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Defend, Challenge, or Qualify

Terms in this set (10)

There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they cannot be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill. When they do not require to go to the office, when they are not hungry and have no mind to drink, the whole breathing world is a blank to them. If they have to wait an hour or so for a train, they fall into a stupid trance with their eyes open. To see them, you would suppose there was nothing to look at and no one to speak with; you would imagine they were paralysed or alienated; and yet very possibly they are hard workers in their own way, and have good eyesight for a flaw in a deed or a turn of the market. They have been to school and college, but all the time they had their eye on the medal; they have gone about in the world and mixed with clever people, but all the time they were thinking of their own affairs. As if a man's soul were not too small to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub against another, while they wait for the train. Before he was breeched, he might have clambered on the boxes; when he was twenty, he would have stared at the girls; but now the pipe is smoked out, the snuffbox empty, and my gentleman sits bolt upright upon a bench, with lamentable eyes. This does not appeal to me as being Success in Life.
When you defend, you focus on the author's points with which you agree.

Student 1 Perspective: I agree with his point that never being able to relax and do something spontaneous is the opposite of Success in Life. This is a very strong message because it makes me think about what the real purpose of everything is, and I realize I want to have fun.

This is an excellent place to start building an essay that will defend Stevenson's argument. So, the student's next step is to develop a thesis statement that clearly expresses his or her position of agreement.

Student 1 Thesis: Stevenson's ideas about how a life dedicated to one's profession actually dulls the spirit are valid.

Next, the student must find evidence in the form of examples from reading, personal experiences with this subject, and individual observations to support the points he or she wants to defend. This evidence will help convince the reader to also agree with Stevenson's claims.

Note: Do not simply echo the points of agreement. Bring something new and fresh to the conversation to show that your ideas are valuable and unique.

Student 1 Evidence

Reading: Stevenson claims that there are people "scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation," and that this notion is verified by the fact that work dictates much of a person's life. Work determines when to wake up, what to wear, where to spend eight hours of the day, etc. When a person's life is shaped by the constraints of work, it is difficult to know what else to do.

Experience: An exclusive focus on academic work, with no other outside activities, can affect a student's ability to socialize; students may find themselves unable to talk or think about anything except their studies. But adding extra-curricular activities can help students be more well-rounded and sociable, so balancing work and play is important.

Note: The student is using his or her experience to show the consequence of focusing only on academics and the effect of adding extra-curricular activities. However, instead of using the first-person point of view, the student writer maintains third-person point of view to stay objective and scholarly.

Observation: When dying, no one says "I wish I would have worked more." Typically, the regrets deal with not spending enough time with family and friends, not traveling, not pursuing a passion or interest, or not playing more.

Observation: Work can cause stress, which is harmful to health. Therefore, when Stevenson alludes to the detriments of "a life of all work and no play," this can be validated by the negative effects of stress and the positive effects of exercising, socializing, and partaking in a pastime—which for some could be napping.

With evidence to support his or her position, the student writer is now ready to begin crafting the essay in defense of Stevenson's claims.

Note: The student writer has multiple pieces of evidence, so there is no need to stick to the formulaic (and often ill-suited) five-paragraph essay. There is no formula or magic number of paragraphs that will effectively craft the essay.
When you challenge, you focus on the author's points with which you disagree.

Student 2 Perspective: Stevenson suggests that people who are dedicated to their profession dwarf their souls by not making time to play. I don't think this is true. Just because he can't see these people wandering around exploring or playing doesn't mean they aren't thinking of interesting things or planning their next adventure. Plus, if a person loves to work, who are we to judge his soul? He can't base his claim on his observations of men waiting for the commuter train. I think Stevenson is showing that he has a narrow view of how work can bring pleasure and a sense of pride.

This is an excellent place to start building an essay that will challenge Stevenson's argument. The next step is for the student to develop a thesis that clearly shows his or her position of disagreement.

Student 2 Thesis: Though Stevenson claims that a life dedicated to all work and no play is the opposite of being a success in life, work brings feelings of happiness, pride, and accomplishment.

Next, the student must find evidence in the form of examples from reading, personal experiences with this subject, and individual observations to refute the points he or she wants to challenge. This evidence will help convince the reader to also disagree with the message in the essay.

Student 2 Evidence

Reading: Stevenson seems to criticize people who have "some conventional occupation" and imply that they become almost brainwashed by work and can think of nothing else. However, many people choose professions based on their passions and interests, so their work is what they want to do and think about.

Experience: For people who love reading and writing, it may seem crazy for someone to want to be an accountant. But, for those who love numbers and choose to work with numbers in their free time, this profession could feel like "playing." Stevenson seems to base his opinion about how work dwarfs the spirit on his own judgments and preferences, and not on verifiable facts.

Observation: Unless you are independently wealthy, you have to work. This necessity doesn't mean that you stop having interesting ideas, creative thoughts, or adventures. It is insulting of Stevenson to generalize that the majority of society—the working class—doesn't have curiosity or know how to spend their free time.

Reading: Stevenson says "If they have to wait an hour or so for a train, they fall into a stupid trance with their eyes open" and goes on to say "yet very possibly they are hard workers in their own way." This rationale implies that people waiting for the train are not working hard enough at being social, observant, or adventurous. His expectations of people and the behaviors they should exhibit while waiting for a train seem quite lofty, yet basing part of his argument on watching people waiting for a train is too narrow.

With evidence to support his or her position, the student writer is now ready to begin crafting an essay to challenge Stevenson's claims.

Note: The student writer has multiple pieces of evidence, so there is no need to stick to the formulaic (and often ill-suited) five-paragraph essay. There is no formula or magic number of paragraphs that will effectively craft the essay.
When you qualify, you modify, limit, or restrict your agreement or disagreement of an issue or assertion with exceptions. This tactic shows the intricacies of an issue.

Student 3 Perspective: I agree that there are potential issues with a person who is all work and no play because there could be possible negative effects to a person's health. People need to make time to exercise, socialize, and rest. However, I don't think it is right to say that people with conventional jobs don't have curiosity, can't exercise thinking about anything beyond work, or have dwarfed souls.

This is an excellent place to start building an essay that will qualify Stevenson's argument. The next step is for the student to develop a thesis that clearly shows his or her points of agreement and disagreement.

Student 3 Thesis: While Stevenson's claim that all work and no play is not the definition of being a success in life is accurate, work is not to blame for some people's lack of ideas, imagination, or initiative.

Next, the student must find evidence in the form of examples from reading, personal experiences with this subject, and individual observations to modify, limit, or restrict the points that he or she wants to defend and/or challenge. This evidence will help convince the reader to see the intricacies of the assertions in Stevenson's essay.

Student 3 Evidence

Reading: It is hard to agree with Stevenson's description of those who work more than play: "here they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub against another, while they wait for the train." Some people work more than play out of necessity—to feed their family, cover medical costs, pay for college—and very well may be tired and have no time for entertainment or conversation. We must also consider that people who seem lazy and lacking a sense of humor or deep thoughts may not have had energy or deep intellect to begin with.

Experience: While it's true that being a success in life is not only measured by one's work, work does bring a sense of accomplishment and pride that may not come from play. When people get recognized for their effort, or they accomplish something difficult—like passing calculus or closing a big deal—they feel triumphant because they actually had to work hard to reach their goals. On the other hand, when someone finishes reading a book for pleasure, he or she may feel a sense of enjoyment that comes from the activity, but not a sense of achievement.

Reading / Observation: Stevenson refers to "a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people" whose only pursuit in life is their work and claims that given any free time, they would just "stand still." The same can be said, though, of many types of people, not just those who work traditional jobs. There are people who live to play "Game of Thrones" and the same argument could be applied. For them, there is not much life outside of playing the game.

Reading / Observation: Stevenson's timeline, which describes a carefree childhood, a mischievous youth, and then a middle period where "now the pipe is smoked out, the snuffbox empty ..." is depressing. While it does appear that as people get older they tend to work more and play less, Stevenson's assertion is a generalization. For each person who works so much it takes the life out of them, there is another who takes vacations, participates in mud runs, plants a garden, and carries out a myriad of other activities.

With evidence to support his or her position, the student writer is now ready to begin crafting an essay to qualify Stevenson's claims.

Note: The student writer has multiple pieces of evidence, so there is no need to stick to the formulaic (and often ill-suited) five-paragraph essay. There is no formula or magic number of paragraphs that will effectively craft the essay.