A paragraph by paragraph Example

1. Choose a title at the last minute

Titles are very important for your English paper and before you begin you should have a title that clearly explains what the paper is about. Ideally it should be very close to your “thesis” and probably should sound esoteric. Remember, do not write any part of your paper until you have a good title.

Voluntary and Involuntary initiations in Early Twain Books

2. Create a thesis paragraph

The thesis (plural thesi, I think) is a very important concept in literature class. I’ve bolded the thesis in the following paragraph as an example of what one should be. It should always be presented in the form of a question, presumably having been developed from the show Jeopardy. Though do note that some teachers like your thesis to explain the point of the essay, in which case write “To get a good grade”. The thesis like most made up things in academia is subject to your professor’s whims and sometimes you can get away with not having one at all.

Mark Twain's books are filled with initiations both voluntary and involuntary. The voluntary initiations are undertaken by those who wish to gain experience, but the involuntary ones are usually practical jokes of varying degrees of cruelty purported by those in “the know” on those who are new to an environment or circumstance. Are these initiations a product of how Twain’s humor works, a some how accidental feature of how he writes or are they something deliberate?

3. State what you will be doing in the essay

Using book titles make you sound smart and will offset the rest of the essay when you will be floundering under too much coffee and a lack of time.

I will be focusing mostly on the books The Innocents Abroad and Roughing It, but will take an important detour later into Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to illustrate Twain's love of the initiation story.

4. Use even more titles when you can’t think of the next paragraph

Casting as wide a literary net on your sources as possible make you look hardworking. You don’t have to have read any of the books you mention, but make sure to read the cliff notes or Wikipoad-type summaries on the internet. Note the last sentence (before the parentheses) ends in a preposition. This is to show the teacher that you are not afraid to buck stupid grammar rules made up by pretentious Latinates in the 19th Century.

First a word on initiations. Initiations fill Twain books. From Pudd'nhead Wilson to Tom Sawyer , there is hardly a book without some sort of shocking revelation by a character visiting a place unfamiliar to them. The entirety of Captain Stormfield is about an initiation into Heaven, a place unfamiliar to the narrator. This is wholly an involuntary experience, and the titular Stormfield finds himself the butt of many misconceptions about Heaven. In Pudd'nhead the title character fails an important initiation early on in the story and finds himself an outcast in the small town he has moved to (a voluntary initiation).

5. Write about the books you have read

Be sure to repeat phrases to buff up the length of your paper. Phrases such as “butt of jokes” should be repeated because it is three words long but represents one thing. Concise writing should be avoided as well as contractions, every sentence needs to labor along like a extremely fat man trying to run a marathon up Mount Vesuvius.

In Roughing It Mark Twain decides to initiate himself into the privileged society of those who have gone out west and so travels with his brother off to the Nevada territory, where he is the butt of jokes of the locals. Late in the book there is an eastern lawyer who is the butt of a joke where he is persuaded to argue a court case about a nonexistent farm that due to an landslide has wound up on top of another nonexistent piece of land. The result is that the lawyer fails an initiation ritual much to his detriment and amusement of the locals.

6. Repeat the last example but use a different source

Repeating what you said, but using a different source is a good way to trick your teacher into thinking you actually have thoughts in your head instead of regurgitating what they said in a lecture. This is a perfectly good technique to use if you just got done panicking about the paper when you realized it is due in two days and all you have is your thesis paragraph.

In The Innocents Abroad these sorts of jokes are often played on the people of Twain's tour group, the pilgrims as Twain calls them, though jokes are not exclusive to the pilgrims. Twain often is willing to play similar jokes on the locals, when he can, and often the local versus pilgrim dichotomy is broken by having Twain play jokes on the pilgrims himself setting up pilgrim versus pilgrim situations such as the one where he is one the boat early in the book and keeps having to be scolded away from important equipment.

7. Combine examples while still using the last example

Thinking up evidence is hard. Combine both books you were talking about in an example and free write it. Use near synonyms like “special” and “superior” to hide your repetition. Resist the urge to proofread as even with teachers who circle misspellings, it will not likely affect your grade in any meaningful way.

Twain does not discriminate in his willingness to play jokes on anybody the only distinction seems to be that persons with superior knowledge play a trick on those without special knowledge. The miners and locals in Roughing It , the genteel voice of narrator and the locals as wells as the “good old boys” in The Innocence Abrode all posses superior knowledge over those that they are playing their jokes on. In both books the narrator, Twain, starts out without any special knowledge and moves toward having more knowledge so that he can participate in the jokes. In Innocents this process is less clear, being written in letter format with a changing narrative voice deludes the arc of this process of being coming wiser, but not enough that it doesn't exist.

8. Use more examples

Use complete titles whenever you can get away with it and use long phrases like “Over the course of the book”. These will help you think of what you are going to type next as you cannot allow yourself the luxury of slowing down your fingers. Typing slow is bad because at this point in your paper you should only have a day to complete your paper thanks to your girlfriend’s computer dying yesterday preventing you from working on it at her apartment and preventing you from having a good excuse to avoid the Mormon missionaries upstairs who sometimes like to come down and talk about their strange and creepy religion.

The first initiation that Twain undergoes in The Innocents Abroad is a voluntary one, he signs up for an exclusive boat trip to Europe. Over the course of the book, Twain will end up becoming disenchanted with the trip and the sights he is to see. The initiation, like all initiations in the book, usher in greater knowledge exclusive to a select few, but like all knowledge gained in this way it is not something wholly voluntary. Twain wants to experience Europe and to see the wonders that many travel books of the time described. However, viewing them leads to a new knowledge that things in travel books might be exaggerated. In this way Twain is initiated into the larger world, but loses some of the titular innocence.

9. Use more examples

Made up words are fun. In this paragraph use what we’ve discussed above to create a paragraph that contributes nothing but that doesn’t actively hurt your paper. If you feel the need to use long words, be sure that they are academic long words. For example the words anagnorisis and peripeteia are perfectly okay to use, but prestidigitation would not be because it is not an academic word and you risk the teacher getting annoyed. Highlighted examples below.

Throughout Twain books we can see this kind of awakening. In Roughing It we are again and again confronted with scenes featuring these initiations; where outsiders are faced by insiders often with the outsider being the butt of a joke or sometimes of circumstance. The escape of the tarantulas in chapter XXI, where the tenderfoot surveyors capture and bring back tarantulas (presumably as specimens, though the book never really explains why they were messing with these arachnoidal monsters), only to have them escape resulting in one of the funniest parts of the book, is an example of the circumstantial initiation. The surveyors are outsiders messing in a strange new land and are initiated when their supposed control of the tarantulas turns out to be ephemeral. Similarly, Twain's discovery of mica, is an anagnorisis of sorts where Twain becomes disillusioned by an older prospector who reveals that the “silver” Twain has found is only worthless mica.

10. Summarize

Once you have milked the example section of your paper for all it is worth, summarize what you just said. This shows the teacher that you understand what you are talking about even if you are waffling about searching for your subject. This is academia, after all, and if you’re not struggling with your paper you’re not really taking a 400 level English course.

These situations are only the few initiations the herald disappointment but greater understanding. Both the Innocences Abroad and Roughing It are initiations themselves, set up in the same way that their smaller incidents are: Tenderfoot goes to a foreign place, is disillusioned, and learns something more about the world.

11. Explain something the teacher already knows

Pretend the teacher hasn’t read the book you are talking about. Impress the teacher by nearly quoting one of their lectures word by word. You’ve noted during your summer job as an eyeglass salesman that people were more likely to buy crappy merchandise if you threw their own phrasings and accents back at them. Presumably this works on teachers too. However, be sure that you still eschew pronouns as those are short and you’re trying for length here. The claim of not repeating oneself at the bottom is a lie, of course, but it is an important lie because it will help direct the teacher toward a more positive assessment of your paper.

Innocents is a reaction against travel books of Twain's day. These often espoused foreign lands in flowery prose with often misleading information. Twain's book instead is a more “realistic” writing about foreign lands even though Twain plays fast and loose with the facts. The reason the book feels more realistic is perhaps because Twain takes efforts to present both the flowery descriptions and then the more realistic ones after. Giving contrast. The initiations of the travelers smashes the standard descriptions of the travel books, when they come to find that Europe is different than the picture painted by books. These initiations, such as the deceptions of the travel guides, help establish the overall arc of the book. The initiations are almost always set up as humor, but they have a more serious side. Twain's use of initiations scenes seems to be more of a tool to emphasize his criticism of travel books than an end in themselves. I would suggest that Roughing It has exactly the same purpose. They are both the same kind of books, and if one were paired with the other under the same title, they would fit rather well together. Innocents, however, focuses much more on the falsities of books rather than the joke. Roughing It is a much more realized book, with a stronger, unified narrative voice. There just as many initiation scenes, plenty of the dichotomous east versus west that we expect from Twain, with many different players playing the parts. However, certain similarities in who gets what part are almost always observed. The format is already mentioned above, so I will not repeat it, only to say that Twain will use these setups throughout his career.

12. More examples

Realize that your paper is under the page count by about five pages and write a panicked set of examples. This should be done the day that the paper is due and you should skip at least three of your other classes to get it done. Realize that you will be essentially writing your paper over again, but hope that your Twain teacher is too old or too crazy to notice. This is an example of a calculated gamble.

Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are books that are obsessed with initiations. Blood pacts, humorous confrontations, and situational happenstance fill these books. Twainian initiations, all, though Tom in Tom Sawyer learns less than Huck in Huckleberry Finn in this way, Huck is more of an initiate than Tom, who prefers to play jokes on people and rarely has jokes played on him. Strangely, Tom, who is more associated with books in Huck's book, is in his own more of a local than those he plays jokes on.

13. Invent a phrase that is longer than it needs to be to beef up the paper

Use this phrase a lot.

Twain's obsession with initiations is a product of how his humor works. In his way, Twain can be formulaic, but it is a very efficient formula that rarely fails for Twain. However, it might not be an organic development but rather him capitalizing (especially in later works) on a talent he knows he possesses. Pudd'nhead Wilson shows that Twain is not shy about appropriating story styles that were popular during his day in an effort to boost sales. Since the initiation-conflict formula is what Twain is good at it is possible that he is cultivating a talent that comes naturally to him and then slipping it in wherever it seems appropriate. The two travel books are an extension of his early humorous sketches on a much larger scale, so Twain is in familiar territory. Now, since Innocents and Roughing It are both set up with the initiation-conflict formula as an essential building block of the novels and Innocents itself is structured like a very long version of the initiation-conflict formula, I must take the position that the formula is deliberate. While Twain’s well-known spontaneous method of composition might lead some to believe that he is not a careful writer, the way the two books are written are arranged with more purpose than perhaps a slipshod creation can account for. Innocents is not as compact or as uniform or even as carefully constructed. Yet, it still well-made enough to assume the predominance of initiation-conflict formulas is deliberate.

14. Attempt to justify your new examples

Struggle with figuring out how to explain your new examples. After the paper is turned in you can reflect on how you could have rearranged your paragraphs to make more sense, perhaps putting them with the other examples, but now is not the time for that. Calculate how many pages you have until you are done and put in exactly that amount of effort into finishing the paper. Make a list of examples you could use to make it look like you did the research and reflect on the poetic way the list would sound if taken to extremes then cut most of your examples when you realize that you were listing off most of Mr. Twain’s catalogue.

Twain knows his writing strengths enough to play to them, but not always. Certain books where he deviates from his strengths are not as good as books where he emphasizes them. He may be known as a world class novelist in our time, but during his time and even now Twain is first and foremost a humorist and as a humorist Twain endeavors to play to make his jokes the best way he knows how. These initiation-conflicts that pepper his books are more likely to be what he finds funny, as well as the jokes he knows how to tell best. The early “The Dandy Frightening the Squatter” is the prototypical example that Twain would develop throughout his career. Episodes like “Jim Blaine and His Grandfather’s Old Ram”, “A Genuine Mexican Plug”, and others follow the format set out by the dandy sketch albeit more refined.

15. Repeat your thesis and end your paper a sentence too early

Teachers like it when you repeat your thesis at the end of the paper whether or not it is justified. If you feel like you should have written a sentence more to justify this weirdly placed sentence you’re probably done with your paper.

It is important to note that Twain is a satirist as well as a humorist and that sometimes he will bend his formula to fit his or his story’s needs. This leads me to conclude that the initiation-conflict formula is indeed deliberate and a function of how Twain’s humor works given Twains clear ability to manipulate it.

Now all you need to do is jam your sources into the paper in the most natural looking way and turn the paper in. If you get something like a C+, you’ve succeeded! Effort does not go unrewarded. The mark of a truly successful paper is the teacher response. Since you will never be able to read any of these, length is the primary indicator. Your teacher response should look like this:

I’m (indecipherable) about (unclear) this (this word might be “research”). Simply put you use too many (sources?). Your paper would be much (unclear) (indecipherable) one or two books. Next (unclear) be (unclear) to (unclear) with (indecipherable). C+

Happy writing!

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