Capitalism and Socialism

Even though he was but a callow youth when The Smiths’ sang their rebellious Shoplifters of the World Unite ,the song’s allusion to the Communist slogan: ‘Workers of the world, unite’ was not lost on Mr Bryant.  Bring your understanding of these ideologies up to his level with the following material.


Watch John Green’s ‘Capitalism and Socialism: Crash Course World History #33’ whirlwind 10 minute lecture on the history of capitalism and socialism.  Be prepared to rewatch and pause to let the learning sink in.

Consider the following and answer them after(or while) watching the film:

  1. What is the definition provided by Green of capitalism?
  2. How did capital investment and advances in technology help to grow?
  3. What are some of the advantages of early capitalism outlined?
  4. What are some of the disadvantages of early capitalism outlined?
  5. What are some of the capitalist values that evolved from early forms of capitalism?  How did these values promote the idea that individuals were born consumers?
  6. What were some of the problems associated with capitalism in the 19th Century?
  7. What were some of the beliefs of the 19th Century socialists?
  8. What were some of Karl Marx’s main criticisms of capitalism?
  9. What is class consciousness?
  10. What is class struggle?
  11. How did Marx’s view of humans underpin his socialist ideas?  How do these ideas oppose the versions of capitalism that promote life and the economy as a competition and that humans are inherently self-interested?
  12. What does green see as the areas in which industrial capitalism and socialism are still competing?

To consolidate your understanding of these ideas watch ‘What is Capitalism? Parts 1 & 2 by The School of Life.

What is Capitalism? PART 1

  1. What is the video’s definition of capitalism?
  2. According to the video, how did capitalism evolve from feudalism?

What is Capitalism? PART 2

  1.  What does the video suggest are some of the reasons for the success of capitalism?
  2. According to the video what are some of the more sinister aspects of the capitalist model of success?


Considering God Bless You Mr Rosewater:

  1. Which characters do you believe Vonnegut has associated with some of the capitalist ideals outlined in the videos.
  2. Which characters do you believe Vonnegut has associated with some of the socialist ideals outlined in the videos?



Rosewater: what a bummer!

When legendary Swedish pop group ABBA sang their hit, ‘Money, Money, Money‘ their longing for wealth could well have come straight out of Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical novel, God Bless You, Mr Rosewater.

Pamela Bliss’s mural of Kurt Vonnegut in Indiana (photo credit: Indy Star, Frank Espich, photographer)

Vonnegut spoke his mind freely and frequently.  Explore his quotations to get a feel for the man behind the book.  Kurt Vonnegut had this to say on literature:

“Do you realize that all great literature is all about what a bummer it is to be a human being? Isn’t it such a relief to have somebody say that?”

We will be looking at how Vonnegut explores ‘what a bummer it is to be a human being’ in America (and much of this could be extrapolated to the western developed world) and to do so we need to get our heads around some key concepts.






Once we understand what these things are in theory we need to examine them in practice.




PEE on your work


Manneken Pis statue in Brussels, Belgium.

Point: your big idea about their big idea summed up in a topic sentence which supports your main contention (as outlined in your introduction)

Evidence: the quotations from the text which illustrate your point

Explanation: the analysis of the quotations – what they suggest and how this relates to your big idea about their big idea.

This looks very linear; it is not.  You need to mix up the EE bit of PEE for a thorough response – there is no precise order or number of pieces of evidence you need but let your common sense prevail – you need quality evidence which supports your interpretation.  You may need to quote widely from the text to draw out an idea or show the development or contrast of ideas.


Essays: show what you know


What is the difference between the idea of an essay and an essay of ideas?

It’s often tempting to begin an essay with this question in mind: ‘What do I (read: my teacher) want my essay to sound like?’  If you answer this question with , ‘Like an essay,’ then chances are you are going to use vocabulary and phrases which you can string together to make your essay sound like an essay.  EssayspeakWorse still, you might answer this question with: ‘Like I know what I’m talking about when actually I’m not at all sure.’  This is going to be a very mysterious read for anyone seeking knowledge and understanding of the thing about which your are writing.

These students are focusing more on sounding like an essay rather than presenting their knowledge or understanding:

The main idea that the poem seems to revolve around is a very important one…

The poem is one that describes an old man in relation to his surroundings in a very imaginative way….

Plath uses this technique as many readers can relate to this.  She does this extremely well and it helps her get her point across to the reader.


So, what if you being with the question: ‘What do I know or understand and how can I show this in my essay?’  Notice the focus here.  Assume we can all communicate our ideas in writing (the ‘essay’ bit of the task), and instead the focus is on what we know or understand about the subject matter of the essay.   Guess what?  An essay is simply sharing your knowledge and understanding with others in writing.  So the focus should not be about appearing to write an essay but rather the knowledge and understanding that is being communicated by it’s very nature is an essay.  The quality of the student’s thinking is the focus; how that gets written up is secondary to the content.

Remember that an essay is your big ideas about others’ big ideas and how they are presented.

In short:



  • Re-read one of your essays.  Highlight those sentences where you have used ‘essayspeak’ without showing any knowledge or understanding specific to the text at hand.  Rewrite them to show what you know.


Structures and Functions of English Language

This is your Semester 1 exam section A.  For detailed explanations regarding the various points of grammar:

Revise nouns: proper, common, abstract, collective

Revise  active and passive voice

Revise the difference between a simple sentence and a sentence fragment.

Revise how to coordinate_subordinate in this PPT presentation.

Revise prepositional phrases


Frame and Focus: getting poems in the picture


Take a photo of your class quickly using an ipad camera.  The image will most likely have some problems: not everyone will be in the frame; not everyone will be in focus.  Take a second photo of the class and take the time for the ipad camera to find its focus and for you to ensure that all students are in the frame.  The resulting photograph will undoubtedly be better. You will be able to zoom in on the detail of a student’s facial expression to interpret their mood from their expression, or zoom out to interpret the mood of the class as a whole.

Now take this theory (which involves giving time to the subject matter and the skill) and apply it to unseen poetry analysis.

Focus: You need to know what the poem is about or what happens in it.  This is the subject matter of the poem – the bit that you need to lock onto and get an idea of.  Extract these details (make some notes) and have a think about them as you re-read the poem.   Sometimes taking them out of the poem and making a little list will enable you to make connections between them more easily than searching for them each time in the poem as you read through it.

Frame: Make sure you have the whole poem in your sights.  Your analysis should have breadth.  Ignoring parts of the poem because they don’t immediately make sense is an unwise decision.  It is more than likely these parts hold the key to unlocking some of the complexity of the poem and the poet’s message.  Think back to poems we have done in class: they often begin with the easier, concrete details and move into figurative language which deals with more abstract, complex ideas.

Zoom in: this is what you do when you look at the little details in a poem; turns of phrase; word choices; similes, metaphors, personification, repetition, sibilance, alliteration, assonance, ellipsis, end-stopped lines, caesura, enjambement, rhyme, rhythm (the list goes on).  You job is not to ‘spot the device’; your job is to take a closer look at the language and explain its intended effect.  We zoom in to find evidence to support our interpretation of a poem.  Once you have these quotations, use these questions to get to word-level analysis:

  • What does this suggest?
  • What does the speaker (or writer) think or feel about this?
  • what does the author want us to think or feel about this?
  • Are there any other instances in the poem that link to this idea?

Zoom out: this is what you do when you try to identify the ‘big ideas‘ in a poem.  These could be things like beauty, identity, loneliness, love, power, relationships (between whom?), one’s past, one’s sense of self, evil, honesty etc.  There are so many you couldn’t imagine them all.  Reading the poem,  you should get a feel for the ‘big idea/s’.  Re-read the poem and look for clues to support your theory.  The clues to these big abstract things are in the concrete details in the poem.  To zoom even further out, you need to get to this big question:

What is the author suggesting about [the big idea] and what this suggests about what it means to be human?  Yes, it’s a wide zoom out but you’re only going this far because you have all the evidence there in the detailed zoom in.

So the secret is to READ.  Relax and RE-READ.  This is where diffuse thinking is important.  Your first idea or theory (‘it’s all about cancer’) may not have enough evidence to be supported.  You need to be open to variations on a theme.  The poem may well be about adversity, relationships and facing the idea of death but these themes could feature in a poem about exams as much as one about illness.  You don’t have to come up with a concrete answer or harebrained theory.

Test your thinking by re-reading the text.

Take the time for the poem to come into focus. You won’t be able to do this kind of thorough thinking about each of the three poems you have to choose from in the exam, so make a decision in reading time and choose the one that seems clearest to you.  Use your WIG:WIDGY ratio to determine the one which you ‘get’ the most.

How does this look when you start thinking about a poem?  Read Gerald Manley Hopkins’s poem God’s Grandeur and then look at the notes I have made on the focus and frame sheet which helps me to remember the zoom in (little details) and the zoom out (big ideas) of the analytical thought process.

God’s Grandeur in the frame

Then, the question is how to write this top-class thinking up?

You will use a traditional text essay structure and write in a formal register.  No-one wants to hear an account of how you felt when you were reading the poem (none of this kind of unedifying drivel: “At first I thought this but then I thought that.” Save it for your diary, kiddo.)  Instead you will have an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion.  You will write in the present tense; despite the fact that you poet may be deceased, he or she lives on in the poem they have written.


Remember that this is the ‘sucker punch‘ of your essay.  It knocks out the examiner with its insight and clarity.  The examiner should be left a little breathless, if you will.  It’s show-what-you-know time before you step them through how you got there.  This is no time for treading-water-while-I-think writing which shows zero understanding of the poem in question (e.g.”There are lots of different themes in this poem and using many different poetic devices the poet presents a powerful message.” Garbage.)  This is also no time for withholding information like a whodunnit novel or for teasing the examiner with an elaborate dance of the seven veils.  This is sucker punch time: OOF!

An introduction should signpost:

  • the poem and poet
  • the focus of the poem
  • the poet’s message (your big idea about their big idea/s)
  • the speaker of the poem’s views and values (explaining the big idea might get you here)


Use your common sense here and take your cues from the poem and its subject matter.  Your body paragraphs can follow:

  • the poem’s ‘big ideas’
  • the stages (or stanzas) of the poem
  • the poem’s focus (subject matter) and how we are positioned to view it

A body paragraph should:

  • have a strong topic sentence which shows understanding of the poem/poet’s purpose and message (your big idea about their big idea)
  • present evidence (quotations) of the way the audience is positioned to view these things
  • draw our attention to the complexity of the poem: its use of technique or its presentation of an idea
  • make observations of the language and structure
  • link structure and language to the way an idea is being presented and how that links to the ideas presented in the poem as a whole
  • draw connections across the text: compare and contrast and connect
  • draw connections between the focus of the poem, the big ideas and the little details
  • provide a nuanced interpretation.  Avoid the oversimplification of the poem-in-a-nutshell approach:

e.g. ‘This poem is all about love.’  [Mic drop]

Instead, look closely at the ideas presented and show a refinement of understanding:

e.g. ‘This poem is a celebration of the precious nature of love between siblings and at the same time a warning of how the loss of a parent can compromise that bond.’

  • get the poetic devices terminology right (don’t misuse a term)
  • avoid praise and criticism (this is really about ascertaining what the poem/poet sets out to do, not how well they do it)
  • avoid personal journey language or vague expressions that tell the reader nothing of your understanding (“I really liked this – it makes the poem flow better and provides a deeper understanding”)


You should come back to the poem’s message in light of the evidence you have presented.  You can look at the big picture here too – what the poem suggests about [the big idea] and what it means to be human.