An essay is an extended piece where its creator explores a subject in some detail. It’s not always a piece of writing. Essays differ from fictional pieces in that they are organized by thoughts/ideas and not by a narrative (story). Essays appear in many different forms: Speeches Newspaper Editorials Opinion Pieces in Magazines Documentary Films Photo Essays in Magazines Exam Questions To express new ideas/points of view. To teach or explain. To reflect on or express opinions about people, events, or situations. To raise awareness of social issues or injustices. To influence readers on political issues. To entertain or amuse by presenting topics in original or clever ways. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (as read by Johnny Cash) Always have some sort of central topic or theme. The title is often the first clue about the topic and may even provide clues about the thesis or proposition, which is the position/stance the writer takes in relation to the topic. Often, the key to understanding the real meaning for an essay is to identify its main THESIS (the main idea). Essayist Skilled essayists: are clear about their purpose in writing; develop distinct ideas organize ideas clearly include original insights to stimulate audience support what they say with evidence from verifiable sources. Gains your interest through a strong or controversial statement, quotation, or some other technique (anecdote, figure of speech, visual, etc.). Sometimes states the thesis of the essay and previews ideas discussed in the body of the essay. In writing, the first paragraph or two usually presents the thesis and an overview of the essay’s content. The thesis could be expressed as a sentence, and could also include the topic of the essay as well as the writer’s position in relation to the topic. But this is not always the case. A thesis statement must come at the end of the first paragraph. A thesis statement must be one sentence in length, no matter how many clauses it contains. You can't start writing an essay until you have a perfect thesis statement. A thesis statement must give three points of support. In some essays, the thesis is not stated explicitly (an actual line from the essay in plain English/easy to identify). You may have to reread the essay to come up with the implicit (implied) thesis and then state it in your own words. The main section. Where the thesis is developed: Arguments are presented/explained; Evidence is given (and properly-referenced); Ideas are connected into a cohesive whole. Each body section develops an new (but connected) aspect of the thesis. TOPIC SENTENCE Each new topic should begin with a sentence that supports the main thesis. Each topic sentence – when read together – should outline the key arguments or ideas that support the thesis. Shifts in between the key arguments of the essay are usually contained in the first sentence of the paragraph (the topic sentence). Look for transitional phrases or connecting words that signal such shifts. Usually short and to the point. A conclusion usually includes a brief summary of main points of the. It should not add new information, but can present the writer’s final thoughts and insights on the thesis. A written essay usually follows a standard structure: ○ Introduction establishes the topic and the writer’s position in relation to the topic (thesis). ○ Body develops the thesis through supporting arguments. ○ Conclusion sums up key ideas and leaves the reader with a sense of importance of the topic. But this structure can be flexible. Writers vary in how they use it. Informal Essay Usually uses the first person (‘I’ or ‘We’) Directly addresses the reader Formal Essay Usually uses the third-person (‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, ‘they’, etc) Informal Frequently drawn from life of the writer and everyday events (informal editorials, etc) Formal More commonly drawn from shared historical events or literature or other forms of knowledge (research). Informal Appears to be more loosely structured. Formal Follows a fairly rigid structure that focuses on the development of one clear argument at a time to support a clearly-stated thesis. Informal May appear anywhere in the essay; may not be explicitly stated. Formal Usually stated explicitly, generally located in the first or second paragraph of the essay. Informal vocabulary tends to be taken from everyday usage. Formal vocabulary tends to be more academic and may contain some unfamiliar words. Informal Entertainment; satire; reflection. Formal Provokes thought, and sometimes action. Have characteristics of both formal and informal. Informal essays are understood in a single reading. Formal essays can take several re-readings to ensure understanding. Until now, we have encountered mostly FORMAL essays in school. Describes or explains a topic. The Care and Maintenance of a Mustache ○ No opinions ○ No controversial statements or calls to action ○ No informal language ○ This is the type of essay you tackled last year Uses a single well-told story as the basis for drawing a conclusion or making a statement of opinion. My Fascinating Mustache Story ○ Mostly informal language ○ Will use ‘I’ ○ Will have opinion, reflection Presents a reasoned (well-explained and supported) series of arguments in support of a position. Mustaches or Beards: Which is Safest? ○ May be formal or informal ○ Uses research and expert opinion ○ Will tend to be opinionated Combines reasoned (supported by research) arguments with the emotion required to persuade the reader to take action. Real Men Wear Mustaches ○ Will be mostly formal with some informal elements ○ Relies on rhetoric and emotional appeal ○ Relies heavily on research to support stance ESSAY ANALYSIS English 621 Purpose 39 what the essay tries to accomplish; the author wouldn’t have written it without some sort of purpose in mind common purposes are to narrate, to describe, to express, to argue, to persuade, to instruct, to report (usually purpose is expressed as a verb) figuring out the purpose behind the essay is essential in order to recognize the type of essay you are analyzing Subject Matter 40 Subject Thesis sentence(s) summarizing the main point of the essay; all subordinate points should support thesis Subordinate Points the topic (broad or specific) of the essay being analyzed individual thoughts or arguments that develop the thesis (topic sentences for each paragraph) Supporting Details examples, illustrations, quotes, reasons used to support the subordinate points (which support thesis) Audience 41 to whom the essay is directed why would the author choose to direct this essay at this particular audience? (this is always tied to the purpose) we must assume that the audience has been carefully chosen by the writer. We find the best ‘fit’ for this essay. Vehicle 42 the form of the author has selected to share his/her message letter, article, review, column, video, documentary, editorial, speech, etc. in some cases, the vehicle isn’t an essay at all, but a documentary film, a speech, a photo essay, etc. Context 43 the personal, historical or social circumstances of the writer that influence the content and form of the essay for example, what would prompt Michael Moore to produce a documentary (an essay on film) which points out the flaws in the American healthcare system or another one which suggests President Bush acted in error during his first presidential term? Style 45 in simple terms, style refers to the author’s writing style, his/her structure, diction, use of figurative language and rhetoric. style is affected by regional and cultural variations, by changing uses of words, by the development of new words and new meanings in the language, and by the fertility of the author’s imagination. a good essayist chooses and arranges words to convey his/her particular meaning and to produce a particular effect. Style 46 Beginnings and Endings are Important The reader often remembers them best. They contain the ideas you most want to emphasize. The beginning is what draws the reader in. The ending leaves the reader with a strong final image, thought, or insight. Style Structure Beginning/Endings 47 Beginning/Ending Example Illustrative Anecdote: a brief recounting of an incident that illustrates or introduces the point you made or are about to make In his essay, ‘How to Live to be 200', Stephen Leacock uses the anecdote of Mister Jiggins, the health nut, to introduce his criticism of the overly health conscious. Shocking Statistic ...powerful industries - the $33 billion a year diet industry, the $20 billion cosmetics industry, the $300 cosmetic surgery industry, and the $7 billion pornography industry - have arisen from the money made out of peoples’ anxieties, and are able to negatively influence mass culture’. (Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth) Bold, Direct, Statement ‘A student often leaves high school today without any sense of how to survive in a world where his parents wipe his nose when he sneezes’. (Northrop Frye) Style : Development 48 The development of arguments is the main component of the structure of the essay. Using different methods indicates a sophisticated thought process. Some methods: Analogy Cause-effect Definition Example Comparison Contrast Classify Style: Development 49 Development Method What is It? Example Analogy compares something that is Niels Bohr's model of the atom less familiar with something made an analogy between the atom more familiar in order to help and the solar system. the reader understand the less familiar topic Cause & Effect explains why something happened by showing the direct causal relationships between two or more things Factory jobs draw people to cities which, in turn, have become overpopulated. Definition explores in greater depth the significance associated with the term or concept in order to give as full a picture as possible of its characteristics Susan Sontag defines ‘beauty’ by examining the ancient views of beauty, the language used to describe men’s versus women’s beauty, internal and external beauty, and the significance of the absence of beauty in the world. Style: Development 50 Development Method What is It? Example Example illustrates a point with reference to a personal or shared experience, an allusion, statistics, analogy, or quote from an authority In his essay ‘Were Dinosaurs Dumb?’ Stephen Gould cites Jack chopping down the beanstock and David smiting Goliath with a slingshot as metaphors that show how ‘slow wit is the tragic flaw of the giant.’ Comparison points out similarities and differences between two or more ideas, things, people, etc; point-by-point comparison is a more effective organization in that similarities and differences are clearly pointed out Comparing Brutus to Hamlet as tragic heroes reinforces the characteristics of the Shakespearean tragic hero while pointing out specific differences in their tragic flaws. Style: Development 51 Development Method What is It? Example Contrast points out differences between two characters or ideas; because this method can sharpen and clarify an argument, it is frequently more powerful than comparison By contrasting the openly discriminatory laws against women with any other visible minority, Doris Anderson argues that 51% of women suffer routine discrimination Categorize/Classify places together under a single heading concepts or things that share sufficient key characteristics as to be considered similar Kildare Dobbs in his essay ‘Canada’s Regions’ classifies the people of each region of Canada by their character. Style: Diction 52 choice of words used (connotation, specific/general, colloquial/form, abstract/concrete) The level of the language chosen often points to the intent of the writer and the audience to which he/she seeks to address. Simple diction: informal, humorous Elevated diction: formal, scientific, academic Style: Figurative Language 53 In writing, this includes figures of speech and specific imagery. What impact do these devices have on the passage? The reader? This includes the use of rhetorical devices. Style: Rhetoric 54 Rhetoric is the study of effective speaking and writing; the art of persuasion; and many other things. Rhetorical devices include techniques that help persuade the reader to agree with the view presented. Knowledge of those devices is critical to effective writing. Tone 55 Tone: the essayist’s feelings toward the subject matter. The tone is created through a number of features, like rhetorical devices, diction and the type of evidence presented. The tone of an essay may be ironic, frustrated, sincere, angry, self-mocking, encouraging, or nostalgic, etc. Mood 56 Mood how the subject matter is supposed to make the reader feel. The essayist’s tone should be directly responsible for the audience’s mood. It’s how he/she wanted the audience to react. Voice 57 In reading and analyzing essays, it is important to identify the essayist’s voice and examine its impact on what is being said. There are times when a writer may adopt a persona a character other than him/herself - in order to add another dimension to his/her writing. In other words, there is a split between the surface meaning of the text and the deeper meaning - the writer’s real message. This method is particularly useful in writing satirical pieces.