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Mountains are tall. If you are stupid enough to jump off one you fall fast and you land hard. The five-paragraph theme is my mountain and I have just jumped right off it. There don't seem to be any outcroppings to grab for, and my assignment is to discuss my cliff as I continue to drop from it. So I will not grab. I will let myself fall, and hope for pillows at the end.
I feel lost without my introduction to conclusion formula started at the beginning of this paper. Why do I have to do this assignment? Oh, I understand that I need to break a mold that has been added to, layer upon dreadful layer, for the past eight years or so. The only problem isHOW? I think that what I am feeling is not unique to me, and that the instructor will more than likely read these same words a dozen times in other fonts. I do not want to spend my entire paper feeling sorry for myself and wasting paper complaining that the answer to my question is not right under my nose. I would pity my reader. I would also hope that I am a stronger writer than that.
Strong writers should be able to get beyond the theme. I propose that the theme is no more than a weak writer's response to demands tired English teachers put on them, or a Lazy Writer's cop out. The theme is easy. We know how it works and we crank it out like so many machines. My question is this: what normal everyday Joe in his right mind would not take the easy route to writing a paper? There is no reason to make things harder than they have to be, especially when the teacher will spend a minimal amount of time on whatever you write, whether it took you five minutes or five hours. Lots of readers like to be spoon fed, and the theme is a handy ladle. It's when you try to pour directly from the sauce pan that you are Getting Beyond The Theme.
The only time I have ever Gotten Beyond The Theme is on those rare occasions where I get a burst of creativity in class or at home, and the grades I usually get on these Creative Masterpieces are mediocre at best. I must have forgotten my parachute.
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Perhaps the student (writer) has come up with an idea that is really out there, and more than likely profound. He may have spent hours developing his idea and put it down on paper in a rather unorthodox way because that is how he felt it needed to be done. He gets a D. Why? Did he have a lot of spelling errors? Surely not, if he spent all that time on his idea. Another two minutes with the spell check is nothing. On the other hand the teacher may be a good judge of character and can smell a rat. If the student blew off the assignment and tried to disguise his lack of effort in a bullshit essay wrapped in pseudo-profound thoughts and wordy sentences, he deserves a D for insulting his reader's intelligence. Regardless of the rare teacher who is the exception to the rule, most students can get away with spitting information back at a teacher in a introduction, three supporting paragraphs and a conclusion. Form is what counts in most cases, forget all that crap about meaning and emotional content. The content of writing for a teacher is rarely investigated, so students don't worry about it anymore. Anyhow, since we do most of our writing in our early years for teachers, this habit gets useful. Who doesn't want a good grade on an essay. I think about how many times a teacher comments on my good organization in a Theme paper. But this doesn't develop our writing as human beings rather than information spewers. Our writing becomes shallow. We evaporate. Then one day in English 220 we are asked to Get Beyond The Theme.
This is starting to get difficult. I feel that I should go get some good advice from someone, anyone. The only problem is I do not know if that would be following a form, the other person's form. So here I am falling without a net, and the ground is starting to rush up under me. I can see now that I am beginning to ramble, and in any other paper I would have hit my backspace bar a bunch of times to get rid of this paragraph. But I am not going to. I suppose also that this may sound to the reader like a stream of consciousness. But I assure you this is not so. If the reader finds this paper unorganized and hard to understand then perhaps they would like me to rewrite it in an acceptable form. Say Five Paragraph Theme, perhaps. This would seem to make a majority of the literate population happy, but maybe it would also put them to sleep. It would also, in fact, defeat the point of this piece of writing.
What is the point of this piece of writing? I think it is to force myself to learn to fly. How else am I to survive falling from my mountain of Theme? I wonder how long that is going to take? One paper? Ten?
What ever made me jump off my mountain of Theme in the first place? I have spent so many years making it a solid mountain. It is no longer prone to avalanches and a rock rarely dislodges from its face. I wish I could go back to my peak and sit contentedly writing easy coherent (maybe boring) essays that get A's from teachers and nods of instant understanding from readers. The air may have been a little thin up there and perhaps it was hard to breathe at times, but I managed. I didn't feel stifled, but now you tell me that I was. I felt safe there on solid ground. Now here I am. Falling at breakneck speed and I am not even sure how far it is to the bottom. Anybody know where I can get some wings?