Example Written Task 1 For IB Lang Lit – Part 4 Detailed Study
If you don’t want to read ‘teachery’ stuff and just want to read the piece of writing, then skip directly to the bold title ‘Perseus Replies’ below.
In May my former students finished studying for the IOC (individual oral commentary) and then had to produce a piece of Written Task 1 coursework (essentially a piece of creative writing that incorporates core principles and ideas from the studied subject matter) based on one of the texts they had studied. The monologue that follows is the example that I wrote for them. It takes a key principle of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Medusa’ – that of the inversion of gender roles and voicing previously marginalised characters – and replicates it, this time contextualising the reasons for the unnamed man’s behaviour that leads to Medusa’s jealousy. If you want to read the original text (a brilliant poem), the link is here http://nauplion.net/Medusa.html. I have included the full written task, including the rationale (though I have left the rationale until the end to make this a more blog-friendly post. Normally it would come before the text proper), which I am perfectly happy for other teachers or students to use as examples should they find anything of value here.
We’d been together for five years when I moved to my new job at a Silicon Valley start up, trading the tired grey of the suits and faces of Wall Street for the intellectual juvenescence of a younger, more dynamic workplace. I was still besotted with M; she was smart, beautiful and I’ve never known a woman before or since to love with such unrestrained passion, such devastating intensity. Perhaps that was the problem. In New York I had been hers, entirely hers, and we were each the others’ existence encompassed. No friends, family, just one another, staring down the hard-nosed face of city life. San Francisco changed everything.
In four years in New York, I never once brought a colleague home, never once met a friend for a drink or dinner. Old men with old hearts and old ideas were my working world, and M was my respite and salvation from it all, the soothing pool that I’d slip into after another day on the rack. But the new office…the new office was full of fresh-out-of-college graduates and young men and women brimming with ideas and potential; they were everything the cadaverous suits of Wall Street were not, the tonic to the zombified avarice of middle age, filled with the potency of a youth that M and I were teetering on the edges of. The men were handsome, well-groomed and indefatigable, ready for anything a day could throw at them and even readier to take on the night and all its wanton allure. And the women, or should I really call them girls, were everything a girl or woman should be: free of cynicism, bitingly funny, humbly intellectual and naive to the stupefying power of their beauty and seductiveness. I liked them. I liked being around young people; they reinvigorated elements of me that I thought had died on Wall Street. But most of all I liked them because they reminded me of M.
While other people were growing fatigued by the crushing responsibility and tedium of adult life, M seemed to stand as a breakwater, towering indestructible against the tides of age and cynicism. She loved like a teenager who’d never had their heart broken, and everything she did, she did with a visceral energy that she’d never been conditioned to control. It was all with her whole heart: her love, her hate, her laughter, her tears, her anger, her joy, her calm, her frenzy, all indulged without restraint. I had been completely hers, but after we moved and my friendship circle grew, I began to spend time, small amounts of it, with the guys and girls from the office. A coffee here, a beer there, a baseball game or concert every now and then. And it really was just every now and then. The bulk of my free time was still with M and I never felt any less than completely in love with her. I have a portrait of her branded in my mind from before it all: the lustrous jet of her hair shimmering like gemstones under moonlight, melting in my hand, her eyes two realms of coruscating blue, vivid worlds as endless as time, and her lips, her sweet lips playing with a smile that was the upturned curve of a secret about to be revealed. She was a goddess.
The jealousy began when she met the two interns, Andrea and Cassie, who I was tasked with training. They had to spend time at the apartment with us, and I often had to work late at the office to bring them into line with where the company needed them. M hated them, resenting the time I was compelled to spend with them, and despising them for the power and magnetism of their youth. I couldn’t avoid being around them; it was my job and she just didn’t get that. She didn’t get it that not everybody at the office were soul-destroying assholes like the guys in New York and that was why I wanted to hang out sometimes. I always invited her. Always. But she never came. And the vulgar suggestions of those moments of solitude destroyed her.
The worst thing was that everything she had ever been, she turned in upon herself. The heart that she had worn on her sleeve for five years was now locked in a cast-iron cage and everything she had once externalised now faced inward, buried beneath a mask of cold courtesy. And her eyes, they spoke an endlessness of vitriol, and, though her tongue remained silent, the eyes stabbed me with all the truths I knew she would speak if only she hadn’t injected her tongue with the novocaine of apathy to protect herself ‘Why were you out with those little sluts, those tight-sweatered little whores? Were you fucking them at the office? I can smell them on you, you bastard, you prick, you traitor. Why? Why? Because they are younger than me? I hate you. I fucking hate you.’ I could read the chapters of misery and revulsion etched into the fault-lines on her forehead, the grim poetry of delusion and twisted fantasy engraved in furrows creeping from the corner of her eyes. A deluge of apologies, denials, disavowals poured forth in defence of the crimes I hadn’t committed; they only served to make it worse, confirmations in her mind of the transgressions that she believed but dare not speak.
The bile in her soul seemed to turn the world around her to stone. Our apartment had become her granite fortress, and she was the silent queen stood atop the battlements in all her terrible glory. She stopped caring for herself when she stopped caring for me, but she couldn’t, or she wouldn’t, let me go. Somewhere beneath the slag-heap of resentment was a love that refused to die that only stoked the fires of her hatred further. It overflowed from every pore and follicle on her body, staining her in dripping malice.
She was hideous.
This written task is taken from the unit ‘Part 4 – Detailed Study’ and is aimed at addressing the learning outcome ‘explore literary works in detail’. During Part 4, we studied Carole-Ann Duffy’s poem ‘Medusa’ in which she explores the concepts of jealousy and bitterness and their concomitant paranoia. As with many of Duffy’s works, the poem provides a voice to a previously voiceless character and helps to contextualise their seemingly irredeemable features. I have attempted to explore this literary work by crafting a dramatic monologue in which I adopt the voice of the unvoiced man who has elicited Medusa’s jealousy. In doing so, I have gained a greater understanding of Duffy’s writing process through mimicking her use of empathy as a tool for better understanding literary characters.
I have kept the purpose of my text parallel to that of Duffy: to explore the conditions under which jealousy develops and to demonstrate to the reader its destructive and negatively transformative power. In order to achieve this I have plotted a piece that presents the innocence of the speaker, which helps to give insight into the groundlessness of jealousy and also to show how love can be warped through envy. In order to express my understanding of the text I have also aimed to portray Medusa’s (cast here as the character ‘M’) power as growing with her paranoia as seen through the metaphors ‘turn the world around her to stone’ and ‘granite fortress’ and also mirrored Duffy’s depiction of the degeneration of her appearance through juxtaposition ‘two vivid worlds…endlessness of vitriol’. Finally, I have used paradox and oxymoron ‘terrible beauty… beneath the slag-heap of resentment was a love that refused to die’ in order to convey to the audience the complex antinomy of the psyche of an individual afflicted by jealousy.
Word Count: 299
Do you have any questions about Duffy’s Medusa? Would you like to see a monologue or another text written for a text you have studied? Let us know in the comments…