Summarizing a Novel
A summary is a presentation of the substance of a body of material in a condensed form or by reducing it to its main points (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/summary). Summarizing is often described like peeling an onion, in which many layers you need to be peeled away to get to essence of the story.
In a summary you just report the main ideas, main points, and major supports of the original text. You need to do it by using your own expression without changing any idea or viewpoint. Thus, to summarize a novel means that you just report the story by revealing the main events, who does it, where, and why, as they are presented by the author. Later, when a reader unacquainted with the original text reads your summary, he will get from your summary the essential facts and point of view of the original selection.
One of the most frequently questions addressed in summarizing is how long the summary should be. There is no fixed rule for this. A novel of 200 pages, for instance, could be well summarized in three to four pages. Thus, the length of a summary largely depends on the length and complexity of the original work, the intended audience and the purpose. What is important to underlie is that you know how much detail to include, and what details to omit.
As a general guide, begin your summary chapter by chapter or unit by unit. Try to summarize a chapter into a paragraph. To do this, determine the main ideas of the chapter by looking for events that move the story forward, or that reveal or develop character. Then review the chapter briefly. You can do this by imagining yourself telling your classmate what the chapter was about. Now write a single sentence containing this main idea. Then use it as the topic sentence of the paragraph summarizing that single chapter. After writing a paragraph for each chapter, edit and revise all of them in order get a unified summary. Add the transitional words, phrases, and sentences to make all paragraphs hang together. This will help your reader make sense of the ideas and events.
To illustrate of the above concept, the following summary of chapter 1 and 2 of Orwell’s Animal Farm is presented.
Animal Farm (Chapter 1-2)
Animal Farm begins as evening falls upon Manor Farm. After Mr. Jones, the farm owner, locks up, the animals gather in the big barn to hear the dream of twelve-year-old Major, Manor Farm’s prize-winning boar. When all the animals, including the pigs; the dogs; the sheep; the two cart horses Boxer and Clover; Muriel the white goat; Mollie, the white mare; and Benjamin, the old donkey have settled down to listen, Old Major reveals that he is close to dying. He then shares his life philosophy focusing on the difficulty of their lives under man’s rule. He reveals his dream and prophesies a future rebellion of animals against man, and ends by teaching the animals a song called “Beasts of England.”
Three nights after his stirring speech, Old Major dies, but the other animals, led by two young boars named Snowball and Napoleon, keep the idea of a future rebellion against man alive. They also develop Major’s rhetoric into a complete thought system—Animalism. On Midsummer’s Eve, Mr. Jones becomes too drunk to feed or care for the animals, and his men forget them as well. The animals break into the grain bins. When Mr. Jones and his four men appear and begin to whip, the animals attack and drive them off the farm. Manor Farm is now under the control of the animals. They search the farm grounds for any trace of human beings, remove and burn all artifacts of their imprisonment—the bits, nose-rings, chains, and knives—and take a double portion of food. They even change farm’s name to Animal Farm and establish their own rules for behavior which are painted on the wall of the barn.
Orwell, George. 2010. Animal Farm Retrieved on July 2011 from http://ebooks.adelaide. edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79a/complete
To watch the full length animated movie of Orwell’s Animal Farm (1954), click –> here
To watch Animal Farm summary, click –> here
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