Heartfelt Sorrow Definition Essay

Vanessa Redgrave’s personal documentary-essay on the refugee crisis has sincerity and force, and some valuable insights; I think it deserves a hearing, despite the obvious ungainliness of its production values. Sea Sorrow sometimes resembles a campaign video, with Redgrave herself sometimes lecturing the audience in greenscreen, holding up a poster designed by her granddaughter, with a clunky shot of refugee children simply placed behind her.

There is also another sequence when a Sky TV News report is simply used in its unedited entirety, evidently on the basis that Redgrave is herself interviewed in it. These are errors of judgement and discrimination which reveal Redgrave’s directorial inexperience. Yet her film often succeeds as rhetoric and she is on strong ground when relating the issue to her own personal experience and to her meditations on Shakespeare and the theatre, however exasperating some may find this.

Vanessa Redgrave makes directorial debut with film about refugee crisis

The title is at first glance an echo of Gianfranco Rosi’s magnificent refugee documentary study Fire at Sea: a film whose subtlety, complexity and depth I have to say go way beyond this. Actually, it is a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, when Prospero tells Miranda the history of their “sea sorrow”, and how they came to be exiles on a remote island, far from Milan, the former seat of his power and prosperity. Redgrave stages a brief, powerful dramatised reading of the scene, with Prospero played by Ralph Fiennes. They are refugees, in their way, Redgrave is implying: people like us, white Europeans to whom we are naturally invited to extend sympathy and esteem. (Another contemporary reading of The Tempest might be to imagine Caliban, the island’s indigenous inhabitant, harassed and demonised as a monster, getting into an inflatable and finally turning up in Milan as a refugee, demanding succour.)

Redgrave also quotes the lines from Sir Thomas More, attributed to Shakespeare, asking those who deride refugees to put themselves in their place: “...whither would you go?/What country, by the nature of your error,/Should give you harbour...?” It is a powerful point, and those lines bear repeating.

But the meat of Redgrave’s film is the plight of refugee children in the chaotic Calais camps and Lord Dubs’s effort in the House of Lords to compel the last government to increase the numbers of children allowed in – Dubs’s passion for the subject being partly caused by the fact that he himself was on the Kindertransport as a child. Redgrave talks about the experiences of the second world war, when Britain did accept children (though not parents) in this way, and people in the country accepted evacuees, internally displaced refugees, who would otherwise face mortal danger in the blitz. Later, Europe had to absorb hundreds of thousands of refugees after the Hungarian uprising in 1956. Redgrave is arguing that the issue of refugees in Europe is hardly new.

As for the Calais camps, Dubs is furious at the heavy-handed way they were demolished and their inhabitants moved on, a display of police power he attributes to the local need to appease the Le Pen National Front. He adds that fascism should rather be stood up to – although neither he nor Redgrave meditate on the fact that neither David Cameron nor Barack Obama wished to take military action against Assad that some believed was precisely this: a matter of standing up to fascism.

Yet Dubs is a compelling and dignified witness and Redgrave’s film uses his testimony and expertise simply and well. The same goes for the insightful commentary offered by dramatist Martin Sherman who very persuasively argues that the refugee camps are occupied by people in a communal state of shock: pure adrenaline and courage have carried them on their unimaginably horrible journey, in which they have had to suppress their normal human reaction to the deaths of family members on the road. Now marooned at their journey’s end in Calais, they are suffering a new unfolding trauma. He is asking for compassion on these grounds, too.

In terms of the art and craft of film-making, Sea Sorrow doesn’t score heavily. But Redgrave is entitled to point to the overwhelming relevance of the subject matter that she, as a film-maker, has chosen: a subject that other more smoothly accomplished directors might shy away from.

Many students look at definition essays as being an 'easy' way of getting a grade. It may look simple, but writing a good definition is more than just writing description. Use this guide to get the most out of your essay and get the highest grades possible.

Table Of Contents

  1. What is Definition Essay?
  2. Definition Essay Structure
  3. How to Write Definition Essay
  4. Definition Essay Topics
  5. Definition Essay Examples

What is Definition Essay?

A definition essay is an essay that gives the reader a detailed definition of a term or idea. A good essay will be well researched, and draw on relevant evidence and examples in order to define something properly. They can often be used to define something abstract, such as the idea of 'freedom'.

Definition Essay Structure

Each essay will differ depending on the topic, but they'll usually follow the same basic outline:

  • Introduction: This is where you introduce the topic you're defining. You'll usually start with the dictionary definition, in order to give yourself a starting point.
  • Thesis definition: Here's where you'll give a more nuanced definition, based on your understanding and research.
  • Main body: Each paragraph will deal with a different aspect of defining the term. You can start with a paragraph detailing the history and origin of the topic, move onto a full dictionary definition and usage, and then finally create your own personal definition, based on what you have learned.
  • Conclusion: This will draw all your main points together, without introducing anything new.

How to Write Definition Essay

  • Choose the term you want to define. This may be given to you, or you'll need to choose it for yourself. Make sure you pick a term that you can easily research around.
  • Do your research. The best way to start is to look up several different definitions of the term, and see how it's usually used. Then, you can start reading more widely to expand on your knowledge.
  • Write an outline, like the one above. This will give you the roadmap to your essay, and make it a lot easier to write.
  • Sit down and write. Choose somewhere quiet and free of distractions, in order to get the most out of your writing time.
  • Proofread and edit your essay once it's done. Make sure there're no errors lurking in your text that could affect your final grade.

Definition Essay Topics

As noted earlier, topics for these kinds of essays are usually an abstract idea or theory. You could be given a topic such as 'Love' or 'Laziness' to define. These are broad enough in scope that you can interpret them as you see fit, as long as you have the evidence to back it up.

Definition Essay Examples

It's a good idea to practice writing definition essays. Here're few topics that you can try yourself:

  • Success
  • A good marriage
  • Good and evil
  • Enlightenment

Practice these, and see how you handle them. When it comes to the real thing, you'll be ready.

With this guide, you can now write an excellent definition essay. Remember to do your research, and give yourself enough time to finish the task.


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