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English (Year 12) - Course Concepts

Ben Whitten

What are values; why do we need them, why are they important?

Let’s begin by looking at the definition of values: values refer to an individual’s judgement of what is important in life; an individual’s values are informed by context, background, experiences, culture and more. Values simply refer to what a person finds to be important to them personally, which is a result of different factors.

An example of values being demonstrated in a response from The Handmaid’s Tale (televised version) may be “Offred is seen kneeling down in a bourgeoisie-style house with a grand chandelier, a stone fireplace and royal blue walls, signifying the importance of tradition and obedience in the setting”. The analysis demonstrates that the family who owns the affluent house value tradition (explained through the classy facets of the house), as well as obedience (explained through Offred kneeling down).

It can be acknowledged that authors use their work as a means to express their opinions and viewpoints of the world; each piece of work is deliberate in how it is constructed. The authors’ decisions are indicative of their views and values regarding a number of factors, including politics, culture, religion, gender, context, background etc.; often at times, it is better shown in the style of the text rather than explicit statements. In responding to texts, it is crucial to interpret the relationship between the text studies and the explored ideas.

How can I identify values present in texts?

Visual analysis

Image Credit: Happy Families, 2015

See the image above. The image shows a child holding a number of (presumed) shopping bags, wearing an elegant-style dress and heart-shaped sunglasses. Using the definition of values, an individual’s judgement of what is important in life, we can identify that the child values material possessions and consumer culture. This value of material possessions may stem from the child’s culture; for example, if the child perceives her parents as being wealthy and affluent, the child reciprocates in her attitudes and values.

Textual analysis

The following is an excerpt from Australian singer Tim Rogers’ 2017 autobiography, Detours.

“The grand final is played in the neighbouring town of Boulder at the Digger Daws oval, as onomatopoeically perfect an oval as it is physically. The short cab ride there has us both a little pensive. Although I’ve got no emotional investment in the game, I want this to be a great experience for Dad. We both have an interest in the big league, mine more rabid than his, but we’ve always shared stories about the country games we’ve seen, and recall the local women’s leagues and suburban kids’ games with great fondness.”

The short excerpt above provides us with an inclination of the authors’ values. The author states, “Although I’ve got no emotional investment in the game, I want this to be a great experience for Dad.” This statement demonstrates the author’s value of his father, or perhaps family relationships, as he is willing to sacrifice his time for a game that he does not have any connection to for the sake of his father’s enjoyment. The author’s familial values are further demonstrated as he comments on their discussions, as they “shared stories…with great fondness.” The father and son reminisce and further perpetuate the author’s value for his father.

When discussing values, it's a good idea to relate this to your personal context! Personal voice is a great asset in any response.

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