Medea - Essay Prompt Breakdown

August 16, 2020
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Medea is marginalized more for being a foreigner in exile than for being a woman. To what extent do you agree?

Looking at that essay prompt, your head probably feels like it’s gonna explode.

There’s a lot of loaded language, and more than one question within the prompt.

So the question is: how on earth do I answer something as brain squeezing as this?

Let’s take it step by step.

1. Define Key Words

Some of you may have heard this before, some of you may not have.

But that’s okay.

What this means, is we have to pick out the most important words in the essay questions and figure

out what they mean.

This way, we’ll really know what we’re talking about, and we’ll be able to explain it to the assessor.

Eg. Medea is marginalized more for being a foreigner in exile than for being a woman. To what extent do you agree?

The five key words we have to define are in bold in the prompt above.

Let’s define them.

Medea: The protagonist of the title play. We know that her husband, Jason, has left her and her children to be with the Princess of Corinth. Because of this, we see that she is displaying bitter and vengeful thoughts and behavior and wants to get revenge on Jason for not just leaving her, but humiliating her.

Marginalized: To treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant.

Foreigner: A person born in or coming from a country other than one's own.

Keep in mind that before the events of Medea, Medea was a princess from the kingdom of Colchis, and only married Jason because of a deal they made while on a mission together.

Exile: The state of being barred from one's native country.  

Medea is considered to be in exile. Medea and Jason were exiled as murderers from Jason’s homeland, Iolcus, because Medea tried stealing ruling from the corrupt king, Pelias.

Woman: An adult human female.

In the world of Medea, we’re in Ancient Greece circa BC era. Women in this day were expected to be housewives who obeyed their husbands and were seen, not heard.

Now that we’ve defined and explained these important words, you should now have a better understanding of what the essay prompt is trying to ask you.

In simpler terms, the essay prompt paraphrased would be asking:

Medea is looked down upon for being an outsider, rather than for being a woman. How much do you agree, or disagree?

With essay prompts with complex vocabulary, the best thing you can do is define the key words so that you can simplify the question - kinda like math equations.

2. Breakdown of the Question

When it comes to finding different parts of the question, the best approach is to look at it like chunks.

The first chunk is a statement - it tells you what you’re responding to.

Ultimately, you’re being asked:

Is Medea marginalized more for being a foreigner in exile, or for being a woman?

Your job is to pick one or the other.

Do you think she’s treated as insignificant because she’s an outsider, or because she’s a woman?

The second and final chunk of the prompt asks you this, simply put:

How much do you agree/disagree that she’s treated poorly because she’s an outsider?

Or, if you’ve decided she’s treated poorly because of her gender:

How much do you agree/disagree that she’s treated poorly because she’s a woman?

Now that we’ve broken down the essay prompt to shreds, you can go ahead and brainstorm how you’re going to support your contention (point of view).

Typically, you should aim for at least three arguments to defend your case, but strive for four.

If you guys find that you’re struggling to find solid, fleshed out arguments, refer to our SAC Medea Crash Course, or drop in for a class so you can gain personalized and expert assistance from our tutors.

Study smarter, not harder with SAC.