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How does one write a summary and critical summary of a poem and also explain how to...

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samrasaki | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted November 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM via web

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How does one write a summary and critical summary of a poem and also explain how to write a summary of a story or an essay?

answer should be in simple English.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 11, 2009 at 2:23 AM (Answer #1)

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In order to write a summary of a poem, one must establish the meaning of the poem.  To do this, the reader needs to find the controlling metaphor.  That is, the tension between the literal and the figurative=the main unstated comparison.  This controlling metaphor contains the moral lesson of the poem. 

For instance, if one were summarizing John Keats's "Ode to a Grecian Urn," he/she can perceive that the tension exists between the speaker's appreciation for the eternally preserved beauty of the lovers on the urn and the sense of sorrow that his heart feels at looking at it because he realizes that the urn is not life.  The lovers, while beautiful, cannot engage in the act of fertility that continues life.  And, so, the lovers on the urn are compared in the mind of the speaker to real-life lovers, and there lies the tension/controlling metaphor.

Likewise, the reader of a story looks for what is unstated behind the narrative.  This is the theme, the moral truth, that the author wishes to convey.  Often a reader understands intuitively this truth, but putting it into words is somewhat difficult.  For this reason, it is helpful to many readers to record their first impressions immediately after they finish reading.  Then, they can read these and reflect upon the narrative again.  Often a second reading is the solution for finding the theme. Since the reader is familiar with the plot already, he/she can put attention solely on the element of theme with the second reading and will find important points missed on the first reading.

Now, a critical summary is much like a review:  you give a summary with some critiques on salient points.  Usually one of the elements helps to establish the theme. Perhaps, the point of view is effective for the theme, or the setting or one of the characters is pivotal to the theme, etc.

Please see the enotes site below for instruction on how to write a summary in 8 easy steps.

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 11, 2009 at 12:23 AM (Answer #2)

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A good summary presupposes that you understand the poem or work well. This means that you need to read the work carefully and find out the thesis and supporting points. If you are having a hard time writing a summary, then it might be because you do not understand the work well enough. to know the work well is more than half of the task. Also I will add this is not an easy task.

Now supposing that you have done the hard work of reading carefully and have digested the work in view. What you need to do is to lay out the thesis of the person's work and show how the author supports his or her arguments. You might put in a few pithy quotes to give the tone of the author, but don't give too much. Just give the essence of the work. A summary is supposed to be short. Also, I should add that you should be impartial as possible. Avoid "adjectives and adverbs." You'll have a chance to engage the work in your final evaluation.

Once you have accurately given the author's points, then you can critically engage it. Do you think that the author has proved his or her point? Do you think that there were errors or things that could be improved? If so, state them. Also you can write what you liked about the work. Here is a sample:

http://www.historyandtheology.com/?p=492

Good luck.

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