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GRE Issue 22: The Best Way To Understand The Character Of A Society - With A Free Essay Review
Claim: The best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that the society chooses as its heroes or its role models. Reason: Heroes and role models reveal a society's highest ideals.Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.
When it comes to the character of a society, the definitions of character may vary according to different people. Some think the character means the current economy and development of societies, while others perhaps argue character refers to mental quality or faith of people in societies. So, from my perspective, whether the claim that the best way to understand the character of a society is to examine the character of the men and women that are chosen by society as its heroes or role models is true or not depends on the different definitions of character of a society.
When the character means current economy and development of a society, the statement probably is wrong since, in most cases, examining heroes and role models can hardly be the best way to understand the character with respect to economic situations. The best way, however, to understand the present status of development is more likely to study mega cities as well as rural areas comprehensively or to analyze recent statistics. These ways can reflect development of a society more obviously and profoundly than that of examination of heroes and role models.
If the character of a society is defined as mental quality or faith of its people, in most cases, examining the character of heroes and role models helps to understand the character of a society largely because heroes and role models reveal a society’s highest ideals. Martin Luther King is an excellent example of this point. Numerous American people treat him as a hero and a role model because his noted non-violent protest against racial prejudice and segregations reveals a belief that everyone in the world has rights to pursue equality, justice as well as democracy. Also, it is widely acknowledged that the central spirit in America is democracy and the human rights. Therefore, when people examine these heroes, such as Martin Luther King or Abraham Lincoln, another prestigious heroes in American people’s hearts, they are expected to understand what American society’s character is, or what the faith of American people is.
Even though the character of a society refers to mental quality or faith, in some cases, study of heroes might erroneously reflect society’s character. Sometimes, the reason why a society treats these men and women as heroes is simply because this society lacks the quality possessed by these role models. Consider a Chinese hero Lei Feng as an example who is kind to others and eager to help others when they are in trouble without any return. However, contrary to Lei Feng, a large amount of Chinese people lack awareness of altruism and are indifferent to others, especially strangers. Thus, by examination of Lei Feng, people cannot conclude the current Chinese society’s character is selflessness. Instead, Chinese society lacks this characteristic concerning altruism.
Under other circumstances, the statement could also prove wrong. For instance, although these heroes are chosen by a society, they can hardly represent the choice of the majority because government authorities choose these heroes for the purpose of controlling the masses.
In conclusion, although heroes and role model reveal a society’s highest ideals, the best way to understand the character of a society might not be to examine those heroes under distinct definitions of character. Also, despite the fact that character can mean mental quality or faith, in some cases, the statement would be wrong too.
I agree that the word "character" is a bit ambiguous, and therefore it is important to define the term, but I don't really see the point in defining it in a way that makes the claim absurd. I think one ought to focus, in other words, on an interpretation of the word that makes the claim one that a reasonable person might make (no reasonable person would argue that you can judge the economic state of a nation by examining the character of those chosen as heroes). You also simply should interpret "character" on its first appearance in the claim to mean the same as "character" on its second appearance in the claim. That is, you must interpret "character" as something like the attributes of a group or a person as revealed by the words and deeds of that group or person. The second paragraph of your essay, then, would likely be seen as a misinterpretation of the claim.
The third and subsequent paragraphs are a more appropriate response to the prompt. What's missing from them, though, is a critical assessment of the reason offered in support of the claim. The reason offered is that heroes represent the highest ideals of society. The assumption here is that the highest ideals of society are a good measure of the general character of that society. Your essay ought to explicitly identify this assumption and ask whether it is a reasonable assumption. Your discussion of Martin Luther King suggests it is a reasonable assumption, but only implicitly. For what it's worth, I'm not entirely convinced by the argument. The United States needed Martin Luther King, after all, because of the huge gap between the ideals he defended and the actual character of the society in which he lived. I find your subsequent argument, that we make heroes out of those who represent qualities society might like to think of itself as having but which it actually lacks in reality, more convincing.
Your final argument, though brief, introduces an interesting complication. But you need to try to demonstrate an awareness of what you are really arguing here with respect to the claim. It seems to me that what you are really arguing is that the presupposition of the claim (that society as such chooses its heroes) is false, since heroes are chosen for society by those in power. That would be an argument worth elaborating.