Paper topic #1
Due: the day before Spring Break!

Choose the character in the Oresteia you think is most justified. You may choose among the following characters only: Agamemnon, Clytemnestra, Orestes. In the course of your essay, you may discuss Electra and Aegisthus and Cassandra (and even the Furies)  - in fact you will find that a good essay will bring up characters other than the chosen one.

Present your argument clearly in the introduction to your paper. I want to know right from the very beginning who is the most just - in your eyes. Remember - no one character is perfect. There are levels of guilt and responsibility, just to make your life difficult. Acknowledge the failings of your character - if you don't, your argument won't be very persuasive. Do not ignore facts and traits that don't "fit" into your thesis. This is bad analysis. Find a way to account for them - sometimes it is enough to acknowledge them - mention in a way that minimizes it - and use it as an introduction to a major point. For example, "Although Clytemnestra does use deceit to accomplish her goal of vengeance, this is only fair because Agamemnon did the same thing." Then discuss the significance of this in relation to your argument, depending on what you  take "just" to mean.

If you argue that Character A is just because s/he does a particular thing, you had better be prepared to discuss why Character B didn't win the award even though s/he did the same thing for the same reason. Play defense attorney. Think ahead about comments I might make: "What about Orestes? Wasn't he answering the call of a god as well? Why isn't he most just?" Then find a way to account for that in your discussion.

You have done some good preliminary work in your first mini essay on the topic, but you CAN change your mind and argue for someone else. Feel free to use any material you gathered from class discussion, but please go beyond the level of analysis we presented in class.

I strongly suggest you run an outline by me, either in person or via email. The number one mistake students make is that they don't set up a thematic outline. In other words, the reasons your character is most just provide you with he big categories (chunks) or your paper. Do NOT organize your paper in terms of characters:

I. Why Agamemnon is most just

II. Why Clytemnenstra isn't

III. Why Orestes isn't

This paper will fail to make a persuasive argument. Instead, list all the reasons that you find Agamemnon to be the most just. Then see if you can weave in discussion under each of those categories - why Orestes isn't just in terms of...oh, I don't know, "the law". You will have an entire discussion revolving around "the law" then, and in that discussion you will show how Agamemnon comes out on top. Always compare the characters to one another. The topic isn't "who is just" - it is "who is most just".

Have fun. Follow the guidelines for writing essays. Hand in your best work. Proofread!

This page last edited on 06/29/05 13:26
Hits to this page since 9/01/01: Hit Counter
Hits to this site since 9/01/01: