Reconstructing Bertrand Russell

The following 18 sentences are from a very short essay by philosopher Bertrand Russell; it is the introduction to his autobiography. They were written as a five-paragraph theme, an essential item in an academic writerís tool box. While the five-paragraph theme is not appropriate to some writing tasks, it is excellent for responding to essay test questions or other timed writing situations because the structure is easy to follow and simplifies decisions about how to shape or organize the text.

Your job is to reconstruct the essay by moving the sentences into their appropriate paragraphs, and then determining the order of the sentences within each paragraph.

You'll have to do it using your word processing system rather than the browser. So, first, highlight the sentences and select the browser's "copy" command from the file menu on the task bar. Then open up a blank MS Word document and select "paste" to place the sentences. Then you can use the MS Word functions to move the sentences around.

Start by identifying the thesis statement and the topic sentences.  Once you have determined which paragraphs the sentences belong in, look more closely at transitions, pronouns and antecedents, and other clues which help determine the order of the sentences within the paragraph. To move a sentence, use the cut and paste functions of the word processor. It's quite easy to do, and I'll help you with the first one.  (BTW, I have also included Russellís title for the essay.)


These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy--ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy.

Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart.

What I Have Lived For

I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness--that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold, unfathomable, lifeless abyss.

This has been my life.

 Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.

 I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love, I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge.

I have wished to understand the hearts of men.

 This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what--at last--I have found.

I have wished to know why the stars shine.

I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux.

A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

 Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens.

But always pity brought me back to earth.

 Children in famine, victims tortured by their oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be.

 I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.


Give up? View the reconstructed essay.

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