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Quotation & Writing Prompt 

Marcus Aurelius

"Man has three relations . . . ."

Prompt: Using your own examples, explain what Marcus Aurelius may have meant by the following:

     Man has three relations: the one to the body which surrounds 

him; the second to the divine cause from which all things come 

to all; and the third to those who live with him.

-- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, VIII, 27

Syntactic Analysis:

     Man hasthree relations (DO): the one [#1] {to the body} [Adj. to

"body" whichsurroundshim (DO)]; the second [#1] {to the divine cause}

[Adj. to "cause" {from which} all thingscome{to all}]; and the third [#1]

{to those} [Adj. to "those" wholive{with him}]. |


1. "One," "second," and "third" are appositives to "relations."

A Note about Style

     Consider the use of the colon and semicolons. The colon after "relations" indicates to good readers that what will follow will be a clarification (specification) of "relations." The three appositives, separated from each other by semicolons, do just that. Note also the neat use of three parallel appositives, each followed by a prepositional phrase that begins with "to." The object in each prepositional phrase is then modified by a subordinate clause.

Suggestions for Use as a Writing Prompt

    This quotation should be an excellent prompt for anything from a single paragraph to a book. Teachers who like five paragraph essays should be able to get them very easily from this prompt -- an introduction, one paragraph on each of the relations, and a conclusion. A five paragraph essay, organized like that, would earn my college Freshmen a solid "C" for organization. To earn a better grade, I would expect at least one of the Roman numbers in the outline to be subdivided, with a paragraph on each subdivision. For example:

Outline Topic Paragraph #
I. Introduction (1)
II.  To the Body (2)
III. To the Divine Cause (3)
IV. To those who live with him 
     A.      Friends (4)
     B.      Enemies (5)
V. Conclusion (6)
A longer paper, of course, would have subdivisions, perhaps for each of the Roman numbers, and then subdivisions of the subdivisions. Note, by the way, that Aurelius himself was not sure that a Supreme Being exists, so students should not be able to object that they can't write about that section. 
     Try to get students to use specific examples. "A person should eat well" is not very good development of the relation "to the body." What, specifically, does the writer suggest that one should eat? Some people, for example, often get their food from McDonald's, but instead of two quarter pounders with cheese and a supersized fry, they order one regular small hamburger and a chicken salad. And that is only the beginning of what could be said about what one could/should eat.