AP English Language and Composition Sample
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that "Every wall is a door." Would you agree, disagree, or qualify this statement? Based on your reading of Moby-Dick, other literature that you have encountered, and personal experience, give a reasoned answer.
Recommended Elements of Your Response
Emerson was one of the prime movers in the American Transcendentalist movement, which held that, among other things, given unlimited freedom, humanity would ultimately choose to do good. This philosophy led to the establishment of utopian colonies in the United States in the early 1800's. Most of these colonies quickly fell apart over disagreements about money and shared labor.
Melville, of course, was an Anti-Transcendentalist, along with Nathaniel Hawthorne. He believed that, given ultimate freedom, people would do their worst, as we can see in Captain Ahab. Obstacle after obstacle comes between Ahab and the whale -- he's hard to find, he meets people on other boats who have had increasingly dangerous encounters with the whale (a lost arm, dead crew members), but he still presses on. Even during the three days of the chase, Ahab has many opportunities to stop before he encounters his own destruction, including the death of Fedallah.
So, it appears that Ahab agrees with Emerson, as he tries to push every wall aside to get to the whale. One might think, though, that eventually Ahab would have hit enough walls, but that's not the case, and Ahab ends up dying by the hanging that he thought was a false prophecy, tangled in the harpoon rope and pulled beneath the sea.
From your own personal experience, you would want to give a detailed account of a time when you encountered obstacles and fought through them (if you agree with Emerson) or you found them insurmountable (if you want to disagree). If you're qualifying the statement, you could talk about situations that you had encountered that were different from Ahab's situation.
Evidence from the Text
With regard to other readings, be sure to give detailed text evidence that supports your claim from that book, play or story. Text evidence takes your opinion and supports it. Everyone has opinions -- it is the quality of your support that will improve your score!