By Patty H.
These are three essays put together, two of them are replies to questions about a literary work, while the other explores the journey of a famous female author. They range from being short to start, before going out into a full MLA format. Hope you get something out of reading them!
Essay 1: Oedipus, the King with a Tragic Flaw (Oedipus the King, also goes by Oedipus Rex)
A constructed response 2 paragraphs long giving an answer to the question: “Does Oedipus have a tragic flaw?”
I think Oedipus does have a tragic flaw, and that flaw is the obsession of truth. In other words, because he was obsessed with finding the truth, it led to his downfall. At first, it seems like finding King Laius’ murdered would be fit for a king such as Oedipus. It is what he sees fit for his country, as he says in Act 1, “It is my duty…Whoever killed King Laius might be the death of me-Who knows? It is in my own interest to avenge your slaughtered king” (Sophocles 129-133). After all, this culprit escaping justice is the reason that Thebes is suffering, allegedly. This “truth” is aforementioned by Tiresias to be something that Oedipus should not seek for his own good, as he states when Oedipus calls him, “It is a miserable thing to be wise when wisdom brings no reward” (Sophocles 286). Of course, Oedipus ignores the warning and accuses this truth of being nothing but baseless slander. As he continues his pursuit, he gets some suitable information from his wife Jocasta. As much as she tries to tell him to not go through with this, he puts it aside.
When Act 2 rolls around, this “truth” rears its ugly head. Jocasta, who already knows the truth and did the things she did because she wanted to avoid this from happening (and also believed that the prophecy came true), ends up killing herself. Oedipus laments her death, as well as finding the truth that he desired so much, after he downplayed Tiresias and putting her warnings aside: he himself killed the former King Laius. Understandably, Oedipus does not take it well, deciding to punish himself by stabbing out his eyes, blinding him. He sees how low he has fallen by claiming, “No! Once I was its king – now I am nothing. I have condemned myself to this my fate” (Sophocles 470-471). This quote significantly proves his downfall as the king of Thebes to its destroyer, and overall showcasing his tragic flaw. Because Oedipus was so concerned about finding the killer, his discovery of the person ends up being something he rather had not find out at all. Sometimes, the truth hurts and being dedicated to it can cause more problems that someone can imagine. And for Oedipus, this hurt him the most painful way possible.
If you don’t agree with this side of the question, that’s ok! It gives you a different perspective on seeing if Oedipus really had a tragic flaw throughout the play. If you agreed on this, glad to see that other people are thinking the same thing together!
Essay 2: Sketches of Overcoming Obstacles (Louisa May Alcott)
A nonfiction narrative 5 paragraphs long, providing a brief exploration of author Louisa May Alcott, and how she became one of the most influential writers, while facing harsh times.
For a while in the 1800s, Louisa May Alcott and her family moved to several places around the eastern US, until her father, Bronson settled in Concord, opening his school on Tremont Street. Unfortunately, that fell short when he tried to enroll an African-American girl, and nearly went bankrupt as a result. Meanwhile, Louisa was being educated at home, as she once wrote, “I never went to school except for my father or such governess as from time to time came into the family.” Yet, the Alcott family would always struggle with financial duties, as Bronson was never strong in that field, though being one of the most influential educators of the time. In the end, Louisa herself became one of the most famous historical authors of all time, despite the obstacles that barred her path.
Louisa’s family lived near Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who Bronson sought for guidance. The family soon moved to Harvard, hoping to establish a community called ‘Fruitlands’. As expected, that too fell short due to the harsh winter conditions and the family was back to Concord. Here, Emerson allowed Louisa to use his library, and it was here where her writing talent sparked. She read many great works and started to write her own in 1848. Published by the Olive Branch four years later, Louisa continued to write thrillers, while on the side, taking various teacher positions with her older sister in order to earn money. After a brief shift as a governess in Dedham, she wrote an essay title “How I Went Out to Service”. However, her work was rejected by publisher James T. Fields, advising her, “Stick to your teaching, Miss Alcott. You can’t write.” For unknown reasons, Alcott started using pen names such as “A.M Barnard”, “Flora Fairfield, and “The Children’s Friend”, and she didn’t use her full name in her works for some time, until 1854, when she published Flower Fables, a fairytale collection written six years earlier for Emerson’s daughter, Ellen.
As time passed by, in 1862, Louisa started work as a nurse at the Union Hospital in D.C, wanting to contribute what she could to the end of slavery, which she and her family and friends had advocated for many years. Beforehand, she sewed Union uniforms back in Concord. Unfortunately, she contracted typhoid pneumonia and had to return home, and this supposedly had a role in her early passing. Regardless, this brief service gave her inspiration to write “Hospital Sketches”, which ended up appearing in the Boston Commonwealth and became a book a year later. It described the stressful yet meaningful experience. Reprinted with additional material seven years later, it massively gained popularity. After the Civil War passed, Louisa traveled to Europe to see the sights she read about in her younger years.
Later on, she accepted the editorship of Merry’s Museum, a children’s magazine, and also became its major contributor. In 1867, the editor, Thomas Niles, asked her to write a book especially for girls. This book, of course, was “Little Women”. At first, she was reluctant to do so, as written in her journal, “Never like girls or knew many, except my sisters; but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it.” Louisa and her sister’s life experiences became the basis for this new book, which she wrote under three months, writing the first half in less than six weeks. The first part of “Little Women” became a bestseller, and after readers clamored for the next part, the second half came out the following spring. The sequels, “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys” came out in the years afterward. Additionally, this was the first time she did not use a pen name for her stories, which ended up being a well thought decision.
Louisa May Alcott became, and is still, one of the most famous authors in history, despite the nomadic living conditions she faced and the many jobs she had to do in order to save her family from debt. She wrote from inspiration due to the jobs she worked, from a governess to a nurse. Writing all sorts of books, she nearly wrote 300 before she died. Alcott didn’t really like the attention to her works, even going as far to being her own servant for the family. In fact, tourists can visit her Concord home in Massachusetts called the Orchard House. The story of Louisa shows that anyone can be a writer, starting from just essays and letters. All they need to do is jump over the hurdles that stand in their way and persevere.
Essay 3: The Journey to Forgiveness (The Tempest)
A literary analysis of William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, focusing on the lead character, Prospero.
Throughout William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, the main protagonist Prospero, goes through a very tough life. Being ousted by his family and left to die on a stranded island, it is understandable that he would want them to pay. However, as he, his daughter Miranda, and his loyal servant, Ariel, deal with not just his family, but with other inhabitants who have the same grudge on him, he starts to question whether or not he really wants revenge, and ends up abandoning it entirely in the end. Prospero learns to find forgiveness in the ones he wants vengeance on, and realizes through sympathy, loss, and redemption why it is better to just forgive those who have wronged him.
As Prospero went on his journey, he turned a blind eye to those that were suffering, even at the very beginning. He wanted them to feel the same pain he felt when he was exiled to the island. Yet, he doesn’t realize that he has done more harm than good until the end. As he says in a conversation with Ariel, “Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick / Yet with my nobler reason ‘gainst my fury / Do I take part. The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance” (V.i.25-27). After Ariel describes their sympathy about all they have suffered from, Prospero gives deeper thought about how far he went to have revenge, and becomes sympathetic. This shows early signs of Prospero developing as a character deciding to not go any further on and forgive the ones for taking what was his. After all, not all of them did, and some helped him in his darkest times.
When Prospero confronts his family, he and Alonso, the current king and the one who took part in usurping Prospero’s throne, exchange words about how much they have gone through. Alonso at this moment still feels that Ferdinand, his son, has died. Prospero has also lost Miranda, not to death, but to life beyond her island home. In his talk with Alonso, he says, “As great to me, as late, and supportable To make the dear loss, have I means much weaker Than you may call to comfort you; for I Have lost my daughter” (V.i.145-147). Prospero now not just knows, but feels loss, like Alonso since he has lost Ferdinand, and now Miranda. He once again shows sympathy for the suffering he has wrought and now knows what it feels like on the other side of the story.
Alonso, now knowing what he did was wrong, wants forgiveness from Prospero. The king that took the other’s throne, wanting forgiveness. Not only that, but he took part in exiling him and his daughter to an island to die. How could he ever make amends? Seeing the error of his ways, he apologizes, “Th’ affliction of my mind amends, with which, I fear, a madness held me. This must crave (And if this be at all) a most strange story. Thy dukedom I resign and do entreat Thou pardon me my wrongs” (V.i.115-119). Alonso decides to ask for forgiveness by resigning his status. Prospero’s enemies admit that what they have done is wrong and he does not need to hurt them anymore, and he knows this.
That doesn’t mean that all ties will be mended however, he does keep some secrets to himself, as he sternly lectures to Antonio and Sebastian, who he still has grudges against, “But you, my brace of lords, were I so minded, I here could pluck his Highness’ frown upon you /And justify you traitors. At this time, I will tell no tales” (V.i.126-127). Even after all this, Prospero lets bygones be bygones and forget about it. He may punish them later on, but for now he decides to just let it go.
Shakespeare evolves and develops Prospero’s character through his actions and the way others think and act about him, and in turn his response to those characters. Prospero learns to find forgiveness in his revenge, and realizes why it is better to just forgive those who have wronged him. Vengeance is a driving force throughout the play, but as Prospero sees how he and many others have suffered through his journey, those he had lost because of it, and the redemption he made to bring himself to a mutual understanding with his enemies, he learns that forgiveness is the better option than keeping such grudges with him for the rest of his life.
Hope you enjoy this new experiment of random essays composed by a student in English class. If you did, glad to hear it. If not, still happy you managed to get through it all.