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I am Malala & Pride | Sample Essay about Social Expectations

If you are a VCE English student planning on writing a comparative essay on I am Malala and Pride at the end-of-year exams, this blog is for you! In this blog, we will walk you through the key ideas unpacked in an A+ essay, and the features that make the essay stand out.

Compare the ways in which characters in I Am Malala and Pride defy societal expectations.

Matthew Warhcus’ film Pride and Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala both present narratives of individuals who strive for change by defying societal expectations. Despite the different social contexts, Britain in the 1980s and present-day Pakistan, both texts depict the ways in which individuals break free from tradition with the aid of their families. Furthermore, both Yousafzai and Warchus illustrate women defying patriarchal expectations by challenging notions of male dominance. However, whilst in ‘Pride’ expectations are overcome as a community, Yousafzai must take a more individual approach to challenging tradition, lacking widespread support from a community ridden by fear.

The Anatomy of an A+ Introduction:

  • Central themes
  • Social/historical contexts
  • Clear arguments (written in the forms of similarities and differences)
  • Articulate writing (create a balance between sophistication and simplicity)
  • Coherent structure

Both texts demonstrate that family may act as a support network and equip individuals with the courage to challenge traditions, albeit in different ways. Yousafzai emphasises her family’s role in shaping her views of society, specifically against patriarchal values. As Ziauddin’s daughter, Malala is given a “usual breakfast of sugar tea and…fried eggs,” whereby the “eggs” allude to Ziauddin’s own experiences as a child, as his sisters were given “only tea” and the sons “eggs.” In addition to elucidating Ziauddin’s egalitarian philosophy, the “eggs” also emblematise Malala’s access to opportunities such as education, which allow her to defy the patriarchal expectation of staying at home “hidden behind a curtain.” The notion of family as a source of encouragement to defy tradition also appears in Pride, although Warchus emphasises the importance of ‘found family’ in the absence of a biological one. Gethin is inhibited by his past trauma in a homophobic family and gains the courage to go to Dulais Valley only after Hevina’s comforting wishes of “Nadolig Llawen.” The Welsh saying for ‘Merry Christmas,’ coupled with a close-up shot of Hefina in her warm, decorated home, underscores the sense of belonging and family acceptance which in turn inspires Gethin to return to Wales and challenge the mining region’s prevalent conservative values. Likewise, Joe is able to abandon his biological family and openly defy heteronormative expectations with the help of the LGSM and Sian; the tracking shot of him leaving his home triumphantly symbolises the liberation is able to achieve through his support network, similarly to how Malala Yousafzai finds “courage again” through her father’s presence and guidance. 

  • Diverse use of verbs (e.g. allude, emblematise, inhibit, emphasise, underscore, challenge, symbolise)
  • Demonstrate a great understanding of the “world of the text” and the messages the writer is presenting (e.g. egalitarian philosophy, homophobia, prevalent conservative values, heteronomative expectations)
  • Discussion of metalanguage (e.g. symbolism)

Furthermore, the women in both texts defy the patriarchal expectations prevalent in their societies by amplifying their own voices and challenging forces which suppress them. Madam Mayam in I Am Malala defies Fazullah’s ban on older girls’ education, stating “the secret school is our silent protest.” Despite the possibility of being “slaughtered,” a term which evokes to the reader the brutality engendered by an extreme patriarchal society, Malala’s classmates challenge privileged male access to education by continuing to go to school. Similarly, Sian in Pride is prompted by Jonathan to reject her predetermined role as a “mother” and “wife” by gaining an education and utilising her “first class mind.” Warchus also illustrates the women’s struggle towards inclusion in 1980s Britain through the diegetically sung feminist anthem “Bread and Roses.” The mise-en-scene of the women singing “give us bread but give us roses,” showcases to contemporary audiences how the Women Against Pit Closures defied the image of a silent, powerless wife by demanding “roses,” metaphorically representing female empowerment. Comparably, Yousafzai rewrites a “tapa” to state “whether or not the men are winning, the women will bring you honor.” The tapeys embody ancient and unchanged tradition, which Yousafzai directly challenges through the action of rewriting. Furthermore, like the song “Bread and Roses,” Yousafzai’s tapa is utilised to defend women’s place in the public sphere and in political movements.

  • Insightful analysis of film techniques (e.g. diegetic music, mise-en-scene, metaphors)
  • Discussion of key metaphors and symbols (e.g. roses, tapa, etc)
  • Quotes embedded within the writing
  • A focus on authorial intent

However, the texts diverge in their approach to social change, as Pride overcomes traditional expectations as a community, while I Am Malala does so through individual action. The recurring motif of the clasped hands in Pride, symbolic of both political solidarity and personal friendship, communicate to audiences the importance of forging a community to achieve change. The miners’ arrival to the London Pride March of 1985 with the banner “Miners Support Lesbian and Gay” symbolises their reciprocity and their overcoming of homophobic prejudice thanks to their interactions with the LGSM, whose acronym is reversed in the banner to emphasise this relationship. In strong contrast, the extreme violence which characterises Pakistani society at the time of the Taliban inhibits Malala from mobilising her whole community against authority. This violence is portrayed by the “chop chop” of the chicken heads, where the onomatopoeia alludes to the beheadings by the Taliban against those who defy their extremist religious doctrine, the Sharia law. Yousafzai also diverges from Warchus’ emphasis on collective action and claim that no “force is weaker than the feeble strength of one” by stating that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” The anaphora of “one” reinforces to the reader the belief that individuals can defy social expectations by becoming role models. Thus, Yousafzai and Warchus present different perspectives on defying tradition through collective and individual means.

In conclusion, I Am Malala and Pride portray marginalized individuals who reject their predetermined roles in society. Support from family, although defined in different ways by Warchus and Yousafzai, is presented as vital in inspiring defiance for the protagonists. Patriarchal duty is also challenged outspokenly in both texts, by women who reject their second-class status and diligently occupy the public sphere. Nonetheless, a key difference emerges due to the different contexts, as while Yousafzai stresses the power of individual rebellion, Warchus emphasizes the power of solidarity and collective action in battling prejudice.


That’s it for today! If you need further assistance on “Pride” and “I am Malala”, please do not hesitate to let us know. We offer both tutoring and essay marking packages for those who require extra guidance prior to the VCE exams.

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