Monday, October 1, 2007

4.5--Endings I

A. Here’s the problem:

It’s hard to break the habit of writing trite, formulaic, mechanical endings. Every time I read an essay or hear a senior speech paragraph that begins, “In conclusion . . .” I wince. (I do the same for any opening paragraph that begins “According to Webster’s Dictionary . . .” so don’t even get me started on that subject.) The point is, the ending of your essay or speech should contain more than a simple rehash of your opening. It should do more than waste space and words with meaningless abstraction and generality. Simply put, it should say something the reader wants to know.

B. What to do:

Read the essay from webster listed at the bottom of this page; it contains a good list of strategies for ending an essay. Several lend themselves particularly well to discussions of literature. Ask a provocative question; use a quotation; evoke a vivid image; universalize (compare to other situations); suggest results or consequences.

C. Example: Over the course of the novel, Mr. Darcy’s personality has changed from arrogant to understanding and from proud to humble. Elizabeth is finally able to see the good in him for she has changed too. She finally opens up to Mr. Darcy because she has changed to be less judgmental and more understanding as well. Character perception is a powerful tool in Pride and Prejudice as it allows personalities to be portrayed through the eyes of the characters around them rather than through the eyes of the narrator.

Revised Version: Both Darcy and Elizabeth have grown as characters. Darcy has overcome his arrogance and pride, learning tolerance and humility. Elizabeth has understood the errors of her earlier harsh judgments and has come to love Darcy’s kindness, intelligence, and generosity. Together, they embody the human truth that two people of sound mind and good will can help each other overcome their weaknesses and strengthen themselves through the effect they have on each other.

D. Now you try—write a revised version of the following ending.

Throughout this work of literature, the reader’s impressions of the novel are constantly changing as the book progresses. As more information presents itself, the novel conjures the reader to convert from the first impression to the new and more correct understanding of what is happening in the novel. This is one of the conventions of fiction in this novel that makes it more interesting than other novels of this time period.

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