Structure – AQA P1 Q3

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

Structure can be quite difficult to anlayse, we are quite fixed on analysing the actual language and can get distracted. Structural features  (exam board definition) can be: at a whole text level eg. beginnings / endings / perspective shifts; at a paragraph level eg. topic change / aspects of cohesion; and at a sentence level when judged to contribute to whole structure.

AQA – Paper 1, Question 3 will be worded along these lines:


To help you, I’m going to look at several extracts, rather than one text. I am aware my comments in a different colour can make it distracting so, original extracts can be found here. When you get to the end I’ve listed other structural features to look out for.

1) Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

It was a pleasure to burn. (focus begins [simple sentence paragraph] with the juxtaposition of pleasure/burn.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. (the author then begins a new paragraph, focusing on the senses, but continues the semantics of burn with blackened, he also italics the verb ‘change’ suggesting something different) With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. (author then uses a long complex sentence with several clauses, begins with the hose and it’s beauty or importance, the first clause shifts from burning to a hose, the author uses alliteration to emphasise the continued semantic field of ‘burning’) With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. (uses another complex sentence focusing on importance of [novel title] 451) He strode in a swarm of fireflies. (simple sentence) He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. (a further complex sentence switches focus from the heat to buring of books) While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning. (paragraph ends with a time conjunction and continues the focus of the burning books)

Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame. (ends with a single line paragraph and the pleasure Montag gets from fire/heat)

So now I’ve broken down each line, here’s how you put it together (remember you will be commenting on the whole extract – not one section as I have). I’ve only analysed the beginning or this post would be very long!

The extract begins with Bradbury juxtaposing the two nouns ‘pleasure’ and ‘burn’ in a simple sentence focusing on the importance of heat/fire to the character. He then begins a new paragraph but continues the status of heat by focusing on the reader’s senses and places importance on the last word by putting the verb ‘changed’ in italics. Possibly this is what the character likes the most, the transformation? The effect of the description of burning could hypnotise the reader in the same way it has the character. 

Bradbury continues the focus on burning through a complex sentence with the subordinate clause switching to the hose, and then moves onto the power the character has, continuing the beauty in the character’s eyes.

2) 1984 George Orwell

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (extract begins with a focus on month and time also 13 is unusual) Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him.  (complex sentence beginning with a man’s name, then switching to the weather tying in this and first sentence, then moves onto victory mansions)

The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and old rag mats. (author shifts focus from the weather to the inside of [victory mansions] using the reader’s senses) At one end of it a coloured poster, too large for indoor display, had been tacked to the wall. (continued use of senses) It depicted simply an enormous face, more than a metre wide: the face of a man of about forty-five, with a heavy black moustache and ruggedly handsome features. (shifts focus to a complex sentence describing a man’s face [clearly important], the use of colon links the sentences describing the man) Winston made for the stairs. (short/simple sentence shows Wimston’s lack of interest) It was no use trying the lift. Even at the best of times it was seldom working, and at present the electric current was cut off during daylight hours. It was part of the economy drive in preparation for Hate Week. The flat was seven flights up, and Winston, who was thirty-nine and had a varicose ulcer above his right ankle, went slowly, resting several times on the way. (there are a series of simple and complex sentences focusing on the broken lift, setting up the next sentence with the repeated picture) On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous face gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the eyes follow you about when you move. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption beneath it ran. (the final sentences focuses on the picture again the importance of Big Brother watching)

Again I’ve broken down each line, here’s just a part of the analysis (remember you will be commenting on the whole extract – and don’t forget you are commenting on structure NOT language).

Orwell begins the extract with a compound sentence focusing the reader’s attention on the month and time of the novel’s title ‘1984’ and the unusual time of ‘thirteen’. The effect of focusing on the unsual hour could initially confuse a reader as it appears un-natural. He then switches to a complex sentence introducing the character’s name. The subordinate clause at the start tells the reader ‘Winston Smith’ is important but then quickly shifts to entering ‘Victory Mansions’.

Orwell begins a new paragraph and uses the reader’s senses to imagine the description of the building, and it’s an unappealing one!

3) Beware of the Dog by Roald Dahl

Down below there was only a vast white undulating sea of cloud. (extract begins focuses on flying and the beauty of the sky with a metaphor) Above there was the sun, and the sun was white like the clouds, because it is never yellow when one looks at it from high in the air.

He was still flying the Spitfire. (change of paragraph shifting focus from sky to the plane, short sentence names plane [ww2) His right hand was on the stick, and he was working the rudder bar with his left leg alone. It was quite easy. (followed by a simple sentence telling the reader he’s an expert) The machine was flying well, and he knew what he was doing. (then a last confirmation that he was indeed a good pilot)

Everything is fine, he thought. (new paragraph moves from him being a good pilot to short sentence, clause order, then character’s thoughts) I’m doing all right. I’m doing nicely. I know my way home. I’ll be there in half an hour. (4 simple sentences building tension quickly) When I land I shall taxi in and switch off my engine and I shall say, help me to get out, will you. I shall make my voice sound ordinary and natural and none of them will take any notice. (the remaining sentences change POV to character talking about himself as a 3rd person) Then I shall say, someone help me to get out. I can’t do it alone because I’ve lost one of my legs. They’ll all laugh and think that I’m joking, and I shall say, all right, come and have a look, you unbelieving lot. Then Yorky will climb up onto the wing and look inside. He’ll probably be sick because of all the blood and the mess. (the reader realises something may be wrong at here, he’s joking surely) I shall laugh and say, for God’s sake, help me out.  (paragraph ends with humour and a hope that all will be ok).

Finally, I’ve broken down each line, here’s just a part of the analysis (remember you will be commenting on the whole extract. Pick out the best or strongest structural features.

The author begins the extract by focusing the reader’s attention on the sky with a metaphor ‘sea of cloud’ describing the beauty and compares by comparing the sky to a sea gives a sense of calmness at the start. This soon changes with a new paragraph and a simple sentence shifting the focus quickly to the ‘spitfire’ (a plane associated with WW2).

Dahl uses another paragraph to move focus again from the previous calm skies to one of possible danger. He begins with a short sentence using the main clause to reassure the reader that the character is fine – or so ‘he thought’.  The effect of using a series of short simple sentences is that it begins building the tension quickly, like a series of short violent jabs punching each thought the character has.

As a student you need to meet this assessment objective- do not revert BACK to analysing language:

AO2 Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views

This question assesses how the writer has structured a text.

Look for

  1. a new paragraph – a shift in perspective, character, setting.
  2. look at the beginning/end of the extract.
  3. look for a topic change.
  4. look for exclamation marks they indicate excitement/anger or sense of urgency.
  5. look for short sentences, suggest faster pace, the building of tension.
  6. look for verbs that mirror actions eg run may suggest pace picks up!
  7. look for comparisons (simile/metaphor) that add to the pace of action.
  8. look for complex sentences that mirror the characters/setting mood/action.
  9. look for clause order, which is at the start main or subordinate clause.
  10. look for patterns in words that suggest ongoing action.
  11. look for adjectives/adverbs that add to meaning in an extract eg a train moved angrily.
  12. look for descriptive writing/dialogue in an extract.
  13. what is a reader drawn to see/think or feel?
  14. are certain elements foregrounded? If so why?


Thank you for reading

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