Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Effective Comparison--Homer and Xenophon

This excerpt of the last portion of student Wade C.'s essay comparing Xenophon's Persian Expedition and Homer's Odyssey shows nicely how comparative sentences and good transitions can unify and strengthen the common comparison essay. This form can often be very flat and uninteresting, but this one is lively and rich. Notice how the second paragraph here begins with a sentence that clearly shows us "the other hand" of the comparison. The concluding paragraph is more standard, showing us the topic ideas that were covered in the essay, but the zinger at the end echoes the title, "Men Without a Leader and a Leader Without Men."

Finally, the obstacles the armies face were vastly different. Odysseus’s army faced an array of foes with supernatural powers that must be overcome by cunning and trickery- strengths of Odysseus. An example of this is their adventure on Circe’s island. The men were only too happy to feast with the beautiful enchantress, and rushed head on into Circe’s trap, despite Odysseus’s warnings. When the men were turned into pigs, Odysseus came to rescue them, and defeated Circe by his cunning.

The obstacles that Xenophon’s forces faced were more realistic, yet often equally insurmountable by force. The large Greek army could defeat any cities in its path, but even these victories would cost them men. If they attempted to fight all in their path, their force would gradually dwindle to nothing. Whenever possible, they had to negotiate treaties with the people they encountered. If this failed, military action was the only course. At these times, the men worked together to execute a plan to defeat the enemy with minimal loss.

Comparing the two expeditions helps show more clearly why they ended so differently. Motivation, teamwork, and the nature of the obstacles they faced determined why Xenophon and his men returned home safely, yet without their leaders, while Odysseus returned home a leader without men.

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