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Sorry, it's going to be a bit long:
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Our early ancestors had little conception of the difference between human beings and the animal creation. To them all that had life was animated by a spirit, and the form of the enclosing body made little difference. Primitive man sees nothing impossible in the story that his tribe is descended from a beast or a bird; the lady in the fairy-tale who married a bear or a snake was doing nothing particularly improbable. As knowledge advanced, these animal husbands became enchanted men who regained their true shape at last, but this is a later modification to suit later ideas. The conception of "lower animals" is a modern notion based on the gradual recognition of the essential difference between man and the other inhabitants of this world. Early man saw them as creatures endowed with special gifts and obeying their own laws; often they appeared to him not less but more intelligent than himself. Our fairy-tales, with their helpful animals, talking-birds and wise reptiles, are fossilized remains of a period when animals took equal place with man and were sometimes messengers or servants of the hidden gods. So today it may be seen that a great many of our superstitions about birds and animals are based on their supposed wisdom, cunning or magical powers rather than their inferiority in the scheme of things.
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Now, about the sentence in blue, I thought it was the conlusion of the paragraph with the first sentence as the topic sentence. But a friend of mine says it's not really the conclusion of it.

What do you think, teachers?
Comments  
Hi Taka,

Now, about the sentence in blue, I thought it was the conclusion of the paragraph with the first sentence as the topic sentence. But a friend of mine says it's not really the conclusion of it.

I see the blue portion as the topic sentence, in the sense that it sums up and presents the essence of what precedes it in the paragraph. I would expect the next paragraph to take up and continue with this topic.

The first sentence, on the other hand, speaks only of 'our early ancestors', while the paragraph goes on to discuss, for instance, how 'knowledge advanced'.

Best wishes, Clive
Introduction: the first section of a paragraph; should include the topic sentence and any other sentences at the beginning of the paragraph that give background information or provide a transition.

Body: follows the introduction; discusses the controlling idea, using facts, arguments, analysis, examples, and other information.

Conclusion: the final section; summarizes the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph's controlling idea.


http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/paragraphs.shtml
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CliveI see the blue portion as the topic sentence, in the sense that it sums up and presents the essence of what precedes it in the paragraph.

I know the topic sentence is sometimes-not so often, though the last sentence, but I kind of doubt it is so in this case.
I see the paragraph as this:
What the author is trying to say is that our ancestors didn't think that there was a huge difference between men and animals, and he/she used the fact that it's just the advancement of knowledge that changed the way we see other inhabitants in this world, to support his/her idea that men originally didn't see them differently.
And the last sentence. As you said, and as the exerpt says, it sums up the connections between the information discussed in the body of the paragraph and the paragraph's controlling idea. Therefore, I thought it was the conclusion.

Anything wrong with this analysis?

(By the way, the friend didn't say that it was the topic sentence either. He said it was an example to support the author's idea, which I couldn't agree with).
CliveI would expect the next paragraph to take up and continue with this topic.

When I read the paragraph, I actually expected that the next paragraph would discuss animism or something like that, not our superstitions...
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Hi,

Well, organizing your paragraphs and essays is more subjective than scientific, I think. I saw this paragraph as probably an essay's introduction, gradually leading up to introducing the topic that the rest of the essay would explore.

Best wishes, Clive
CliveI saw this paragraph as probably an essay's introduction, gradually leading up to introducing the topic that the rest of the essay would explore.
And you thought the thesis was our superstitions about animals and he/she was going to talk about various kinds of them in the rest of the essay?
Hi,

And you thought the thesis was our superstitions about animals and he/she was going to talk about various kinds of them in the rest of the essay? Yes, but focusing particularly on the way that animals were formerly seen as man's superiors or at least equals.

Clive
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I think I would agree that the paragraph serves as a preamble or justification of the concluding sentence. The latter seems to be an inference from the principal two preceding points:

1. Early mans sees no difference between men and animals in terms of hierarchy.
— e.g. descent from animals, marriage with animals.
— — whence notion of enchantment into bestial shape (princes into toads, etc.).
— biological hierarchy is a modern notion derived from increasing knowledge.

2. Early man sees animals as having their own gifts and attributes.
— even as sometimes more intelligent than men.
— whence anthropomorphic animals in fairy tales.

3. Thus modern superstitions about animals reflect early man's beliefs about those gifts and attributes, not modern man's notions of biological hierarchy.

MrP
MrPedanticI think I would agree that the paragraph serves as a preamble or justification of the concluding sentence. The latter seems to be an inference from the principal two preceding points:

1. Early mans sees no difference between men and animals in terms of hierarchy.
— e.g. descent from animals, marriage with animals.
— — whence notion of enchantment into bestial shape (princes into toads, etc.).
— biological hierarchy is a modern notion derived from increasing knowledge.

2. Early man sees animals as having their own gifts and attributes.
— even as sometimes more intelligent than men.
— whence anthropomorphic animals in fairy tales.

3. Thus modern superstitions about animals reflect early man's beliefs about those gifts and attributes, not modern man's notions of biological hierarchy.

MrP