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To argue by analogy is to claim that because two things are similar in some respects, they will be similar in others. Medical experimentation on animals is predicated on such reasoning. The argument goes like this: the metabolism of pigs, for example, is similar to that of humans, and high doses of saccharine cause cancer in pigs. Therefore, high doses of saccharine probably cause cancer in humans.

Clearly, the greater the similarity between the two things being compared, the stronger the argument will be. Also, the less ambitious the conclusion, the stronger the argument will be. The argument above would be strengthened by changing “probably” to “may.” It can be weakened by pointing out the dissimilarities between pigs and people.

The following words usually indicate that an analogy is being drawn:

Analogy Indicators






compared to

as with

just as . . . so too . . .

Often, however, a writer will use an analogy without flagging it with any of the above words.

Just as the fishing line becomes too taut, so too the trials and tribulations of life in the city can become so stressful that one’s mind can snap.
Which one of the following most closely parallels the reasoning used in the argument above?
  1. Just as the bow may be drawn too taut, so too may one’s life be wasted pursuing self-gratification.
  2. Just as a gambler’s fortunes change unpredictably, so too do one’s career opportunities come unexpectedly.
  3. Just as a plant can be killed by over watering it, so too can drinking too much water lead to lethargy.
  4. Just as the engine may race too quickly, so too may life in the fast lane lead to an early death.
  5. Just as an actor may become stressed before a performance, so too may dwelling on the negative cause depression.
The argument compares the tautness in a fishing line to the stress of city life; it then concludes that the mind can snap just as a fishing line can. So we are looking for an answer-choice that compares two things and draws a conclusion based on their similarity.
Notice that we are looking for an argument that uses similar reasoning, but not necessarily similar concepts. In fact, an answer-choice that mentions either tautness or stress will probably be a same-language trap.
Choice (A) uses the same-language trap—notice “too taut.” The analogy between a taut bow and self-gratification is weak, if existent.
Choice (B) offers a good analogy but no conclusion.
Choice (C) offers both a good analogy and a conclusion; however, the conclusion, “leads to lethargy,” understates the scope of what the analogy implies.
Choice (D) offers a strong analogy and a conclusion with the same scope found in the original: “the engine blows, the person dies”; “the line snaps, the mind snaps.” This is probably the best answer, but still we should check every choice.
The last choice, (E), uses language from the original, “stressful,” to make its weak analogy more tempting. The best answer, therefore, is (D).

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