AD's English Literature : How to Prepare a Good Book Summary? The essentials of Book Summaries

How to Prepare a Good Book Summary? The essentials of Book Summaries

A good summary is a condensation that gives in a few words the main ideas what a writer or speaker has said. Book Summaries help the student understand books studied in schools, colleges and give them insights that make for great book reports. It also helps to gain a new perspective by reading about the author, and learn how settings, characters, and themes help make these books acclaimed works of literature. In such a case a scientific logical way is validated.

The essentials of   Book Summaries
(a) Content
  The salient points in the original passage are to be included in the summary and they should be written in their logical order,
(i) A summary should be written in one’s own words. It is not necessary to change the technical and scientific terms, names of persons, places, etc., but as far as practicable, words and expressions should not be borrowed from the original.
(ii) In making a summary of a passage containing conversation or speech, indirect mode of narration must be employed.
(iii) Proper care should be taken to use the pronoun forms: he, she, it, they, etc.
(iv) Above all, in making a good summary, what a student needs is to practice strict economy in the use of words, and for this purpose, he must know how to shorten sentences, how to use a single word for a group of words, and how to condense information.
(c) Length: A summary must be brief   and contain fewer lines than in the original passage.
(d) Yes/ No personal comment: In the summary the writer should not make any personal comment or criticism, as his function is only to summarize, not to add his own views. But in the final comment section, he/she can use it free logically.

 The steps to be followed in making a summary:
The main steps which are to be followed in making a summary are:
(a) Reading and underlining the main points;
(b) Jotting down the main points;
(c) Writing out the summary.
The passage should be read slowly and carefully to select the essentials. For a student, the most difficult task is to discover what the really important points, are in a passage and for this purpose, he must go through the passage several times. The first reading will help a student to get at the general argument of the passage. When he goes through the passage a second time he has to underline the salient points contained in the passage. By reading the passage a third time he can make sure that he has retained all essential points and rejected those which are not essential.
At this stage, a student may make rough notes for the summary on a separate sheet of paper or on a blank page of the Answer-book. These notes should be headings, not necessarily complete sentences. He will use his own phrases as far as practicable. He then compares his notes with the original to find if anything important has been omitted or if any non-cssentia1 elements have been included. The next step to follow is to arrange these points in their logical order.
The summary should be written by a student keeping in mind all ‘the essentials of a good summary’, already mentioned. Then he should study the summary once again to make sure:
(i) That his summary says what the original says;
(ii) That it reads like normal English;
(iii) That the continuity of thought is maintained;
(iv) That it is perfectly clear;
(v) That it is not wordy.
If it fails in any of these, a student must correct it.

Here is an Example of Summary to be prepared by a student of a chapter from David Copperfield by Charles Dickens:

  For a moment we stared into each other’s eyes and then words began to tumble out of my mouth.
“I am David Copperfield; and you came to see my mother just before I was born. I’ve been very unhappy since she died and I’ve run away to you. I was robbed when I started out and I’ve walked all the way from London, and I haven’t slept in a bed since I began the journey.”
I made movement of my hands, intended to show her my ragged state. Soon the tears started from my eyes.
My aunt still sat on the path, staring at me in astonishment until I began to cry. Then she rose in a great hurry, took hold of my arm, and pulled me into the parlour, where she pushed me into a chair.
(David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)
  • David Copperfield and his aunt looked at each other.
  • Soon David started describing his miseries after his mother’s death and the troubles he had faced on the way.
  • While showing her his wretched condition he burst into tears.
  • His aunt stood up hurriedly, took him to the sitting room and seated him on a chair.
Summary: David Copperfield and his aunt looked at each other for some time. Soon David started describing his miseries after his mother’s death and the troubles he had faced on the way from London. While showing her his wretched condition he burst into tears. His aunt stood up hurriedly, took him to the sitting-room and seated him on a chair.

Ardhendu De

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