Narrowed Topic And Controlling Idea – English

You have chosen your author and story, and now it is time to choose the element that you want to focus on primarily for your first essay. It does not mean that this is the only element that you will cover in your paper; it just means that this is the element that you are going to focus on and discuss more than any of the other elements in the story, and you will only talk about other elements in reference to this element. It also means that this is the element that you are going to put into your thesis and, subsequently, develop your controlling idea in reference to. Most of you are still having trouble with controlling ideas, but that is okay because it is still early in the semester, and that is normal. (BTW, it should be an element that is in one of the chapters that we have covered thus far.) This is an assignment that I like to do early in the semester for that reason, to help you get your mind around the concept of the controlling idea:

After you have provided the element that you wish to focus on, write 250 words about how that element is used in the story as a prelude to establishing the controlling idea part of your thesis, just like we have been doing with discussion boards. These 250 words will, hopefully, help lead you to your controlling idea. Ideally, you will develop an idea here by using this as a kind of free writing exercise. After you have written them, you will attempt to synthesize them into an idea. Here are some pointers:

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1. Begin the writing exercise with the words: “In this story the element of ________ is used to ________.” The first blank should be your chosen element; the second blank should be the jumping off point for your 250 words.

2. Try to make sure it is just one idea, not a lot of different ideas. The best way to do that is to make sure each sentence follows the previous one, meaning that you should get more and more specific each sentence as opposed to jumping back and forth from general to more specific and in that way making point after point after point like you would do in a proper essay.  The first sentence should be a very general and vague notion about the element, and the final sentence should be a very specific sentence about the same idea. Look below for an example of this with a story that we did not read:

In Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge,” the author does interesting things with point of view. In this story, Point of View is used to bring the reader into the character’s mind and feel his dilemma. When the story starts, the point of view is a very objective version of third-person omniscient. By the end of the story, the narrator is using a much more personal third-person limited point of view, which is much more intimate. The reader goes from regarding the protagonist as a nameless soldier being put to death on a bridge to understanding and almost becoming him, a person facing a deep and horrible loss, the loss of his family, dignity, and life. The reader goes from looking at the protagonist through a vague but visually descriptive point of view to careening through the mind of this man via his hopes, dreams, and emotions. In a small way, his loss becomes our loss, his failings our failings, his human frailty our own. We understand everything that brought him to that point on the bridge, his delusion, his false bravado, his disregard for the importance of his family. Furthermore, by switching from one point of view to the next and in effect allowing things to go from unreal to very real, the reader is helped to understand what really happened with the character. At first, he understood war in a very naive way that didn’t account for the harsh realities of it. At the end, he came to understand them in the most extreme and terrible way. SYNTHESIS: In his short story, “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge,” Ambrose Bierce uses point of view to show the reader the harsh realities of war.

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