Begin with a Story or Description:
When I was a young boy, my parents bought me a set of The World Book Encyclopedia. The 22 burgundy-and-gold volumes lined the shelves above my bed. On any given day or night I would reach for a book and lose myself for hours in its endless pages of maps, photographs, and text. Even when I had a purpose in mind — say for instance, a homework assignment on salamanders — I would invariably find myself reading instead of Salem and its witch hunters or of Salamis, where the Greeks routed the Persians in the fifth century BC Like all encyclopedias of the day, it was arranged alphabetically, based on sound and without regard to subject. As a child, I saw it as a system wondrously whimsical and exquisitely inefficient. Perfect for exploration. The "S" volume alone could lead me down 10,000 unconnected highways.
The world my two young sons inherit is a very different place. That same encyclopedia now comes on CD-ROM.
— "The End of Serendipity" by Ted Gup; The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 21, 1997
The author of the passage above describes the joys of perusing the encyclopedia as a way to introduce his argument — that the world today isn't set up to encourage aimless curiosity. He's also setting up a contrast between his childhood and that of his two sons.
In the classroom where I tutor, a five-year-old boy is fighting with the letter E. With knees bent and shoulders cocked, he is poised on his bench as though ready to pounce. His whole being is devoted to this singular, monumental task. I focus on him over the din of the classroom. I see the blunt pencil caught in his grip, and I realize that an entire process is beginning again. Tens of thousands of years of evolution are being re-enacted right in front of me.
— Jesse Wegman, "Six Days: On Learning a New Alphabet " The Atlantic Monthly, May 1999
In introducing the essay, the author tells the story of a child trying to master the letter E as a way to move into her discussion of her own experience learning a new language.
Complexion. My first conscious experience of sexual excitement concerns my complexion. One summer weekend, when I was around seven years old, I was at a public swimming pool with the whole family. I remember sitting in the damp pavement next to the pool and seeing my mother, in the spectator's bleachers, holding my younger sister on her lap. My mother, I noticed, was watching my father as he stood on a diving board, waving to her. I watched her wave back. Then saw her radiant, bashful, astonishing smile. In that second I sensed that my mother and father had a relationship I knew nothing about. A nervous excitement encircled my stomach as I saw my mother's eyes follow my father's figure curving into the water. A second or two later, he emerged. I heard him call out. Smiling, his voice sounded buoyant, calling me to swim to him. But turning to see him, I caught my mother's eye. I heard her shout over to me. In Spanish she called through the crowd: "Put the towel on over your shoulders." In public, she didn't want to say why. I knew.
That incident anticipates the shame and sexual inferiority I was to feel in later years because of my dark complexion.
Richard Rodriguez "Complexion" Hunger of Memory: The Educaton of Richard Rodriguez, 1982
The author sets up a contrast by telling a story that at first seems to be about sex but turns out to be about the color of his skin.
« back to writing an introduction