In this lesson, our instructor Rebekah Hendershot, does a Prose Essay Walkthrough. Using real passages from 2010, youll learn how to find the point of the passage and understand how the author gets that point across. Rebekah also helps you look at Point of View, Tone, and Language in order to craft a well-developed essay outline from start to finish. The lecture ends with helpful tips and tricks, as well as, The Ultimate Essay Secret.
The passage is an excerpt from the novel Belinda by Maria Edgeworth.
You are asked to “analyze Clarence Hervey’s complex character”, paying particular attention to “such literary elements as tone, point of view, and language.”
Reading the Passage
Remember, you are asking yourself two questions:
What’s the point of this passage?
How does the author get that point across?
What’s the point of this passage? Clerence is a gifted and intelligent young man, but overly concerned with appearing gifted and intelligent This causes him to change along with his company, and to suspect other people (most notably Belinda) of being likewise changeable.
How does the author get this point across?
Point of view: The author lingers in third-person limited POV (Clerence) to show his inmost thoughts and why he behaves as he does.
Tone: The passage’s tone is wry and a bit disapproving.
Language: The author uses a lot of parallelism and repetition to get her point across. Note the adjectives.
Outlining the Essay
A typical essay on this passage might go like this:
Thesis: In this passage, Edgeworth uses a limited point of view, a wry tone, and elaborately constructed sentences to convey the character of Clarence Hervey—a man too intelligent for his own good, one concerned with appearances above all and consequently willing to change himself at any moment to suit whoever he’s with.
Point of View: A paragraph about point of view would focus on how the author describes Clarence’s POV, particularly in lines like “he imagined that, as such, he was entitled to be imprudent, wild, and eccentric”. Look also at “even when he felt himself most charmed by her powers of pleasing, he was most inclined to despise her, for what he thought such premature proficiency in scientific coquetry.” This is someone who attributes his own faults to others, and the point of view indicates that.
Tone: The first impression of this passage’s tone is that it is wry and slightly disapproving. To support that, look at phrases like “supposed to be a favourite,” which indicates that he wasn’t actually all that popular, just perceived as such. Notice also that he thinks of Belinda has “having the misfortune” of her aunt’s involvement in her marriage prospects—many people would consider that a plus, but not Clarence! Thus Edgeworth uses an ironic tone to show Clarence’s changeability. He can’t take things at face value, even though in Belinda’s case he should.
Language: A paragraph about language might focus on all those long, lovely 19th-century list-sentences. For example: “He was not profligate; he had a strong sense of humor, and quick feelings of humanity; but he was so easily led, or rather so easily excited by his companions, and his companions were now of such a sort, that it was probable he would soon become vicious.” Note also the author’s use of contrasts within sentences, usually involving conjunctions like yet and but. This description of Clarence is all about qualification and contradiction. Focus on that.
Conclusion: While writing this essay, the contradictory nature of Clarence Hervey became more evident (especially in the language paragraph). Thus, the conclusion would focus on those contradictions—how Clarence’s intelligence clashes with his willingness to bow to social pressure and be whatever other people want him to be, and how this causes him to assume both that other people are equally changeable and that he himself is not (another contradiction!). Thus, the conclusion brings the essay full circle while expanding on the thesis.
Tips and Tricks
Get your mechanics right—neat handwriting, correct grammar/spelling/punctuation, etc.
Make your first paragraph perfect.
Don’t wed yourself to your structure. If your ideas change as you’re writing, work it in. Perfectly structured essays are boring (and anything good written in just 40 minutes will not be perfectly structured).
Don’t restate the prompt. Paraphrase.
Don’t summarize. Use quotations to support your points, but analyze more than you quote.
Use clear transitions and topic sentences.
Don’t pad, and don’t ramble.
Have a hook and a conclusion.
The Ultimate Essay Secret
Be confident in your writing—no matter what you’re writing about!
Prose Essay Walkthrough
Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.
This book includes five full length practice exams with all questions answered and explained. It includes a review of test topics covering details test takers need to know, such as poetry,prose fiction, and drama. It also includes sample student essays with critiques of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as a detailed glossary defining 175 literary and rhetorical terms.
Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New ed edition
This book is a reprint of the Shakespeare Head Press edition, and it presents all the plays in chronological order in which they were written in an easy to read format. It also includes Shakespeare's Sonnets, as well as his longer poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece.
Grammarly is the world's leading software suite for perfecting written English. It checks for more than 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, enhances vocabulary usage, and suggests citations.