Writing Discursive Essays

Core.Com Helpnotes: Writing: Discursive Essay Exemplar
Writing Discursive Essays
Marriage: an outmoded relic or an affirmation of hope?
The statistics are all too familiar. We are constantly being told that at least one
in every three marriages breaks down completely. Divorce rates have never
been higher. Broken families are an everyday reality. However, a less wellknown fact is that we live in a boom era for white weddings. More young
people than ever before invest in the ‘full Monty’: white dress, church
ceremony, limousines, seven-tiered cake, speeches and champagne. It costs
a fortune – and current publicity about divorce does not seem to dampen the
enthusiasm at all. There seems to be an ambiguity about the whole issue: do
we still believe in marriage – or is the whole thing a very expensive sham?
At the turn of the nineteenth century, most people who got married, stayed
married. That does not mean, they were all faithful, honourable partners.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that infidelity occurred where
opportunity presented itself; but a chance affair did not signal marital
breakdown. The promise made – almost always in front of an officer of the
Church – was binding for life, in a literal sense. People who crumbled under
the strain and actually left a partner were threatened with overwhelming
disgrace. The norm – until at least the 1960s – was to stay married.
However, during the twentieth century, a considerable number of marriages
ended through a means that was certainly morally acceptable, though not
necessarily welcome. I refer, of course, to the demise of one partner. Two
world wars and the resulting deaths of thousands accomplished the end of
many an episode of wedded bliss (or otherwise). The mortality rate in the first
half of the century was also considerably higher than it is today. Natural
causes saw to it that the “till death us do part” promise was frequently put to
the test for a relatively short period. A ‘golden’ wedding ceremony (fifty years
of marriage) was seldom celebrated: both partners rarely survived long
enough to witness the event. Today, golden weddings are also unusual – but
for different reasons. It appears that few 21st century adults can maintain
married harmony for as long as half a century, although for increasing
numbers, life span is not the issue.
Could it be true, then, that marriage vows were never all that strong? Are we
deceived by the rhetoric that persuades us things used to be better? It is very
hard to be sure. Elderly marriage partners will certainly assert their own
strongly-held belief that divorce was not a possibility for them, that their
promise to wed for life was an absolute reality. They stayed married, as their
parents had stayed married, for better or worse, happy or miserable. There
were no public examples to suggest that any other possibility might be
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Core.Com Helpnotes: Writing: Discursive Essay Exemplar
Yet in 1936 an important historical event in Britain signalled the emergence of
change. The King decided to marry. That in itself was not a problem. The
problem was that his intended wife had already been married – and divorced.
The government opposed the marriage. The King abdicated as monarch and
married the woman of his choice. At last, there was a public role model for
those who wanted to believe that marriage could sometimes be a mistake, but
that a second chance might still be acceptable. Edward received wide
condemnation, but also considerable public sympathy – this was a real
romantic love story.
Between the 1930s and now, attitudes have changed very much. Today there
are many public examples of couples who divorce and shamelessly remarry –
to considerable acclaim. Few celebrities, it seems, marry only once. Even in
the Royal Family, the symptoms are well advanced. Although our present
Queen has certainly stayed married, the record of her children is not so
trouble free. There is even a serious possibility that her eldest son, heir to the
throne, may (himself a divorcé) remarry a divorced woman, after conducting a
public ‘affair’, while retaining a real chance of being crowned King.
However, although the ‘sell by’ date of marriage is less certain than it was, the
belief in marriage itself has not gone away. We are, if the economics of the
white wedding industry are to be believed, as attracted by the idea of true love
as ever before. We still believe that happy endings are possible. We still
celebrate the coming together of two people in good faith and harmony.
When the marriage breaks down, most people still try again and although one
in three betrothals end in disaster, two out of three of the disasters end in
remarriage. It is simply impossible to argue that marriage is an outmoded
relic. Marriage is more popular than it has ever been before.
(777 words)
Work out the paragraph plan for the essay (see discursive essay
How convincing are the arguments?
Are any obvious points missed out?
Pick out the strengths of the essay, as well as any weaknesses you see in
Glenrothes College: Core Skill Communication 2004—2005
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