What is a Yankee?
To most of the world, a Yankee is an American, anybody who lives in the United States. It is not always a pleasant connotation; in fact, "Yankee, go home!" calls up images of angry Latin American mobs protesting the oppression of American imperialist policies.
To most Americans, though, the word Yankee means either the pin-striped New York baseball team or the Northern forces in the American Civil War, the soldiers from north of the Mason-Dixon Line. In time, though, the idea that the word Yankee suggests has shrunk geographically until it is on the verge of extinction.
Perhaps the most famous Yankee of all (no offense to the musical Damn Yankees! intended) has star billing in Mark Twain's novel Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. I have lived most of my life, now, in that southern New England state, and I can assure you there are precious few real Yankees around. Real Yankees might have lived in Connecticut at one time, but now they are from another place and perhaps another time. As television and other forms of mass media invade our homes and tend to diminish regional differences, to make Americans more and more homogeneous, the Yankee might be one of the first genuine American characters to disappear.
A neighbor of mine claims he knows what a real Yankee is all about. Years ago, he says, he lived next door to one. It seems his plumbing was acting up and he'd actually removed the toilet from the floor and taken it out into the backyard to do some surgery on it. Now he knew that his neighbor, who happened to be a professional plumber as well as the putative Yankee, was well aware of the fact that he was struggling to fix his toilet and he knew that his neighbor was home, doing nothing in particular that day, probably watching from the kitchen window. But would he come over and offer to help? No way. But when my friend finally gave up and went over and asked for assistance, the plumber-neighbor not only agreed to help, he did so gleefully. He spent the entire afternoon finding and fixing the problem and helping to return the toilet to its proper place. And wouldn't accept a dime, of course.
According to my friend, that's the first tenet of Yankee-ness. You must never offer help because that makes the person to whom you have proferred assistance "beholden" to you. And a Yankee must never be "beholden" to anyone. (That's how the word for this concept is said, and so we must spell it that way, too.) To be beholden means that you owe something to someone else. Now everyone in the world can owe something to the Yankee, but the Yankee must never owe anyone else anything, and he can't really understand someone who would be willing to be beholden. Thus he will not offer help oh, maybe in a real emergency, he would be as good a Samaritan as anyone else until asked. When asked, it's another story. You will get more help than you can imagine, help in great abundance, more than you could ever deserve or pay back. So it's not that Yankees are stingy; on the contrary, a Yankee is generous to a fault. But there is a sense of reserve that prohibits the true Yankee from offering help before being asked. The sense of inviolate space is paramount: "Good fences make good neighbors," says the neighbor in Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall," and the Yankee will not cross the fence until asked.
Another friend of mine knows someone, a Yankee, a chap born so far north in Vermont that he's nearly Canadian, who comes over to help with his taxes ever year. To re-pay him, my friend must resort to trickery, leaving something on the doorstep in the middle of the night. To offer anything else, up front, might tip the beholden scales in his favor and that would be risky.
That's what I think defines this dying breed of the American Yankee: an extraordinary sense of balance and reserve, a holding off and yet, behind all that reserve, a reservoir of generosity and friendliness that can be nearly overwhelming.
copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
A generic table (Generic Table for Generating a Thesis Sentence) helps students to understand that the thesis sentence for a typical high school or freshman college essay contains a plan of development that breaks the essay’s topic into three related points; these points are the bases, in turn, of the topic sentences for the essay’s three body paragraphs.
However, more specific tables help students to customize this concept, adapting it to particular patterns of development.
Essays are composed according to a number of patterns of development:
- Causal analysis (cause-effect)
- Classification (usually used with division)
- Comparison (usually used with contrast)
- Contrast (usually used with comparison)
- Division (usually used with classification)
- Exemplification, or illustration
- Process analysis (“how to”)
- Causal analysis (cause-effect)
- Process analysis (“how to”)
- Persuasion and argumentation
Each of these essay templates can be used to generate a thesis sentence that includes a plan of development containing three related points. The beginning of the thesis sentence will be the template’s topic (sometimes, slightly reworded), identified in the template’s left column, and the plan of development will be the three points listed in the template’s other three columns. For example, from the following template, this thesis sentence may be derived:
THESIS: Vampires and zombies are revenants who feed on human beings and are driven by simple motives.Likewise, from the following table, this thesis may be developed:
THESIS: The legends concerning vampires and zombies differ, as do the religions with which they associated and the difficulty with which they are destroyed.
These tables are effective templates, but they have several limitations that the instructor must keep in mind. In some cases, their use implies an understanding of certain terms (e. g., metaphor, simile, personification, image, juxtaposition) that students may not have. In such cases, the instructor will need to define and exemplify the meanings of such terms before the students use the template. In other instances, as when a cause-effect, a comparison-contrast, or a classification-division essay (rather than simply a cause or an effect essay, a comparison or a contrast essay, or a classification or a division essay) is required, one template must be used with another, and some revision as to the employment of the templates may be in order.
For example, suppose a student were required to write a comparison-contrast essay. First, he or she should use the Comparison Essay template to identify the points of similarity between the two persons, places, or things that are to be compared. Then, he or she should use the Contrast Essay template to identify the points of difference between the two persons, places, or things that are to be contrasted. Then, the comparisons and contrasts should be linked in a single thesis sentence. Here is an example:
THESIS: Although vampires and zombies are both revenants who feed on human beings and are driven by simple motives, the legends concerning these monsters differ, as do the religions with which they associated and the difficulty with which they are destroyed.
Another note of caution is in order concerning the use of these tables. Most essays require a thesis that states not only facts but an interpretation of the facts (an opinion concerning them). These templates do not necessarily yield such a thesis. However, an opinion can be added, as is done in the case of the following thesis:
THESIS: Vampires are more complex villains than zombies because, although both monsters are revenants who feed on human beings and are driven by simple motives, the legends concerning vampires are more elaborate than those concerning zombies, as is the religion with which vampires are associated and the difficulty with which vampires are destroyed.
Generic Table for Generating a Thesis Sentence
This generic table helps students to understand that the thesis sentence for a typical high school or freshman college essay contains a plan of development that breaks the essay’s topic into three related points; these points are the bases, in turn, of the topic sentences for the essay’s three body paragraphs.
Once the student has understood this procedure and has practiced it several times using the generic table, he or she should be introduced, as the writing situation warrants each introduction, to the more specific tables that will help him or her to develop material (and theses) that relate to the specific pattern or patterns of development that are best suited to the writing assignment or the writer‘s purpose, whether this assignment or purpose is analysis, argumentation, causal analysis (cause-effect), classification (usually used with division), comparison (usually used with contrast), contrast (usually used with comparison), definition, description, division (usually used with classification), exemplification (illustration), persuasion, or process analysis (“how to”).
To use the generic table, replace “Essay’s Topic” (top rectangle) with the actual topic of the essay that is being written. Then, divide the topic into three related points, listing each point in its own square, in the order in which they will be presented in the essay. By reading down and to the right, in a counterclockwise direction, and adding an appropriate verb and linking words, as necessary, the student can easily develop a thesis sentence that includes a plan of development that contains three related points.Here is an example:
By adding the verb “can occur,” the preposition “in,” the conjunction “or,” and the phrase “public and private areas of one’s life,” the student will have constructed a thesis sentence that includes a plan of development that contains three related points:
THESIS: Rude behavior can occur in public, in private, or in both public and private areas of one’s life.
Refer to the specific templates that appear in subsequent posts apply this generic technique to particular essay patterns of development written for the student.
Note: Each specific template (table) includes a completed table as a sample and a blank table that can be reproduced for the student’s use.