For this exercise, please analyze the spoof essay provided below. Why is it so bad? What are some things to avoid in your own writing? You can discuss this in a class or go through it by yourself. If you need some help, check out our video on essay structure, which uses this essay as an example of what not to do.
Thomas Kennedy Brown
Professor Judy Sallow
28 Nov. 2020
The Death Penalty
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to sit in an electric chair? It is probably not a fun time. If I were going to be executed, I would probably choose the guillotine, though I’m not sure if anyone still uses it. At least it’s quick and painless. Well, not entirely painless, because spectators can throw things at you (like rotten tomatoes or eggs). In other words, there is no humane way to kill people. In this essay, I will be arguing that the death penalty should be abolished because it is cruel, it does not deter people from committing crimes, and there is good evidence to suggest that criminals can be reformed.
In the first place, the death penalty is cruel. The US Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment. This applies to the death penalty in two ways: “The Eighth Amendment suggests that the death penalty cannot be applied to lesser crimes and it cannot involve unnecessary suffering in its application” (Finch 99). It would be cruel to apply the death penalty if I committed some minor crime, like jaywalking for instance. Moreover, since there is no way to execute people without causing them considerable discomfort, the death penalty is cruel. The dictionary defines cruelty as “a cruel behaviour or action,” which clearly shows that cruelty is not a good thing. For that reason, the death penalty should be abolished.
In the second place, the death penalty does not prevent people from committing crimes. This is called the Deterrence Theory of Punishment. In the words of Fillmore Ginantonic, “Criminals commit crimes because of opportunity, and no threat of punishment will change that” (15). There is a famous case that proves this. In California v. Bagby, the defense showed that Bagby stole some lingerie for his wife with no thoughts about potential punishment. He was in fact more worried about what his wife would do to him if he did not bring home the right size. We have seen, then, that deterrence does not work.
Lastly, most criminals can be reformed. This is called the Rehabilitation Theory. According to Wikipedia, the idea is to prevent criminal “recidivism.” This word comes from Latin and means that people repeat a crime. Thus, the Rehabilitation Theory means that people can be rehabilitated so that they will not repeat their crimes. I strongly believe in this theory.
This essay has shown that the death penalty is wrong. It is cruel and does not prevent people from doing bad things. Instead, criminals should be reformed. This is much more humane. To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
In the 1950’s Paul McHenry Roberts published an essay called “How To Say Nothing in 500 Words.” It remains an insightful critique of bad writing, and it also contains a hilarious spoof essay explaining why football should be abolished. It’s easy enough to find on the internet, so check it out.