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WRITING AN ANALYTICAL ESSAY English III
PROMPT According to the characteristics outlined by Aristotle, is John Proctor a tragic hero?
STEP 1 Examine the characteristics to see if John meets ALL of them. 1. At the beginning of the story, when the tragic hero is introduced, he is happy. 2. The tragic hero is respected in the society and holds a superior status or privilege. 3. The tragic hero is ethical – meaning he has principles and a sense of right and wrong. He tries to do the right thing. 4. The tragic hero has a flaw – a personality trait/quality – that is to blame for his destruction.
STEP 2 Based on your analysis of the characteristics, determine a thesis – the point you will try to prove correct in the body of your essay. Does John meet Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero?
POSSIBLE THESIS STATEMENTS YES: John Proctor possesses all the characteristics of a tragic hero. NO: Although John Proctor is a character the audience pities, he does not meet all the characteristics of a tragic hero.
STEP 3 Gather the evidence from the play (quotes) that you will use to support your argument. Make sure to take note of who said the line and in which act the line appears. For example, here’s a quote that supports the idea that John was not happy at the beginning of the story: Act II, John Proctor: “I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But you’re not, you’re not, and let you remember it! Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not.”
ESSAY STRUCTURE Introduction Hook Background Information (title of work being analyzed, author) Thesis Body (4 paragraphs – one for each of the characteristics of the tragic hero) Textual evidence (quotes) supporting thesis Rebuttal – address the opposing point of view and show how that argument is weak or flawed Conclusion Restate the thesis in NEW words Summarize the main points of the essay
SAMPLE INTRODUCTION Imagine losing your life over a crime you did not commit? This is the case for John Proctor, the protagonist of Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. In this tragic story of the Salem witch trials, Proctor is the tragic hero. According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, the tragic hero is introduced as happy, powerful, ethical and ends up suffering or dying because of his own actions or mistakes. Since John Proctor meets all of these characteristics, he is the perfect example of a tragic hero. HOOK BACKGROUND INFORMATION THESIS
SAMPLE BODY PARAGRAPH One of the characteristics outlined by Aristotle in order that a character may be considered a tragic hero is that he must be happy at the beginning of the story. However, this is not the case for John Proctor. As he has committed adultery, Proctor is plagued by guilt and has not been able to repair his relationship with Elizabeth as demonstrated in the following quote, “I confessed. Confessed! Some dream I had must have mistaken you for God that day. But you’re not, you’re not, and let you remember it! Let you look sometimes for the goodness in me, and judge me not” (Act II). Earlier in this same Act, Proctor tells Elizabeth that he aims to please her. He is careful not to hurt her feelings. First, he conceals the fact that he was alone with Abigail in Salem, and next he seasons the stew and later lies to Elizabeth about how well it tastes. These actions show that he is walking on eggshells and can’t possibly be happy while this tension exists in his relationship. TRANSITION TEXTUAL EVIDENCE
SAMPLE CONCLUSION As demonstrated, Proctor cannot possibly be considered a tragic hero. He is neither happy at the beginning of the play, nor an ethical person, as evidenced by his affair. Although the reader can feel compassion for the way Proctor’s mistakes lead to his demise, he clearly does not meet all the criteria necessary to be labeled a tragic hero. Although some may argue otherwise, the facts are clear. RESTATED THESIS SUMMARY OF MAIN POINTS
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