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In this section

Candidate E

The candidate was awarded 11 marks for this broadly creative piece of writing.

Summary

Writing in Scots, the candidate adopts the persona of someone who has just been made unemployed. The narrator is now sitting in Glasgow’s Central Station waiting for the train home. While doing so, the narrator observes a range of characters at the station: a teenager, an old woman, a girl on her phone, a seriously ill child. Through these observations, the narrator realises that life is not so bad after all and that redemption is possible.

Content

This is a story of salvation and hope and as such the candidate shows clear attention to purpose by adhering to the traditional narrative arc of such a piece. The opening paragraph establishes the narrator’s desperate situation, with the station representing a transitional time in life and the experience of waiting for the train creating a sense of limbo. Newly-unemployed and in tears, the narrator wonders how going forward will be possible: ‘How am A goanie pay the rent? How can A feed myself?’ At this lowest point, looking around the station prompts the thought ‘…could any ae these folk’s lives possibly be worse than mine…?’

The candidate uses this question to trigger the four paragraphs which follow, each of which focuses on a particular character at the station. Each of these paragraphs follows a similar and somewhat repetitive pattern: the narrator imagining that a character is leading a very unfulfilled or unhappy life before realising that the life is much more positive than it first appears. The teenager is not marginalised and lonely; the old woman still has the support of her husband; the young girl can laugh at the comments of her online trolls; despite her illness, the sick child is happy and outgoing. Structurally, the resilience of the sick child brings this part of the story to a kind of climax, emphasising that there is hope and happiness in even the darkest situation.

In a clearly structured piece, this leads to the narrator viewing life in a much more positive way. The despair of the opening is replaced by hope and optimism at the conclusion: the narrator’s train finally comes in and the narrator is now ‘just happy tae be alive n healthy.’ The narrative arc is complete and the narrator feels strengthened by seeing how other people deal with adversity: ‘Wance in a while, it pays mair than wages tae tak’ a keek aroond ‘n’ pat yersel’ in someone else’s bits.’ 

Style

Being written in Scots is one of the story’s most interesting stylistic features. Generally, this is well handled; the Scots voice is clearly and consistently maintained throughout the piece. The persona of the narrator – a fundamentally sympathetic character who is concerned for others – is established and developed clearly. The first person perspective is used clearly to create interesting and, at times, humorous observations in the descriptions of individual characters: ‘A feel bad fir the boy and hinks tae maself under aw that dark clothing wae skulls plastered aw iver it, n the jet black eye make up, he is probably a lovely young boy who is just trying tae express himself.’ Overall, these pen portraits are engaging with some sharp observations: describing the old woman, it says ‘it must be hard watching the world change fae everyoane being sociable n folk taking the time tae visit n write tae others, tae watch everyone being brainwashed by social media n being obsessed wae their appearance n that.’ The candidate’s, at times, vivid use of language is one of the story’s successful aspects.

The series of vignettes forms a clear structure which enhances the meaning of the piece. The cumulative experience of seeing human beings, resilient and living life to the full, affects the narrator, especially the child whose ‘warm look’ seems to pass on some of her positivity. However, these individual pen portraits are quite brief and the movement in the individual descriptions from negativity to positivity becomes quite formulaic. Similarly, the transition from one character to the next is handled in quite an abrupt manner.

Overall

This piece was placed in the 12-10 marks range. It has a clear structure which leads to a positive conclusion. Linguistic features are used clearly to create impact. The use of Scots is well-handled and adds to the characterisation in the story. It was awarded 11 marks