May 12, 2010
By conniepanton BRONZE, River Forest, Illinois
conniepanton BRONZE, River Forest, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I listened, increasingly more embarrassed with each word that came out of my teacher’s mouth. Sure, my conclusion sounded a little moralistic for a literary analysis paper, but he did not have to exaggerate each word to make it sound as if I was some itinerant preacher on a mountain. At least I was mixing up the type of bad endings I have been writing all year; this time. Mr. Bell called it “Purple Prose” rather than the usual “Ribbons & Bows,” but I still had not escaped that immediate happy ending, that sense of closure that I feel the need for both when writing, and when reading other’s works.

When I went home and read over the conclusion, I counted four words in a only three sentence paragraph that I had had put in there after putting a simpler word and then using Microsoft Word thesaurus. Big flashing light-- I was trying too hard. Yet what a teacher would consider “trying too hard” is the easiest approach to a conclusion in my opinion. It leaves both the reader and myself content, and if it happens to have a few intelligent words stuck in there to show off to my teacher, well then it’s a win-win.

I was happy I had asked for Mr. Bell’s opinion on my conclusion, hoping that the re-write would help my grade, but I was almost disappointed that my paper was returned to me without any comments on the conclusion. I knew it was an improvement, it was better to have no comment on the conclusion than the bad ones I have been receiving all year, but at least with the bad comments, I knew my conclusion had made an impact. It was at this point that I knew my tendency to write ribbon and bow endings ran deeper than bad habits. It was reflective of my need to impress and my fear of being unnoticed.

This semester, I have gotten much better at formulating complex theses with nuance. While reading Canterbury Tales, I applied a study mechanism I have been using in history all year long. When I would read about a president’s action, for instance, that reminded me of an action of a previous figure, I would write them down, and I would begin to see trends throughout history, such as how presidents tended to act isolationist after wars. Canterbury Tales was the first book for English to which I applied this method of noting trends between characters and tales, and it provided me with a long list of potential theses for my paper, giving me the opportunity to select one that interested me rather than just going with the first one I could think of. What I found myself struggling most with was taking specific examples of the argument further, or the “so what.” I increasingly find myself quoting text but then when trying to expand on it, having nothing more than my mere thesis to re-state. The paper read, here’s six times in the novel this is shown. I received the paper back with the comment, “tie analysis to language,” and I knew that that was how I could have been supplied the paper with more varied analysis. It would have been especially interesting to do a closer reading and tie my thesis more directly with the language in Canterbury Tales, for I could not only see which words Chaucer chose, but which ones the translator chose to convey the message, adding a further level of detail for my analysis.

I also found that this semester, I have begun to vary my writing style from paper to paper as well as within papers. This use a varying styles shows that I have developed a greater understanding of the purpose of a certain assignment as well as a skill for writing for a specific audience. Though Mr. Bell has generally been the audience throughout the year, I have found myself not as scared to write how I would write if the work were not submitted for grading, which I believe has increased the quality of my writing because it has increased my frequency of taking risks with styles and subjects. For instance, my first semester reflection, for the first time, had a very casual tone to its anecdote and I have discovered that casual anecdotes often put the reader in the moment more fully than one trying to sound too professional. I have also developed the skill of changing my tone slightly within the piece of work, such as from the usually fun, casual anecdote, to the more structured analysis that follows in a personal essay. Though I have continued to write for an audience, Mr. Bell, I have begun to write less to please that audience and more in a way that pleases myself, the writer, and is only adaptive to the audience.

In my Othello reflection, I consciously tried to write my ending as just another piece of detail rather than a “this is what my experience taught me” closing. In doing so, however, I neglected to discuss how I was affected at all, and talked only about Othello’s character, which is a step too far in the other direction from “Ribbons and Bow’s.” After hearing my Canterbury Tales paper read aloud and realizing how cliché that ending was, I dulled it down with further details and did not receive a bad comment on my ending. The difference from last semester, therefore, lies in my ability to spot cliché endings. Though I may have a tendency to automatically write “ribbon and bow” endings on my first draft, and even feel dissatisfied when turning in a paper without one, I wrote papers this semester with an awareness of my tendency, and I did not turn in a final draft of a paper this semester that was returned with “cliché” written after the conclusion.

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