Example academic essay: The Death Penalty. This essay shows many important features which commonly appear in essays.
Should the death penalty be restored in the UK?
The restoration of the death penalty for serious crimes is an issue of debate in the UK because of the recent rise in violent crime. The causes, effects and solutions to the problems of violent crime throw up a number of complex issues which are further complicated by the way that crime is reported. Newspapers often sensationalise crime in order to increase circulation and this makes objective discussion more difficult. This essay will examine this topic firstly by considering the arguments put forward by those in favour of the death penalty and then by looking at the arguments opposed to the idea.
The main arguments in favour of restoring the death penalty are those of deterrence and retribution: the theory is that people will be dissuaded from violent crime if they know they will face the ultimate punishment and that people should face the same treatment that they gave out to others. Statistics show that when the death penalty was temporarily withdrawn in Britain between 1965 and 1969 the murder rate increased by 125% (Clark, 2005). However, we need to consider the possibility that other reasons might have lead to this rise. Amnesty International (1996) claims that it is impossible to prove that capital punishment is a greater deterrent than being given a life sentence in prison and that “evidence….gives no support to the evidence hypothesis theory.” It seems at best that the deterrence theory is yet to be proven. The concept of ‘retribution’ is an interesting one: there is a basic appeal in the simple phrase ‘the punishment should fit the crime’. Calder (2003) neatly summarises this argument when he says that killers give up their rights when they kill and that if punishments are too lenient then it shows that we undervalue the right to live. There are other points too in support of the death penalty, one of these being cost. It is obviously far cheaper to execute prisoners promply rather than feed and house them for years on end.
The arguments against the death penalty are mainly ethical in their nature, that it is basically wrong to kill and that when the state kills it sends out the wrong message to the rest of the country. Webber (2005) claims that the death penalty makes people believe that ‘killing people is morally permissable’. This is an interesting argument – would you teach children not to hit by hitting them? Wouldn’t this instead show them that hitting was indeed ‘permissable’? There is also the fact that you might execute innocent people. Innocent people can always be released from prison, but they can never be brought back from the dead. When people have been killed there is no chance of rehabilitation or criminals trying to make up for crimes. For this reason capital punishment has been called ‘the bluntest of blunt instruments’ (Clark, 2005).
In conclusion, the arguments put forward by people who support or are against the death penalty often reflect their deeper principles and beliefs. These beliefs and principles are deeply rooted in life experiences and the way people are brought up and are unlikely to be swayed by clever arguments. It is interesting that in this country most people are in favour of the death penalty yet parliament continues to oppose it. In this case it could be argued that parliament is leading the way in upholding human rights and continues to broadcast the clear message that killing is always wrong.
You should be able to see that this essay consists of:
An introduction in three parts:
1. A sentence saying why the topic is interesting and relevant.
2. A sentence (or two) mentioning the difficulties and issues involved in the topic.
3. An outline of the essay.
Main paragraphs with:
1. A topic sentence which gives a main idea/argument which tells us what the whole paragraph is about.
2. Evidence from outside sources which support the argument(s) put forward in the topic sentence.
3. Some personal input from the author analysing the points put forward in the topic sentence and the outside sources.
Summarises the main points and gives an answer to the question.
The ending makes us feel funny. There, we said it. And it's more than just the shock of being out of St. Petersburg and in the natural beauty of Siberia. Maybe it's because most of the physical descriptions of St. Petersburg are pretty gross. Even the natural settings there are polluted. This seems to fit with all the creepy crimes happening on every street corner.
But somehow, the combination of beauty and prison jars us. What's with tacking a fairy-tale ending onto our gritty crime drama? Stories featuring guys that kill people with axes aren't supposed to end happily ever after—axe murderers aren't supposed to get the girl and the happiness. Right?
Oh, but we forgot about something—religion. Does Raskolnikov actually find religion?
He does seem to find love with Sonia, but the religion is something we aren't so sure about. We don't see Raskolnikov actually open the New Testament, and the narrator doesn't say whether he ever does. There is also the possibility that Raskolnikov has been religious all along. He tells Porfiry he is, and he seems quite serious. Tracing Raskolnikov's religious experiences throughout the novel could make an interesting paper.
Then we get this one line telling us Raskolnikov will suffer, as if the narrator is trying to convince us that it's okay for Raskolnikov to be happy because he earns it by suffering. Do we buy this? In the beginning of the epilogue, we hear that Raskolnikov likes the prison atmosphere. He gets sick because of his mind and because a bunch of guys tried to kill him, not due to the conditions.
He's got Sonia. Razumihin and Dounia are moving there. Is that suffering?
Okay, let's be realistic. Of course, there will be suffering. They have to spend the next seven years in the prison system. So, while we do know there will be hard times, we don't know if Raskolnikov has found religion—though we think he found love.
It sounds sweet, but what about when the honeymoon wears off? Is Raskolnikov's depression permanently cured? Can the narrator guarantee he won't kill again? Probably not—that's part of the suffering and part of life. Still, we can imagine that he has changed enough to let the sweeter sides of his personality come to the forefront, in a healthy, non-repressed kind of way, of course.