Writing Program

Paragraphing Exercise: Topic Sentences and Closing Sentences

D. Battles

Paragraphing Exercise: Topic Sentences and Closing Sentences

The following three paragraphs have had their topic sentences and closing sentences removed and shuffled at the bottom of the page.  Read the headless and tailless paragraphs and match the correct topic sentences and closing sentences to each. 

Bonus: for each of the Topic Sentences, identify 1) the topic of the paragraph, and 2) any words indicating the author's opinion about that topic. These are the two components of a healthy topic sentence.

Forget about how cheap-looking the benches and lampposts might be - we don't even have sidewalks in most of suburbia (and besides, nobody walks there anyway) - so any benches and lampposts seem swell.  Americans love Disney World, above all, because it is uncontaminated by cars, except for a few antique vehicles kept around as stage props.  By and large, they do not know that this is the reason they love Disney World. 

The pattern of Main Street is pretty simple:  mixed use, mixed income, apartments and offices over the stores, moderate density, scaled to pedestrians, vehicles permitted but not allowed to dominate, buildings detailed with care, and built to last (though we still trashed it).  Altogether it was a pretty good development pattern.  It produced places that people loved deeply.  That is the reason Main Street persists in our cultural memory.  Many people still alive remember the years before World War Two and what it felt like to live in integral towns modeled on this pattern. 

Deep down, many Americans are dissatisfied with suburbia - though they have trouble understanding what's missing - which explains their nostalgia for the earlier model.  Their dissatisfaction is literally a  dis-ease.  They feel vaguely and generally un-well where they are.  Nostalgia in its original sense means homesickness.  Americans essay to cure their homesickness with costly visits to Disney World.  The crude, ineffective palliatives they get there in the form of brass bands and choo-choo train rides leave them more homesick and more baffled as to the nature of their disease than when they arrived - like selling chocolate bars to someone suffering from scurvy.

Topic Sentences:

  1. Main Street USA is America's obsolete model for development - we stopped assembling towns this way after 1945. 
  2. For all its apparent success, Suburban Sprawl sorely lacks many things that make life worth living, particularly civic amenities, which Main Street offered in spades.
  3. The design quality of Disney World in Orlando, on the other hand, is about 1.5 notches better than the average American suburban shopping mall or housing division - so Americans love it.

Closing Sentences:

  1. Americans are amazingly unconscious of how destructive the automobile has been to their everyday world. 
  2. Pathetically, of course, they must return afterward to the very places that induce the   disease of homesickness.
  3. Physical remnants of the pattern still stand in parts of the country for people to see, though the majority of Americans have moved into the new model habitat called Suburban Sprawl.

From James Howard Kunstler, Home from Nowhere:  Remaking our Everyday World for the 21st Century (Simon and Schuster, 1996).