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3. Student Oral Composition on “Where We Stand"*
The last issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a good article growing out of the recent war. It is by John Galsworthy-entitled "Where We Stand." He believes the most civilized country is that one which has the largest number of healthy, happy, wise, and gentle citizens. According to his test, then, there is now no country in the world very highly civilized.
We have not progressed much in civilization, because we have false notions of what progress means. We believe that any kind of material progress is advancement in civilization. We think that every time we make some wonderful discovery or invention we have done humanity a great good. But we do not stop to think that where one of these inventions or discoveries helps in one direction it may push us back still farther in another. A knowledge of chemistry and high explosives seems a good intellectual possession, but when these things are turned into deadly war engines of poison gas and life-destroying shells, we have not helped humanity. And the trouble with such would-be progress is that it is not capable of limitation. Germany invents a gun that will shoot seventy-five miles and kill one thousand people. Immediately we go to work and improve on their machine of human suicide; we must invent one that shoots a hundred miles and kills fifteen hundred peo
*The original essay may be found in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 125, page 173.
ple. Then it is up to Germany to outdo us. And so the see-saw is ever up and down.
The discovery of coal has seemingly blessed man, but when we think of the unsanitary conditions produced by coal smoke, and of the millions of real human beings who must live and work underground and in unhealthful conditions, we question its sum total good as compared with its great evil.
In the midst of all our feeble efforts to do something in this world, we forget two stern facts: first, that human nature is practically constant at all times and under all circumstances; and, second, that in some overpowering, fatalistic way, the very machines which we invent and the discoveries we make with so much hope are more powerful than we; we make them with one purpose in view, but too often they turn and almost immediately are engaged in doing great harm that we had never dreamed of their doing. They are like the giant in Mrs. Shelley's novel Frankenstein. The magician Frankenstein labored to create a live man. He succeeded in making a manlike monster, eight feet tall. He was greater than his creator; turned against him with all his powerful force, tormented him, drove him from home, and finally killed him.
We have false notions of political progress, too. When we tore down autocratic thrones, we looked for the millennium. We tried to enlarge nationalism at the expense of the freedom and privileges of the individual. The recent war has greatly enlarged the
field of active professions into which women may enter. On the other hand, such professions newly open to women are tending to destroy home life, which has been supported and made dear by them.
Our progress, such as it is, is selfish. The individual wants wealth at any cost and by any means, and for the pleasure he, as an individual, may get from it. It is our notion now of greatness to be accounted the wealthiest member of our family, of our town, or our county.
Then, the question is, if we are not making any real advancement in civilization, what should we do to remedy matters? We must know what are the true and worth while values in life.
We must, it is true, have houses and railroads and bonds and money, but these things must be worked for only to help ourselves and humanity at large in things cultural, things intellectual. Instead of having cut-throat economic competition, we should have contests among individuals and nations in art, music, literature, science, and so on.
Our political ideals should be unselfish. The League of Nations has a good theory back of it—the spirit of altruism. When men begin to think something of the other fellow's just rights, then wars will be a thing of the past.
We need a spiritual progress, new and broad ideas of brotherly love, true, non-sectarian religious principles, in which all men of all countries and of all occupations can believe and work for ends good for
all and harmful to none. The basis of such a religion must be unselfishness—altruism. Such a religion must be taught by teachers who have hearts as well as minds.
In short, in order to be civilized we must know what civilization is. We must realize that it is not material advancement for its own sake, that it is not competition that will destroy our fellow man or our fellow nation,
but that it is a sufficient and ample amount of wealth possessed by both individuals and nations, directed unselfishly towards the ultimate good of all. And, further, we must possess what Newman would call a liberal education, or what Matthew Arnold would call culture. We must come face to face with the great truth of all time,-that there is something in this world bigger, better, and in every sense more valuable than automobiles, or fine clothes, or dollars and cents. That something is a solid appreciation of the finer things in life, the things that make for bodily health and comfort, intellectual excellence, and a linking of this life to the spiritual life.
(1) Read the original in the Atlantic Monthly, and note the differences between it and the student composition.
(2) Which is the clearer, the original or the retold composition? Which is the more definite and concrete in its language ?
(3) It is often a good idea to substitute more familiar illustrations than those in the article, or add new ones. Have the new or added illustrations here made clearer the talk?
(4) Did the speaker bring out the most important items contained in his source?
42. Plays.- Plays might be classed under one of the four forms of discourse, so far as the purpose of the dramatist is concerned. But we must bear in mind certain facts about the make-up of a play that we do not have to deal with in the forms of discourse.
Plays are difficult to carry over into oral composition. They have acts, scenes, stage directions, many characters, and often complicated plots, and dialogue, -all of which must be handled in such a way as to give your hearers an appreciation of the play in its entirety. A play is more highly condensed than a short story or novel. Much of the story in a play is revealed by acting. Here you can give comparatively no aid. Characters are shown by what they say and how they say it-by their tone of voice and action. There are so many characters in a play, and the characters of good plays are so complex and individual that you must needs study your play very closely so as to know each character. On the stage one character is regarded as enough for one actor to represent. You must represent several in giving a play as an oral composition.
The most satisfactory way to deal with a play is to