VCE comparative essay prompts: The Crucible vs. The Dressmaker

Looking for practice comparative essay prompts for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker? Here are some practice prompts to help you prepare for the text response essay!

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Gender / Identity / Family / Community

  • “You have pulled down heaven and raised up a whore.” (JP about Abigail)
    How do the two texts explore female suffering within the respective communities?
  • Discuss the different representations of women in The Crucible and The Dressmaker.
  • Gender repression is rife in both The Crucible and The Dressmaker. Discuss.
  • ‘I have confessed myself! Is there no good penitence but it be made public?’ (Proctor, The Crucible)
    Compare how both texts explore that the judgement from others influences our understanding of ourselves.
  • Both The Crucible and The Dressmaker highlight a reliance on friends and family in order to feel accepted. Discuss.
  • ‘I say—I say—God is dead.’ (The Crucible)
    Explore how communities respond to crisis.
  • People must conform to societal expectations in The Crucible and The Dressmaker. Do you agree?
  • Compare how The Crucible and The Dressmaker portray divided societies. 

Truth / Past vs Present / Conformity / Leadership

  • Both The Crucible and The Dressmaker suggest that the primary reason people lie and gossip is to protect their own secrets and motives. Discuss.
  • People must conform to societal expectations in The Crucible and The Dressmaker. Do you agree?
  • Discuss how The Crucible and The Dressmaker celebrate being different but suggest it is not widely accepted in society.
  • ‘Molly Dunnage came to Dungatar with babe-in-arms to start a new life. She hoped to leave behind her troubles, but hers was a life lived with trouble travelling alongside…’ (Sergeant Farrat, The Dressmaker)
    ‘I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!’ (John Proctor to Goody Proctor, The Crucible)
    Compare how both texts suggest that it is impossible to break free of your past.
  • Compare how The Crucible and The Dressmaker portray the influence of the past on the present. 
  • How do The Crucible and The Dressmaker demonstrate the importance of leadership? 
  • Compare how The Crucible and The Dressmaker explore the conflict between appearance and reality. 

Discrimination and Prejudice / Fear / Love

  • Compare the presence of discrimination and prejudice in both The Crucible and The Dressmaker.
  • ‘Then Sergeant Farrat left Tilly’s side to stand and deliver a sermon of sorts. He spoke of love and hate and the power of both…’ (The Dressmaker)
    Compare how in both texts, the emotions of love and hate mutually exist and continue to war with one another.
  • Compare the ways in which outcasts are treated in The Crucible and The Dressmaker.
  • ‘Sometimes things just don’t seem fair.’ (The Dressmaker)
    Compare how The Crucible and The Dressmaker explore the subject of injustice. 
  • In both texts, fear is the primary motivator for all characters. Do you agree? 
  • ‘The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you’ (The Crucible = Elizabeth Proctor speaking to John about his infidelity). (Act 2 p.55)
    ‘It is a black thing – a weight … it makes itself invisible then creeps back when I feel safest’ (The Dressmaker Tilly Dunnage reflecting on her guilt over Stewart Pettyman’s death). (p.184)
    Compare how The Crucible and The Dressmaker examine the role of judgement and forgiveness.
  • How do Miller and Ham comment on the complexities of love in The Crucible and The Dressmaker
  • ‘I will be your only wife, or no wife at all!’ (The Crucible)
    ‘I’ll take you to the stars.’ (The Dressmaker)
    How do The Crucible and The Dressmaker depict the complexities of love? 
  • How do Miller and Ham explore the difficulty of changing people’s beliefs in The Crucible and The Dressmaker
  • ‘It is difficult to change people’s beliefs.’
    Compare how The Crucible and The Dressmaker explore this idea. 
  • ‘The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you.’ (The Crucible)
    Compare the impact of guilt on the characters in The Crucible and The Dressmaker.

Characters 

  • ‘I am John Proctor! You will not use me’ (The Crucible)
    ‘Nothing ever really changes, Myrtle.’ (The Dressmaker)
    Compare the choices made by the characters in The Crucible and The Dressmaker

Narrative structures 

Discuss how The Crucible and The Dressmaker use textual features to convey the author’s perspective.


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