December 11, 2009

Critical Lens Essay Introduction Samples

You should write your Introduction over the weekend (and start working on your Discussion as well). I'm not going to collect it, but you really should get started.

Here are the Introduction samples we produced in class today:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, “A person is a person through other persons.” The character of an individual is meaningless by itself. Although we place a great deal of value on our own uniqueness, it really doesn’t mean anything if we can’t compare it to the character and personality of other people. Whether we are interested in moral goodness, professional talent, or behavioral quirks, our evaluation of anyone’s character, including our own, depends greatly on how we compare to the rest of the world. The same is true for our understanding and evaluation of characters in literature. When we read a novel or a play, we need to compare literary characters to each other, to people we know in the real world, and to ourselves. Only then can we truly understand who they are, and who we are. The novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and A Night to Remember, a non-fiction novel by Walter Lord, both reveal that the character of an individual is only meaningful when compared to that of others.

Norman Mailer wrote, “For what does it mean to be a hero? It requires you to be prepared to deal with forces larger than yourself.” Heroes are typically people who risk their well-being or their lives for the benefit of others. A person is only heroic, however, if he is willing to take on risks and face challenges that ordinary people would avoid. We think of heroes as being greater than ordinary people, even though they live and walk among us. The difference is, they run toward danger where others would run away from it. What we admire so much about heroes is their willingness to take risks and face challenges that may be grave, or even deadly. This is true for literary and mythic heroes as well as the ones we find in real life. The novel The Natural by Bernard Malamud and the classic epic poem The Odyssey by Homer both reveal that true heroism lies in a person’s willingness to confront the forces allayed against him, where those forces are more powerful than he.

Walker Percy wrote, “In this world goodness is destined to be defeated.” All people are supposed and expected to be as kind, decent and virtuous as they can be. Many of us hope to live in a world free of evil; free of crime, free of war, free of avarice. However, despite 6,000 years’ worth of effort, mankind has failed to eradicate its most cruel, selfish and destructive tendencies. If history teaches us anything, it is that the forces of good are very often the victim of larger, more powerful, and more pervasive evil forces. Many of our greatest stories reveal the futility of the struggle of good against evil. The novels Lord of the Flies by William Golding and 1984 by George Orwell both reveal that mankind’s worst tendencies will often triumph over its best.

Bernadette Devlin wrote, “To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else.” We all hope to gain something tomorrow that we don’t have today, something we truly value; more, perhaps, than other things. However, we are often reluctant to make the sacrifices necessary to make our dreams come true. Too many people fail to realize that in order to achieve what we most want to achieve, we must be willing to give things up. Very often, we must sacrifice that which we value or even love, in order to fulfill our greatest desires. We therefore must choose what we value most, and what we are willing to lose. Characters in literature often find themselves faced with such choices. The novel
1984 by George Orwell and the non-fiction novel A Night to Remember by Walter Lord both present characters faced with difficult, if not impossible, choices requiring grave risk and great sacrifice.

Theodore Roethke wrote, “In a dark time, the eye begins to see…” There have been dark times in history, and there are dark times in people’s lives. War, poverty, economic crisis, disease and political upheaval have plunged whole nations into misery and suffering for years, or even decades, at a time. Even when history has been kind to most, and times have been relatively serene, there are still individuals whose lives represent a constant struggle against adversity. Whether times are tough for one person or for a whole population, the difficulties we face enlighten us. They make us aware of important truths and unpleasant realities, from which happy times often shield us. Many of our greatest stories take place during dark times; others reveal the struggle and enlightenment that come from individual difficulties. The novels 1984 by George Orwell and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens both take place during dark periods in history, which provide enlightenment for their main characters.