In her essay "Families," why does Jane Howard refer back to her original argument throughout the essay?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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As an expert on the sociology of the family, Jane Howard wrote extensively on matters of family life and the importance of belonging. In her essay "Families," Howard posits various points of "good" family life.

In her opening sentence, Howard states:

Each of us is born into one family not of our choosing. If we’re going to go around devising new ones, we might as well have the luxury of picking their members ourselves. Clever picking might result in new families whose benefits would surpass or at least equal those of the old.
(Howard, "Families,"

Howard's thesis is that we are all part of a "family," whatever that may entail, and she goes on to explain what a "good family" has in common; these may be our sociological group, or our peers, or our actual biological family:

Inside that circle a wholesome, tacit emotional feudalism develops: you give me protection, I’ll give you fealty. Such treaties begin with, but soon go far beyond, the jolly exchange of pie at Thanksgiving for cake on birthdays.
(Howard, "Families,"

While she never directly repeats her thesis, Howard is able to draw attention back to it by constant repetition of the central theme: family, especially when you are older, is the people you choose and the place you call home. While your new family might even be far away from your birthplace, you can always make home for yourself:

Pillows, small rugs, watercolors can dispel much of the chilling anonymity of a sublet apartment or motel room. When we can, we should live in rooms with stoves or fireplaces or anyway candlelight. The ancient saying still is true: Extinguished hearth, extinguished family.
(Howard, "Families,"

To repeat the thesis, even in subtle terms, is a powerful technique to ensure that the reader keeps sight of the original intention.


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