A context sentence should provide relevant and factual information to explain what influenced the author’s representations of character and values in the text.
But why is that important?
Context is integral to the author’s intent and characterisation of their text. It paints the background of the world they lived in and thus gives the reader the opportunity to understand society’s view on certain values at any point in time. There are several different types of context: political, sociocultural, religious or personal.
When we can understand the society the author lived in, we can understand the purpose behind their writing. Do they agree with and reinforce the conventional beliefs of the time? Or do they offer different ideas to the orthodox principles of their society?
When, where, what?
Most times, you’ll only need context sentences in each of your ESSAY PARAGRAPHS.
The best place to put them is right after your topic sentence. That way, you’ll be able to support the point you make about the author’s intent with some background. The best way to choose context is to first do some solid research on all four areas of context. Then, match up the themes in your argument with ONE relevant point you’ve found.
Be specific and selective. Don’t put any random fact into your context sentence! Always pick something that underpins the argument you’re writing. It’s good to mention names; significant historical events or time periods the values were intrinsic to.
Here’s an example on the theme of racism in Shakespeare’s Othello:
Written in 1603, the downfall of Othello reflects the deep racial divides that permeated British society as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade, which dehumanised and falsely vilified people based on their appearance.
Green – what happens in the text
Blue – the value/theme discussed
Orange – the historical context with a specific event name
Pink – how the historical event influenced societal views
Here’s a sample question!
Q1: Everything is being dismantled, reconstructed and recycled. To what extent is this statement true of the pair of texts you have studied?
Take a moment to think about why context would be especially important in answering this question...
The core of this question lies in the idea that society has different way of viewing the same values throughout time. So the context behind WHY we look at values differently will be important in discussing HOW they’ve changed over time. This is especially important when the question asks you to compare a set of texts, like this one does, as you need to directly indicate how the changes in societal values result in change in the way people regard the values in question.