The Ultimate Measure Of A Man

What is the meaning of this quotation?

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy." Support it with two short stories.

Expert Answers
spottedslinky eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The "measure of a man" is generally about how society would judge  a man (or woman's) character. But this quote says that you can't really tell what a person's character is until you observe them in a challenging situation. I think a short story that demonstrates the characters' exceptional character is "The Gift of the Magi." Neither character is a super-hero, but both rise above the challenge of poverty to express their love for each other by sacrificing something they cherish. Can you find another story in your English 2 textbook that shows some heroic deed -- something that you wouldn't have known about that character (and often the character doesn't even know about him/herself) unless there was a conflict or a challenge in their lives? Find one and ask about it again if you need to. Good luck!

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A short story that illustrates this quotation is "The Interlopers" by Saki.  In his comfort, Ulrich von Gradwitz patrols the forest that he jealously guards against his mortal enemy,Georg Znaeym.  But, when they come upon each other just as lightning strikes down branches upon them, they are trapped together in the snow.  At first, each man boasts of how his men will come and then the other will be punished.  After a while, though, they ponder the importance of their feud weighed against their survival and reconcile their differences.

While this is not a short story, a speech that certainly dramatizes the quotation is Patrick Henry's address to the Virginia Convention of March 20, 1775.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The meaning of this quotation from Martin Luther King is fairly straightforward. In fact, you'll hear versions of it being spoken in response to sporting events and big games. It just means that you find out who a person is by how he or she responds to pressure and tough times. To put it another way, anyone can seem calm and focused when things are going well, and any lover can seem loving then too. However, put people in tough economic times. See them in accidents. See them under stress. Do all that, and you'll know who you're really dealing with.

You can see this in many short stories, from stories as different as "The Open Boat" to "The Yellow Wall-Paper."

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Young Goodman Brown" illustrates is quote well.  Brown is tempted by evil and ultimately rejects it, but he is still given the gift of "seeing into the secret hearts of man" and recognizes the evil in others.  He becomes a completely different person because of this knowledge, and it destroys him, his family, and everyone around him.  He no longer has the comfort and convience of his innocence, but that shouldn't be his excuse to become the mean -hearted person he is in the end.

tpisano eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times challenge and controversy.


This quote is basically saying that it is you see a person's true colors when they are going through hard times.  They prove who they really are not when things are going well, but when times are difficult in their lives.


kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote is on my office door and in my office.  It is my favorite quotation.  I surrounded myself with it after experiencing a divorce. The meaning truly is that the real person is revealed in times of great challenges and conflict.

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