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6B- _____ ELA: Book 3  Sample Essay for Paired Readings:

Demosthenes and Daedalus
Directions: Use the following sample essays to help you write your own compare-contrast essays, either in block or point-by-point form.
Similarities & Differences or POINT-BY-POINT FORM
Ask a random stranger about determination, and she’s likely to extoll its virtues. Drop your head in despair, and you’re just as likely to hear a cheery, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” But why do we almost universally assume determination is so virtuous, so entirely good and pure? To answer this question, we need only turn to the ancient Greeks. John Haaren’s biography “Demosthenes” and Josephine Preston Peabody’s myth “Daedalus and Icarus” depict characters, both real and imagined, who personify determination. “Demosthenes” recalls the grit of the title character, whose persistence in pursuit of a skill is awe-inspiring. The maze-maker Daedalus shows similarly impressive fortitude in “Daedalus and Icarus.” While these characters are somewhat alike, they are also quite different from each other.

In particular, both Demosthenes and Daedalus use determination to face obstacles. Demosthenes loses his fortune to his legal guardians, who steal it from him. By chance, he witnesses a dazzling legal argument, and it inspires him to become a lawyer. In public speeches, however, Demosthenes encounters many obstacles. He stammers; speaks too softly; and makes odd faces when his speeches fail. Perhaps worse, the public and even Demosthenes’ friends discourage him from speaking in public. Nonetheless, a gifted actor tells Demosthenes, “You can learn to speak just as well as I do… if you are willing to work patiently. Do not be discouraged, but conquer your difficulties.” In response, Demosthenes declares, “I will.” And he does. Demosthenes speaks with stones in his mouth to correct his stammer; he practices at the seashore amid the crashing waves to prepare for the commotion of a busy public forum; and he suspends a sword over his

(over)

shoulder to correct his bad habit of speaking with poor posture. Finally, Demosthenes builds an underground room where he practices privately for months without distraction, copying the speeches of Thucydides to learn eloquence. Basically, Demosthenes doesn’t allow either the theft of his fortune or his shortcoming as a speaker to hamper his effort to speak powerfully and to practice law. Similarly, the noted architect Daedalus and his son, Icarus, find themselves with a problem to solve; whimsical King Minos imprisons them on the island of Crete, from which they are unable to escape, even after they’ve broken free from their cell. Not unlike Demosthenes, Daedalus attempts to solve his problem with determination; he resolves to stitch together, painstakingly, seagulls’ feathers and shape them into wings with wax. With remarkable grit, Daedalus uses trial and error to teach himself, and then his son, to fly so they can escape the island. So in the end, Daedalus, like Demosthenes, relies on persistence to improve his fate, refusing to allow his captivity to weaken his spirit or his creativity. Ironically, instead of feeling disheartened by his confinement, Daedalus uses it to set free his imagination and give flight to his determination.



Unfortunately, while Demosthenes’ determination helps him become a hero, Daedalus’ effort culminates in tragedy, instead. Never giving up, Demosthenes takes his guardians to court and defeats them, recovering much of his lost fortune in the process. Still not satisfied, he refines his craft, and, according to Haaren, “in this way the awkward boy who had been laughed out of the assembly became in time the greatest orator of Athens. Not only was Demosthenes a graceful orator, but he was wise and patriotic. He soon acquired great influence in Athens and became one of the ten official orators.” Essentially, Demosthenes’ determination earns him not only justice, but also respect. On the contrary, though, Daedalus’ determination leads to Icarus’ death. Awed by the freedom of flight, Icarus ignores his father’s warning and flies too close to the heavens. Tragically, the warmth of the sun melts the wax in Icarus’ wings, and he plunges to his death in the waters surrounding the island. Yes, Daedalus escapes, but he does so alone, without his son, which is a hollow victory. In fact, describing Daedalus’ response to his son’s death, Peabody notes that “[Daedalus], in heavy grief, went to the temple of Apollo in Sicily, and there hung up his wings as an offering. Never again did he attempt to fly.” In effect, Icarus’

(next)


reckless disregard for rules spoils the virtue of his father’s resolve, so Daedalus humbly offers his wings, the symbol of his creativity and determination, to the god of the sun, Apollo, suggesting that Daedalus believes his flight to have been an act of hubris. He learns, in essence, that his determination has brought him, by flying like a god and his son, by flying so close to the sun too far. So, while Demosthenes’ determination makes him a hero, Daedalus, by contrast, is a tragic figure.

Overall, these stories depict determination as an impressive strategy for facing obstacles but not as a perfect solution to the characters’ conflicts. Essentially, when the ancient Greeks Demosthenes and Daedalus display their grit, they reveal that hard work and a strong will can in fact yield great triumph. However, if not paired with wisdom, patience, and humility, determination can appear, not as an act of virtue or purity, but as greed or obsession by another name.



Subject-by Subject or BLOCK FORM

Ask a random stranger about determination, and she’s likely to extoll its virtues. Drop your head in despair, and you’re just as likely to hear a cheery, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” But why do we almost universally assume determination is so virtuous, so entirely good and pure? To answer this question, we need only turn to the ancient Greeks. John Haaren’s biography “Demosthenes” and Josephine Preston Peabody’s myth “Daedalus and Icarus” depict characters, both real and imagined, who personify determination. “Demosthenes” recalls the grit of the title character, whose persistence in pursuit of a skill is awe-inspiring. The maze-maker Daedalus shows similarly impressive fortitude in “Daedalus and Icarus.” While these characters are somewhat alike, they are also quite different from each other.

Demosthenes relies on determination to overcome obstacles, and it ultimately leads to his triumph. Demosthenes loses his fortune to his legal guardians, who steal it from him. By chance, he witnesses a dazzling legal argument, and it inspires him to become a lawyer. In public speeches, however, Demosthenes encounters many obstacles. He stammers;

(over)


speaks too softly; and makes odd faces when his speeches fail. Perhaps worse, the public and even Demosthenes’ friends discourage him from speaking in public. Nonetheless, a gifted actor tells Demosthenes, “You can learn to speak just as well as I do… if you are willing to work patiently. Do not be discouraged, but conquer your difficulties.” In response, Demosthenes declares, “I will.” And he does. Demosthenes speaks with stones in his mouth to correct his stammer; he practices at the seashore amid the crashing

waves to prepare for the commotion of a busy public forum; and he suspends a sword over his shoulder to correct his bad habit of speaking with poor posture. Finally, Demosthenes builds an underground room where he practices privately for months without distraction, copying the speeches of Thucydides to learn eloquence. Basically, Demosthenes doesn’t allow either the theft of his fortune or his shortcoming as a speaker to hamper his effort to speak powerfully and to practice law. Never giving up, Demosthenes reaps a satisfying reward when he takes his guardians to court and defeats them, recovering much of his lost fortune in the process! Still not satisfied, he refines his craft, and, according to Haaren, “in this way the awkward boy who had been laughed out of the assembly became in time the greatest orator of Athens. Not only was Demosthenes a graceful orator, but he was wise and patriotic. He soon acquired great influence in Athens and became one of the ten official orators.” Essentially, Demosthenes’ determination earns him not only justice, but also respect.

Like Demosthenes, Daedalus uses steadfastness to surmount his problems, but, in contrast to Demosthenes, Daedalus’ quest culminates in tragedy, not in triumph. Similar to Demosthenes, the noted architect Daedalus and his son, Icarus, find themselves with a problem to solve; whimsical King Minos imprisons them on the island of Crete, from which they are unable to escape, even after they’ve broken free from where they are detained. Just as Demosthenes finds inspiration in the world around him, so does Daedalus. Observing seagulls in flight above the island, Daedalus decides to gather, in what must have been a painstaking process, as many of their fallen feathers as possible. Upon doing so, he stitches the feathers together and shapes them into wings with wax. With remarkable determination, Daedalus uses trial and error to teach himself, and then his son, to fly so

(next)


they can escape the island. So in the end, Daedalus, like Demosthenes, relies on determination to solve his problems, refusing to allow his captivity to weaken his spirit or diminish his creativity. Ironically, instead of feeling disheartened by his confinement, Daedalus uses his conflict to set free his imagination and to give flight to his strong will. After learning to fly, Daedalus and his son, Icarus, rise majestically above Crete. However,

Daedalus’ determination leads to disaster when Icarus, awed by the freedom of flight, ignores his father’s warning and flies too close to the heavens. Tragically, the warmth of the sun melts the wax in Icarus’ wings, and he plunges to his death in the waters surrounding the island. Yes, Daedalus escapes, but he does so alone, without his son, which is a hollow victory. In fact, describing Daedalus’ response to his son’s death, Peabody notes that “[Daedalus], in heavy grief, went to the temple of Apollo in Sicily, and there hung up his wings as an offering. Never again did he attempt to fly.” So, while Demosthenes’ determination makes him a hero, Daedalus, on the contrary, is a tragic figure whose perseverance provokes only pain.



Overall, these stories depict determination as an impressive strategy for facing obstacles but not as a perfect solution to the characters’ conflicts. Essentially, when the ancient Greeks Demosthenes and Daedalus display their grit, they reveal that hard work and a strong will can in fact yield great triumph. However, if not paired with wisdom, patience, and humility, determination can appear to be, not virtue, not purity, but no more than greed or obsession by another name.



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