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Practice essay 2 model answer – College Board Blue Book
Knowledge as a Burden/Destructive Force
SAT SAMPLE ESSAY
For centuries, society has placed great value on the attainment of knowledge as a means of understanding the world. As a result, many have made it their life’s goal to attain as much information as possible, assuming that this will bring them status and admiration, and therefore, contentment. However, the pursuit of knowledge does not always coincide with the pursuit of happiness; a universal desire. In fact, the common saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” indicates that often times, it is those who the least that are happiest. This notion has been illustrated throughout centuries of great literature, becoming timeless in the process. “Oedipus Rex,” is a poignant example of just how lethal knowledge can be. When Oedipus learns of his fulfillment of a tragic prophecy, this knowledge drives him mad and ultimately ruins his life. A similar concept is introduced in Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece, “Brave New World,” which tells the story of a boy who grows up alienated from his community, dreaming of a better world into which he might fit in. However, when he visits and finds it utterly repellant, the knowledge that he doesn’t in fact, fit in anywhere, drives him to suicide.
Sophocles’ notorious play, “Oedipus Rex,” tells the story of a King, Oedipus, who comes to learn that the chaos prevalent throughout his kingdom is the result of a tragic prediction; one that prophesized that he would murder his father and sleep with is mother. Although at first, the prophecy seems absurd, he gradually comes to realize that it is true and has in fact, come to pass. The knowledge of this ruins his once contented existence, as he comes to the realization that the blood of his father is on his hands, that his dear wife, Jocasta, is in fact his mother, and that his children are the products of incest. Perhaps even worse is the awareness that the curse that the people of his beloved Thebes have been suffering from was in fact, his own doing. This knowledge tears his life and his family apart. Jocasta takes her own life and Oedipus gouges out his own eyes and is exiled from Thebes, leaving their two daughters on their own.
In “Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley fashions a utopian society within which everyone and everything has its place. Those who do not fit in are excluded, resulting in the formation of an alternate society on the Savage Reservation, one that is deemed backward and barbaric. The protagonist, John, however, is the product of both worlds, and because of this, doesn’t quite fit in to either. The child of a “civilized” mother who was stranded on the Reservation, John grows up alienated from his community as a result of his different upbringing. The only thing that keeps him going is the idea of another, distant world that his mother has instilled within him, a beautiful world into which me might fit in. However, when he gets the chance to visit this other, better world that he has always dreamed of, he finds himself more alienated than ever. The values and beliefs of this new world completely go against his own, and the knowledge that he has no place in either society takes away his will to live.
As has been demonstrated by scores of literary works, knowledge can often be more of a burden than a benefit. “Oedipus Rex,” and “Brave New World,” particularly, provide moving illustrations of this concept. Although these tales were written thousands of years apart, they nevertheless share the same central theme: that of the deadly nature of knowledge. Each of these protagonists shared a similar fate; the very fabric of their lives was torn apart and rendered unlivable, all because they simply couldn’t bear to live in ignorance.