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Free-Response Sample Essays for AP English Literature (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

Student Essay B

It is easy to interpret the novel, Things Fall Apart, as a denouncement of white colonization, or simply as a detailed portrayal of African culture. But that would be all too banal; it has already been said and done by many authors. What makes this novel distinctive is the development and depiction of Okonkwo's journey through life and how his journey effects the novel's themes.

Given Okonkwo's rugged personality, he encounters many conflicts on his journey to self-awareness. Okonkwo clashes with his father, his wives, his children, his village, and perhaps every other character, but his greatest struggle is with himself. It seems as if Okonkwo's enemy is his father's flaws, but in reality, Okonkwo's hidden enemy is his fear of his father's reflection upon himself. Okonkwo spends his 10 whole life on a journey away from the values of his father, so much up to the point where he ruins his life as well as the lives of those around him. His tragic flaw is his obsessive aversion to his father's laid back character. Okonkwo is so engulfed by his life's mission to become a rejection of his father's character, that he fails to see Unoka's positive traits such as tenderness, wisdom, and a passion for life, which 15 Okonkwo lacks.

Even though Okonkwo is the protagonist in this book, he is also the antagonist; clearly, he is on a trip to disaster. He has not journeyed inside himself to understand what makes him act the way he does. He is extremely rash and explosive and does not think twice about throwing a fatal punch. He foolishly thinks that his aggressiveness is the only way for a man to act; it is this misconception that ultimately ruins him. Unfortunately for Okonkwo, he never realizes his flaw, and in the end, it is as if he cannot flee his father's reflection, for just like his father, he dies with shame and disgrace.

He had the ambition; he had the intelligence; he had the passion; but he had 25 all of these for the wrong reasons. Perhaps Things Fall Apart portrays Okonkwo's lack of development rather than his development through time. From his early youth he forms this strong aversion to weakness and ineptitude, and this controls all his actions throughout his life. In actuality, the fact that he is totally ruled by this fear of ineptitude underscores how internally weak Okonkwo is. In the end, when he 30 realizes that there is no possible way to triumph, that he cannot control people with his violent actions, and that he cannot control his fate, what does he do? He gives up and commits the most cowardly act of suicide.

Rating the Student Essays

Let's take a look at ranking comments about each of these essays. Student Essay A is a borderline high-range essay for several reasons:

  • It addresses all aspects of the prompt.
  • It is highly detailed (lines 13–14, 25–26, 34–35).
  • It demonstrates strong topic adherence (lines 5–6, 14–15, 20, 36–37, 50–51).
  • There is strong integration of specifics to support the thesis (lines 16–17, 29–32, 42–43).
  • There is perceptive character analysis (lines 33–36, 49–51).
  • There is clear linear development of the essay (lines 9, 13–14, 33, 39, 48).
  • The essay is frequently repetitive and needs echo words.
  • There are some syntax and diction errors.

This is an example of a strong midrange essay which could make the jump into the highrange area because of its organization, use of detail, and its insights. It's obvious that the writer thoroughly understands the work and presents various specifics to support the thesis. The diction and syntax are, at times, not as mature as would be found on more sophisticated essays. Student Essay B is a basic midrange essay for the following reasons:

  • It does begin to address the basic tasks of the prompt.
  • It identifies character and theme.
  • It refers to the character's journeys but does not really develop any of them (paragraphs 2–3).
  • There are many generalizations which need more specific support (lines 10–16, 25–27).
  • The essay loses its clear connection to the prompt at times (paragraph 4).
  • The diction and syntax, although adequate, lack a maturity seen in higher-level papers.

This lower, midrange essay demonstrates that the writer understands the prompt. It does contain several perceptive insights which are unevenly developed. This is obviously a first draft in need of further revision. The essay would have benefited from more thorough preparation of the work prior to the exam. As it stands, it relies too heavily on generalizations.

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