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Stole a maiden from her place,
Rose a nurse of ninety years,
Set his child upon her knee.
How Paragraphs Grow.
19. We may develop a topic statement into a paragraph in five principal ways: —
1. By repeating the topical idea in other forms,
2. By making comparisons or contrasts,
3. By adding particulars and details,
4. By giving specific instances,
5. By showing the effects of which the topic is the cause.
We shall now illustrate each of these methods of development.
20. 1. A tree is an underground creature, with its tail in the air. 2. All its intelligence is in its roots. 3. All the senses it has are in its roots. 4. Think what sagacity it shows in its search after food and drink! 5. Somehow or other, the rootlets, which are its tentacles, find out that there is a brook at a moderate distance from the trunk of the tree, and they make for it with all their might. 6. They find every crack in the rocks where there are a few grains of the nourishing substance they care for, and insinuate themselves in its deepest recesses. 7. When spring and summer come, they let their tails grow, and delight in whisking them
about in the wind, or letting them be whisked about by it; for these tails are poor passive things, with very little will of their own, and bend in whatever direction the wind chooses to make them. 8. The leaves make a deal of noise whispering. 9. I have sometimes thought I could understand them, as they talk with each other, and that they seemed to think they made the wind as they wagged forward and back. 10. Remember what I say. 11. The next time you see a tree waving in the wind, recollect that it is the tail of a great underground, many-armed, polypus-like creature, which is as proud of its caudal appendage, especially in summer-time, as a peacock of his gorgeous expanse of plumage. - HOLMES: Over the Teacups.
In the foregoing paragraph the topic statement occupies the first two sentences: A tree is an underground creature with its tail in the air and all its intelligence in its roots. A statement so surprising naturally calls for some explanation. Notice, now, how the explanation is made, that is, how the topic idea is developed. In sentence 3, the writer says over again, in slightly different words, what he said in sentence 2, "All the senses it has [that is, all its intelligence] are in its roots." In like manner in sentence 4 he says over again what he has said in sentences 2 and 3, "Think what sagacity [that is, what intelligence, what sense] it shows in its search after food and drink" [that is, in its roots]. Just so sentences 7–9 are a kind of repetition of the idea, "An underground creature with its tail in the air," and sentence 11 repeats in expanded form the ideas of sentences 1 and 2. Plainly, then, this method of paragraph growth is by repetition, the principal idea being repeated in detail. It should be
noticed, however, that the repetition amounts to more than merely putting one word in place of another; the idea grows by each repetition. Every repeated form of the thought adds to its clearness, its concreteness, or its emphasis.
Frequently a writer seems to have said to himself, "I will say this thing in another way, so that my precise meaning cannot fail to be understood." Then his explanations, whether they apparently repeat the topic idea or not, have the force of a definition, setting limits to his idea, making it narrower or broader; and he is likely to tell, in different ways, not only what the thing is, but also what the thing is not. In the following, for example, Ruskin, evidently wishing to make us understand precisely what a piece of English ground should have in order to be beautiful, peaceful, and fruitful, really defines these three terms both affirmatively and negatively. The parts in which he tells what the piece of English ground should not have are here printed in italics.
We will try to make some small piece of English ground beautiful, peaceful, and fruitful. We will have no steamengines upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the dead. We will have no liberty upon it; but instant obedience to known law, and appointed persons; no equality upon it; but recognition of every betterness that we can find, and reprobation of every worseness. When we want to go anywhere, we will go there quietly and safely, not at forty miles an hour in the risk of our lives; when we want to carry anything anywhere, we will carry it either on the backs of beasts, or on our own, or in carts, or in
boats; we will have plenty of flowers and vegetables in our gardens, plenty of corn and grass in our fields, and few bricks. We will have some music and poetry; the children shall learn to dance to it, and sing it; perhaps some of the old people, in time, may also. We will have some art, moreover; we will at least try if, like the Greeks, we can't make some pots. - RUSKIN: Fors Clavigera, Letter V.
21. Assignments on Development by Repetition.
A. In the following paragraphs find the sentences or parts of sentences which repeat in whole or in part the thought of the topic statement. In each case determine whether the repetition is or is not of a kind to make the thought grow. If it is, point out the new element of thought which the repetition adds to the thought of the topic statement. Does the thought thus repeated grow broader, or more definite, or more emphatic?
Not all of the sentences of these paragraphs are sentences of repetition; it is seldom that a topic statement is developed by repetitions alone. The uses of the other sentences will appear in subsequent lessons.
1. [Topic] 1. Nihilism, so far as one can find out, expresses rather a method, or a means, than an end. 2. It is difficult to say just what Nihilism does imply. 3. So much appears reasonably certain that the primary object of the Nihilists is destruction; that the abolition of the existing order, not the construction of a new order, is in their view; that, whatever their ulterior designs, or whether or no they have any ultimate purpose in which they are all or generally agreed, the one object which now draws and holds them together, in spite of all the terrors of arbitrary power, is the abolition, not only of all existing governments, but of all political estates, all institutions, all privileges, all forms of authority; and that to this is postponed whatever plans, purposes, or wishes the confederation, or its members indi
vidually, may cherish concerning the reorganization of society. FRANCIS A. WALKER: Socialism.
2. [Topic] 1. From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. 2. Pleased with the Pilgrim's Progress, my first collection was of John Bunyan's works, in separate little volumes. 3. I afterwards sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections; they were small chapmen's books, and cheap, forty or fifty in all. 4. My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity, most of which I read, and have since often regretted that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way, since it was now resolved I should not be a clergyman. 5. Plutarch's Lives there was, in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. 6. There was also a book of De Foe's, called An Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather's, called Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.
3. 1. All the triumphs of truth and genius over prejudice and power, in every country and in every age, have been the triumphs of Athens. 2. Wherever a few great minds have made a stand against violence and fraud in the cause of liberty and reason, there has been her spirit in the midst of them inspiring, encouraging, consoling; - by the lonely lamp of Erasmus; by the restless bed of Pascal; in the tribune of Mirabeau; in the cell of Galileo; on the scaffold of Sidney. [Topic] 3. But who shall estimate her influence on private happiness? 4. Who shall say how many thousands have been made wiser, happier, and better, by those pursuits in which she has taught mankind to engage; to how