Due Date: Tuesday, May 15th. Length 1500 words. Worth: 100pts. No sources at all. Source
material will earn you a “0” for your grade.
Your last essay assignment will be what I call an internal argument. In the first essay, you
argued against or critiqued one debater. In the second essay, you argued a specific position on an
issue and argued against at least one other position. For this essay, you will debate yourself or
have an internal argument with yourself over an issue of your choosing. In other words, you will
explore the pro and con of the paper in an internal argument. For this assignment to work, you
will need to find an issue you are deeply interested and invested in, but you honestly don’t know
what position or stance you should take on the issue. So, whatever issue you choose, you need to
be willing to explore at least the pro and con of the issue with the purpose of attempting to arrive
at a conclusion or stance on the issue. I say with the attempt to arrive at a resolution on the issue
because you may not be able to arrive at that resolution, but you still must show your willingness
to explore both sides of the issue.
So, for instance, in the example essay, the writer who is an atheist develops an issue
about his experience on a cruise ship in which he freely admits that his goal in taking the trip was
to meet someone and have a sexual experience. However, once he’s in the situation of helping an
inebriated woman to her cabin, he finds himself in a situation where he could take advantage of
her state and sleep with her. Instead, he helps her to bed and then leaves. The dilemma of the
essay for him, or the issue, is that he’s an atheist and listens to his conscience. Since he’s an
atheist, he doesn’t believe in right or wrong. He doesn’t believe there’s any meaning or purpose
or end goal in life. We live, we breathe, we procreate, we work, and then we die. For him, we
live in cold, sterile, indifferent universe, and it doesn’t matter whether we live or die, and
whether we’re heroes, saints or villains, the truth of the purposelessness of existence doesn’t
change because of one’s moral disposition. And yet, if that’s the case, then why did he find it
ethically repulsive to take advantage her? Why did he listen to his conscience? Why did he find
it better to do the ethically right act when he doesn’t believe there is a right and wrong? This is
not merely a choice between to sleep or not sleep with her. This is an exploration of why should
he care about a right act at all? Right and wrong would be matter of style for him, cultural
taboos, no different than the taste of music or food, or the difference between someone who
buttons his/her shirt from top to bottom or bottom to top. And yet, he does feel better for not
taking advantage of her, but he can’t believe his “feeling better” for not sleeping with her is
anything more than an empty gesture, since right and wrong are illusory. But if the ethical is
illusory, then why should he care about the right act, his conscience or her well- being? He does
wrestle with both sides because he’s unwilling to give up his atheism, which is the center, the
grounding of the issue, the investment that generates the dilemma. We covered the fallacy of
false dilemma, but there is a true dilemma, two legitimate positions, and this writer explores two
legitimate positions in order to attempt to arrive at some overall position or stance on the issue.
The paper ends with no clear resolution or position, but the writer does adequately explore both
sides of the issue.
Let me give you another example. In the poem called “The Mother,” Gwendolyn Brooks
explores the issue of abortion. Gwendolyn Brooks isn’t the speaker of the poem but the author
who’s created a character who speaks the dramatic monologue. The mother begins the poem
with the line that states, “Abortions never let you forget.” In the first section, the mother runs
through all the things her children would have done had they lived.
In the second section of the poem, the mother develops an internal argument in her
attempt to resolve the dilemma of her act. She begins by stating that “I have heard in the voices
of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.” Then in the next several lines she explores
both sides of the dilemma. First she argues that if the children never had the chance to experience
various aspects about life, that is, if the mother “stole” these things from her children, she argues
that “Believe me that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.” And yet, once she attempts
to reconcile her act by claiming that her deliberateness wasn’t deliberateness, which, at least on
the surface, doesn’t make sense, she explores the other side and says, “Why should I
whine/Whine that the crime was other than mine?---” But if the acts of abortions were a crime,
then her deliberateness was deliberate, and she must bear responsibility for her children not
experiencing all the various aspects of life, and for their deaths. And yet, once again, the mother
jumps to the other side of the issue and says, “Or rather, or instead,/You were never made.” If
children were never made, then they never existed. If you don’t have a body, you don’t have a
crime, and she’s resolved the issue of responsibility, since from nothing comes nothing. No
bodies, no crime, no responsibility, no deaths, and no killings. But the mother isn’t seemingly
satisfied with this resolution because she then says, “But that too, I am afraid/, Is faulty: oh, what
shall I say, how is the truth to be said?” So if she can’t resolve the act by the claim that her
deliberateness wasn’t deliberateness or that, in fact, it was a crime, then what does she have left?
She tries to resolve the issue by stating that “You were born, you had body, you died./It is just
that you never giggled or planned or cried.” I suppose here the mother attempts to make a
distinction between the purely physical and the soul. I don’t mean soul in a theological context,
but I do mean that word we use to mean the content or stuff of life. And yet, one wonders how
these two lines can resolve the issue, since she would eventually have to take responsibility for
their bodies and deaths. In the last three lines we perhaps arrive at the source of the mother’s
internal argument and dilemma: “Believe me, I loved you all./Believe me, I knew you, though
faintly, and I loved, I loved you/All.” If the mother grounds herself in the claim of love, then the
children must have existed on some level, because how can she love something that doesn’t
exist? But if they existed and she ended their lives, then how can she claim she loves them, since
killing (that’s her word and not mine) is not a means to show love. Notice, too, how the
unresolved nature of the last two lines leads us right back to the beginning of the poem:
“Abortions never let you forget.” The poem loops itself into a seemingly endless cycle because
the poem mirrors the emotional and psychological state of the mother.
The point of this poem, or at least my analysis, is not to make a political or even ethical
statement, although I suppose both are in the mix. The point of the poem is an exploration of the
issue through rigorously interrogating both sides. Here again, if you don’t arrive at a resolution
of the issue, that’s fine, as long as you developed both sides of the issue. Remember, this is an
internal argument. The reader needs to experience your exploration of both sides, but the reader
doesn’t need to agree with you nor with any supposed audience. A reader may be resolved on the
issue of abortion or atheism, but that doesn’t mean the writer has the same resolutions. Your
internal argument/dilemma, and, once again, as long as you rigorously explore both sides of the
issue, you can be successful in the essay. You also must show what is grounding the center of the
debate. For the atheist, it is atheism that causes the center of the debate. For the speaker of the
poem of “The Mother,” it is the claim of love. The ground or center is what causes the debate.
The atheist attempts to align his moral experience with a philosophical position that doesn’t
allow for a moral position, at least in the mind of the writer. In the poem “The Mother,” the
speaker attempts to align the claim of love with abortions.
Remember, this is an argument paper. You need an introduction that builds the content of the
issue and leads down to the conclusion/thesis. You need premises in the body paragraphs, and
each body paragraph should explore one premise and only one premise. This is an essay, you do
need introduction, conclusion (thesis), body paragraphs, and something that can count as a
conclusion—you have to end the argument somewhere, so your conclusion paragraph is the tying
it all together. If you choose to use narrative for the internal argument—a conversation with a
friend, a conflict with a significant other, some event—that is the triggering set up for the issue,
you need quickly to develop the narrative moment because the majority of the essay needs to
develop the internal argument. But please don’t experience amnesia on all the essay writing
skills you learned in English 1A, or some Freshman Composition class, or English 3. Here again,
consider introduction, conclusion, body paragraphs (the overarching structure of the paper—the
arrangement of paragraphs that create the overall structure and argument of the paper), and
conclusion. Moreover, you must find an issue that has two or more legitimate positions, although
you should explore only two positions. I don’t care about an internal argument about a school
you do or do not wish to attend or a profession you do or do not wish to enter into for life. You
should consider an important hot topic issue of sorts. The issue is up to you, but don’t choose an
issue you can’t adequately explore in 1500 words. You should not use sources for this paper. If
you use sources, you will receive an automatic “0” for the paper. You must develop an internal
argument in which you rigorously interrogate specific premises of an issue.
By Gwendolyn Brooks
Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
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