In Writing Great Essays – Introduction, we looked at how to start off your essay. In Writing Great Essays – Middle, we looked at the construction of the essay body. Now, it is time for the conclusion.
Like the introduction, the conclusion is not a place to introduce new evidence. Your case should already be laid out by now in the body of your essay. Your quotes and examples coupled with the surrounding sentences should have led your reader down the proverbial primrose path to the only logical conclusion which is the one you proposed in your thesis statement. Now, it is time to bring it home.
If you’ve ever watched an event that determines the winner via judges scores or voting, you may have noticed that contestants who go last seem to have a bit of an advantage sometimes. This is because we tend to remember what we have most recently seen or read. Much in the same way, your reader may have begun to fade on some of your earlier points. The conclusion is your chance to refresh these points, and connected them to your other points.
Start your conclusion by walking back through your essay map in the tone of, “This is what I said I would show you, and I did.” Our essay map was:
When the king arrives, she plants the seed of greatness in her husband’s head, then when the king names his heir, she plants the seed of murder, and following the murder, she plants the seeds of both their doom.
Our conclusion might start something like this:
Upon the king’s arrival at the castle, Lady Macbeth stoked Macbeth’s desires by reminding him of what the witches said. Later, when the king named his own son as heir, Lady Macbeth added fuel to the fire by…
Once we’ve restated our case, it is time to finish up our closing arguments. In movies, closing arguments often ask the juror to put themselves in the defendant’s or victim’s shoes. This is actually a terrible tactic in real life. Sympathy is one thing, but the last thing you want a juror doing is thinking for themselves. You want them to think what you tell them to think. The same thing is true for essays. You don’t want your reader thinking about how he would have stood up to Lady Macbeth, or how she would have encouraged her husband too, so maybe Lady Macbeth isn’t the problem. Instead, go for the throat by telling your reader what they think. This is the real world application of the old, “When I want your opinion I’ll give it to you,” line.
Lady Macbeth’s own selfish desire for power and prestige caused her to lead her own husband down a path of ruin. When things went badly, she fell apart, partly out of guilt at the king’s death, but even more out of her inability to cope with the knowledge that the tragic events were a result of her own greed.
Don’t thank the reader or say that you hoped they enjoyed reading your essay. Just leave your powerful closing statement on the table and walk away. Remember, whenever you do something cool, it is even cooler to walk away like it wasn’t cool to you. After all, you write top-notch essays all the time. No need to thank someone for reading the best paper in the bunch!