I need help. I don't know how to write an introductory paragraph for an essay I have about the book Of Mice and Men. The theme of the essay is setting. Please help.

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shake99 | Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Students often struggle with introductions (and conclusions). This is because introductions should prepare the reader for the topic to follow without getting too far into specifics. It requires a more generalized way of thinking, which is not usually the way we think of things—we always seem to want to jump into our points right away.

If I were writing an essay about setting in Of Mice of Men I would do a little thinking and jotting down before I actually started writing. What settings are you going to mention in the essay? What happens in those settings? I would think that the first place they camp for the night in chapter one would be a good setting to mention. That setting would work particularly well because Lennie and George return to it at the end of the book.

Also think about how Steinbeck uses his settings. What feelings or ideas do they convey? The first setting provides a feeling of peacefulness and then security for Lennie. How about the bunkhouse and house that the boss lives in? Or the barn or Crooks’ room?

With these ideas in mind I would start my essay with a general statement about the book that includes the title and author’s name. I would also include a sentence or two that very briefly describe the storyline (but don’t get too specific—keep it short and general). Finally, I’d cap off the introduction by saying something about how Steinbeck creates memorable settings that reflect on the plot and characters of the story. Then later in the essay I’d discuss the specific settings and what they contribute to the story.

Of course, if your teacher has asked you to include anything more specific in your introduction then make sure to do it. Many of my students lose points on essays because they don’t follow the instructions—sometimes they don’t even read the instructions.

Here’s an example of a similar introduction to an essay about settings in the book Animal Farm. Perhaps this will help:

Animal Farm is a fable by the British writer George Orwell. As an allegory for the Russian Revolution, it tells the story of an animal uprising on a farm. Orwell’s setting helps establish the animals’ motivation. When the reader sees that the animals live in poor conditions and that the owners’ farmhouse is rundown and ramshackle, it is easy to understand why the animals feel mistreated and finally decide to stage their rebellion. Later, the still deteriorating setting helps Orwell establish his main point that power tends to be abused by the powerful if they are allowed to reign unchecked.

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