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GP Essays Topic: The Arts

General Paper Essay Topic on ‘The Arts’

For Cambridge GP (Syllabus Code: 8807), Most, in fact,  all GP essay questions will require you to adopt and implement the Thematic Exam Strategy (TES), in order to do well in this Paper 1.
By TES, it means handling a few themes and waive them into a coherent answer.  For easy reference and revision, we have organised them into major topics (aka themes): The Arts, Science & Tech, Media, Individual/Values, Politics, Environment, and General.
Why these few themes? First, they are the most frequently tested topics in the A Levels. Second, these 7 topics are also wide enough to cover a large and different types of questions.


A-Levels H1 GP Sample Essay Questions on The Arts:

1. ‘Books are dead. Films are the way to go.’ Do you agree?

2. Do books have a future?

3. Assess the view that reading books is, by far, the most wondrous of all pastimes.

4. With so many books being make into film today, is it still necessary to read?

5. Can fantasy books and films offer anything more than an escape from reality?

6. Reading fiction may be entertaining but otherwise it has little real value. Discuss.


Suggested Answers to GP Essays on ‘The Arts’ Topic

2. Do books have a future?

In this ever changing Information Technology age when messages can be transmitted around the world in the blink of an eye, many might believe that the book would soon go the way of the dinosaur. The printed word has been with us for quite some time now and has be come an integral part of our society. I believe bound volumes of words will definitely retain their place in our lives, and though computers and similar equipment may pose a serious threat to their survival, books and their history truly do have a future still.

Many cannot live without the book now for even though new technology can squeeze several volumes of works onto a single computer chip, the tactile relation ship between reader and book would thus be lost. Many argue that reading from a computer screen makes one’s face look like one, reading a book keeps one looking normal. Facetious as that sounds, that is just one of the many reasons people give for wanting to use books and not computer chips to gain knowledge. People still want to feel the knowledge on their hand and not just see blinking dots on a white screen. The comfortable feel of a leather bound hard-cover, the musty smell of an old volume, the texture of the paper, even the feel of a pen scratching on a rough note book are all tactile links between the person and the book, a link many are unwilling to part with, no matter the technology or convenience it could bring.

However, one can argue books are wasteful things and do have numerous disadvantages that can be solved with the use of information technology. The most major problem of using books is the fact that they require huge amounts of paper, paper that has to be produced from the now. Though wood-pulp of thousands of trees that are cut down at an alarming rate for this purpose. Computer chips or com pact discs are less wasteful and taxing on the environment. Books too take up enormous amounts of space and especially in places like space-scarce Singapore, cutting down on storage spaces used for books like libraries or record offices would free much space that could be used more constructively.

Even though costs of production of books have fallen since the early Guttenberg days, the cost of printing books as well as the cost of purchasing them for the consumer is still quite high and would constitute waste of resources that could be better used else where. Thus, books do present problems for the future and should they have a future, such difficulties will have to be addressed before they can remain a viable source of information.

Computers and the new wave of Information Technology equipment have long threatened to spell the end of books as we know them. Innovation has enabled man to compress several huge books or records enough to fill a small room onto a disc the size of one’s palm. One is now able to access great amounts of information without ever needing to leave one’s chair, with the Internet and world webs are becoming even more popular, easy to use and well-stocked. Even the traditional text book has given way to learning through the computer with each student learning at his or her own speed behind a personalised learning terminal. The speed, convenience and space saving capabilities of computers should spell the death throes of the humble book but the computer too has its share of failings that allow the book to survive.

Hardware is expensive, as many computer enthusiasts would say, and thus replacing all books with computers and disks would be highly expensive and not feasible until Technology lowers the price further. Many poor people in Third World countries can hardly afford books, let alone computers, thus efforts should be placed to give books to such places and not seek to over modernise our already advanced world. Books remain, at the moment, the cheapest method of teaching in more backward areas of the globe and this would remain important for a long time to come. Besides, the cost of the actual machines money too has to be spent on training people to use such hardware. All this reinforces the books’ ease of use and simplicity that makes early teaching so much easier.

Thus, books do have a foreseeable future and would not be made redundant, at least not the way things are now. Though Information Technology presents us with much potential, it will be a long time before it is fully tapped and even then will not completely make the book redundant. Many say that perhaps old books have more of a future, that the old antique volumes stand a greater chance of survival as museum exhibits. That is true but I believe that books are here to stay not as relics under glass but both as a source of leisure and as efficient workhorses of the education system, the key to human intellectual development.



4. With so many books being make into film today, is it still necessary to read?

Film-making is sometimes called a digital art. This has become increasingly true in recent times, when technology, as well as the honing of film-making skills, has enabled film-makers to create more realistic, more engaging pieces of art – imitations of life, as some would refer to them. Recently, one such trend of imitation has gained popularity – the adaptations of books into films. With advances in digital technology, film-makers are now more able to recreate words as scenes in a film, often with enhanced dramatic impact. Questions have thus been raised, as to whether this trend will cause books to become obsolete; if you can have it in a picture, which is said to be more expressive than a thousand words, after all, why not? My personal opinion is that, while such films may challenge the popularity of certain books, they will never be able to supplant them, and the practice of reading will live on.

Certainly, films can be much more entertaining than books, owing largely to the sheer visual impact films can create. That terrifying T-Rex from ‘Jurassic Park’ simply fails to instil fear when stripped of its fangs and thunderous roar, and laid into bare words. The development of digital technology accentuates this, mares allowing directors to create lush, vibrant sets chock-full of dazzling special effects and surround sound. Films will only get better as the technology that goes into producing them improves, and reading books simply cannot provide the experience. same cinematic experience.

Films are also more appealing in general – films are usually easier to appreciate and digest compared to books. This is especially true for literature classics such as Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’. One who is unable to understand or appreciate classical literature is better off watching a film version of it – at least one still gets to enjoy the story. Due to box office attention, films also tend to receive more publicity, allowing stories from more obscure books to reach the general public.

These factors alone might already convince one to give up on reading entirely, but one would be sorely missing out on an enriching experience. In the first place, there is a wealth of book titles, much more than films. Bar some miraculous leap in science and evolution, film-makers will never be able to reproduce all those titles into films. If one limits oneself to only watching films, one will miss out a vast collection of stories and knowledge.

Reading also holds an all-important advantage over watching films – it is powered by, and empowers, the imagination. How enthralling one’s experience is when reading depends a lot on the breadth and depth of one’s imagination. When one reads, one creates in one’s own mind, and guided by the author, the setting, the character, the sounds the whole tapestry along which the story runs is woven from the fabric of one’s imagination, which is more vivid and thrilling than any film can ever be. No doubt, Peter Jackson’s remarkable interpretation of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ delighted many, but perhaps one who had read the books was expecting Middle Earth to look more, well, medieval? The way a book opens itself to interpretations also makes reading again more exciting and worthwhile, as a story is rarely read the same way twice.

This aspect of interpretation also limits the scope of films, giving yet more reason to continue reading. A film is based on the director’s interpretation of the book, as illustrated by the ‘Lord of the Rings’ example. This fact, along with the nature of films to be mere adaptations of books, means one can never take away the complete experience of reading from watching a film. What is more, the director may produce a distorted or objectionable interpretation, such as in the case of Lee Ang’s ‘The Hulk’, which many long-time followers of the comic book disapproved of.

Another limitation of a film is that very often it cannot portray certain emotional undertones in a book, nor can it accurately convey the mood or ambience the author might have intended. An actor might be excellent at producing a pained look, complete with that half-wince and barely visible shivering of lips, but he still will not able to show ‘his heart is cracking’ or ‘pain gripped his lungs’. Mel Gibson’s controversial ‘The Passion of Christ’ is an example of how a film is unable to reproduce the transient, spiritual nature of the text it is adapted from, as well as how the power of words is open to a myriad of interpretations.

Furthermore, reading will always be practical. The improving and development of one’s language, and the convenience of pulling out a book and putting it down as and when one desires, have nothing to do with tradition. Reading is a way to pass the time while improving yourself at the same time – a language workout, some might call it and you can pause whenever you want to.

Therefore, even though films may appear superior to books, and reading is redundant, one only needs to consider the value of reading to realize that films can never replace the experience of reading. In fact, films often draw attention to the books they were adapted from, such as ‘Seabiscuit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. The purpose of such films should be to complement one’s reading experiences, to make the story more complete in a tangible manner. Reading, in itself, is still very much a necessary and practical action that opens up a wealth of possibilities.



6. Reading fiction may be entertaining but otherwise it has little real value. Discuss.

Fiction refers to written works that are not based on true events but on the author’s imagination and creativity. Most people read fiction for entertainment and escapism. It is amusing to imagine the life of the characters in the fiction, such as the life of Becky Bloomwood in “Shopaholic Abroad” by Sophie Kinsella. Nevertheless, I disagree that reading fiction may be entertaining but otherwise have little value. Real value in reading fiction can be found when reading is done selectively. Some people read fiction voraciously and eventually they gain nothing from their reading except entertainment and, perhaps. personal gratification. However, when we read fiction selectively and really immerse ourselves in the book, we discover the ocean of values in the book.

Children are encouraged to read wisely and widely. Reading fiction in particular can help them to improve their vocabulary. Even in simple children’s fiction such stories, we Roald Dahl’s collection of children’s can find beautiful and humorous figurative language and new words that can improve children’s vocabulary. When children grow older, reading fiction becomes part of their education in school when they take literature. Reading fiction then becomes a task to analyse the character and broader social issues raised in the stories. Another educational value gain from reading fiction is that it gives general knowledge to the readers. For example, law is the essence of most of John Grisham’s novel. Some readers who are law illiterate before reading Grisham’s books would find them really useful as the equip the readers with a lot of information about law. Detective stories such as the adventures of Sherlock Holmes written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle can also serve as brainteasers and encourage the readers to think creatively when they try to guess or reconstruct the scenario of the cases.

Besides the educational values, reading fictions also give social values. Fiction can promote the culture of the country. For example, in Catherine Lim’s anthology of ghost stories, “The Howling Silence”, she introduced may Chinese beliefs and superstitions that are common in many traditional Chinese families in Singapore. It is intriguing for the foreigners, especially Westerners to learn about these superstitions as they do not have these in their homelands. Through reading fictions, we can also learn of how the society has changed over the years. For instance, “Shanghai Baby” is a brave effort to tell its readers how the women in china have changed over the years.

By reading fictions, people can also gain social skills. There are many different characters portrayed in a fiction and we can find most of these characters in real life. In this global world nowadays, people are too involved in the unrelenting rat race and they sometimes become unskillful in relating with people. Fiction authors observe people and their society to provide setting in their novels. When people read novels, they sometimes learn about different types of people and hence improve their understanding on how to relate with different people. For example, in “Sushi for Beginners” by Marian Keyes, three different personalities are portrayed in the novel. They might not be the easy lot of people to handle or relate with but by reading this book, the readers are brought into their lives and the readers will be more understanding to these types of people. Parents and children relationship might not be an easy one. Sometimes parents do not understand why their children act or react in some way. Through some books such as ” Man and Boy” by Tony Parsons and “About A Boy” by Nick Hornby, parents can be more enlightened on how to deal with their children.

Some fiction have historical values in it. For example, an Indonesian fiction title “Ca-bav-kan” argues on how the Indonesian Chinese have contributed in the struggle for independence of Indonesia in the past. It rebukes the opinion of some people that Indonesian Chinese live like parasites in the country. There is no absolute truth in politics and fiction such as this could give a new perspective on the country’s identity, and even reveal the truth that has been masked for years. Some novels are satires directed to the government. Through these fictions, the authors want to send the message across to the government and most of the time, this message also reflects the aspiration of the society.

The value gained from reading fiction depend on the quality and quantity of the reading. If a person reads a fiction briefly and without much understanding, I agree that reading fiction only serves as an entertainment for him and otherwise it has little real value. However, if a person reads selectively and ponders over what he has just read, he will find it more than a mere entertainment. There are messages, values that the writer wants to send across to the reader and just like most of the stories, it has a moral behind it. Educational, social, political values are some of the real values in reading novels. Hence, reading fiction adds values to the readers.


The above essay samples are for The Arts. More essay skills for GP here.

Other GP Topics: The Arts, Science & Tech, Media, Individual/Values, Politics, Environment, and General.


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