A Sample Response to the Following Question:

The convention of the epic hero's hubris has undergone drastic changes since Homer's day. Discuss the development of this convention across three texts we've examined and explain the significance of any changes in the implementation of this convention.


Things to note:

1) The response has a strong thesis, articulated from the start in an introductory paragraph.

2) The response has strong, well-articulated, and logical transitions between sentences and paragraphs. The argument seems to proceed inexorably from point to point.

3) The student is making powerful connections among the three texts s/he examines, interpreting any differences s/he identifies.

4) The student is providing interpretation of the text rather than mere paraphrase. The student has even made points that were not made in class. S/he is interpreting the text on her own and providing evidence to support his/her claims.

The idea of hubris, or the trait of excessive pride, has changed significantly since the day of Homer. Throughout the history of the epic, the rhapsode has used hubris to develop his characters and ultimately make a statement about excessive pride.

In The Odyssey it is hubris which leads Odysseus to many fates. Because of his pride, he must identify himself to Polyphemus, ultimately dooming his voyage and crewmen. In contrast, this same trait of hubris allows him to be persuasive too. Because of his pride, he is able to tell his story to the Phaeacians in a fashion whereby he is at no fault for what has happened to his crew. He presents himself as strong, cunning, and cautious, whereas his crewmen were weak-willed, stupid, and impertinent. It is his pride that ultimately gets him a ship to go home.

Later, the trait of hubris takes on a much darker connotation. In Paradise Lost, Milton uses hubris as the factor which leads to the fall of Satan, his rebel angels, and Adam and Eve. Because God made Satan to be the most beautiful of all angels, Satan felt he was placed higher than any of God's other creations. It was his pride that compelled him and his rebel angels to wage war against heaven. Because he was too proud, he helt that no one, including God, should have rule over him. It is this same pride that keeps him from asking for forgiveness, leading him to think "it is beeter to reign in Hell, than serve in heaven." Then the pride of Eve leads her to fall. When she is first represented, she falls in love with her own reflection, similar to Narcissus. She is corrected when she meets Adam, but the same pride runs through. Because of her pride and desire to have more, she is tempted to eat of the tree, which leads to her and Adam's expulsion from Paradise. Hubris is no longer a beneficial trait.

Finally, in Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, hubris becomes a regular, acepted trait of society. Women are respected for their pride; without it, your social standing is automatically lowered. Pope's was a society of restraint and appearances. Pride was a tool which raised your social standing, because you essentially placed yourself higher than your peers. In The Rape of the Lock, Belinda's pride is what is ultimately damaged, not the lock of hair. Her pride kept her from responding to the Baron's advances, so when he finally violated the boundaries which she had placed between them it was an assault upon her space, here character, and her reputation as a lady. This changed hubris from being a destructive force, to one of necessity. Whereas in Homer's culture all was open and public, Pope's culture valued personal space. [How so??] Homer depicted hubris as a tool for either doom (as with Polyphemus) or strategy (as with Odysseus' story to the Phaeacians). Milton changed hubris to be a mental handicap, which ultimately led to damnation. Pope used hubris to give necessary boundaries emotionally, making hubris into a good quality. He was, of course, mocking his time's society, but he was reflecting his society, which depended upon hubris and admired it. [Ideally, the fact that his tale is a critique needed to be taken into account more.]

Grade: 29 points

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