The Restatement Paragraph

At its simplest, restatement involves nothing more than repeating the main idea. It is common as a way of emphasizing something important:

1964 threatens to be the most explosive year America has witnessed. The most explosive year. Malcolm x

Sufficiently extended, restatement will provide the substance of an entire paragraph, as in this passage about why American men are unlikely to cry (the paragraph expresses attitudes of our culture, not the writer's own beliefs):

American men don't cry, because it is considered unmasculine to do so. Only sissies cry. Crying is a "weakness" characteristic of the female, and no American male wants to be identified with anything in the least weak or feminine. Crying, in our culture, is identified with childishness, with weakness and dependence. No one likes a crybaby, and we disapprove of crying even in children, discouraging it in them as early as possible. In a land so devoted to the pursuit of happiness as ours, crying really is rather un-American. Adults must learn not to cry in situations in which it is permissible for a child to cry. Women being the "weaker" and "dependent" sex, it is only natural that they should cry in certain emotional situations. In women, crying is excusable. But in men, crying is a mark of weakness. So goes the American credo with regard to crying. Ashley Montagu

Repeating what you have just said is both an easy and a difficult way of developing a paragraph. Easy because you do not have to search for examples or comparisons or causes. Difficult because you must repeat a basic idea without being monotonous. Because of this difficulty, restatement passages are usually brief.

The risk of monotony is increased by the similarity in sentence structure common in restatement. Sentences that say the same thing are often cast in the same mold. A good example of such repeated structure appears in this passage about the prevalence of piracy in the seventeenth century:

It is difficult for one accustomed to the law and order of the present day to understand the dangers which threatened the Jacobean traveller. The seas swarmed with pirates; so that few merchantmen dared to put to sea without arms; while very few came home without some tale of an encounter. There were pirates in the Atlantic, to intercept the ships coming home from the Newfoundland fisheries. There were pirates in the West Indies, roving for Spanish treasure-ships. There were pirates in the Orkneys, preying upon the Iceland trades. There were pirates near Ireland, especially in the south and west, ranging over the Channel, and round these coasts. But there were, perhaps, more pirates in the Mediterranean than in all the other waters put together. the Mediterranean they had the most part of the trade of Europe for their quarry; while the coasts of Africa, and the islands of the [Greek] Archipelago, provided obscure harbours (with compliant Governors) for the recruiting of companies after a cruise. John Masefeld

Aside from knowing when to stop, success in handling restatement depends on sufficiently varying the diction and sentence form. Masefield, for example, keeps the same pattern for four successive sentences: "There were pirates in" + a verbal phrase. But each sentence differs in its specific content (and hence in diction). At the same time the similarity of structure reinforces the point that piracy existed everywhere. Masefield also uses the repeated sentence structure to build toward his main in the Mediterranean. In a fifth

"there were" sentence he signals the climactic significance of the Mediterranean by varying the pattern: opening with "But," placing "perhaps" in an interrupting position, and changing completely the second half of the sentence.

Negative-Positive Restatement

Negative-positive restatement begins by saying what is not the case, then asserts what is. (Sometimes the order is reversed.)

I am not thinking of philosophy as courses in philosophy or even as a subject exclusive of other subjects. I am thinking of it in its old Greek sense, the sense in which Socrates thought of it, as the love and search for wisdom, the habit of pursuing an argument where it leads, the delight in understanding for its own sake, the passionate pursuit of dispassionate reasonableness, the will to see things steadily and to see them whole. Brand Blanshard

Specification

Another special type of restatement is specification, which moves from the general to the particular. Brief specifications are often found within single sentences as a means of giving substance to an abstraction (italics added):

Bound to the production of staples—tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar— the soil suffered from erosion and neglect. Oscar Handlin

A more extended instance occurs in this paragraph about politics in Louisiana. The paragraph develops by specifying all that is included in the phrase "the same political pattern":

Throughout the years the same political pattern prevailed. The city dominated the state: New Orleans, the nation's mecca of the flesh-pots, smiling in not altogether Latin indifference at its moral deformities, and, like a cankered prostitute, covering those deformities with paint and lace and capitalizing upon them with a lewd beckoning to the stranger. Beyond New Orleans, in the south, French Louisiana, devoutly Catholic, easy-going, following complacently its backward-glancing patriarchs, suspicious of the Protestants to the north. And in central and northern Louisiana, the small farmers, principally Anglo-Saxon; bitter, fundamentalist Protestants, hating the city and all its evil works, leaderless in their disquiet and only vaguely aware that much of what they lacked was in some way coupled with the like-as-like office seekers whom they alternately VOted into and OUt of public life. Hodding Carter

While specification resembles illustration, it differs in an important way. An illustration is one of several possible cases. Specification covers all the cases. In the sentence above by Professor Handlin, "tobacco, cotton, rice, sugar" are not simply examples of the staple crops of southern agriculture; they are the staple crops. Similarly Hodding Carter, beginning with the abstract phrase "political pattern," specifies that pattern in its entirety, rather than citing one or two parts by way of example.

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Responses

  • Norberto
    What is restatement in paragraphs?
    2 years ago
  • Liberato
    What is to Restate in paragraph?
    2 years ago
  • leopoldo
    How to write a restatement for a body paragraph?
    2 months ago

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