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Writing a qualified answer to a question

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Most essays at university do not require a straightforward "yes" or "no" answer. Usually the issues being discussed are very complex and so require a more complex and qualified answer. Because you will often have to incorporate contradictory material, you may find it hard to express a clear line of argument. You will need to find a way to balance opposing views while at the same time taking a clear position.

Read the following topic on Jane Eyre:

Mr. Rochester describes in Vol. 3, Chapter 1, the circumstances in which he was married to Bertha Mason, and how he came to incarcerate her in the attic at Thornfield. What do we learn about him from this and how far does the novel endorse his claim that he has acted for the best?

As we have seen in another section of this tutorial, the second sentence is asking you to make a judgment about how far the novel endorses Rochester's view. In your introduction you need to identify the argument you will be presenting ( see Focusing on the topic). In the body, you need to balance the elements for and against Rochester's view of things.

Now examine the following conclusion to an essay on this topic

[1] In the novel, Jane Eyre, the main male character, Mr. Rochester attempts to justify imprisoning his first wife in an attic and deceiving Jane about his marital status. [2] A number of elements in the novel encourage a positive assessment of Rochester's actions: the narrator herself, Jane Eyre, finds reasons to forgive his actions, and he is "rewarded" at the end of the novel through his marriage to her. [3] Nevertheless, the novel only partly endorses Rochester, as he suffers a great deal both emotionally (thinking he has lost his true love, Jane) and physically (through his blindness). [4] While Rochester may have thought he acted for the best, it is clear from the reactions of the other characters that he still is seen to have committed a moral wrong. Therefore, within the framework of the novel he suffers for his actions before he attains happiness through his marriage to Jane.

How has the student incorporated contradictory aspects of the novel in her conclusion?

Try to work out the structure of her conclusion by identifying the key words that indicate the direction of each of the sentences in relation to the argument. (Responses to the first two are given.)

Sentence Keywords
1 "attempts to justify imprisoning his wife in an attic..." (This orients the reader back to the topic, opening up the moral question.)
2 "A number of elements..." (This asserts that there are many factors which support Mr. Rochester's view.)
3
4

Check your answers

Sentence Keywords
3 "only partly" (This concedes that, while there is support for Rochester, it is only partial support as he is very obviously punished throughout the novel.)
4 "it is clear" (This extends the previous point by indicating how other characters also think he has done wrong
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