Tuesday, January 25, 2011


This is an SAT practice essay I wrote a few weeks ago.


In Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, the island where the title character is trapped is, for the first part of the story, uninhabited. Crusoe is alone with himself and his thoughts. Having no one to talk to, he begins to talk to himself, asking and trying to answer questions like “Why?” This introspection gradually helps him understand his past, a possible purpose for his shipwreck, and even a little more about how God is working in his life.

In this ultimate solitude Crusoe is better able to develop an objective worldview. There is nobody to interrupt or argue with him. Emily Dickenson, a Romantic-era poet, stayed concealed in her home with little outside contact, and her poems are deeply thoughtful and even, at times, theological. Like Crusoe, she found her worldview by herself.

There is a downside to a sealed environment, though. Mark Twain wrote a short story called “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg,” in which the inhabitants of Hadleyburg protect themselves so carefully from any dishonesty that when one man is able to sneak a temptation into the city, every person in the town falls to it in a matter of weeks. Untested faith is often blind and useless.

Perhaps introspection and solitude are necessary to develop ideas and achieve goals, but then everything must be tested in the ordinary world. An experiment that works in a closed system may quite possibly crash and burn outside. Nothing will past the test of time if it cannot first pass the tests of experience, thought and argument. And worthwhile argument is seldom put forward when a person is talking to himself.