Prompts // 1 (Opening Thoughts)

There’s no getting away from the hype of developments in and around Generative AI at the moment. I admit it, I’ve been bitten by the bug, and have been reading and learning about the use, ethics, and advantages/disadvantages of using generative AI in my work and studies.

  • I recently completed the AI for Education free course, “An Essential Guide to AI for Educators”. I was really impressed with the practical advice on how to use a well-crafted prompt to bring a new voice, which primed me to think about the below. The ‘prompt library’ was also a really useful addition to the course, even though it is aimed at a different audience and not always relevant to me, there was a lot I learned and have taken away.

It’s also really interesting to talk to my kids (ages 13 and 14) and what they’re hearing about AI – at school or with/from friends. In order to really see what it can offer a student today, I thought I’d use it on something I did during my school days. Well, why not?

Last night I used ChatGPT on a question I remember from my A-level English Literature classes. Below are my prompts and the ChatGPT response: I asked for a summary of a book I studied and then asked to bring the book themes up to date

  • Note: I don’t do this to prove anything other than the opportunities generative AI can offer students, raising the profile of how it can be used as an aide or new viewpoint, and to spark a new way of thinking about a subject or issue being studied.

Me: “Write a summary of the book Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. What are the main themes the book covers? Please focus on the book’s main characters and the use of imagery and scenery in the plot and character development.

Certainly, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy is a classic novel set in rural England. The story follows Tess Durbeyfield, a young woman from a working-class family, who discovers her supposed noble heritage. The main themes of the book include:

Fate and Determinism: The novel explores how Tess’s life is shaped by external forces beyond her control, emphasizing the role of fate and destiny.

Sexuality and Morality: Tess’s sexual awakening and her struggles with societal expectations and morality are central to the plot.

Class and Social Injustice: The stark class divisions in Victorian England and the injustices suffered by the lower classes are vividly portrayed through Tess’s experiences.

Nature and Scenery: Hardy’s use of imagery and scenery is significant. The lush, rural landscapes of Wessex serve as a backdrop to the characters’ lives and mirror their emotions.

Character Development: Tess’s transformation from innocence to experience is a central element. Her character evolves as she navigates the challenges and tragedies that befall her.

The imagery of the natural world, like the lush countryside, is intertwined with Tess’s emotional journey and her inner turmoil, reflecting her changing circumstances and emotions.

Overall, “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” is a powerful exploration of the human condition, morality, and societal constraints, with Hardy’s masterful use of imagery and setting to underscore the themes and character development.

Me: “Who are the five main characters in the book and summarise their main characteristics?”

In “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” by Thomas Hardy, the five main characters are:

Tess Durbeyfield (Main Character): Tess is a young, innocent, and virtuous girl from a working-class family. She is characterized by her beauty, humility, and strong sense of morality. Throughout the story, she experiences a tragic transformation from innocence to experience, facing societal judgment and personal challenges.

Alec d’Urberville (Villain): Alec is a wealthy and seductive young man who manipulates Tess and takes advantage of her vulnerability. He represents lust and moral corruption.

Angel Clare (Romantic Interest): Angel is a well-educated and idealistic man who falls in love with Tess. He is characterized by his progressive beliefs, but his inability to accept Tess’s past leads to their conflicts.

Mrs. Durbeyfield (Joan – Tess’s Mother): Joan is Tess’s mother, who is less concerned with morality and more focused on the family’s financial well-being. She inadvertently sets the tragic events of the story in motion.

John Durbeyfield (Tess’s Father): John is Tess’s well-meaning but impractical father. He is easily swayed by the idea of aristocratic heritage, which sets off the chain of events leading to Tess’s troubles.

These five characters play central roles in the development of the plot and themes in the novel, with Tess at the heart of the story, navigating the challenges and complexities brought on by the others.

Me: “Using these themes and characteristics of people and places, update the story to a modem setting, where social media and MeToo movements have happened.”

Adapting “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” to a modern setting with elements of social media and the MeToo movement:

In this contemporary retelling, Tess Durbeyfield is a young woman from a small town who aspires to build a career in digital marketing and influencer culture. The themes of fate and determinism are still prevalent as Tess’s life takes an unexpected turn when she is introduced to the glamorous world of social media.


Fate and Determinism: Tess’s life is profoundly impacted by the power of the internet, algorithms, and the capriciousness of online trends. She gains a significant following after a viral video of her goes live, which she never intended.

Sexuality and Morality: Tess’s struggles now encompass online harassment, cyberbullying, and the blurred lines of consent in the digital realm. The MeToo movement plays a crucial role as she faces unwanted advances from a prominent influencer.

Class and Social Injustice: The novel delves into the online class divide, with Tess coming from a modest background, and the privileged influencers and tech moguls who wield power online. Social media exposes the stark inequalities present in society.

Nature and Scenery: While the story no longer revolves around rural landscapes, the imagery and setting shift to the urban and digital world. The fast-paced, ever-changing nature of the online environment parallels Tess’s journey.

Character Development: Tess undergoes a transformation as she navigates the challenges of being an online personality. She grapples with the loss of privacy, the weight of public opinion, and the impact on her self-identity.

The modern adaptation retains the use of imagery, replacing natural landscapes with the constantly shifting and unpredictable digital landscape. The power of social media and the MeToo movement become integral to the narrative, emphasizing the themes of morality, social injustice, and the impact of technology on individual lives.

Me: “Update these characters to fit in with the modern setting.”

Adapting the characters from “Tess of the D’Urbervilles” to a modern setting:

Tess Durbeyfield (Modern Career): Tess is a talented but struggling content creator on a popular social media platform. She is known for her authenticity, creativity, and a strong sense of ethics in a world of influencers. Tess’s journey involves navigating the pitfalls of online fame, dealing with trolls and cyberbullying, and facing moral dilemmas in the digital age.

Alec d’Urberville (Villain in the Digital Realm): Alec is a wealthy tech entrepreneur with a charismatic online presence. He exploits Tess’s vulnerability and invades her online space, representing the dark side of the digital world, including online harassment and abuse of power.

Angel Clare (Romantic Interest and Tech Idealist): Angel is a tech-savvy, progressive individual who is passionate about online ethics and privacy. He falls for Tess, but his struggles with accepting her online past create conflicts reminiscent of privacy debates in the digital age.

Mrs. Durbeyfield (Joan – Tess’s Supportive Mother): Joan is a loving mother who encourages Tess’s creative pursuits online. She may represent the more pragmatic side of digital stardom, emphasizing the financial aspects of content creation.

John Durbeyfield (Well-Meaning but Gullible Father): John is a well-meaning, tech-enthusiastic father who dreams of striking it rich in the digital world. He is easily swayed by get-rich-quick schemes online, setting off the chain of events that lead to Tess’s challenges.

These updated characters maintain the core characteristics and roles from the original novel, while their roles and characteristics have been adapted to the complexities of the modern digital age and social media landscape.

I may not know enough about the book these days to say how accurate this is, but the outputs align with my memories of the study and the book – I remember the characters, I remember the impact they each had on Tess, and how Tess made things worse when she took either no action when she should, and took action when she shouldn’t.

For a classroom or homework study activity, this is clearly an interesting way to engage students in the original Hardy story, to get them thinking about the characters and events and, by bringing it up to date, to engage the original plot in a new and relevant way. Using ChatGPT to form part of the study, to introduce a topic or book, converse with the students about it, then introduce the ChatGPT ‘modern setting’ and have that form a new discussion around the plot.

Could I have worked on better prompts? Probably, but this is only the start of a journey of understanding and learning about the importance of crafting the prompt to allow the tool to respond

  • Question: How could I expand this AI chat to fine-tune the above prompts, or take it further and get more detail? By understanding these things in this context is helping me to understand the capabilities and requirements needed to properly and appropriately use AI tools in my day-to-day working life. Comments are open on this post, please let me know about your experimentation with ChatGPT and prompts.

Apart from the course above from AI for Education, I’ve found the below others quite informative. but also a little limiting … I’m at the stage now where I want less explanation on AI or LLMs, and more in-depth study on aspects of AI like ethics, prompts, developments, media, etc.

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash