Monday, September 17, 2007

3.9 Clinchers

A. Here’s the problem:

Since the paragraph is the main unit by which your argument advances and becomes more detailed and more convincing, ending a paragraph without a strong concluding sentence weakens the overall effect and undermines the strength of your ideas. A paragraph without a strong clincher is an indication of fuzzy thinking, a dead give-away that the writer hasn’t fully clarified in his or her own mind the point the paragraph needs to make.

B. What to do:
Think of the concluding sentence in a paragraph as a special type of commentary, your chance to end on a strong note by stating the key interpretive point the paragraph has led up to. Spend a minute or two during drafting thinking about the strongest conclusion your evidence will support. Spend another minute or two re-evaluating those same sentences during revision. Sometimes you’ll realize that you now understand the point you’re trying to make better than you did when you wrote the first draft.

C. Example: Wickham has no desire to ultimately marry Lydia. Lydia’s father even says “I mean no man in his senses would marry Lydia on so slight a temptation as one hundred a year during my life and fifty after I am gone.” Accordingly, in order to save the Bennets some shame, Mr. Darcy gives Wickham some extra money (to act as the dowry the Bennets cannot afford) to marry Lydia. The marriage is based on money, and not love.

Corrected Version: The Lydia-Wickham marriage is based on money, not love. Wickham has no intention of marrying a girl as poor and foolish as Lydia. Lydia’s father even says “I mean no man in his senses would marry Lydia on so slight a temptation as one hundred a year during my life and fifty after I am gone.” The family’s reputation is only saved when Darcy’s money (replacing the dowry the Bennets cannot afford) induces Wickham to marry Lydia. By contrasting the greed, foolishness, and dishonor of this match with the more rational attachment and genuine affection between Elizabeth and Darcy and between Jane and Bingley, Austen reinforces her dual theme of marriage, providing examples of what a marriage should not be as well as what it should.

D. Now you try—write stronger endings for the following paragraphs.

1. Although Elizabeth severely misjudges Darcy’s character, her willingness to ultimately realize and accept her mistakes illustrates her strong character. After she blatantly rejects Mr. Darcy’s first marriage proposal and accuses him of many wrongdoings, it seems as though she will never again reconsider his worthiness even as a friend. However, when Mr. Darcy writes her a letter pleading his case, she reads with an open mind, and ultimately realizes that she has been “blind, partial, prejudiced, and absurd.”

2. In some respects, this ending and change of opinion is somewhat romantic, and fitting to the novel. Elizabeth offers everything on a superficial level that Darcy does not have, therefore fitting him very well. Both characters have the same feelings towards each other, both are misunderstood by society, and both are judged by their appearance. Elizabeth serves as Darcy’s foil, yet the reader almost expects them to fall in love. This is because Darcy’s personality contrasts Elizabeth’s in such a way that they fit perfectly together like pieces in a puzzle.

E. For more information or additional practice, check the following sources: