writer’s intentions?)
If you are unfamiliar with these poems, watch the YouTube videos first. Then take a look at the essay below. Be a critical teacher! Do you agree with the PEEZAP markings, and what would you improve – and why?
An Ozymandias reading by Bryan Cranston and BBC Teach analysis by Akala:
There is also a very useful colour-coded reading of Kamikaze, in addition to a Guardian documentary on real-life Kamikaze pilots:
Feeling ready? Let’s go on the structure masterclass…
In Ozymandias, the poet explores ideas about fate and power. Compare this with one other poem of your choice (Kamikaze).
Introduction – Introduce your main point (in relation to the question), before focusing on what the poems have in common, as well as differences. Even if they deal with similar themes, no two poems will be exactly the same – so show you’re aware of the nuances.
In Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Kamikaze by Beatrice Garland, both poets present ideas about the inevitability and inescapability of fate. In Ozymandias, Shelley presents the decaying statue of an ancient King as an allegory for the eventual end of power that we are all fated to suffer – most especially the proud. Kamikaze also deals with the futility of trying to avoid one’s fate (and death), but from a much more personal, human perspective. Whilst these two poems differ greatly in their structure, settings and imagery, both ultimately provide the same (somewhat sombre) memorial to human beings inevitably and powerlessly subject to the vicissitudes of fate and their own mortality.
PEEZAP Paragraph 1
|Point||–||In Ozymandias, the central motif of a collapsing statue is used to depict a futile and ill-fated struggle to maintain power and survival.|
|Evidence||–||The poem describes “two vast and trunkless legs of stone” which serve as a metaphor for the pharaoh’s own ego and power. Just like the statue itself, they are being eroded by time and nature.|
|Explanation||–||Written by Shelley in 1819, the poem was inspired by the recent unearthing of a large statue of the Egyptian Pharaoh, Ramesses II. The Egyptian Pharaoh’s believed themselves to be gods in mortal form – “king of kings” with legacies that lasted for ever.|
|Zoom||–||Here, Shelley is presenting an ironic take on this belief, pointing out that all that remains is an arrogant boast on a ruined statue.|
|Analyse||–||This “colossal wreck”, representing both the Pharaoh’s ego and the statue itself, is now left alone in the sands of the desert.|
|Perspective||–||The final alliterative phrases “boundless and bare”, “lone and level” and “sands stretch” all further serve to reinforce this message. The desert sands (also representative of time) have inevitably outlasted the Pharaoh’s ego and power, and he is left to his faded, unimportant fate.|
PEEZAP Paragraph 2
|Point||–||In a similar way to Ozymandias, Beatrice Garland also explores the futility of trying to avoid your own fate and destiny. This is done from a much more specific, human perspective however – depicting the conflict between the collective morals of Japanese culture, and the individual will to survive.|
|Evidence||–||This conflict is particularly profound, as there appears to be no right answer to how the pilot should end his “journey into history”. Japanese Kamikaze pilots were expected to give up their lives on suicide missions for their country, but when the man returned his family “treated him as though he no longer existed”.|
|Explanation||–||The use of impersonal pronouns (he, his and him) leaves the pilot nameless, as though the family are ashamed to name him.|
|Zoom||–||This sense of shame and regret is further emphasized by the past tense of the final lines.|
|Analyse||–||The narrator recounts that this was “no longer the father we loved.” The finality of this sentence’s punctuation creates empathy in the reader, heightening the pathos of the ending couplet which wonders “which had been the better way to die.”|
|Perspective||–||Unlike Ozymandias, there is no hubris in the presentation of the pilot – but both are equally bound to their own mortality – whether literal or metaphorical. Whatever the right option was for Garland’s pilot, just like the “dark shoals of fishes” trapped in their “figure of eight” (a repetitive symbol of infinity) the pilot is also caught in the net of his own destiny.|
Structure – More difficult to follow the PEEZAP structure exactly – but so important to think about how each poem’s rhyme scheme and structure reinforces its central message.
Whilst Garland’s poem is presented in seven regular sestets (with a shift to italics to indicate a change of speaker), there is no overt rhyme scheme. This can be compared with Ozymandias, which also has a regular structure (written in a sonnet form, in iambic pentameter) and an irregular rhyme scheme. For Shelley, the irregular rhyme scheme could be symbolic of the broken statue itself – no longer perfect, and falling apart as the poem progresses. The sonnet form (usually composed as romantic love poems) could serve as a further ironic joke about the ruler’s ill-fated ego – or perhaps offer a more nostalgic, romantic tone of a lost legend. In a similar way, Garland’s poem offers no easy answers to the question posed by the pilot’s fate. Just like the non-existent rhyme scheme, no neat or easily comprehensible solutions are presented– challenging the reader to make their own judgments on events.
Conclusion – This should reflect the points made in the introduction – pointing out the similarities and differences.
In conclusion, both Ozymandias and Kamikaze depict central protagonists attempting (and failing) to escape their own fate. Whilst Ozymandias presents a more ironic description of a ruler sure of his own power and infallibility, Kamikaze presents a more nuanced, personalised description of an individual pilot trying to return home. Both poems explore the attempt to escape our human mortality in one way or another however, and both show characters ultimately drawn back to their very human, very lonely destinies – both fated to be forgotten and ignored in one way or another.
For more essay skills practice, take a look at my previous post on GCSE English terminology. With a combination of good structure, killer analysis and sophisticated terminology – you can’t go wrong. Do get in touch with any questions, and happy essay writing!