SAT Essay Sample 3 from Kaplan

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SAT Essay Sample 3 from Kaplan 12 Practice Tests for the SAT

“I am more and more convinced that our happiness or unhappiness depends far more on the way we meet the events of life, than on the nature of those events themselves.”--Wilhelm von Humboldt


Which do you think contributes more to personal happiness: what happens to you or the way you respond to what happens? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

SAT Sample Essay - Score of 6

There’s a common saying usually applied to sports: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” This saying, however, can easily be applied to how we live and whether or not we are able to achieve personal happiness. As the Humboldt quotation suggests, it’s not the the events that occur in our lives but rather the way we react to these events that most affects our happiness. Excellent representations of this can be found in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” where characters respond differently to the same situation and gain varying levels of happiness because of their respective reactions.

Gertrude, for example, responds to the death of her husband, the King, by remarrying shortly after his death. Rather than dwelling on her new role as widow and the accompanying sorrow and misfortune that have fallen upon her, she chooses to react by quickly recovering and aligning herself with her for mer brother-in-law. Given her situation, this is a very intelligent and rational decision, for it provides her with the security of a strong marriage as well as a continued high status as queen, since Claudius has now ascended to the throne. All of these positive attributes make Gertrude happy even though she continues to mourn and miss her dead husband. In this way, Gertrude pursues and achieves her own personal happiness by reacting positively to a negative event rather than letting that event destroy her.

In contrast, Hamlet reacts to his father’s death by obsessing about what happened and by brooding over his mother’s remarriage. Because of his vision of the ghost, Hamlet begins to believe that his father was murdered, but instead of acting decisively on this information and confronting his uncle directly, Hamlet ponders his vision and sink deeper and deeper into his sorrow and Allowing himself to be heavily influenced by everything that is happening around him, Hamlet eventually succumbs to his despair and dies along with several other characters in the final scene of the play. Hamlet is a prime example of someone who lets his happiness be ruled by outside forces rather than choosing how to react to events to exert some control over his own emotional state of mind.

Although Gertrude and Hamlet are fictional characters, the way Shakespeare portrays them is representative of real human behavior. Many people let themselves be influenced by what happens to them, like Hamlet, and these people have difficulty finding happiness. On the other hand, some people, like Gertrude, react in a more positive way to any event that occurs and thus achieve a certain level of personal happiness regardless of what happens. This contrast proves that our reaction to events rather than the events themselves is the critical factor for achieving happiness.

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