Definition Arguments

Drawing on Chapter 7 in RRW, “Definition Arguments”, the Declaration of Independence, and the excerpt from Jim Cullens’ book The American Dream: A Short History, write a 750-1250 word definitional argument of the term “The American Dream”.

Make an original argument that defines “The American Dream” based on your understanding, analysis, and conception of the term. While you will draw from the readings, you are not, and should not be, limited to the readings in making your argument. You may also consider the examples of “The American Dream” posted by your classmates on last week’s Discussion Board.

Try to observe some, if not all, of the strategies or guidelines outlined by Dorothy Seyler in Chapter 7. Keeping in mind that defining “The American Dream” requires both abstract and concrete thinking, you should use some of these writing/organizational strategies (from RRW 183-84):

? Descriptive details

? Examples

? Comparison and/or Contrast (your definition with someone else’s or with that of another country or culture)

? History of Usage or Word Origin

? Use or Function

? Metaphors (or Similes)

The following are required components to include:

1.   Must include a generally accepted or standard definition of the “American Dream” and its source.

2.   Support your definition of  “The American Dream” with concrete examples and sources

For example: “I believe the American Dream is unrealistic for many, especially artists. For example, in the film “Closeness”, a documentary about jazz musician Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, we see first-­?hand how difficult making a living wage as a musician is as he plays his saxophone in a New York subway station.”

3.   You must include at  least  two  (2)  outside  sources.

4.    Subsequent paragraphs may address “life”, “liberty”, and/or “the pursuit of happiness”. Is there a contemporary or current event that addresses one of these aspects? (For example, a basketball player who refuses to place his hand over his heart for the Star Spangled banner.)

Format: 750-1250 words double-spaced with 1-inch margins, and 12-point sized standard font.  Use MLA or APA format. Be sure to include both in-text citations and a Works Cited page for all sources used and quoted.  Chapter 14 in the textbook is your guide to how to cite specific types of works, including digital sources.

A successful essay will: 

  • Appeal to your audience. What is your imagined audience and what style, tone, or content would most appeal to them? Think of your own ethos (credibility) and logos (logic) from this audience’s perspective and counter-argument as you develop your own point-of-view and argument as you develop and finalize your essay.
  • Define the context: Briefly summarize the standard (or contrasting) definition of “The American Dream”. What aspect(s) do you agree or disagree with? Chapter 7 on Definition Argument contains strategies that will be useful here.
  • Be thesis-driven. Evaluate “The American Dream” using specific criteria you’ve included in your definition. Make a strong case for your definition that is both contestable – reasonable people might disagree – and predictive – it will set-up the direction of your essay.
  • Clearly develop your main points. What are parts of a prevailing definition that you disagree with and why? What is your counter-argument(s)? Also, are you a part of the definition’s intended audience?
  • Support your main points with concrete examples from your sources. Try to avoid repetition and clichés.

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