Practicing What You Preach

The other day, my friend sent me an email asking my advice on writing an academic essay analyzing a piece of literature. She figured appealing to an English major would be her best shot at getting the most beneficial information on the subject. I hope she was right. If I remember correctly, it was on Henry James’ The American, but that’s rather irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make. We have been writing each other emails back and forth these past few weeks because she is in Spain studying abroad at Saint Louis University and expressing the necessary amount of detail that will sufficiently bring the other up to speed on the goings on of the other’s life is impossible to accomplish over text message. But I digress. They were good questions, not that there are such things as “bad” questions, but what I mean to imply is that they made me think. She asked me to explain the thesis; the heart and soul of every successful essay. A simple question, true, but an essential one to understand. If your thesis is too vague or confusing, the essay is bound to fail. It’s like trying to build a house without a foundation. So I wrote back: It is the main thing you want to talk about in your essay. It is a chance for you to tell your reader what you want to say and how you are going to say it. It is supposed to be an argument, something that provokes discussion and thought. And then I told her “Be bold. Say something unexpected.” Right after I hit send, I paused. Be bold? Say something unexpected? Since when have I ever been bold when writing an essay? I always play it safe, expanding those arguments that have been mentioned in class, but maybe not gone into as much detail as others. It got me the grade and that was enough for me.

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The lovely Norton Anthology of Shakespeare

But here I sit in the Dude (even though I live on Central and am most certainly NOT an engineer), staring at my word document entitled “(Dys)Functional Friendships” (clever, right?) thinking about the relationships between Helena and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Antonio and Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice. My thesis was crappy; I tossed together an intro paragraph two nights ago just to give me something to work with went I spent all night tonight (literally all night) scrambling to put together a rough draft suitable for workshop tomorrow at 9 am. What am I missing? I had absolutely no idea and I could feel the frustration washing over me, making my stomach hurt. Then I remembered my own advice, “Be bold.” So I was. Is Shakespeare arguing that these relationships have dominant and submissive positions because Helena and Antonio are so dependent upon the other half of their duo they are willing to sacrifice love and even their lives to be near them? Who’s to say? But that’s what I’m going try and prove in the next several hours. So wish me luck and remember: Be bold. You never know what could come of it.

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