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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.’

The character of a society in this essay is defined as the character shared by a majority of men and women in a society. Based on this definition, I admit that the characters of the men and women that a society chooses as its heroes could be a useful tool to help us understand the character of that society in which those heroes live in. However at the same time, it is worth noticing that characters of those heroes in many cases are not representative of that of the society.

A foreign friend of mine once told me “In your country, many philanthropists are portrayed as heroes. However, in reality, people are not even willing to invite some homeless people to spend one night in their houses over a chilly winter night". Unfortunately, my friend made his point. The characters of heroes in many cases are not representative of the character of our society since heroes by nature are special. Unlike most of us, they have some characteristics that we don't really possess. Otherwise, a hero would just be an ordinary fork as we are. Bill Gates is considered a hero because he donated a lot of his wealth to medical research and he promised that he would be willing to donate more to his foundation after his death in order to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty. However, many of us still grumble when government increase the tax on heritage. Martin Luther King is widely considered as a hero since he dedicated his own life to an equal society that he dreamed. In such a society, everybody is judged by the content of their character rather by the color of their skin. Unfortunately, in reality, many people still intentionally or unconsciously hold some stereotype discriminations against each other. Therefore, the character of those heroes could not always be used as a sure indicator of a society's character since in many cases, their character does not align with the character of a society.

However, I would also like to argue that the character of a hero could shed some light on the character of a society. Although in many cases, many people cannot encapsulate the spirit that their heroes did, the criteria a society use to select its hero reflects a preference of our society. One hero in a country might not be considered as somebody exemplary in another country since two societies, due to differences in their characters, use different criteria. Consider some business visionaries in United States during the last century. Many of them were acclaimed as heroes in United States since people there cherished their entrepreneurship. They were depicted as those who were brave as well as perseverant in the pursuit of treasures. This selection corresponded to the character of the American society of the last century, enterprising as well as ambitious. However, at the same time, many people in the European continent dismissed those capitalists as avaricious people since the lust for money in those countries was not considered a virtue but rather a sin. In those countries, heroes were those who were willing to stick to the poverty while at the same time served the community since those societies shared a more conservative character. In the United States, we see a lot of individual heros who achieved success through their personal efforts since contemporary American society puts more emphasis on individualism. However, in many eastern Asian countries, heroes have always been those who are willing to sacrifice for a group since the characters of those societies put more emphasis on collectivism.

Moreover, it is interesting to notice that the criteria to define heroes also evolve along with changes in a society’s character. Some heroes acclaimed by our ancestors are no longer considered as heroes now since the character of our society has changed. For example, in our history books, there are a lot of hymns to those loyal people who sacrificed their lives to their lords. Certainly in an ancient society which put emphasis on order and hierarchy, those people who defended the order were considered as martyrs. Now, in the context of a society in which the highest ideal and fundamental beliefs for many people is liberalism and the idea that people are born equal, certainly those ancient heroes step down from their pedestals.

When we analyze heroes in order to help us understand the character of a society, we should take care to distinguish whether those heroes were selected by people or erected by the public power. Since the creation of a hero certainly involves the media to spread the image, sometimes, the public power would use the media to erect some figures which could be used to manipulate people. For example, in many ancient communist countries, many people were nominated as national heroes. There were massive media reports of their heroic behaviors and the spirits they encapsulated. However, it was only the ideals that a state hopes to propagandize rather than what most people really like. They could not be used to represent the character of a society.

To sum up, although the character of heroes cannot be used to define the character of a society, it still could help us to understand a society and its character.


Essay Review

This is a very good essay, a fact that will account for the limited scope of these remarks; i.e., my focus on your thesis. For the biggest of the small problems with the essay is the way it articulates its general argument (its thesis). There are two places where you do that: the introduction and the conclusion. Revising this thesis so that it more accurately reflects what is strongest in your argument would improve the essay as a whole (and it might also help you construct decent transitions between the steps of your argument).

So, you say at the outset that the character of those chosen as heroes can help us understand the character of a society but that "it is worth noticing that characters of those heroes in many cases are not representative of [the character] of the society." The problem with this juxtaposition of two ways of thinking about the issue is that it does not include any explanation of the significance or the ground of the distinction between the two ways of thinking, a distinction that is, moreover, worded confusingly.

The same problem occurs to some extent in the conclusion: "although the character of heroes cannot be used to define the character of a society, it still could help us to understand a society and its character." By the end of the essay, of course, things are a lot clearer for your reader: we know why you believe both of these things even though this way of putting it is, to my mind, awkward; for one would normally expect that defining a character of a society and understanding the character of a society would be closely related and complementary. The sentence makes sense only because you start out by clarifying what you understand by "character of a society" (i.e., the characters of the society's members). What you mean to say, then, is something like this: heroes don't directly teach us how people in a society act, but they teach us something else about those people.

It took me more than a few seconds to figure out that that is what you intended to say. Perhaps it should have been immediately obvious to me, but you will admit, I expect, that using "character of a society" and "a society and its character" to mean two different things, which is essentially what you do in the last sentence, is a bit odd.

So things would be improved if you found a different way to define what heroes can teach and what they cannot teach. My way of doing that a few sentences back (in my sentence "What you mean to say etc.") is clearly also not quite good enough. Perhaps the best way to address the problem would be to go back to the reason given for the claim in the prompt. Using the prompt as your cue for how to articulate your thesis is, in any case, almost always a good idea because it helps to ensure that your essay is understood as a direct response to the prompt.

The given reason is that "heroes and role models reveal a society's highest ideals." Now up to a point you appear to be in close agreement with this statement. My first real suggestion here (I apologise for taking so long to get to it) is that you ought to state that agreement clearly, qualifying it as necessary. E.g., at the end of an appropriate argument, you would say something as bald as "I therefore agree with the statement that heroes and role models [often?] reveal a society's highest ideals or its general values; they reveal what people in a society admire and perhaps aspire to emulate."

The problem with the essay as a whole in terms of its organization is that you want to follow that sentence with a big "BUT" and then follow the next one with a big "THEREFORE," but you never really do. You want to say (by which I mean, your essay implies):

1) Heroes DO teach us about what people aspire to etc.

2) BUT heroes don't teach us about how people actually behave; they don't teach us about the actual values they embody as opposed to the ones they aspire to

3) THEREFORE, examining heroes is not "the best way to understand the character of a society" and it is not the best way because it obviously would yield only a partial understanding, teaching us, to say it again, only what people aspire to but not what they actually are like.

If that is correct, and if you were in fact to put it like that, as I think you should, then obviously your second paragraph would have to follow rather than precede your central paragraphs (and if the essay were organized in that way the logic of its organization would be clear, a fact that is related to another truth: in essays where the argument is clearly worked out, the argument will often dictate the order of the paragraphs.)

I'm afraid I don't have time to revise this review into a more concise articulation of what will perhaps seem a fairly banal point. Perhaps the most important point, if only for the GRE essay test, is the point about working out your argument in direct response to the prompt. It's also worth pointing out that I've possibly spent longer on this review than the time given for the essay itself in the test, so let me repeat and underline, in case any of my remarks here might be misinterpreted to mean there is a serious score-deflating issue with your essay, that your essay is indeed very good.

Best, EJ.

P.S. Please only submit proofread work (proofreading being good for your soul and my sanity!) and please submit no more than one essay per day.
Submitted by: qcao


Thank you very much for your help. It is very inspiring.

I did not know that I should not submit more than one essay per day. I tried to delete some of mine essays in the following days. but it did not work.

Please just select one if you find I submit more than one. I would repost them later.

Once again, than, you for your help
August,16 2012

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