Evaluating and Revising Organization for a Particular Context

An mural of a scene from the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Source: Mural depicting actors in the play and book To Kill a Mockingbird, located in historic downtown Monroeville, Alabama,
Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress

Let’s suppose you have written an essay about To Kill a Mockingbird in which you discuss Scout and Jem’s change in attitude toward Boo Radley. You discuss how insensitive they are at first and how they sometimes even imitate Boo. With the help of Atticus, they eventually begin to see Boo as a human being. Your essay is so good that the teacher wants you to publish it in the school newspaper.

In the last month, there have been several incidents at your school in which students were ridiculed because they were different. The school has put up some posters in the hallways that encourage students to treat each other with respect. You want to revise your essay to make clear the connection between the treatment of Boo Radley and the campaign for respect.

A photograph of a street sign in a hallway. The sign reads “Character Matters: Respect Avenue.”

Source: Sign in hallway Respect August 25, 2008, ChinaFlag, Wikimedia

Here are several introductions. Read them all and choose which includes the respect campaign as a way to introduce the essay on Boo Radley.

  1. Walking around this school lately, you can’t help noticing the posters with the phrase “Respect Our Differences.” Have you stopped to actually think about what these posters are telling us? I’ll bet you didn’t see any posters with Boo Radley’s silhouette on them. Scout and Jem Finch had to learn respect without posters.

  2. Why do we have all of these “Respect” posters in the halls lately? Scout and Jem Finch didn’t need posters to remind them to show respect to other human beings even if those other human beings seemed different in some way. Why do we need these posters? Well, we don’t have someone like Atticus to take us aside and advise us about how to be civilized. When Scout and Jem made fun of Boo Radley, they may have been acting like some kids do, but they were not acting in a way that was right. Atticus made this clear to them.

  3. It seems like our principal has been trying to be like Atticus Finch. I’ve been noticing posters that tell us to respect each other. I don’t know about you, but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather have someone like Atticus Finch talk to me instead of reading all these posters. When Atticus talked to Jem and Scout, he did a better job than any posters could do. They learned the lesson, but I’d be surprised if these posters make any difference

Which two introductions most effectively include the respect campaign?

Introduction 1
Correct! This choice is basically on target, although it could bridge the posters with the story of Boo Radley more smoothly.

Introduction 2
Correct! This passage integrates the book (the topic) with the poster campaign (the context), showing us that the lesson of To Kill a Mockingbird is relevant to our daily lives.

Introduction 3
Try again. This would be a good introduction for an essay critical of the poster campaign, but it detracts from the topic of the essay.

When you revise an essay to show your awareness of the context, you should be sure to maintain the focus on the topic of the essay. You want to make a connection with the context, but you don’t want to change the whole direction of the essay.