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Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Four The Conclusion

This copyrighted article is the fourth of a series that teaches students how to write an effective essay. Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Parts One, Two, and Three are available at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/

Unlike the Introduction, which begins with a general idea and narrows down to specific categories, the Conclusion applies the specific ideas discussed in the essay to broader concepts, patterns, or principles. The Conclusion evaluates: it can criticize, determine, generalize, assert, justify, judge, recommend, predict, extrapolate, etc. It can also disagree with the basic position of the entire essay. Below are some suggestions.

  1. Comment on the theme or opening general topic of the essay pointing out the logical consequences or implications of your essay about life, society, nature, politics, faith, education, family, human experience in general, etc.
  2. Respond to a quotation or question (either implied or explicit) in the Introduction.
  3. Respond to a question or issue raised by the discussion in the body of the essay
  4. Respond to the shock or surprise at the end of the story and show how it illuminates the theme.
  5. Indicate how the thesis illustrates or exemplifies universal patterns of thought or action and a general truth about human experience.
  6. Show the relevance of the theme or subject to experiences you have had or to other literature, art, music you have read, viewed, or heard.
  7. State your opinion about the discussion in the essay. Note any omissions in the discussion, and suggest ideas that require further examination.
  8. Disagree with the conclusions of the author.
  9. A combination of any of the above.

For the purpose of this particular essay, let’s choose concluding strategy # 1.

The fact that both slavery and freedom are problematic does not mean that they’re equivalent. Each one has ramifications that affect the personality, even the identity, of the chooser. The choices that people make reflect their priorities: whether physical comfort or spiritual satisfaction. However, these priorities are not fixed. People can change, and what changes them are their subsequent choices at crucial junctures in their lives. Essentially then, our choices show who we are, and determine whom we become. Thus the Dog confirmed his slave mentality by relinquishing his freedom, just as the Wolf upheld his dignity by opting for freedom. Aesop’s fable points out that people do not have to be limited by the situations in which they find themselves or by their personalities. They are not predestined. They can choose to overcome both their circumstances and their initial predisposition. People can influence their future and define their identity.

*The Basic Essay is copyrighted © by Rosette Liberman, Ed.D. Dr. Liberman is the co-author of the classic The Cooper Hill Stylebook — a digital writing and revision text that can be ordered through www.cooperhillstylebook.com.

 

 

Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part 5 Entitling and Completing the First Draft

This copyrighted article is the fifth of a series that teaches students how to write an effective essay. Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Parts One, Two, Three, and Four are available at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/

What should a title include?

The title of a serious analytical essay signals to the reader the ideas it explores. The title should refer to the topic or theme of the essay and to the author’s approach to the topic. This approach should be objective: without a bias toward one side or another. The title of an essay that analyzes a work of literature often includes its author and title. Often, too, essay titles have sub-titles preceded by a colon.

Usually the final title begins as a working title that is modified into a final title as the essay progresses and as the author’s emphasis changes.

The title of this particular essay analyzing Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf” should include:

Theme: choosing freedom or slavery

and

Author’s approach: each of these choices has consequences for the chooser

An appropriate title for this essay: Freedom or Slavery: Choices and Consequences in Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf”

The Complete First Draft

The first draft of the essay combines all of its sections plus the title (see below).

Open a new document, and copy and paste into it the Title followed by the completed

  • Introduction (available in Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Two)
  • Body (available in Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Three)
  • Conclusion (available in Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Four)

(http://cooperhillstylebook/archive/)

Freedom or Slavery:Choices and Consequences in Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf”

            “I know not what course others may take,” Patrick Henry is said to have exclaimed, “but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Two and a half millennia earlier, Aesop’s Wolf would have nodded in approval. In his famous fable, “The Dog and the Wolf,” Aesop explores the value of freedom. Essentially he questions the price of being one’s own master. “Is the risk of death a reasonable price for freedom?” is the question implicit in this fable. And, in a parallel question, “Is a life without freedom worth living?” The characters in the story provide contrasting answers, and their responses reveal their personalities. These characters are the Dog who sells his freedom for food and shelter, and the Wolf who prefers the possibility of starvation to the certainty of slavery. The choices of these characters are clearly motivated by opposing values, physical and spiritual, each of which has its consequences.

          To some people, the value of freedom is relative to their physical circumstances. In other words, the price of being one’s own master can be dictated by the situations in which people find themselves. Avoiding danger is a natural human instinct. However, some individuals fear taking risks to such an extent that they are willing to hand control over their lives to someone else in order to earn protection. The advantage of this choice is that the fear of danger appears to be eliminated. However, this choice is not without problems. The Dog in this story chooses slavery in order to provide himself with the security of a safe and comfortable shelter and a dependable food supply. He explains “cheerfully” to the Wolf that he agrees “to do anything [his master] wants,” and that his master owns him. This apparent cheerfulness, proves deceptive when he has to admit that he is forced to wear the heavy chain and the collar that hurt his neck. He is embarrassed to have traded in his freedom for physical security when he acknowledges: “I don’t have any choice … because my master gives me food and shelter.” Clearly, slavery is a problematic choice because despite the security of food and shelter, the Dog feels ashamed at having reduced himself to a slave, a creature who has no right to protest and whose preferences are dispensable.

          In contrast to those who opt for physical comfort at all costs are those whose spiritual values are pre-eminent. These are people for whom freedom is priceless.  People who value their dignity do not allow others to control their lives. Preserving their self-esteem is crucial. They choose to make their own choices in life, and not to allow themselves to become someone else’s creature that exists merely for a superior’s convenience or pleasure. Aesop’s Wolf represents such characters. At first the Wolf shows great interest in a secure shelter and food supply, and hopes that he too could receive “such fine gifts.” However, he quickly changes his mind when he learns that he would have to relinquish his freedom in exchange: “ ‘Thanks, Cousin, but no thanks,’ said the Wolf. ‘I think I’d rather remain hungry in the forest.’ ” Like slavery, freedom, too, is a problematic choice because it means accepting physical insecurity in order to retain, indeed to affirm, one’s dignity.

          The fact that both slavery and freedom are problematic does not mean that they’re equivalent. Each one has ramifications that affect the personality, even the identity, of the chooser. The choices that people make reflect their priorities: whether physical comfort or spiritual satisfaction. However, these priorities are not fixed. People can change, and what changes them are their subsequent choices at crucial junctures in their lives. Essentially then, our choices show who we are, and determine whom we become. Thus the Dog confirmed his slave mentality by relinquishing his freedom, just as the Wolf upheld his dignity by opting for freedom. Aesop’s fable points out that people do not have to be limited by the situations in which they find themselves or by their personalities. They are not predestined. They can choose to overcome both their circumstances and their initial predisposition. People can influence their future and define their identity.

*The Basic Essay is copyrighted © by Rosette Liberman, Ed.D. Dr. Liberman is the co-author of the classic The Cooper Hill Stylebook — a digital writing and revision text that can be ordered through www.cooperhillstylebook.com.

 

 

Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Three The Body

This copyrighted article is the third of a series that teaches students how to write an effective essay. Parts One and Two are available at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/

How many paragraphs should an essay contain?

There is no absolute answer to this question. It arises because of an arbitrary model called “the 5-paragraph essay.” People who talk about essays that must be 5 paragraphs long assume that every topic must have an introductory paragraph, a concluding paragraph, and exactly 3 body paragraphs.

While it’s true that every essay must have and Introduction and a Conclusion, it doesn’t make sense to limit each of these to a single paragraph — they may be a paragraph long, or they may be longer. It is even more unrealistic to assume that the Body of every topic must be divided into exactly 3 parts and that each of those parts must be limited to a single paragraph.

The length of each essay depends entirely on its topic and on the amount of information and analysis needed for a thorough discussion. It makes much more sense to talk about a 3-part essay containing an Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion, with the length of each section dictated by the topic and the thoroughness of the analysis.

What information should be included in the Body?

The Body develops the ideas prefaced and listed in the Introduction. Specifically, the Body an essay is a discussion of the categories named or suggested in the thesis statement of the Introduction (see Writing the Basic Analytical Essay Part Two at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive).

How to organize the information in the 1st category

The basic organization of each category consists of 4 parts: each category is named, explained, supported, and concluded.

  1. To NAME the 1st category — Connect theme statement or topic and the 1st category in a simple statement. It can be 1 or more sentences.

          Theme statement: the value of freedom

          1st category: choosing physical values

To some people, the value of freedom is relative to their physical circumstances.

  1. To EXPLAIN the category — How much explaining is needed depends on how complicated the name section is.

– Definition

a. Define the hard-to-understand or abstract words (i.e., everyone knows what a pencil is,  but each of us has a personal definition of the abstract word friendship.) Don’t copy dictionary definitions or repeat definitions from the Introduction. Try using synonyms.

b. Sometimes “bridges” such as that is, that is to say, in other words are useful. You can choose to delete them in the final draft of your essay.

– Discussion: discuss any or all of the following.

how the idea in the Name statement works (description)

                        why the idea works that way (explanation)

                        what’s the benefit of this idea (explanation)

                        what’s wrong with the idea (contradiction)

so what if the idea works that way (extrapolation or drawing conclusions)

 

Definitions in this essay:

value = cost, price, how much it’s worth

freedom = ability to make one’s own choices, being one’s own master, ability

                                to control one’s own life

relative to = depends on, is dictated by

circumstances = situations in which people find themselves

In other words, the price of being one’s own master can be dictated by the situations in which people find themselves. Avoiding danger is a natural human instinct. However, some individuals fear taking risks to such an extent that they are willing to hand control over their lives to someone else in order to earn protection. The advantage of this choice is that the fear of danger appears to be eliminated. However, this choice is not without problems.

  1. To CONNECT the EXPLAIN section above to the SUPPORT section below —

refer to the name of the character and/or to the events in the story that prove that

your discussion is valid. This section is usually only 1 or 2 sentences long.

The Dog in this story chooses slavery in order to provide himself with

the securityof a safe and comfortable shelter and a dependable food supply.

  1. To SUPPORT your discussion, use facts and/or relevant quotations from the story and explain the quotations.

He explains “cheerfully” to the Wolf that he agrees “to do anything [his master] wants,” and that his master owns him. This apparent cheerfulness, proves deceptive when he has to admit that he is forced to wear the heavy chain and the collar that hurt his neck. He is embarrassed to have traded in his freedom for physical security when he acknowledges: “I don’t have any choice … because my master gives me food and shelter.”

  1. To CONCLUDE the category, connect some of the main ideas or words from the support to some of the main ideas or words in the name section and in the theme statement.

Main ideas to be connected: embarrassment, security of food and shelter, slavery, freedom.

Clearly, slavery is a problematic choice because despite the security of food and shelter, the Dog feels ashamed at having reduced himself to a slave, a creature who has no right to protest and whose preferences are dispensable.

 

The complete 1st category

To some people, the value of freedom is relative to their physical circumstances.In other words, the price of being one’s own master can be dictated by the situations in which people find themselves. Avoiding danger is a natural human instinct. However, some individuals fear taking risks to such an extent that they are willing to hand control over their lives to someone else in order to earn protection. The advantage of this choice is that the fear of danger appears to be eliminated. However, this choice is not without problems. The Dog in this story chooses slavery in order to provide himself with the security of a safe and comfortable shelter and a dependable food supply. He explains “cheerfully” to the Wolf that he agrees “to do anything [his master] wants,” and that his master owns him. This apparent cheerfulness, proves deceptive when he has to admit that he is forced to wear the heavy chain and the collar that hurts his neck. He is embarrassed to have traded in his freedom for physical security when he acknowledges: “I don’t have any choice … because my master gives me food and shelter.” Clearly, slavery is a problematic choice because despite the security of food and shelter, the Dog feels ashamed at having reduced himself to a slave, a creature who has no right to protest and whose preferences are dispensable.

 

 

How to write the 2nd category

Like the 1st category, the 2nd category must be named, explained, supported, and concluded. However, it (and all the following categories) first must have a TRANSITIONAL STATEMENT.

The TRANSITIONAL STATEMENT consists of

  • the transition
  • the name of the category to be discussed
  • a reference to the preceding category

Some TRANSITIONS that indicate agreement between the 2 categories: also, in addition to, both…and, not only…but also, similarly, likewise.

Some TRANSITIONS that indicate contradiction between the 2 categories: while, although, even though, however, by contrast, as opposed to, unlike. (See complete list in The Cooper Hill Stylebook, available for sale at cooperhillstylebook.com)

  1. 2nd category TRANSITIONAL STATEMENT combined with NAME SECTION.

Transition = in contrast

Reference to preceding category = physical comfort

Reference to current category = spiritual comfort

Theme statement = value of freedom

In contrast to those who opt for physical comfort at all costs are those whose spiritual values are pre-eminent. These are people for whom freedom is priceless. 

  1. EXPLAIN SECTION

– Definitions

freedom = see definitions in 1st category

spiritual values = psychological, intangible, dignity, honor, self-esteem

pre-eminent = most important, crucial

– Discussion (Notice that we did not use a “bridge” here.)

People who value their dignity do not allow others to control their lives. Preserving their self-esteem is crucial. They choose to make their own choices in life, and not to allow themselves to become someone else’s creature that exists merely for a superior’s convenience or pleasure.

  1. CONNECT explain to support sections

     Aesop’s Wolf represents such characters.

  1. SUPPORT section

At first the Wolf shows great interest in a secure shelter and food supply, and hopes that he too could receive “such fine gifts.” However, he quickly changes his mind when he learns that he would have to relinquish his freedom in exchange: “ ‘Thanks, Cousin, but no thanks,’ said the Wolf. ‘I think I’d rather remain hungry in the forest.’ ”

  1. CONCLUDE section

Like slavery, freedom, too, is a problematic choice because it means accepting physical insecurity in order to retain, indeed to affirm, one’s dignity.

The complete 2nd category

In contrast to those who opt for physical comfort at all costs are those whose spiritual values are pre-eminent. These are people for whom freedom is priceless.  People who value their dignity do not allow others to control their lives. Preserving their self-esteem is crucial. They choose to make their own choices in life, and not to allow themselves to become someone else’s creature that exists merely for a superior’s convenience or pleasure. Aesop’s Wolf represents such characters. At first the Wolf shows great interest in a secure shelter and food supply, and hopes that he too could receive “such fine gifts.” However, he quickly changes his mind when he learns that he would have to relinquish his freedom in exchange: “ ‘Thanks, Cousin, but no thanks,’ said the Wolf. ‘I think I’d rather remain hungry in the forest.’ ” Like slavery, freedom, too, is a problematic choice because it means accepting physical insecurity in order to retain, indeed to affirm, one’s dignity.

 

*The Basic Essay is copyrighted © by Rosette Liberman, Ed.D. Dr. Liberman is the co-author of the classic The Cooper Hill Stylebook — a digital writing and revision text that can be ordered through www.cooperhillstylebook.com.

 

Basic Essay: Addenda

I. The Dog and the Wolf: a Re-telling of Aesop’s Fable

Once upon a time a hungry Wolf was wandering in the forest in search of food. But the land was as bare as a baby’s bottom.  It was winter; the snow was a heavy frozen lid over the earth. There was no food anywhere, and the Wolf was suffering.

Just then through the trees the Wolf noticed a farmhouse in front of which sat a well-fed Dog.

“Good-day, Cousin,” the Dog called out. “You don’t look very cheerful. Do you have a problem?’

“Yes, I do,” answered the Wolf. “I have not eaten in several days, and my stomach is groaning like a dry branch in the wind. How are you feeling, Cousin?”

The Dog’s smile was a bright light on the gloomy day.

“I feel just fine,” said the Dog. “I have a home and food that I can depend on.”

“How do you get such fine gifts?” asked the Wolf.

“My master gives them to me,” said the Dog.

“Do you think that your master would give me such gifts too?” asked the Wolf hopefully.

“Of course he would,” said the Dog cheerfully. “All you would have to do is obey his commands because he would own you. You would simply have to agree to do anything he wants.”

“Does your master own you?” asked the Wolf thoughtfully.

“Of course,” replied the Dog.

The Wolf studied the Dog closely.

“Tell me, Cousin,” he asked the Dog. “Why is the hair on your neck so thin and worn?”

“Oh, that’s from the collar that my master forces me to wear when he chains me outside at night,” explained the Dog.

“And do you like to wear this collar?”

“Well it rubs my neck and sometimes it irritates my skin. And the chain is quite heavy.”

“So why do you wear it?” asked the Wolf.

The Dog lowered his head in embarrassment.

“I don’t have any choice,” he said, “because my master gives me food and shelter. So, come along, and I will introduce you to him.”

“Thanks, Cousin, but no thanks,” said the Wolf. “I think I’d rather remain hungry in the forest.”

With these words, the Wolf returned to the forest to continue his search for food. And although he was still very hungry, he nonetheless felt quite satisfied.

 

II, Examples of Hooks

  1. Startling statement

a. Surprising image

On the stage stood the high school’s prom queen: her classic Down’s Syndrome features radiating happiness.

(Essay on diversity)

b. Contradiction of a standard belief or assumption (what is not so)

The Prince and Cinderella rode off into the sunset in their golden

carriage. However, their chances of living happily ever after were

very slim if that sunset was in California.

(Essay on divorce rates.)

c. Interesting or obscure fact

At the Battle of Agincourt in the autumn of 1415, some 7000 sick and exhausted Englishmen defeated a rested and well-equipped French army estimated at 20,000. According to the casualty figures, the English lost 400 men, the French 6000.

(Essay on determination, military strategy, divine intervention/miracle, environmental and geographical conditions, importance of innovation in weaponry, etc.)

d. Revelation (can be personal)

I will never forget the moment when I realized that all parents do not necessarily love their children.

(Essay on family dynamics, mental illness, raising healthy children, etc.)

2. Quotation: proverb, literary or pop culture reference, wise statement by a relative or by a famous person. For example, Mark Twain is said to have commented that as a writer his job is not resurrect the dead but the living.

(Essay on how literature engenders awareness of life.)

  1. Dialogue

“Where are you going?”

“Out.”

“What will you be doing?”

“Nothing.”

(Essay on difficulty of communicating with teenagers or with parents.)

  1. Narration: Location and/or event

Although it was only 4 pm, the autumnal gloom had descended like a shroud, and the six girls at the foot of the stairs looked blurry and indistinct in the cold grayness. I knew that they were waiting to catch me without any teachers around. Behind me the heavy school door clicked shut with metallic finality.

(Essay on courage, resourcefulness, bullying, etc.)

  1. Rhetorical question

“Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it — every, every minute?” asks Thornton Wilder’s Emily.

(Essay on cultivating awareness, wasting time, etc. This is both a quotation and a rhetorical question.)

  1. Philosophical observation

When René Descartes announced, “I think therefore I am,” he was guilty of a logical fallacy because thinking presupposes a state of being.

 

III. How to group the categories?

Choose one or more of the following techniques to group your categories in the thesis statement of the Introduction.

Causes ­– What are the motivating factors behind the main event(s) in the story? Why does the contradiction or main occurrence in the story happen?

ElementsWhat makes up the main event, phenomenon, or contradiction in the story? what are its main parts?

ProcessHow does the central event, phenomenon, contradiction in the story function and develop? What forces or influences make the story turn out the way it does? Can include the effect of the natural, social, emotional, and political environments on that functioning.

SequenceWhat are the steps (or what is the order) in the development of

a character or central event, especially of any contradiction?

Influence How does a main event or phenomenon affect the story’s environment or its characters?

Results What are the consequences of the central event, choice, or phenomenon?

Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Two The Introduction

This copyrighted article is the second of a series that teaches students how to write an effective essay. The first installment, Writing the Basic Analytical Essay Part One, is available at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/

Function of the Introduction

The Introduction hooks the reader’s interest in the topic or theme of the essay. The Introduction states generally what will be discussed in detail in the Body of the essay.

Structure of the Introduction

The Introduction must include the following items, although not necessarily in this order.

  1. Hook or attention-grabber
  2. Theme statement
  3. Paraphrase that elaborates on the topic or theme statement
  4. Discussion of the topic or theme statement
  5. If writing about literature: brief general summary of the story.
  6. If writing about non-literary topics (history, psychology, philosophy, etc.): brief background information that provides context for your topic.
  7. Thesis statement

Reviewing how to find theme

The story we will be analyzing is a re-telling of Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf.” (See the text in Basic Essay: Addenda at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/)

We find its theme by tracing the repetition and the contradiction of the ideas in the story. (See Writing the Basic Analytical Essay:Part One at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/)

  • Repetition: We see 2 patterns of repetition: one for the Wolf, the other for the Dog.

Wolf: hungry, suffering, needs food and shelter, refuses to trade freedom for material advantages.

Dog: well-fed, content, has food and shelter, has no free will, is a slave to his owner.

  • Contradiction: We see 2 apparent contradictions.

Wolf: is satisfied although he chooses hunger over food and shelter.

Dog: chooses security and slavery over insecurity and freedom, even though this

choice embarrasses him.

 

The Theme: Identifies the reason for the contradictions.

  • Why is the wolf satisfied if he’s still hungry? Because he’s free. He doesn’t want to be a slave.
  • Why is the dog embarrassed by choosing security? Because he has surrendered his freedom. He has become a slave.
  • What’s the common factor in both contradictions? Freedom. Slavery.

So the theme is freedom, or slavery.

 

Reviewing how to find theme statement

To develop the theme statement ask, “What about the theme?” The answer is the theme statement.

Question: What about freedom?

Theme statement: What’s the value of freedom, the price of freedom?

Question: What about slavery?

Theme statement: The price of slavery. Preferable to freedom?

 

Begin with #2 in the Structure of the Introduction: Expanding the Theme Statement.

Let us set aside #1. Hook or attention-grabber for the moment, and begin with 2. Theme statement. This section is short. All it does is turn the theme statement into a sentence and provides context for the theme statement — such as the author and/or the title of the story. Below is an example:

            Aesop explores the value of freedom in his famous fable, “The Dog and the Wolf.”

or

In his famous fable, “The Dog and the Wolf,” Aesop asks if slavery is a fair price to pay for comfort and security.

In this model essay, we will develop the first version above.

Follow up with #3 in the Structure of the Introduction: Paraphrase/Elaboration

Every experienced teacher knows that ideas can’t be simply asserted — they must be elaborated. The elaboration can begin with a bridging phrase such as: “that is,” “that is to say,” “in other words,” “essentially.” It includes definitions or synonyms of any abstract concepts (e.g., friendship, love, loyalty) — in this case, freedom and value. See below:

            Essentially, he questions the price of being one’s own master.

Notice that we substituted the synonym “price” for “value” and the definition “being one’s own master” for “freedom.” These substitutions clarify the meaning of the words while they avoid being repetitive.

Next, #4 in the Structure of the Introduction: Discussion of the theme statement

This step is the heart of elaborating the theme statement. It often responds to such questions as:

  • What are the implications of the theme statement?
  • Is there a flaw in those implications?
  • Are there inconsistencies or ambiguities in the theme statement?

“Is the risk of death a reasonable price for freedom?” is the question implicit in

this fable. And, in a parallel question, “Is a life without freedom worth living?” The

characters in the story provide contrasting answers, and their responses reveal

their personalities.

#5 in the Structure of the Introduction: Brief general summary of the story

This summary should be no more than one or two sentences long. Generalize. Avoid details.

These characters are the Dog who sells his freedom for food and shelter, and the Wolf who prefers the possibility of starvation to the certainty of slavery.

#6 in the Structure of the Introduction: Thesis statement

Thesis statement summarizes the subject to be discussed in the Body.

  • It breaks down the theme statement into groupings called categories. The

categories must be parallel (stated in the same way with information that does

not appear in more than one category).

  • These categories can be listed by name, or can be suggested instead of being

actually named.

  • It relates the categories to the theme and may include the author and/or title.

How to group the categories? Choose one or more of the techniques below to group your categories, or use your own grouping scheme.

Causes ­– What are the motivating factors behind the main event(s) in the story? Why does the contradiction or main occurrence in the story happen?

ElementsWhat makes up the main event, phenomenon, or contradiction in the story? what are its main parts?

ProcessHow does the central event (phenomenon, contradiction) in the story function and develop? What forces or influences make the story turn out the way it does? You can include the effect of the natural, social, emotional, and political environments on that process.

SequenceWhat are the steps (or what is the order) in the development of

a character or central event, especially of any contradiction?

Influence How does a main event or phenomenon affect the story’s environment or its characters?

Results What are the consequences of the central event, choice, or phenomenon?

Notice that the thesis statement below groups the ideas by causes into two categories (physical versus spiritual values).  The results (consequences) are not a category in this case. They are merely suggested here as a prediction in the final Conclusion of the essay.

The choices of these characters are clearly motivated by opposing values, physical and spiritual, each of which has its consequences.

#1 in the Structure of the Introduction: Hook or attention-grabber

Although this section appears first in the Introduction, you are wise to leave it for last because most writers are not sure of the exact ideas the Introduction will ultimately contain until it is actually written.

To write a hook, use one or more of the following:

  1. Startling statement
  • Surprising image
  • Contradiction of a standard belief or assumption (what is not so)
  • Interesting or obscure fact
  • Revelation (can be personal)
  1. Quotation
  2. Dialogue
  3. Narration
  4. Rhetorical question
  5. Philosophical observation

(For complete examples of hooks, see Basic Essay: Addenda at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/)

Below is the competed Introduction, capped by the hook. Notice that for our hook, we chose a quotation. To have your hook flow logically into the theme statement, you may need to adjust your theme statement as we have done below.

“I know not what course others may take,” Patrick Henry is said to have exclaimed, “but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Two and a half millennia earlier, Aesop’s Wolf would have nodded in approval. In his famous fable, “The Dog and the Wolf,” Aesop explores the value of freedom. Essentially he questions the price of being one’s own master. “Is the risk of death a reasonable price for freedom?” is the question implicit in this fable. And, in a parallel question, “Is a life without freedom worth living?” The characters in the story provide contrasting answers, and their responses reveal their personalities. These characters are the Dog who sells his freedom for food and shelter, and the Wolf who prefers the possibility of starvation to the certainty of slavery. The choices of these characters are clearly motivated by opposing values, physical and spiritual, each of which has its consequences.

The third installment, The Basic Analytical Essay: Part Three, shows you how to write the Body of the essay. See http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/

*The Basic Essay is copyrighted © by Rosette Liberman, Ed.D. Dr. Liberman is the co-author of the classic The Cooper Hill Stylebook — a digital writing and revision text that can be ordered through www.cooperhillstylebook.com.

 

Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part One Finding the Theme of a Story

 

This copyrighted article is the first of a series of 6 articles that teach students

to write an effective essay.

Writing a winning essay is not as hard as you think. The key is having an excellent system at your fingertips!* — not just any system, but one developed and tested in actual classrooms in high school, college, and graduate school. If you are a student, keep reading, because you’re about to catch a lifeline to a lifetime of academic success. If you are a professional teacher or a homeschool parent, you are about to extend that lifeline to your high school student.

So what’s the story really about?

You’ve finished reading the short story, or play, or novel, and your teacher smiles and says, “Okay, now find the theme of the story and write an essay about it.”

Your reaction? Panic!

“Yeah, right, an essay. How do I begin? Where do I find the theme?”

You’ve just tumbled onto a crucial fact: before you can write about a piece of literature, you must read it attentively. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Before you can analyze a story, you need to know what it says — both its plot (the events) and its theme (the main idea that connects those events).

The plot of the story

 Let’s imagine that you’re at your best friend’s birthday party.

  • You arrive with a nice gift, but she doesn’t even greet you at the door.
  • She sees you from across the room, but doesn’t speak to you.
  • At one point she whispers with some other guests who look over at you and laugh.
  • You take some refreshments, but your friend doesn’t move over to make room for you at the table.
  • When she chooses teams for games, she leaves you for last.
  • When you ask her what the problem is, she turns her back on you and starts talking to other people who whisper and look over at you.
  • You leave early.

The next day when your mother asks you what happened at the party, you say, “Nothing much. There were some people there already when I arrived. People talked, and ate, and played games. I came home early.”

What you told your mother was the plot.

The theme of the story

 Was your plot summary true? Yes. But, did it let you mother know what really happened? No. What really happens in a story is the theme. The theme is the idea that underlies the events in the plot. You find the theme in two ways: repetition and contradiction.

Finding the theme through repetition

To find the theme through repetition, list its main events (plot) and ask yourself:

  1. What does each event in the plot show?
  • You are fond of your friend, and bought her a nice gift.
  • You feel unwelcome when your friend doesn’t greet you at the door.
  • You feel that you don’t belong when she sees you from across the room, but doesn’t speak to you.
  • You know she’s making fun of you when she whispers with some other guests who look over at you and laugh.
  • You are insulted and humiliated when she doesn’t move over to make room for you at the table.
  • You are again humiliated when she leaves you for last in choosing teams.
  • You are confused and angry when she turns her back on you and starts talking to other people who whisper and look over at you.
  • You leave early because you’re hurt and angry that a friend can behave this way toward you when you had such good feelings toward her.
  1. What do all the events have in common? What repeated idea connects all the events? How would you summarize the events?

Your best friend insults, confuses, and humiliates you when you did nothing to hurt her.

Finding the theme through contradiction

A contradiction is ideas or events that oppose each other: if one is true, then the other can’t be true. Contradictions are often suggested by the title of a story, are found throughout the story, and most importantly are located in the final chapter of a novel or the final paragraph of a short story.

To find the theme, look for the contradiction in the repeated events. What’s the contradiction in the repetition below?

          Your best friend insults, confuses, and humiliates you when you did nothing to hurt her.

Obviously, the behavior contradicts the rules of friendship. Friends don’t humiliate each other.

So, what does her behavior say about her?

  1. She’s not your friend.
  2. She betrayed you.

So, what is this story really about? What is the theme of this story?

We could say, “unfairness,” but we need to be more precise. Anybody can be unfair. However, a friend’s unfairness is much more serious. What do we call unfairness that contradicts the rules of friendship? We call it “betrayal.”

Then what’s the theme of this story? Betrayal, friendship betrayed, the meaning of friendship.

Practice finding the theme

Below is a re-telling of a famous Aesop fable, “The Dog and the Wolf.”

  • Read the story attentively.
  • List the events in the plot.
  • List the repetitions and summarize them.
  • Find the contradiction in that summary. Name the theme.

The next installment, Writing the Basic Analytical Essay Part 2,

(see http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/) will give you a foolproof guide to writing the Introduction to your essay based on its theme.

The Dog and the Wolf: a Re-telling of Aesop’s Fable

Once upon a time a hungry Wolf was wandering in the forest in search of food. But the land was as bare as a baby’s bottom.  It was winter; the snow was a heavy frozen lid over the earth. There was no food anywhere, and the Wolf was suffering.

Just then through the trees the Wolf noticed a farmhouse in front of which sat a well-fed Dog.

“Good-day, Cousin,” the Dog called out. “You don’t look very cheerful. Do you have a problem?’

“Yes, I do,” answered the Wolf. “I have not eaten in several days, and my stomach is groaning like a dry branch in the wind. How are you feeling, Cousin?”

The Dog’s smile was a bright light on the gloomy day.

“I feel just fine,” said the Dog. “I have a home and food that I can depend on.”

“How do you get such fine gifts?” asked the Wolf.

“My master gives them to me,” said the Dog.

“Do you think that your master would give me such gifts too?” asked the Wolf hopefully.

“Of course he would,” said the Dog cheerfully. “All you would have to do is obey his commands because he would own you. You would simply have to agree to do anything he wants.”

“Does your master own you?” asked the Wolf thoughtfully.

“Of course,” replied the Dog.

The Wolf studied the Dog closely.

“Tell me, Cousin,” he asked the Dog. “Why is the hair on your neck so thin and worn?”

“Oh, that’s from the collar that my master forces me to wear when he chains me outside at night,” explained the Dog.

“And do you like to wear this collar?”

“Well it rubs my neck and sometimes it irritates my skin. And the chain is quite heavy.”

“So why do you wear it?” asked the Wolf.

The Dog lowered his head in embarrassment.

“I don’t have any choice,” he said, “because my master gives me food and shelter. So, come along, and I will introduce you to him.”

“Thanks, Cousin, but no thanks,” said the Wolf. “I think I’d rather remain hungry in the forest.”

With these words, the Wolf returned to the forest to continue his search for food. And although he was still very hungry, he nonetheless felt quite satisfied.

 

*The Basic Essay is copyrighted © by Rosette Liberman, Ed.D. Dr. Liberman is the co-author of the classic The Cooper Hill Stylebook — a digital writing and revision text that can be ordered through www.cooperhillstylebook.com.

Trebek/Obama/Borger/Montagne

QUESTION: What do Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, President Obama, and journalists Gloria Borger and Renée Montagne have in common?

ANSWER: They all need to learn the difference between who and whom.

  • Alex Trebek commenting on a previous Jeopardy winner: “She didn’t know who she’d be facing.”

Correction: She didn’t know whom she’d be facing.

  • President Obama in his announcement about refugees: “The US is increasing the number of refugees who we welcome within our borders.”

Correction: The US is increasing the number of refugees whom we welcome within our borders.

  • Gloria Borger (CNN) speaking about Justice Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court: “I do think who the President nominates matters.”

Correction: I do think whom the President nominates matters.

  • Renée Montagne (NPR) asks, “Who do you hear people blaming for the accidental bombing of the Afghani hospital?”

Correction: Whom do you hear people blaming for the accidental bombing of the Afghani             hospital?

GRAMMAR RULEWho is nominative and is used for subjects and predicate nominatives.

Whom is objective and is used for direct and indirect objects and for objects

of phrases.

See: The Cooper Hill Stylebook § 6.

Obama/Cruz/Rowe

QUESTION: What do Senator Ted Cruz, President Obama, and Republican strategist Carl Rowe    have in common?

ANSWER: Grammar problems. Their subjects don’t agree with their verbs.

GRAMMAR RULE: Singular subjects must take singular verbs See Stylebook §1.

• Senator Ted Cruz campaigning in Iowa: “Do you want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?”

Correction: “Do you want to know how much each of you terrifies Washington?”

(The  word each is singular.)

• President Obama: “So far the data shows” that the crime level has essentially not risen.

Correction: “So far the data show” that the crime level has essentially not risen.

(The  word data is singular.)

• Republican strategist Carl Rowe referring to Donald Trump’s attacks against Ben Carson and Marco Rubio: “Neither one of these attacks are particularly effective.”

Correction:  Neither one of these attacks is particularly effective.”

(Neither one is singular.)

Journalists Confused about Between and Among

Grammar rule: between refers to 2, among refers to more than 2.

• Steve Inskeep (NPR) referred to the “shared interest between Iraq, Iran, and Russia.”

Correction: among Iran, Iraq, and Russia

  • Tom Gjelten (NPR) spoke about 3 immigrant boys who “between them” shared basic American traits.

Correction: among them

  • Bill Hemmer (Fox) commenting on Republican presidential candidates: “Between Bush, and Kassich, and Christie, there’s a lot of pressure.”

Correction: among Bush, and Kassich, and Christie….

  • Lauren Frayer (NPR) reporting on the trial of Spain’s Princess Cristina: “They had to clear a path between all the TV cameras.”

Correction: among all the TV cameras