How to narrow a topic and develop an argument for an essay
Writing a paper is a difficult process. In order to successfully narrow a topic and develop a strong workable argument, you must go through a few steps. The following are the steps we went through to make an argument about sound imagery in Pedro Paramo.
First, we listed all of the quotations that related to sound imagery. This can be tedious, yes, but it is crucial that our argument began with the text. If we had skipped this step, we would run the risk of making the quotes fit into our argument instead of allowing the quotes to help us develop an argument.
Once we compiled the list, we asked ourselves, what do I notice about the quotes? How might we narrow sound imagery? What might we link the imagery to? Here are some things we noticed in the sound imagery quotes:
Sound imagery is far more prevalent in the present Comala than in the past Comala
We then looked at the evidence to narrow focus, identify any progression, and eliminate dead ends. We asked ourselves questions to get to conclusions about purpose. As our guide, we thought about the overall purpose(s) of the novel. Thus far in class, we’ve looked at Pedro’s role in the downfall of Comala, the notion of Comala as a purgatory, Juan’s progression into death, and his “telling” of Pedro’s story. For instance, we were immediately drawn to the idea that inaudible sounds are associated with Susana’s, Pedro’s, and Juan’s deaths. However, when we tried to link the evidence back to a strong central purpose in the novel, we realized that there just wasn’t enough to create a whole essay. Though it was a really interesting idea, we’d have to try something else. Here is our second (and more successful) attempt to narrow our topic and build an argument:
Why is there an imbalance of sound in the Comala of the past and the Comala of the present?
How does sound help reveal Pedro’s purpose in the book?
How does sound help reveal Juan’s purpose in the book?
What does the sound reveal about Pedro’s childhood Comala versus the Comala of his adulthood? How does this reveal his power in Comala?
Through these questions, we were able to connect to the main purpose of the novel and write a working thesis statement. But in order to do this, we continuously had to go back to consult the evidence to make sure our argument was feasible.
Rulfo uses sound imagery to show Pedro’s destruction of Comala, creating a purgatory where Juan becomes a silent listener to the voices of the past.
From our thesis, we then went back to our evidence to decide how we might structure our body paragraphs. Our sound imagery paper might be structured like this: