A couple of weeks ago, I revisited the idea of grad school—I don’t have enough fingers to count how many times I’ve considered it. It always sounds like a great plan until I look at tuition and, concurrently, remember how much I love my utter lack of responsibility once I get home from work. But academia is a fuzzy little comfort zone for me; I get it. The renegade crazy professors notwithstanding, studies follow a pretty consistent pattern. You’re given a syllabus up front so you know what to expect, you’re left to your own devices for getting stuff done and if you’re good, you figure out little tips and tricks that work across multiple disciplines.
One such trick is befriending good ol’ Charlie Dickens. Know why? Simple: Chuck wrote the quintessential hook…
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” (A Tale of Two Cities)
That’s it, all you need to know. Of course, you could get really fancy and include the next bit, too: “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
Rest assured, this particular line can be utilized for virtually any subject. I’ve successfully employed it for various lit, history, political science, and sociology classes. Throughout my combined high school and university career, Charlie D. helped me out at least a dozen times. No lie.
But wait! This golden tidbit isn’t just a good intro, it’s also an automatic brainstorming tool. Need to write a paper about, say, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream but have no direction on how to scale down such a huge topic? Identify a passage that deals with good times and bad times, wisdom and folly—it’s almost too easy—and spew out our dear friend’s quote. BAM! Insta-topic!
Research just enough about Dickens and his culture (thank you, Internet) to flesh it out a bit and compare/contrast with Billy Shakes. A word of caution: Tread lightly when discussing subject matter from A Tale of Two Cities, or you will actually have to read the whole book. Hit the quote hard and then back away very, very quickly.
You know, like the way Lindsay Lohan drives around pedestrians.