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    Avoiding plot summary, with Pride and Prejudice

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    The paragraph below is an excellent example of poor argumentation due to plot summary. The writer refers to several events in the novel without explaining how they fit into the main point of the paragraph. As a result, the main point of the paragraph is very weak.

    The solution to this problem will explain how to take this paragraph and turn it into a strong paragraph: one that avoids merely summarizing the plot, offers an engaging topic sentence, and creates an interesting argument by close reading one or two brief passages in the text. It will use the terms 'third-person narrator' and 'free indirect discourse' to offer a nuanced reading of the passage where Darcy declines to dance with Elizabeth.

    Dances often progress the plot of Pride and Prejudice. The two most important courtships begin at the Meryton assembly where Jane and Bingley dance with each other twice, and we see the first encounter between Elizabeth and Darcy. In fact, the Bennets almost did not make it to the ball because of their father; if they had not, neither of the girls would have met their future husbands and the plot would not have continued. At the ball, Bingley immediate notices Jane and thinks to himself that she is the most beautiful woman in the room. Their relationship steadily progresses from this encounter toward marriage. At the same assembly, Darcy insults Elizabeth by remarking that she is not desirable as a dancing partner. At later dance Darcy and Elizabeth will become partners, giving them an opportunity to become acquainted, but the first ball is unsuccessful for Elizabeth. Dance can either progress or forestall courtship in the novel.

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    Solution Preview

    Take a moment to read this version of the paragraph:

    During the Meryton assembly readers learn how dances can also forestall a courtship due to incorrect first impressions. At one point in the evening Elizabeth must sit out two dances because there is "a scarcity of gentlemen" (Austen 7). The third-person narrator could be describing the actual situation here, or the phrase "a scarcity of gentlemen" may be Elizabeth's own through free indirect discourse as she tries to make light of finding herself without a partner. Darcy's comment to Bingley suggests that "a scarcity" is a polite understatement. As he remarks to his friend, who encourages him to ask the lonely Miss. Bennet to dance, "I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men" (7-8). Darcy interprets Elizabeth's want of a partner as a judgment on her desirability, and so his first impression of Elizabeth is a prejudice - and possibly erroneous. For it is also possible that he has misread the situation and there ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution offers a short lesson in avoiding plot summary, with example paragraphs based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The problem gives a poorly-argued body paragraph from an essay on courtship in Austen's novel. The solution explains how you can quickly move towards a much stronger paragraph by reworking the topic sentence and making the most out of a couple brief passages from the text. The strong paragraph presented in the solution effectively uses the terms 'third-person narration' and 'free indirect discourse' to reveal an interesting moment of ambiguity in the text, and what it suggests about Elizabeth and Darcy.