This copyrighted article is the fifth of a series that teaches students how to write an effective essay. Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Parts One, Two, Three, and Four are available at http://cooperhillstylebook.com/archive/
What should a title include?
The title of a serious analytical essay signals to the reader the ideas it explores. The title should refer to the topic or theme of the essay and to the author’s approach to the topic. This approach should be objective: without a bias toward one side or another. The title of an essay that analyzes a work of literature often includes its author and title. Often, too, essay titles have sub-titles preceded by a colon.
Usually the final title begins as a working title that is modified into a final title as the essay progresses and as the author’s emphasis changes.
The title of this particular essay analyzing Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf” should include:
Theme: choosing freedom or slavery
Author’s approach: each of these choices has consequences for the chooser
An appropriate title for this essay: Freedom or Slavery: Choices and Consequences in Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf”
The Complete First Draft
The first draft of the essay combines all of its sections plus the title (see below).
Open a new document, and copy and paste into it the Title followed by the completed
- Introduction (available in Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Two)
- Body (available in Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Three)
- Conclusion (available in Writing the Basic Analytical Essay: Part Four)
Freedom or Slavery:Choices and Consequences in Aesop’s “The Dog and the Wolf”
“I know not what course others may take,” Patrick Henry is said to have exclaimed, “but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Two and a half millennia earlier, Aesop’s Wolf would have nodded in approval. In his famous fable, “The Dog and the Wolf,” Aesop explores the value of freedom. Essentially he questions the price of being one’s own master. “Is the risk of death a reasonable price for freedom?” is the question implicit in this fable. And, in a parallel question, “Is a life without freedom worth living?” The characters in the story provide contrasting answers, and their responses reveal their personalities. These characters are the Dog who sells his freedom for food and shelter, and the Wolf who prefers the possibility of starvation to the certainty of slavery. The choices of these characters are clearly motivated by opposing values, physical and spiritual, each of which has its consequences.
To some people, the value of freedom is relative to their physical circumstances. In other words, the price of being one’s own master can be dictated by the situations in which people find themselves. Avoiding danger is a natural human instinct. However, some individuals fear taking risks to such an extent that they are willing to hand control over their lives to someone else in order to earn protection. The advantage of this choice is that the fear of danger appears to be eliminated. However, this choice is not without problems. The Dog in this story chooses slavery in order to provide himself with the security of a safe and comfortable shelter and a dependable food supply. He explains “cheerfully” to the Wolf that he agrees “to do anything [his master] wants,” and that his master owns him. This apparent cheerfulness, proves deceptive when he has to admit that he is forced to wear the heavy chain and the collar that hurt his neck. He is embarrassed to have traded in his freedom for physical security when he acknowledges: “I don’t have any choice … because my master gives me food and shelter.” Clearly, slavery is a problematic choice because despite the security of food and shelter, the Dog feels ashamed at having reduced himself to a slave, a creature who has no right to protest and whose preferences are dispensable.
In contrast to those who opt for physical comfort at all costs are those whose spiritual values are pre-eminent. These are people for whom freedom is priceless. People who value their dignity do not allow others to control their lives. Preserving their self-esteem is crucial. They choose to make their own choices in life, and not to allow themselves to become someone else’s creature that exists merely for a superior’s convenience or pleasure. Aesop’s Wolf represents such characters. At first the Wolf shows great interest in a secure shelter and food supply, and hopes that he too could receive “such fine gifts.” However, he quickly changes his mind when he learns that he would have to relinquish his freedom in exchange: “ ‘Thanks, Cousin, but no thanks,’ said the Wolf. ‘I think I’d rather remain hungry in the forest.’ ” Like slavery, freedom, too, is a problematic choice because it means accepting physical insecurity in order to retain, indeed to affirm, one’s dignity.
The fact that both slavery and freedom are problematic does not mean that they’re equivalent. Each one has ramifications that affect the personality, even the identity, of the chooser. The choices that people make reflect their priorities: whether physical comfort or spiritual satisfaction. However, these priorities are not fixed. People can change, and what changes them are their subsequent choices at crucial junctures in their lives. Essentially then, our choices show who we are, and determine whom we become. Thus the Dog confirmed his slave mentality by relinquishing his freedom, just as the Wolf upheld his dignity by opting for freedom. Aesop’s fable points out that people do not have to be limited by the situations in which they find themselves or by their personalities. They are not predestined. They can choose to overcome both their circumstances and their initial predisposition. People can influence their future and define their identity.
*The Basic Essay is copyrighted © by Rosette Liberman, Ed.D. Dr. Liberman is the co-author of the classic The Cooper Hill Stylebook — a digital writing and revision text that can be ordered through www.cooperhillstylebook.com.