Night Calls Lisa Fugard Essay

Posted on by Arak

Skinner's Drift

"A vivid sense of place and an effective dramatic arc distinguish this debut novel from the daughter of South African playwright Athol Fugard. After a 10-year absence—which saw the upheaval of her native country—28-year-old Eva van Rensburg returns to Johannesburg from the U.S. to tend to her estranged, dying Afrikaner father, Martin. Springboarding off Eva's discovery of her deceased mother Lorraine's diaries, Fugard seamlessly flashes back to explore Eva's childhood on Skinner's Drift, the farm where she grew up. The characters and landscape come sharply to life: Lorraine's dissatisfaction, Martin's struggles to keep the farm afloat, the increased tensions as soldiers arrive and barricades are erected along the border with Botswana. At the heart of the story is young Eva and her relations with the black farmworkers. As Martin's violent tendencies intensify and Lorraine becomes increasingly unstable, the family fractures and Eva bears the brunt of Martin's actions—culminating in two horrifying, violent acts. When the adult Eva finally returns to the farm, she must determine how to finally face her father's terrible secret. Playing out this family drama in the broader context of race and class, Fugard captivates with this searing personal portrayal of the legacy of apartheid." Publisher's Weekly

Without knowing the thesis of your essay, I will try to provide some attention grabber ideas that could be applied to almost any essay.  As the first sentence of your introduction, the attention grabber, in my opinion, is the least important sentence of the entire essay.  This is contrary to what most students are taught in elementary school (even the name "attention grabber" is deceptive), but by the time you are writing analytical essays in...

Without knowing the thesis of your essay, I will try to provide some attention grabber ideas that could be applied to almost any essay.  As the first sentence of your introduction, the attention grabber, in my opinion, is the least important sentence of the entire essay.  This is contrary to what most students are taught in elementary school (even the name "attention grabber" is deceptive), but by the time you are writing analytical essays in high school and college, teachers and professors are looking for the "meat" of the essay and do not place as much emphasis on the opening sentence.  Hopefully this will ease your stress over this sentence in the future.

Examples of and advice for opening lines:

  • Using a question to segue into your thesis.  Posing an open-ended, objective question, that ties into your thesis statement can be the fastest way to get into an essay, and therefore be very effective.  However, be careful not to sound "cheesy" nor cliche.  I advise students never to use "you" in an opening question and to stay away from "emotional" questions, as if analyzing the literary merit of a text depends on how your audience is feeling.  This, to me, is a weak opening.
  • Using a quote.  Quoting someone famous, or even using a famous quote that is thematically related to your essay can be very creative.  Quoting the text you are using can also work.  I caution you, however, not to quote anything from the text which would better serve as concrete detail in your body paragraphs.  Anonymous quotes are weak and I advise students to avoid them.
  • Summary.  If most of your analysis is thematic or relates mostly to the tone and purpose of the text, it is completely appropriate and often very helpful to provide a short plot-summary of the text (especially if it is fiction) as the opening to your essay.  Try to limit this to less than 3 sentences however.
  • Using something simple and to-the-point. This, to me, is the strongest opening for an analytical essay.  Though this sentence should not be your thesis statement, it is like a quick introduction to it.  I admit that most of my opening lines for analytical essays read nearly identically.  I name the text by title and author, and state a generality about what I am analyzing in the essay.  For example, "In "Night Calls" by Lisa Fugard, the author [does something: a broad statement about what you will prove in detail in your essay]."

I encourage you not to be bound by the elementary school practice of using catchy opening lines anymore.  Scholarly essays are too often weakened by unintentional cliches, whether they are cliche techniques or cliche statements.  Grab your audience's attention in your analysis, through originality of thought throughout the essay.  Good luck.

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