English Key Notes 2021 Higher Level


  • Single Text: King Lear
  • Poetry: Full range of poets with useful biography and key points included, as well as comprehensive notes on each poem.
  • The Comparative Study Texts: The Handmaid’s Tale: Margaret Atwood, Philadelphia Here I Come: Brian Friel, Brooklyn: John Crowley (Dir)
  • Modes:  A Theme or Issue: Freedom, B Cultural Context, C General Vision and Viewpoint
  • All prescribed modes covered with Sample Questions and Sample Answers.


1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 

This dystopian novel has long been a favourite of teens and adults alike. Offred is a ‘handmaid’ who lives in a totalitarian state with a dangerously low birth-rate. Her role in the world is to bear children for elite couples who are having trouble conceiving. With themes of freedom and survival, the novel is a gripping and accessible depiction of a cruel and troubling world.

2. Philadelphia Here I Come by Brian Friel

A play about Gareth O’Donnell’s frustrated life in Ballybeg and his acceptance of a dream offer to move to America, this is a great option for Comparative Studies. Sharing the novel’s thirst for freedom, the play also offers vivid contrasts in terms of the world it depicts and the way it leaves the reader feeling.

3. Brooklyn (film) directed by John Crowley

A film about Eilis Lacey, played by Saoirse Ronan, who moves from Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford to Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s. The story combines nicely with the other two texts, as her quest for personal freedom mirrors the struggles seen in the other two texts, and yet the world she enters into is thought-provokingly different to the novel and the play.

Comparative Study
Including texts and comparative modes.
Sample Answers
Sample answers in each section.
This section discusses the poems of eight poets individually.

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