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How to put together a good essay about "Bottoming Out" in King Lear?


jco19 1 / 9  
Mar 28, 2011   #1
I have to write an essay about "bottoming out" in King Lear, specifically relating to the events of Act III.

Instructions I must follow: Write an essay of 800 to 1000 words on "Bottoming Out," finding the place where there is no way to go but up. This essay shoud refer specifically to King Lear and address these questions:

a) Where is bottom, in terms of both situation and character?
b) How can one know one has reached bottom?
c) What, if anything, is the benefit of reaching bottom?


For my essay planning, I've come up with these answers to the above questions ...

a) For A, I've determined that Lear's madness in Act III represents his "bottoming out," specifically the part where he is hallucinating with the mock trial of Goneril and Regan.

b) For B, I've determined that Lear knows he has reached the bottom when he basically admits that he has lost his authority and pride in his numerous speeches in the storm. I would provide examples of this for proofs.

c) I'm struggling with this one. I was thinking that I should mention something about nature, like how Lear takes his clothes off and realizes that even as a king he's no different than anyone else. And that as a result, he becomes more humble (he feels guilty about not helping the poor peasants), and this helps Cordelia forgive him in the coming acts.

If you know anything of King Lear, is that a fair assessment in relation to what the essay should be about?

In addition, the last part of the instructions says "discuss these questions in a general way, explaining your ideas carefully, and use examples from King Lear" - this confuses me because it says to discuss the questions in a general way, but then use examples from King Lear. Does this mean I should be generally referring to what bottoming out is, and then casually mentioning examples from King Lear?

Any help or advice is much appreciated.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Mar 30, 2011   #2
specifically the part where he is hallucinating with the mock trial of Goneril and Regan. ----agreed.

ve determined that Lear knows he has reached the bottom when he basically admits that he has lost his authority and pride in his numerous speeches in the storm. I would provide examples of this for proofs.

Excellent... sounds good...

What, if anything, is the benefit of reaching bottom?

It makes you have to do something to change the situation. Prior to bottoming out, you perpetuate the dysfunction...

"discuss these questions in a general way, explaining your ideas carefully, and use examples from King Lear"---I think the teacher might mean you should discuss the concepts directly and use Lear as a source of examples. So the paper is not about Lear, but it has a Lear theme.

Anyway, it is best to ask the teacher, because "in a general way" is not clear.

:-)
OP jco19 1 / 9  
Apr 5, 2011   #3
Thanks for the advice Kevin, I appreciate it. I've completed my essay and here is my opening paragraph and concluding paragraphs. If anyone has the chance to review them and tell me if there's any areas for me to work on, that would be really helpful!

Opening
When one "bottoms out," they are at the lowest point in their life, both physically and mentally. It is a point in one's life when life has become unbearable, insalubrious, and even violent. A common saying is "What goes up must come down" - for those who have "bottomed out," they have already come down. There is, however, a distinct benefit of this downfall, and this is clearly interpreted in the tragic events of Shakespeare's King Lear. For Lear, his "bottoming out" represents a turning point; he has reached a point in his treacherous journey in which the possibility of hope becomes evident; in which there is nowhere to go but up.

Conclusion
For anyone, hitting rock bottom is a complex and tumultuous event. This is no better exemplified than in the "bottoming out" of King Lear. A once noble and powerful king, Lear descended into madness, madness so strong that it evoked concern in his most ardent of supporters. Though as terrible as it may be, there is no doubt that Lear benefited from his downfall. He achieved self-awareness and a sense of piety. For Lear, his "bottoming out" represents a point in which there is nowhere to go but up. Perhaps a downfall, even for a king, is not so bad after all, for it invariably evokes change for the better.
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Apr 7, 2011   #4
It's always messy to use "one" with "they." Here is my method:
When people "bottom out," they are at...

Makes it sound nicer!! :-)

Change that semi-colon to a dash. Google around about usage for semi-colon vs. dash.

Looking good! Clever approach, but... it is true that what goes up must come down, but it is not true that what goes down must come up. In some cases, people start to rise after hitting rock bottom, but I'm afraid in most cases they just lose their clarity forever and suffer. So... for the paper, I think this theme will work, but in your own decisions, keep in mind: what goes down does not always come up. That's why it's important to be careful and diligent. And it's why I drive more slowly than my grandmother!


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