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PROGRESSIVE READINGS IN PROSE
HE term Exposition is applied to importance of the subject, no heightening that form of composition which of the interest as we proceed, the content
deals primarily with ideas about of most articles will necessitate the use of things not things themselves. Its chief a form in which, after a gradual cresfunction is explanation, the discovery of cendo, a definite climax is reached. In this contrasts and similarities, of relations and type special care must be taken that the associations of causes and results. If one different parts cohere naturally, that the tells a story about a fish and a man, he proper transition shows how one parawill use concrete narration; but if he graph grows out of another, how one chooses to show the relation between the large division of thought is related to the lower animal organism of the fish and the foregoing. higher organism of the man as explained So much for the conditions which the by the theory of evolution, he will then be subject itself imposes. The readers for dealing with the abstract and employing whom the article is written should not be the expository form.
forgotten. Compare the simple lucid The particular form which an exposi- style in which Lafcadio Hearn addressed tory article takes should depend upon the his Japanese students with the more infundamental conception which the writer volved structure of the essays by Herbert forms before beginning his task. This is Croly or by Thomas De Quincey. Likeas important to him as the mental picture wise study Thomas Huxley's “Piece of of the completed structure is to an archi- Chalk" in the light of an address deliv tect about to start work on his blue-prints.ered to a group of laboring men who By fundamental conception is meant that cared much for what he might tell them recognition by the prospective writer of in a straightforward way, and very little the full obligations of the task before him for any unnecessary elaboration of the -a recognition possible only after a due language in which it was couched. The consideration of the nature of the subject simple formula is: technical language for chosen, the class of readers it is desired to the specialist; simple, direct diction for reach, and the kind of appeal the author the average man; and a literary style wishes to make.
flavored with figure and allusion for the If the subject divides itself naturally, bibliophile. like the backbone of a fish, into a number Even more important, in view of its of coördinate sections, then the writer effect upon the finished article, is the kind will doubtlessly use the catalogue method. of appeal which the writer wishes to So Wu Tingfang in "American Man- make. The two great faculties of the ners" and Walter Prichard Eaton in mind are the intellect and the imagina"The Menace from Above" do little more tion. The intellect is brought into play than enumerate the various points of their in writing Informative Prose; the imagdiscourse with comment upon each. There ination, in writing the Familiar Essay. is little or no climax, for none is needed. The purpose of the former is utilitarian Obviously the great advantage of this it is designed to bring us knowledge; the method is the clarity which is secured. purpose of the latter is artisticit aims On the other hand as there is no growing to give pleasure. This same distinction is to be noticed (1) between practical and the Familiar Essay, which permits descriptions, where fidelity to detail is greater freedom of treatment. Occathe requirement, and imaginative descrip-sionally these two types blend so that the tions, in which the writer strives by a line of demarcation is almost indistinjudicious selection of detail to create at- guishable; but the elements of each are mosphere; and (2) to a certain extent present nevertheless, one usually prebetween narration of fact, whose very dominating. truth imposes inevitable and inviolable re- Exposition is a mark of the developed strictions, and narration of fiction, in which mind. It represents a stage beyond that the writer by a conscious arrangement of of passive acceptance of the phenomena of the parts may obtain a desired effect. life. Simple narrations and descriptions
Thus there are created two distinct are within the power of the most immatypes of expository writing: the Informa- ture, but interpretation and reasoning tive Prose article, which should conform bespeak a critical attitude which it is one strictly to certain necessary principles; | aim of education to produce.
A. INFORMATIVE PROSE
IN Informative Prose the emphasis, lines before any long exposition is atis laid on what is said, not on how it tempted.
tempted. Only a highly trained writer is said. This does not mean that dic- can keep vividly in mind the complete detion is unimportant; it simply signifies sign of his prospective composition. Failthat language is to subserve the best pos- ure to confine one's self strictly to a defisible expression of the idea. All thought nite plan of procedure leads to digressions, of ornamentation should be banished in distracts the mind of the reader, and dulls the attempt to convey to the reader ex- the intended effect. actly the desired information. Certain Students often complain that an outline subjects, especially those in the field of in- hampers them by its unnecessary restricterpretative literature, permit some li- tions. This can be due only to a misuncence in this regard. Matthew Arnold in derstanding of its function. An outline his essay on "Celtic Literature” succeeds should never be so rigid as to allow no althrough the agency of his rich style in en- teration. As the mind sweeps forward, veloping his theme with some of the very new ideas, new implications will present magic he is writing of. And yet this may themselves. Minor details may be added prove a dangerous tendency. It is un- without hesitation. More important deniable that at times the florid writing of changes usually necessitate a complete reJohn Ruskin, with its long periods and organization of the scheme of the outline balanced structure, obscures the idea he either by the inclusion of new main headwishes to convey.
It must be borne in ings, or by the realization that a new mind that clarity is the chief purpose of basis of division is needed. Informative Prose.
Indeed, it is this work of organization To gain this end a definite form or which is of greatest value in the writing skeleton upon which the thought fabric of exposition. No uncanny wielding of may be draped is essential. Many stu- a Alexible vocabulary, no adroit treatment dents fail to recognize this skeleton be- of isolated topics can atone for a lack of neath the sentences of the articles they organizing power. It is difficult to find 1ead. Because they do not perceive it, a better example of informative writing they evidently argue it is not there, in which the correlation of ideas is perand see
no reason for its construc- fectly and naturally revealed than the tion. It is for this reason that most chapter on “Habit" by William James. teachers of English insist on written out- The student must develon the abil.
the relationship be- The majority of people are obsessed with tween certain ideas; he must be able to a few traditional ideas. The student select from an accumulated body of de- who chooses for a subject "How to Make tails that material which is essential to Cider Vinegar" or "The Care of the his purpose ; and with due regard to the Teeth” is unconsciously allying himself principles of unity, coherence, emphasis, with the inert multitude. Human and proportion to embody them in a writ-perience is far too rich in variety to exten form whose chief virtue is clearness. cuse lazy thinking and sluggish imagina
Of course, clarity alone will not make tion. Perhaps some day we shall disgreat writing. Unless one has something card the word theme from the classroom, worth while to say, technique is useless. and impress it upon the student that he is Originality depends largely on one's at- expected to write not merely a combinatitude toward life. There are compara- tion of words and sentences for the intively few new things in the world; but structor to draw red lines through, but a there are always new phases of the old, short paper in which a valuable thought new points of view regarding the old. is given appropriate expression.
STRUGGLE FOR EXISTENCE 1
CHARLES DARWIN The foremost contribution to science made in the nineteenth century was the Theory of Evolution formulated by Charles Darwin (1809-1882). This theory purports to explain the origin of the various forms of life by proving them descended one from another, the higher and more complicated forms having evolved with the lapse of time—from earlier and simpler ones. It met with bitter opposition, for it opposed directly the accepted belief in the individual creation of all species of animal and plant life—a belief resulting from a literal reading of the opening chapters of Genesis
and suggested the descent of human beings from ape-like ancestors. The theory was set forth in The Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man, and after a half-century of fiery controversy it has been generally accepted by scientists. The first step in Darwin's argument that the struggle for existence results in the survival of the fittest through natural selection is a clear exposition of that struggle.
NOTHING is easier than to admit in eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by words the truth of the universal strug- birds and beasts of prey; we do not algle for life, more difficultat ways bear in mind that, though food may least I have found it s0—than con- be now superabundant, it is not so at all stantly to bear this conclusion in mind. seasons of each recurring year. Yet unless it be thoroughly ingrained in the mind, the whole economy of nature,
The Term, Struggle for Existence, Used with every fact on distribution, rarity,
in a Large Sense abundance, extinction, and variation, will be dimly seen or quite misunderstood. We I should premise that I use this terin behold the face of nature bright with in a large and metaphorical sense, includgladness, we often see superabundance of ing dependence of one being on another, food; we do not see or we forget that the and including (which is more important) birds which are idly singing round us not only the life of the individual, but mostly live on insects or seeds, and are success in leaving progeny. Two canine thus constantly destroying life; or we for- animals, in a time of dearth, may be truly get how largely these songsters, or their said to struggle with each other which
shall get food and live. But a plant on From Chap. 3 of The Origin of Species by
the edge of a desert is said to struggle for Charles Darwin.
life against the drought, though more
properly it should be said to be dependent and vegetable kingdom; for in this case on the moisture. A plant which annually there can be no artificial increase of food, produces a thousand seeds, of which only and no prudential restraint from marone of an average comes to maturity, may riage. Although some species may be now be more truly said to struggle with the increasing, more or less rapidly, in numplants of the same and other kinds which bers, all cannot do so, for the world already clothe the ground. The mistle- would not hold them. toe is dependent on the apple and a few There is no exception to the rule that other trees, but can only in a far-fetched every organic being naturally increases at sense be said to struggle with these trees, so high a rate that, if not destroyed, the for, if too many of these parasites grow on earth would soon be covered by the progthe same tree, it languishes and dies. But eny of a single pair. Even slow-breeding several seedling mistletoes, growing close man has doubled in twenty-five years, and together on the same branch, may more at this rate, in less than a thousand years, truly be said to struggle with each other. there would literally not be standing. As the mistletoe is disseminated by birds, room for his progeny. Linnæus has calits existence depends on them; and it may culated that if an annual plant produced metaphorically be said to struggle with only two seeds and there is no plant so other fruit-bearing plants, in tempting the unproductive as this—and their seedlings birds to devour and thus disseminate its next year produced two, and so on, then seeds. In these several senses, which pass in twenty years there would be a million into each other, I use for convenience's plants. The elephant is reckoned the sake the general term of Struggle for Ex- slowest breeder of all known animals, and istence.
I have taken some pains to estimate its
probable minimum rate of natural inGeometrical Ratio of Increase crease; it will be safest to assume that it
begins breeding when thirty years old, A struggle for existence inevitably fol
and goes on breeding till ninety years old, lows from the high rate at which all or
, ganic beings tend to increase. Every be bringing forth six young in the interval
and surviving till one hundred years old; ing, which during its natural lifetime pro
if this be so, after a period of from 740 duces several eggs or seeds, must suffer destruction during some period of its life,
to 750 years there would be nearly nine
teen million elephants alive, descended and during some season or occasional year,
from the first pair. otherwise, on the principle of geometrical
But we have better evidence on this increase, its numbers would quickly be
subject than mere theoretical calculacome so inordinately great that no country could support the product. Hence, as
tions; namely, the numerous recorded
cases of the astonishingly rapid increase of more individuals are produced than can
various animals in a state of nature, when possibly survive, there must in every case
circumstances have been favorable to them be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species,
during two or three following seasons. or with the individuals of distinct species,
Still more striking is the evidence from
our domestic animals of many kinds or with the physical conditions of life. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied the world ; if the statements of the rate of
which have run wild in several parts of with manifold force to the whole animal
increase of slow-breeding cattle and horses 1Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834), Eng
in South America, and latterly in Auslish political economist, whose Principle of tralia, had not been well authenticated, Population (1798) propounds the doctrine that they would have been incredible. So it is the population of the world, if unchecked by
with plants; cases could be given of introdisease and crime, would increase geometrically, while the resources increase only arith
duced plants which have become common metically.
throughout whole islands in a period of
less than ten years. Several of the plants, a score, and yet in the same country the such as the cardoon and a tall thistle, condor may be the more numerous of the which are now the commonest over the two; the Fulmar petrel lays but one egg, wide plains of La Plata, clothing square yet it is believed to be the most numerleagues of surface almost to the exclusion ous bird in the world. One fly deposits of every other plant, have been introduced hundreds of eggs, and another, like the from Europe; and there are plants which hippobosca, a single one; but this differnow range in India, as I hear from Dr. ence does not determine how
many Falconer, from Cape Comorin to the individuals of the two species can be Himalaya, which have been imported supported in a district. A large number from America since its discovery. In such of eggs is of some importance to those cases, and endless others could be given, species which depend on a fluctuating no one supposes that the fertility of the amount of food, for it allows them rapidly animals or plants has been suddenly and to increase in number. But the real imtemporarily increased in any sensible de- portance of a large number of eggs or gree. The obvious explanation is that the seeds is to make up for much destruction at conditions of life have been highly fav- some period of life; and this period in the orable, and that there has consequently great majority of cases is an early one. been less destruction of the old and young, If an animal can in any way protect its and that nearly all the young have been own eggs or young, a small number may enabled to breed. Their geometrical ra- be produced, and yet the average stock be tio of increase, the result of which never fully kept up; but if many eggs or young fails to be surprising, simply explains their are destroyed, many must be produced, or extraordinarily rapid increase and wide the species will become extinct. It would diffusion in their new homes.
suffice to keep up the full number of a In a state of nature almost every full-tree, which lived on an average for a grown plant annually produces seed, and thousand years, if a single seed were proamong animals there are very few which duced once in a thousand years, supposing do not annually pair. Hence we may that this seed were never destroyed, and confidentially assert that all plants and could be insured to germinate in a fitting animals are tending to increase at a place. So that, in all cases, the average geometrical ratio-that all would rapidly number of any animal or plant depends stock every station in which they could only indirectly on the number of its eggs anyhow exist—and that this geometrical
or seeds. tendency to increase must be checked by In looking at Nature, it is most necdestruction at some period of life. Our essary to keep the foregoing considerafamiliarity with the larger domestic ani- tions always in mind-never to forget mals tends, I think, to mislead us: we that every single organic being may be see no great destruction falling on them, said to be striving to the utmost to inbut we do not keep in mind that thou- crease in numbers; that each lives by a sands are annually slaughtered for food, struggle at some period of its life; that and that in a state of nature an equal heavy destruction inevitably falls either number would have somehow to be dis- on the young or old, during each generaposed of.
tion or at recurrent intervals. Lighten The only difference between organisms any check, mitigate the destruction ever which annually produce eggs or seeds by so little, and the number of the species the thousand, and those which produce ex- will almost instantaneously increase to tremely few, is, that the slow-breeders any amount. would require a few more years to people, under favorable conditions, a whole dis
Nature of the Checks to Increase trict, let it be ever so large. The con- The causes which check the natural dor lays a couple of eggs and the ostrich tendency of each species to increase are