I'm writing an essay on foreshadowing as it pertains to "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." How do I start the first paragraph of my essay?
The first paragraph of an essay, also known as the introduction or introductory paragraph, is arguably one of the most difficult parts of the writing process. The introduction should achieve two main objectives. The initial paragraph should literally initiate or orient the reader to the focus of the paper, thereby setting the expectations for the subsequent content. Additionally, the first paragraph should specify a thesis statement. Fortunately, the first paragraph of an essay does not necessarily have a specified length as long as it does not read as excessively short or excessively long relative to the length of the paper. As a guide, if one is stuck, an introduction can be somewhat padded, so to speak, with essential information that is fairly common to essays about literature. As such, experimenting with a simple formula or format for the introduction helps with the challenge of the beginning of the paper.
As one develops as a writer, one will develop personal formats or templates that help with the writing process, especially for types of writing that will be executed repeatedly in school or at work. As such, the following paragraph shows an example of a format for a first paragraph that should be adapted with the writer's own ideas. The words in brackets can simply be replaced with the elements of the story or essay to complete your introductory paragraph:
- In the [TYPE OF WORK] [NAME OF THE WORK] by [AUTHOR]... [BRIEF SUMMARY]... [BRIEF REFERENCE TO SCHOLARLY RESEARCH]... [THESIS STATEMENT].
The following is an example of a first paragraph using the above template. It should not be used for the actual paper, as it is an original idea intended to answer the question about writing introductory paragraphs and to provide guidance on the process. Further, it is a tool to guide writing ideas rather than to force structured, formulaic writing.
- In the short story "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor, good is pitted against evil in the characters of the grandmother and The Misfit. O'Connor foreshadows the events of the story in the conversation between the grandmother and John Wesley. The subsequent drama is not predictable, but a calculated, graphic, and unflinching glance at the darkness of human nature. Contrary to dogma, O'Connor challenges the naiveté of faith, demonstrating that evil triumphs over good at least on occasion, and handily at that.
The above paragraph is appropriate for a medium sized essay of at least 4-5 pages but not longer than about 8-10 pages. It indicates the events of the story that are most important relative to the paper and offers an analysis or opinion about specific aspects of O'Connor's work that will be discussed in the paper using other scholarly interpretations of the story to support the original idea.
It is important to recognize that the sample paragraph and template represent only one way to start an essay. The template is a starting point that can be adapted for further original work. The eventual goal of borrowing a template should be to develop enough experience and to practice writing essays. With sufficient practice and experience, writing introductions becomes less problematic, thereby decreasing the utility of a template or formula. There are several resources online via Google as well as on eNotes regarding first paragraphs and essay writing. Yet, a format that can be tweaked is a good starting point to ease the difficult task of writing the first paragraph of an essay. Good luck!