Exposition: Definition and Analysis in English Composition

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      So far we have studied discourse which deals with things,—things active, doing something, considered under the head of narration; and things at rest, and pictured, considered in description. Now we come to exposition, which deals with ideas either separately or in combinations. Instead of Mr. Smith’s horse, exposition treats of the general term, horse. “The Great Stone Face” may have taught a lesson by its story, but the discussion of the value of lofty ideals is a subject for exposition.

So far we have studied discourse which deals with things,—things active, doing something, considered under the head of narration; and things at rest, and pictured, considered in description. Now we come to exposition, which deals with ideas either separately or in combinations. Instead of Mr. Smith’s horse, exposition treats of the general term, horse. “The Great Stone Face” may have taught a lesson by its story, but the discussion of the value of lofty ideals is a subject for exposition.

General Terms Difficult:
      That general terms and propositions are harder to get hold of than concrete facts is readily apparent in the first reading of an author like Emerson. To a young person it means little. Yet when he puts in the place of the general terms some specific examples, and so verifies the statements, the general propositions have a mine of meaning, and “the sense of the author is as broad as the world.” This stanza from Lowell is but little suggestive to young readers:—

 “Such earnest natures are the fiery pith,
 The compact nucleus, round which systems grow!
 Mass after mass becomes inspired therewith,
 And whirls impregnate with the central glow.”

      Yet when Columbus and Luther and Garrison are mentioned as illustrations of the meaning, it becomes world-wide in its application. Still in order to get at the thought, there is first the need of the specific and the concrete; afterward we pass to the general and the abstract.

      As abstract ideas are harder to get hold of than concrete facts, so exposition has difficulties greater than those found in narration and description. It is not so hard to tell what belongs in a story; the events are all distinct. Nor is it so difficult to know what to include in a description; one can look and see. In exposition this is not so. In most minds ideas do not have distinct limits; the edges rather are indistinct. It is hard to tell where the idea stops. In writing of “The Uses of Coal,” it is easy to wander over an indistinct boundary and to take a survey of “The Origin of Coal.” Not only may one include what unquestionably should be excluded, but there is no definite guide to the arrangement of the materials, such as was found in narration. There a sequence of time was an almost infallible rule; here the writer must search carefully how to arrange hazy ideas in some effective form. As discourse comes to deal more with general ideas, the difficulties of writing increase; and the difficulties are not due to any new principles of structure which must be introduced. When one says that the material should be selected according to the familiar law of Unity, he has given the guiding principle. Yet the real difficulty is still before an author: it is to decide what stamp to put upon such elusive matter as ideas. They cannot be kept long enough in the twilight of consciousness to analyze them; and often ideas that have been marked “accepted” have, upon reëxamination, to be “rejected.” To examine ideas—the material used in this form of discourse—so thoroughly that they may be accurately, definitely known in their backward relation and their bearing upon what follows, this is the seat of the difficulty in exposition.

      Exposition may conveniently be classified into exposition of a term, or definition; and exposition of a proposition, which is generally suggested by the term exposition.

      Definition of a word means giving its limits or boundaries. Of man it might be said that it is a living animal, having a strong bony skeleton; that this skeleton consists of a trunk from which extend four limbs, called arms and legs, and is surmounted by a bony cavity, called a skull; that the skeleton protects the vital organs, and is itself covered by a muscular tissue which moves the bones and gives a rounded beauty to their ugliness; that man has a highly developed nervous system, the centre of which is the brain placed in the skull. So a person might go on for pages, enumerating the attributes which, taken together, make up the general idea of man.

Exposition and Description distinguished:
      This sort of exposition is very near description; indeed, were the purpose different, it would be description. The purpose, however, is not to tell how an individual looks, but to place the object in a class. It is therefore not description, but exposition. Moreover, the method is different. In description those characteristics are given that distinguish the object from the rest of the class; while in exposition those qualities are selected which are common to all objects of its class.

Logical Definition:
      On account of the length of the definition by an enumeration of all the attributes, it is not frequently used except in long treatises. For it there has been substituted what is called a logical definition. Instead of naming all the characteristics of an object, a logical definition groups many attributes under one general term, and then adds a quality which distinguishes the object from the others of the general class. Man has been defined as the “reasoning animal.” In this definition a large number of attributes have been gathered together in the general term “animal;” then man is separated from the whole class “animal” by the word “reasoning.” A logical definition consists, then, of two parts: the general term naming the genus, and the limiting term naming the distinguishing attribute called the differentia.

Genus and Differentia:
      Genus and differentia are found in every good definition. The genus should be a term more general than the term defined. “Man is a person who reasons” is a poor definition; because “person” is no more general than “man.” “A canine is a dog that is wild” is very bad, because “dog,” the general term in the definition, is less general than the word defined. However, to say that “a dog is a canine that has been domesticated,” is a definition in which the genus is more general than the term defined.

      Next, the genus should be a term well understood. “Man is a mammal who reasons” is all right, in having a genus more general than the term defined, but the definition fails with many because “mammal” is not well understood. “Botany is that branch of biology which treats of plant life” has in it the same error. “Biology” is not so well understood as “botany,” though it is a more general term. In cases of this sort, the writer should go farther toward the more general until he finds a term perfectly clear to all. “Man is an animal that reasons,” “botany is the branch of science that treats of plant life,” would both be easily understood. The genus should be a term better understood than the term defined; and it should be a term more general than the term defined. A definition may be faulty in its differentia also. The differentia is that part of a definition which names the difference between the term defined and the general class to which it belongs. “Man is a reasoning animal.” “Animal” names the general class, and “reasoning” is the differentia which separates “man” from other “animals.” On the selection of this limiting word depends the accuracy of the definition. “Man is an animal that walks,” or “that has hands,” or “that talks,” are all faulty; because bears walk, monkeys have hands, and parrots talk. Supposing the following definitions were given: “A cat is an animal that catches rats and mice;” “A rose is a flower that bears thorns;” “Gold is a metal that is heavy;” all would be faulty because the differentia in each is faulty. Notice, too, the definitions of “dog” and “canine” already given. Even “man is a reasoning animal” may fail; since many men declare that other animals reason. The differentia should include all the members that the term denotes, and it should exclude all that it does not denote.

Requisites of a good Definition:
      The requisites of a good definition are: first, that it shall include or denote all the members of the class; second, that it shall exclude everything which does not belong to its class; third, that the words used in the definition shall be better understood than the word defined; fourth, that it shall be brief. A definition may perfectly expound a term; and because of the very qualities that make it a good definition, accuracy and brevity, it may be almost valueless to the ordinary reader. For instance, this definition, “An acid is a substance, usually sour and sharp to the taste, that changes vegetable blue colors to red, and, combining with an earth, an alkali, or a metallic oxide, forms a salt,” would not generally be understood. So it frequently becomes necessary to do more than give a definition in order to explain the meaning of a term. This brings us to the study of exposition, as it is generally understood, in which all the resources of language are called into service to explain a term or a proposition.

      How do Men explain? First, by Repetition. What, then, are the methods of explaining a proposition? First, a proposition may be explained by the repetition of the thought in some other form. To be effective, repetition must add something to what has been said; the words used may be more specific or they may be more general. For example, “A strong partisan may not be a good citizen. The stanchest Republican may by reason of a blind adherence to party be working an injury to the country he loves. Indeed, one can easily conceive a body of men so devoted to a theory, beautiful though it may be in many respects, that they stand in the way of the world’s progress.” The second sentence repeats the thought of the first in more specific terms; the third repeats it in more general terms. The specific may be explained by the general; more often the general is cleared up by the specific. In either case, the proposition must be brought one step nearer to the reader by the restatement, or the repetition is not good.

      Second, by telling the obverse. Second, a proposition may be explained by telling what it is not. At times this is as valuable as telling what it is. Care should be taken that the thing excluded or denied have some likeness to the proposition or term being explained; that the two be really in some danger of being confused. Unless to a hopelessly ignorant person, it would not explain anything to say “a horse is not a man;” but to assert that “a whale is not a fish, though they have many points in common,” would prepare the way for an explanation of what a whale is. The obverse statement is nearly always followed by a repetition of what the thing is.

      Third, by Details. Third, a common way of explaining a proposition is to go into particulars about it. Enough particulars should be given to furnish a reasonable explanation of the proposition. Macaulay, writing of the “muster-rolls of names” which Milton uses, goes into details.

      Fourth, by Illustrations. Fourth, a proposition may be explained by the use of a single example or illustration. The value of this method depends on the choice of the example. It must in no essential way differ from the general case it is intended to illustrate. Supposing this proposition were advanced by some woman-hater: “All women are, by nature, liars,” and it should be followed by this sentence, “For example, take this lady of fashion.” Such an illustration is worthless. The individual chosen does not fairly represent the class. If, on the other hand, a teacher in physics should announce that “all bodies fall at the same rate in a vacuum,” and should illustrate by saying, “If I place a bullet and a feather in a tube from which the air has been exhausted, they will be found to fall equally fast,” his example would be a fair one, as the two objects differ in no manner essential to the experiment from “all bodies.”

      Here should be included anecdotes used as illustrations. They are of value if they are of the same type as the general class they are intended to explain. They may be of little value, however. It could safely be said that half the stories told in campaign speeches are not instances in point at all, but are told only to amuse and deceive. Specific instances must be chosen with care if they are to serve a useful purpose in exposition.

      Fifth, by Comparisons. Last, a thing may be explained by telling what it is like, or what it is not like. This method of comparison is very frequently employed. To liken a thing to something already known is a vivid way of explaining. Moreover in many cases it is easier than the method of repetition or that of details. By this method Macaulay explains his proposition that “it is the character of such revolutions that we always see the worst of them first.”

     The comparison may be a simile or a metaphor, as when Huxley writes, explaining “the physical basis of life:”—

      “Protoplasm, simple or nucleated, is the formal basis of all life. It is the clay of the potter: which, bake it and paint it as he will, remains clay, separated by artifice, and not by nature, from the commonest brick or sun-dried clod.”

      These, then, are the methods commonly adopted for explaining terms and propositions. First, by the use of definitions; second, by repeating the proposition either directly or obversely, adding something to the thought by each repetition; third, by enumerating particulars which form the ground for the statement; fourth, by selecting an instance which fairly illustrates the proposition; fifth, by the use of comparisons and analogies.

The Subject:
      Some general considerations regarding the choice of a subject have been given. A subject should lend itself to the form of discourse employed; next, it should be a subject interesting to the readers; and third, it should be interesting to the writer and suited to his ability. The last condition makes it advisable to limit the subject to a narrow field. Few persons have the ability to view a general subject in all its relations. “Books” everybody knows something of; yet very few are able to treat this general subject in all its ramifications. A person writing of the general topic “books” would not only be compelled to know what a book is, what may truly be called a book, and what is the value of books to readers, and therefore the influence of the different kinds of literature; he would also be driven to study the machinery for making books, the history of printing, illustrating, and binding books, and all the mechanical processes connected with the manufacture of books. The subject might take quite another turn, and be the development of fiction or drama; it might be a discussion of the influences, political or social, that have moulded literature; it might be a study of character as manifested in an author’s works. No one is well fitted to write on the general topic “books.”

      A subject should be limited. The Subject should allow Concrete Treatment. For young persons the subject should be so selected and stated that the treatment may be concrete. As persons advance they make more generalizations; few, however, go so far as to think in general terms. Macaulay says, “Logicians may reason about abstractions, but the great mass of men must have images.” That author depended largely for his glittering effects upon the use of common, concrete things which the masses understand. The subject should be such that it can be treated concretely. “Love,” as a general proposition, is beautiful; but what more can a young writer say about it? Let him leave the whole horde of abstract subjects found in old rhetorics alone. They are subjects for experience; they cannot be handled by youth.

The Theme:
      After the subject has been chosen, the writer next considers how he shall treat it. He selects the attitude he will assume toward the proposition, his point of view; and this position he embodies in a short sentence, called his theme. For instance, “patriotism” is the subject; as it stands it is abstract and very general. However, this, “Can a partisan be a patriot?” would be sufficiently concrete to be treated. Even yet there is no indication of the author’s point of view. Should he write, “A real partisan is no patriot,” his theme is announced, and his point of view known.

      A theme, either explicit or implicit, is essential in exposition. It is not necessary that it shall be stated to the reader, but it must be clearly stated by the writer for his own guidance. It is, however, usually announced at the opening of the essay. Whether announced or not, it is most essential to the success of the essay. It is the touchstone by which the author tries all the material which he has collected. Not everything on the subject of patriotism should be admitted to an essay that has for its theme, “A real partisan cannot be a true patriot.” It would save many a digression if the theme were always written in bold, black letters, and placed before the author as he writes. Every word in a theme should be there for a purpose, expressing some important modification of the thought. For instance, the statement above regarding a partisan may be too sweeping; perhaps the essayist would prefer to discuss the modified statement that “a blind partisan cannot always be a true patriot.” The theme should state exactly what will be treated in the essay. The statement of it should employ the hardest kind of thinking; and when the theme is determined definitely and for all, the essay is safe from the intrusion of foreign ideas which disturb the harmony of the whole.

The Title:
      Having selected a subject, and with care stated the theme, it yet remains to give the essay a name. There is something in a name, and those authors who make a living by the pen are the shrewdest in displaying their wares under the most attractive titles. The title should be attractive, but it should not promise what the essay does not give. Newspaper headlines are usually attractive enough, but shamefully untruthful. Next, the title should indicate the scope of the essay. When Mr. Palmer calls his little book “Self-Cultivation in English,” it is evident that it is not a text-book, and that it will not treat English as literature or as a science. Then, the title should be short. The theme can rarely be used as a title; it is too long. But the paramount idea developed in the essay should be embodied in the title. “Partisanship and Patriotism” would be a good subject to give the essay we have spoken of. The title, then, should be attractive; it should be short; and it should truthfully indicate the contents of the essay.

Selection of Material:
      One of the important factors in the construction of an essay is the selection of material. Though theme and title have already been discussed, it was not because they are the things for a writer to consider next after he has chosen his subject, but because they are so intimately bound up in the subject that their consideration at that time was natural. Before a writer can decide upon the position he will assume toward a proposition, he should have looked over the field in a general way; for only with the facts before him is he competent to choose his point of view and to state his theme. The title is not in the least essential to the writing of the essay; it may be deferred until the essay is finished. It is necessary, however, that the writer have much knowledge of his subject, and that from this knowledge he be able to frame an opinion regarding the subject. When this has been done he is ready to begin the work of constructing his essay; and the first question in exposition, as in narration and description, is the selection of material to develop the theme he has chosen.

      The selection of material is a more difficult matter in exposition than in narration and description. It requires the shrewdest scrutiny to keep out matter that does not help the thought forward. In narration we decided by the main incident; in description by the purpose and the point of view; in exposition we test all material by its relation to the theme. Does it help to explain the theme? If not, however good material it may be, it has no business in the essay.

      Association of ideas is a law by which, when one of two related ideas is mentioned, the other is suggested. To illustrate, when Manila is mentioned, Admiral Dewey appears; when treason is spoken of, Arnold is in the mind. This law is of fundamental importance in arranging an essay; one thing should suggest the next. But valuable as it is, even indispensable, it may become the source of much mischief. For instance, a pupil has this for a topic, “Reading gives pleasure to many.” He writes as his second sentence, “By pleasure I mean the opposite of pain,” and goes on. “All things are understood by their opposites. If we did not know sickness, we could not enjoy our health. Joy is understood through sorrow. I remember my first sorrow. My father had just given me a new knife,—my first knife,” and so on from one thing to another. And not so unnaturally either; each sentence has suggested the next, but not one is on the topic. The most anxious watch must be kept in the selection of material. Some will be admitted without any question; some will be excluded with a brusqueness almost brutal. There is a third class, however, that is allied with the subject, yet it is not so easy to determine whether it should be admitted or rejected. This class requires the closest questioning. It must contribute to the strength of the essay, not to its pages, or it has no place there.

Scale of Treatment:
      There is another condition which must be considered in the selection of material, the scale of treatment. If Macaulay had been asked by a daily paper to contribute a paragraph of five hundred words on Milton, he could not have introduced all the numerous topics which have their place in his essay of one hundred pages. He might have mentioned Milton’s poetry and his character, the two main divisions of the present essay; but Dante and Æschylus, Puritan and Royalist, would scarcely have received notice. The second consideration in selecting material is the purpose and length of the essay, and the consequent thoroughness with which the subject is to be treated.

      The exhaustiveness with which an author treats any subject depends, first, on his knowledge. Any person could write a paragraph on Milton; Macaulay and Lowell wrote delightful essays on the topic; David Masson has written volumes about him. These would have been impossible except to a person who had been a special student of the subject. Second, the thoroughness of the treatment depends on the knowledge of the readers. For persons acquainted with the record of the momentous events of Milton’s time, it would have been quite unnecessary, it might be considered even an insult to intelligence, to go into such details of history. The shortest statement suffices when the reader is already familiar with the subject and needs only to know the application in this case. Third, the scale of treatment depends on the purpose for which the essay is written. If a newspaper paragraph, it is one thing; if for a magazine, it is quite another; if it is to be the final word on the subject, it may reach to volumes.

      An apt illustration of proportion in the scale of treatment has been given by Scott and Denny in their “Composition-Rhetoric.” They suggest that three maps of the United States, one very large, another half the size of the first, and a third very small, be hung side by side. If a comparison be made, it will be found that, whereas a great number of cities are represented on the largest map, only half as many appear on the middle-sized map. If the smallest map be examined, only the largest cities, the longest rivers, the greatest lakes, and the highest mountains can be found; all others must be omitted. On all three maps the same relation of parts is maintained. In proportion to the whole, New York State will hold the same position in all of them. The Mississippi River will flow from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, and the Gulf will sweep in a curve from Texas to Florida. The scale is different, but the proportion does not change.

      This principle applies in the construction of themes. In a paragraph only very important topics will receive any mention. In an essay these important topics retain their proper place and relation, while many other points of subordinate rank will be introduced. If the treatment be lengthened to a book, a host of minor sub-topics will be considered, each adding something to the development of the theme, and each giving to its principal topic the relative importance which belongs to the main divisions of the essay. The scale of treatment will have much to do with the selection of material.

      Following the selection of material comes its arrangement. Here also there is greater difficulty than was experienced in narration or description. Though the same principles of Coherence and Mass guide, they are more difficult to apply. The seat of the difficulty is in the elusiveness of the material. It is hard to picture distinctly the value and relation of the different topics of an essay. Suppose the subject is “The Evils of War.” The first paragraph might contain a general statement announcing the theme. Then these topics are to be discussed:—

      The effect on the morale of a nation. The suffering of friends and relatives. The destruction of life. The backward step in civilization. The destruction of property.

      The order could not be much worse. How shall a better be obtained?

Use Cards for Subdivisions:
      The most helpful suggestion regarding a method of making the material in some degree visible, capable of being grasped, is that each subdivision be placed on a separate card, and that, as the material is gathered, it be put upon the card containing the group to which it belongs. By different arrangements of these cards the writer can find most easily the order that is natural and effective. It is much like anagrams, this ordering of matter in an essay. Take these letters, s-l-y-w-a-r-e, and in your head try to put them together to make a word; you will have some trouble, probably. If, however, these same letters be put upon separate slips of paper, you may with some arrangement get out the rather common word, lawyers. It is much the same with topic cards in exposition; they can be moved and rearranged in all possible ways, and at last an order distinctly better than any other will be found.

      Speaking of cards, it might be well to say that the habit of putting down a fact or an idea bearing on a topic just as soon as it occurs to one is invaluable for a writer. All men have good memories; some persons have better ones than others. But there is no one who does not forget; and each catches himself very often saying, “I knew that, but I forgot it.” It is a fact, not perhaps complimentary, that paper tablets are surer than the tablets of memory.

An Outline:
      In exposition, where the whole attention of the reader should be given to the thought, where more than ever the mind should be freed from every hindrance, and its whole energy directed to getting the meaning, the greatest care should be given to making a plan. No person who has attained distinction in prose has worked without a plan. Any piece of literature, even the most discursive, has in it something of plan; but in literature of the first rank the plan is easily discovered. How clear it is in Macaulay’s essay has been seen. In Burke it is yet more logical and exact. However beautiful a piece may be, however naturally one thought grows out of another, as though it were always so and could be no other way, be sure it is so because of some man’s thought, on account of careful planning. And it may be said without a chance of contradiction that when an essay has been well planned it is half done, and that half by far the harder. “We can hardly at the present day understand what Menander meant, when he told a man who inquired as to the progress of his comedy that he had finished it, not having yet written a single line, because he had constructed the action of it in his mind. A modern critic would have assured him that the merit of his piece depended on the brilliant things which arose under his pen as he went along.” The brilliant things are but the gargoyles and the scrolls, the ornaments of the structure; and when so brilliant as to attract especial attention, they divert the mind from the total effect much as a series of beautiful marbles set between those perfect columns would have ruined the Parthenon. It was not in any single feature—not in pediment, column, or capital, not in frieze, architrave, or tympanum—that its glorious beauty lay, but in the simple strength and the harmonious symmetry of the whole, in the general plan. Webster planned his orations, Newman planned his essays, Carlyle planned his Frederick the Great. Their works are not a momentary inspiration; they are the result of forethought, long and painstaking. The absolute essential in the structure of an essay, that without which it will fail to arrive anywhere, that compared to which all ornament, all fine writing, is but sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal, that absolute essential is the total effect secured by making a plan.

Mass the End:
      The principles governing the arrangement of material are Mass and Coherence. Both are equally essential, but in practice some questions regarding Mass are settled first. The important positions in an essay are the beginning and the end; of these the more important is the end. In this place, then, there shall be those sentences or those paragraphs which deserve that distinction. Here frequently stands the theme, the conclusion of the whole matter, that for which the composition was constructed. So that if one wished to know the theme of an essay, he would be justified in looking at its conclusion to find it. In the essay on “Milton,” it is evident from the last paragraph that Macaulay never intended it to be only a criticism of his poetry, though he has devoted many pages to this discussion. Here is just the last sentence: “Nor do we envy the man who can study either the life or the writings of the great poet and patriot without aspiring to emulate, not indeed the sublime works with which his genius has enriched our literature, but the zeal with which he labored for the public good, the fortitude with which he endured every private calamity, the lofty disdain with which he looked down on temptations and dangers, the deadly hatred which he bore to bigots and tyrants, and the faith which he so sternly kept with his country and his fame.” Notice the last sentence of a delightful essay by George William Curtis; one could easily guess the contents and the title. “Fear of yourself, fear of your own rebuke, fear of betraying your consciousness of your duty and not doing it—that is the fear that Lovelace loved better than Lucasta; that is the fear which Francis, having done his duty, saved, and justly called it honor.” Examples of the ending in which the theme of the essay stands in the place of greatest distinction are so plentiful that there needs no collector to establish the assertion.

      In a single paragraph of exposition not exceeding two or three hundred words, it is a very safe rule for a beginner always to have the theme in the last sentence; or if he has stated the theme in the opening, to have a restatement of it in different form, fuller and more explicit usually, sometimes a shorter and more epigrammatic form, in the conclusion.

      If the pupil should obey this little rule to have at the end something worthy of the position, a vast amount of time would be saved both to teacher and to pupil. It can be safely said that not more than one half the essays end when the thought ends. Instead of quitting when he has finished, the writer dribbles on, repeating in diluted fashion what he has said with some force before, and often introducing matters that are not within hailing distance of his theme. When one has said what he started out to say, it is time to stop. If he stops then, he will have something important in the place of distinction.

The Beginning:
      The position of second importance is the beginning. If but a paragraph be written, the topic is usually announced at the opening. In short essays this is the most frequent beginning, and it may safely be used at all times. Exposition is explanation; the natural thing is to let the reader know at once what the writer is attempting to explain. Then the reader knows what the author is talking about and can relate every statement to the general proposition. To delay the topic compels the reader to hold in mind all that has been said up to the time the real theme is uncovered; this frequently results in inattention. In the little book by Mr. Palmer, the first paragraph opens with these two sentences: “English as a study has four aims: the mastery of our language as a science, as a history, as a joy, and as a tool. I am concerned with but one, the mastery of it as a tool.” So, too, the essay of which the last sentence has been quoted begins: “These are very precious words of Lovelace:—

 ‘I could not love thee, dear, so much,
 Loved I not honor more.’

 And Francis First’s message to his mother after Pavia, ‘All is lost but honor,’ is in the same key.”

      Instead of announcing the theme at the very beginning, in essays of some length there is sometimes an account of the occasion which led to the composition. Macaulay has used this opening in the essay on “Milton.” Second, the opening may be the clearing away of matters unrelated in reality, but which people have commonly associated with the topic. And third, the essay may open with definitions of the terms that will be used in the discussion. Of these three, only the first will be much used by young persons. It makes an easy approach to the subject, and avoids the unpleasant jar of an abrupt start. It is common with Macaulay, Lowell, and many essayists that write in an easy, almost conversational style.

      There is one case in which the theme should not be announced at the opening. If the proposition were distasteful, if it were generally believed to be false, it would not be policy to announce it at the beginning. However reasonable men may be, it is still true that reason is subject to emotions and beliefs to a greater degree than is praiseworthy. If a man should open an address upon Abraham Lincoln by saying that he was a cringing coward, he would have difficulty to get an audience to hear anything he said after that, no matter how much truth he spoke. The author of such a statement would be so disliked that nothing would win for him favor. When an unwelcome theme is to be discussed, it must be approached carefully by successive steps which prepare the reader for the reception of a truth that before seemed false to him. In this case the theme will be stated at the end, but not at the beginning of the essay.

      Get started as soon as you can, and stop when you have finished; by so doing you will have important matters in those places which will emphasize them. Shun the allurements of high-sounding introductions and conclusions. Professor Marston used to tell his pupils to write the best introduction they could, to fashion their most gorgeous peroration, and to be sure to have the discussion clear, logical, and well expressed. Then he said that when he had cut off both ends, he generally had left a good essay. An essay should be done much as a business man does business. He does not want the gentleman who calls on him during business hours to bow and scatter compliments before he takes up the matter which brought him there; nor does he care to see him swaying on the doorknob after the business is finished. To the business at once, and leave off when you have done. Introductions, exordiums, perorations, and conclusions are worthless unless they be in reality a part of the discussion and necessary to the understanding of the whole.

Proportion in Treatment:
      Everything, however, cannot occupy the first and last places. How can other matters be emphasized? To refer to the parallel of the map, in order to make people see that the Mississippi River is longer than the Hudson, the designer made it longer on the map. That is exactly what is done in an essay. If one matter is of greater importance than another, it should take up a larger part of the essay. When Macaulay passes over Milton’s sonnets with a paragraph, while he devotes sixteen paragraphs to “Paradise Lost,” he indicates by the greater mass the greater value he ascribes to the epic. So again, a very good proof that he did not intend this essay to be a literary criticism primarily, another evidence beside the closing paragraph, is found in his division of the whole essay. To Milton’s poetry he has given forty-one paragraphs, and to his character fifty-two paragraphs. The most common way of emphasizing important divisions of an essay is by increasing the length of treatment.

Emphasis of Emotion:
      However, there are times when this cannot be done: a point may be so well known that it needs no amplification. In such a case there may be an emphasis of emotion; that is, the statement may be made with an intensity that counterbalances the weight of the larger treatment. It might be said that the one has great velocity and little mass, while the other has great mass and little velocity. By hurling forth the smaller mass at a higher velocity, the momentum may be as great as when the larger mass moves with little velocity. The dynamic force of burning words may give an emphasis to a paragraph out of all proportion to the length of treatment. In one paragraph Macaulay dashes aside all the defenses of Charles.

Phrases indicating Emphasis:
      Moreover, phrases and sentences may be introduced to show that a writer considers some topics of equal importance to others, or even of greater importance, though they do not demand the same length of treatment. Of equal importance, not less weighty, beyond question the most pertinent, illustrate what is meant by phrases which indicate values. These and many of their class which the occasion will call forth are necessary to give certain topics the rank they hold in the writer’s conception of the whole subject. In discussing the temper and character of the American people, Burke ascribes it to six powerful causes. The relative value of these is indicated in the last three by phrases.

      Emphasis is indicated, then, by position; by the length of treatment; by dynamic statement; and by phrases denoting values.

      Coherence is the second principle which modifies the internal structure of a composition. That arrangement should be sought for that places in proximity one to another those ideas which are most closely related. More than in composition dealing with things, in those forms of discourse dealing with intangible, invisible ideas,—with thoughts, with speculations,—the greatest care is necessary to make one topic spring of necessity from a preceding topic. And this is not impossible when the material has been carefully selected. The principal divisions of the subject bear a necessary and logical relation to the whole theme, and the subordinate divisions have a similar relation to their main topic. In the essay on “Milton,” Macaulay is seeking to commend his hero to the reader for two reasons: first, because his writings “are powerful, not only to delight, but to elevate and purify;” second, because “the zeal with which he labored for the public good, the fortitude with which he endured every private calamity, the lofty disdain with which he looked down on temptations and dangers, the deadly hatred which he bore to bigots and tyrants, and the faith which he so sternly kept with his country and with his fame” made him a patriot worthy of emulation. We feel instinctively that this arrangement, poetry first and character next, and not the reverse, is the right order. To discuss character first and poetry last would have been ruinous to Macaulay’s purpose. Notice next the development of a sub-topic in the same essay. Only one sentence from a paragraph is given. The defenders of Charles do not choose to discuss “the great points of the question,” but “content themselves with exposing some of the crimes and follies to which public commotions necessarily give birth.” “Be it so.” “Many evils were produced by the Civil War.” “It is the character of such revolutions that we always see the worst of them first.” Yet “there is only one cure for the evils which newly acquired freedom produces, and that cure is freedom.” “Therefore it is that we decidedly approve of the conduct of Milton and the other wise and good men who, in spite of much that was ridiculous and hateful in the conduct of their associates, stood firmly by the cause of public liberty.” No other arrangement of these paragraphs seems possible. To shift the sequence would break the chain. Each paragraph grows naturally from the paragraph preceding. Closely related topics stand together. There is Coherence.

Transition Phrases:
      The logical connection between topics which have been well arranged may be made more evident by the skillful use of words and phrases that indicate the relation of what has been said to what is to be said. These phrases are guideposts pointing the direction the next topic will take. They advise the reader where he is and whither he is going. Cardinal Newman, who had the ability to write not only so that he could be understood, but so that he could not be misunderstood, made frequent use of these guides. The question in one of his essays is “whether knowledge, that is, acquirement, is the real principle of enlargement, or whether that is not rather something beyond it.” These fragments of sentences open a series of paragraphs. 1. “For instance, let a person ... go for the first time where physical nature puts on her wilder and more awful forms,” etc. 2. “Again, the view of the heavens which the telescope opens,” etc. 3. “And so again, the sight of beasts of prey and other foreign animals,” etc. 4. “Hence Physical Science generally,” etc. 5. “Again, the study of history,” etc. 6. “And in like manner, what is called seeing the world,” etc. 7. “And then again, the first time the mind comes across the arguments and speculations of unbelievers,” etc. 8. “On the other hand, Religion has its own enlargement,” etc. 9. “Now from these instances, ... it is plain, first, that the communication of knowledge certainly is either a condition or a means of that sense of enlargement, or enlightenment of which at this day we hear so much in certain quarters: this cannot be denied; but next, it is equally plain, that such communication is not the whole of the process.” How extremely valuable such phrases are may be realized from the fact that, though the matter is entirely unknown, any one can know the relation of the parts of this essay, whither it tends, and can almost supply Newman’s thoughts.

Summary and Transition:
      To secure coherence between the main divisions of an essay, instead of words and phrases, there are employed sentences and paragraphs of summary and transition. Summaries gather up what has been said on the topic, much like a conclusion to a theme; transitions show the relation between the topic already discussed and the one next to be treated. Summaries at the conclusion of any division of the whole subject are like the seats on a mountain path which are conveniently arranged to give the climber a needed rest, and to spread out at his feet the features of the landscape through which he has made his way. Summaries put the reader in possession of the situation up to that point, and make him ready for the next stage of the advance. At the end of the summary there is frequently a transition, either a few sentences or sometimes a short paragraph. The sentence or paragraph of transition is much more frequent than the paragraph which summarizes.

      This year, taking up the study of exposition, offers especially good opportunities for exercises in paragraph and sentence construction. During the first eight or ten weeks the pupils will write isolated paragraphs. The unity and arrangement of these should be carefully criticised. Also the exercises should be arranged so that the pupils will employ all forms of paragraphs. Before he begins to write a paragraph, the pupil should know what he is to include in it, and in what order; otherwise the paragraph will fail in unity and effective massing. Paragraphs are made by forethought, not by inspiration.

      Following the writing of isolated paragraphs is the composition of the long essay. The first thing is a study of outlines. This will take up six or eight weeks. To secure the view of the whole in different arrangements, use the cards.

      When the class has gained some grasp of outlines, the writing of essays should be begun. At the option of the pupils, they may write some of the essays already outlined, or study new themes. Two or three paragraphs are all that can be well done for a lesson. Good, not much, should be the ideal. In this way a single essay may occupy a class from three to six weeks.

      It should be remembered that these exercises are written consciously for practice. They are exercises—no more. Their purpose is to give skill and judgment in composition. It is because they are exercises that they may be somewhat stereotyped and artificial in form, just as exercises in music may be artificially constructed to meet the difficulties the young musician will have to confront.

      During the writing of these essays special attention should be given to sentence construction. The inclusion of just the ideas needed in the sentence and no more; the massing that makes prominent the thought that deserves prominence; and the nice adjustment of one sentence to the next: these objects should be striven for during this semester.

      It would be a pleasure to go on with this list of exercises, but it is unnecessary and it is unwise. These indicate the objects to be sought for in the exercises. They are not a specific course, though they might suit a certain environment. Each teacher knows her own pupils,—their attainments and their interests. The subjects should be chosen to suit their special cases. Only make them interesting; put them into such form that there is something to get hold of; and adapt them so that all the topics to be studied will be illustrated in the work. The pupils should be able to write any form of paragraph, to arrange it so that any idea is made prominent, and to make easy transitions. Arrange the exercises to accomplish definite results.

      During the third year, attention should be given to words and to the refinements of elegant composition. These the pupils will best learn by careful watch of the literature. The teacher should be quick to feel the strength and beauty of any passage and able to point out the means adopted to obtain the delightful effect. Clearness first is the thing to be desired; if to this can be added force and a degree of elegance during the last two years, the work of the instructor has been well done.

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