VCE comparative essay prompts: The 7 Stages of Grieving vs. The Longest Memory

Looking for practice comparative essay prompts for Wesley Enoch and Deborah Mailman’s The 7 Stages of Grieving and Fred D’Aguiar’s The Longest Memory? Here are some practice prompts to help you prepare for the text response essay!

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Storytelling/ Education

  • ‘These are my people’s stories. / They need to be told’ (The 7 stages)
    ‘I relate my brother’s story again, this time furnishing [Chapel] with every detail as it was told to me.’ (TLM)
    Compare what the two texts suggest about stories and storytelling. 
  • ‘What does it mean when some people can’t even read or write the word?’ (The 7 Stages)
    ‘She called a book and moved my finger over, the words as she sang them: I heard a choir.’ (TLM)
    Education plays an important role in reconciliation. Discuss. 
  • ‘These are my people’s stories. They need to be told.’ (The 7 Stages)
    ‘Chapel says he will write verses for a living… Verses, verses, verses.’ (TLM)
    Compare how the two texts explore the importance of stories. 

Memories/ Reflection/ Grief/ Joy 

  • Memories are valuable, even when they are painful. Compare how the two texts explore this idea. 
  • ‘I have been wrong all my days’ (TLM)
    ‘She took so many stories with her to the grave.’ (7 Stages)
    In what ways do characters in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving reflect on a life journey?
  • Memories can heal or haunt the characters in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving. Do you agree? 
  • Compare how The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving explore the relationship between joy and grief. 
  • Compare the impact of trauma on characters’ lives in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving. 
  • Compare the ways in which The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving examine the ideas of loss and grief. 

Hope/ Change

  • Despite the circumstances in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving, there is still hope. Discuss. 
  • A cause can unite or divide a family and even create a family of like-minded individuals. How is this shown in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving?
  • The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving highlight the similarities and differences in generations. Discuss. 
  • To what extent do The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving place some responsibility on peripheral characters to enable change? 
  • ‘The future is just more of the past waiting to happen.’ (TLM)
    Compare how these texts explore the relationship between the past and the future. 

Power/ Racism 

  • Power comes in many forms and is handled by characters in different ways in both The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving. Discuss. 
  • How is resistance portrayed in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving and how is it received? 
  • ‘They wanted one of my brother’s friends…because some other black kid had done something wrong’ (7 Stages)
    ‘Are we to attribute to slaves all the qualities we credit ourselves as human beings? I think not.’ (TLM)
    To what extent do the two texts suggest that racial discrimination may be overcome? 
  • ‘Told not to do what we have always done.’ (7 Stages)
    ‘I have taught him to read yet he cannot write his name.’ (TLM)
    Compare how these texts explore the idea that cultural repression leads to suffering. 

Identity/ Belonging

  • ‘I fly through the air and land in a place I know if Africa. The first thing I do is kiss the ground.’ (TLM)
    ‘My nation knows my identity. A sun, A land, A people, travelling.’ (7 Stages)
    Discuss identity as it is presented in the two texts with relation to these two quotes. 
  • How do the characters in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving illustrate the idea of belonging 
  • ‘I’ve got my home…and I’ve got my family.’ (7 Stages)
    ‘You are split in two, divided down your middle by contrary reasonings.’ (TLM)
    Compare how the two texts examine the idea of identity. 

‘She wouldn’t tell us a lot of stories but when she did we all listened’ (7 Stages)
Compare the relationships characters have with their families in The Longest Memory and The 7 Stages of Grieving.


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