Friday, August 31, 2007

The Inheritance of Tools

When I was looking through the essays, trying to decide on which one to read, “The Inheritance of Tools” caught my eye. As I further explored, I discovered that it was the story of not only the tools that a son had inherited from his father, but also the lessons that accompanied them. I found that I could relate these experiences that the father and son had shared in the essay to experiences that I have had with my own dad. This connection was in part due to the fact that Scott Russell Sanders could bring these events to life by the use of different rhetorical devices.

The first device that I noticed that was used was imagery. Sanders utilizes imagery right away to set a scene for the reader. “At just about the hour when my father died, soon after dawn one February morning when ice coated the windows like cataracts…” is how the essay begins. A few sentences later, Sanders uses imagery to describe the mark on his thumbnail after he smashes it with a hammer. “A week or so later a white scar in the shape of a crescent moon began to show above the cuticle, and month by month it rose across the pink sky of my thumbnail.” The use of imagery continues throughout the rest of the story and really brings all of the experiences to life.

Another device that Sanders employed was the use of similes and metaphors. These contributed to the existing imagery by adding the details. Some of the best similes are used when Sanders describes the hammer. “The head is scratched and pockmarked, like an old plowshare that has been working rocky fields.” Then right afterwards an unusual metaphor is used, “(It) gives off the sort of dull sheen you see on fast creek water in the shade.” This caught my attention because it didn’t seem like a comparison that all of his audience would be able to relate to. At the same time though, I think it reveals a little about Sanders and where he comes from. For instance, if Sanders would have come from the city rather than the country it might have been compared to cars or skyscrapers in the shade instead of creek water.

In addition to his rhetorical devices, Sanders has a fascinating way of looking at the world through his tools. The first example of this is when he is describing his level and states that, “When the bubble is lined up between two marks etched in the glass tube of a level, you have aligned yourself with the forces that hold the universe together.” I thought this was a clever way of looking at how something that seems unimportant is acted upon by such an immense force. One more instance of this is when he states that he sees no point in him owning complex machines that could do the same thing that his tools could. “The skill is invested in the gadget instead of the person who uses it,” he says, “and this is what distinguishes a machine from a tool.”

In conclusion, this essay is one that you could almost see as one of those movies where the son looks back on his time spent with his father. Sanders gives the events in the story life with his use of imagery backed up by his similes and use of metaphors. I was also able to relate this story to my life which made it interesting for me to read.

Salvation

The story of one 12-year-old boy’s beliefs being devastated is brought to readers in the story of Salvation.

Langston Hughes, the author of the short essay, brings emotion and drama to his own childhood story with various rhetorical strategies. First off, the author seems to almost take himself back in time, into a youthful writing style that mimics how he may have retold the story as a 12 year old; a writing style that puts the reader before the boy himself. This approach at the event is effective and creates a strong ethos environment for the reader. The reader may become more emotionally attached to the main character in this situation as well, which ends in sorrow.

The story accumulates emotion and passion (as a pathos piece of work does) through its dialogue and distinctive details throughout the story. Every sentence builds suspense upon the salvation of Langston; the questioning minister, his fellow churchgoers, the church’s environment itself plays upon the augmenting suspense. The actual time that takes place during the single event lasts longer than the few paragraphs make it out to be, yet this is only done to give more strength to the brief essay.

Various small rhetorical devices are splashed in throughout the story. Personification is used upon the church to express the true mood of the temple (pg.156). The aftermath of Langston finally rising is explained with a metaphor, as a "sea of shouting," which illustrates the scene. The mere use of exclamation points (on page 155) causes the reader to feel Langston’s excitement and anticipation for the upcoming event, as well as his aunt’s excitement.

Sentence length also plays a key role in emphasizing certain aspects. The extremely short "So I got up," concluding sentence completely contrasts all of the detailed events that led up to that single moment. Plainly stating the truly simplistic event, that meant so much to the church, gives the moment the kind of attention that suits it. Whereas in the end, Langston rambles on about his crying and why he is crying so. Which brings the reader to an understanding for what Langston is going through, and why his lie ruined more than just a belief of his own.

Shooting an Elephant

By Daniel S.

I became interested in George Orwell's Shooting an Elephant just by reading the title of the essay. Having read 1984 and Animal Farm, I knew that it had to be about something political, but exactly what, I was unsure of. In order to satisfy my inquisitiveness, I decided that I should simply read the essay. Simply put, I was amazed.

The thing that amazed me most about Orwell's essay, was how utterly vivid it was. Not only could I picture everything that happened, I could practically hear everything that was going on. When he wrote, "When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick . . . but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd," I was able to see the crowds' reaction to the elephant being shot. I could almost hear the sudden change come over the crowd, from holding their breaths in anticipation, to sudden excitement as the bullet strikes home, mortally wounding the colossal beast.

Something that struck me as equally amazing was the tone of the story. Before shooting the elephant, there was a feeling of a building frenzy, and as soon as he shot the elephant, I noticed a sudden somberness to the rest of the story. I noticed a sort of sadness as he came to the close of his anecdote. He knew that he shouldn't have killed the elephant, so he hides behind killing it with the excuse that it had to be killed after killing a coolie.

Beginning this essay thinking that it was simply going to be bookish, I came out surprised. I guess I should have expected it since I had read two of Orwell's books, but I made the mistake of underestimating his writing abilities. Orwell's skills as a writer are, to me, nonpareil - unequaled. He uses intense amounts of imagery, but while doing so, is still able to get his message across to readers.


----------------
Now playing: Avenged Sevenfold - And All Things Will End
via FoxyTunes


On Dumpster Diving

On Dumpster Diving

By Lars Eighner

Dumpster diving: an art, a passion, or just a way to survive? This essay, written by Lars Eighner, basically covers the finer points and etiquette of dumpster diving. Eighner shows us in his essay how in every dumpster, and in every bag of garbage; there is a story to be told. He shows us how wasteful our society really is, and reasons with the audience how it really isn’t wrong to practice this ever-popular form of art and self sustainability. I think that the reason that Lars wrote this essay, was not because he wanted to teach people how to dumpster dive or to talk about his life story; but it was because he wanted to educate people about how this form of self sustainability is not so much a selfish or greedy act, but more an honest way to survive through poverty. Also, I believe that it is a statement to people everywhere, telling them that even though they might be living in the lowest societal realm, there is always an honest way to survive.

One of the ways that Eighner convinces the audience of his points is through many examples of his own personal experience; or logos. He shows this throughout the essay, whether it be telling a tale of how he manages to score fresh and hot pizzas for himself and his dog Lizbeth, or how he uses certain techniques to determine is the food he is scavenging is “maliciously contaminated” or not. Another way that Eighner convinces his audience and exemplifies his point is through metaphors. He uses this form of rhetorical strategy quite often, an in many forms. For example, on page seven of the essay Lars writes:

"Every grain of rice seems to be a maggot. Everything seems to stink. He can wipe the egg yoke off the found can, but he cannot erase the stigma of eating garbage out of his mind."

In conclusion, I believe that through many compelling and convincing writing strategies and the use of a multitude of facts and personal experiences, Eighner has definitely convinced me that Dumpster diving is not so much a sin, but more a way of life. So in memorial of this essay and also of the dog Lizbeth that died, I will capitalize the word "Dumpster" as a sign of my respect to the many people who live on the fringe of society, but still manage to cling on.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Why Don’t We Complain?

The first sentence of the opening statement reads, “William F. Buckley Jr. is one of the leading voices of conservative politics.” I immediately assumed that his words would be that of a ultra conservative Republican. It wasn’t until I had finished reading his anecdote about the 85 degree train about which nobody complained that I realized; the article doesn’t concern any specific political party. Americans in general are guilty of tending toward passive compliance. We endure so many things, all the way from a movie being out of focus to the rulers of our country violating constitutional and common law, often to avoid confrontation with authority.

William Buckley Jr.’s writing style appears very simple and basic. Upon further scrutiny, Why Don’t We Complain is jam packed with rhetorical devices aiming to support his theory and opinion of Americans. His main attempt to communicate with the audience is through ethos, convincing by the character of the author, and pathos, persuading by appealing to the reader's emotions. This is done by sharing anecdotes that are relatable to the reader. That way, they get a feel for Buckley’s character and he becomes more personable.

In many instances the author utilized asyndeton, lack of conjunctions between coordinate phrases, clauses, or words, for a variety of reasons. On certain occasions, the author used this strategy to propose diversity of why different people may have similar feelings . Pg 66 “And the reason no one did is because we are all increasingly anxious in America to be unobtrusive, we are reluctant to make our voices heard, hesitant about claiming our rights; we are afraid that our cause in unjust, or that if it is not unjust, that it is ambiguous; or if not even that, that it is too trivial to justify the horrors of a confrontation with Authority…” This use of asyndeton also reads nervously, just as Buckley proposes Americans feel about confronting authority. Another approach that involves asyndeton is to emphasize something specific by listing. Pg. 69 “When Premier Khrushchev first came to this country late in 1959 he was primed, we are informed, to experience the bitter resentment of the American people against his tyranny, against his persecutions, against the movement which is responsible for the then great number of American deaths in Korea, for billions in taxes every year; and for life everlasting on the brink of disasters…” In this case Buckley makes the reader anxious and frightened through his skill with asyndeton.

Aposiopesis, when the speaker comes to an abrupt halt, seemingly overcome by passion (fear, excitement, etc.) or modesty, is introduced when Mr. Buckley runs out of paper. He is writing while he is on an airplane and is out of space. Due to the circumstances, he is unable to get more paper from his briefcase and has to wait to continue writing. I think this is a clever way to interpret pathos into his writing. The fact that he is just a normal person with normal problems helps his readers relate. Most people, having been there and done that, can connect to him on some level.

After discovering that William F. Buckley Jr. wasn’t advocating a right or left wing agenda in this piece, I found that his use of ethos, pathos, asyndeton and aposiopesis were extremely effective literary strategies to lure me into agreement with his contentions.

Angelou's Graduation

Angelou's "Graduation" has many strategies to get to the reader. As time has gone by, humans have evolved in many aspects. Exaggeration, visualization, and quotes are used in this essay in order to do so. The way that people were back then is different to the way that we are know. Many people are able to do more than before.
Exaggeration in "Graduation" was used to emphasize the meaning of the setting that the essay would take upon. On page nine, the school and the number of students was really looked at. That was to set the tone for many things that would go on. The campus had large classes from both grammar school and the high school that would graduate and move on to their own separate lives. This was a huge school with little equipment for all to use. In order to use the baseball diamond, a bat, or a few balls from the physical education teacher, you would have to ask him in advance because others would want to use them too and they were limited. The exaggeration was used to make the point that it did.
Angelou had many areas where you could visualize what she was talking about. Maybe because it has happened to you or someone you know. On page twelve when she was glad that she didn't have to yank her scalp off to comb it, I have seen this happen at my own house with my sisters. I also related to not being able to do chores when I was excited for a special event, such as Angelou and her graduation gift from her brother. This used to happen to me quite a bit. Strong words that aren't common to the eye are also placed in this essay to help visualize what was going on in the essay. You don't often read many essay that all have strong depicting words like the ones used by Angelou. Visualizing these types of things help you see what you are reading, it is very good to see a bit of this visualization.
"Graduation" has quotes that were used back in her time. That is what make thing even better, you get to see the types of things that were used back in the day. On Pages nineteen and twenty, Angelou put a few quotes that motivate you to doing what you need to be doing in order to advance. Putting quotes in essays is unique in a way, because you get to see more things than just the story line. If you look at those quotes deep enough, you will find a meaning that can be usable to you.
Angelou's "Graduation" had strategies that help the reader in unique ways. By either exaggeration, visualization and using quotes, you get a better outcome of what Angelou's is telling you and you could relate to some of the things that she talked about. These strategies I like more than others.

The Ways We Lie

We all lie, in one way or another. Whether it’s a simple white lie about how they look or blaming your brother for something you did. Stephanie Ericsson shows in her essay the ways people lie to get what they want or make themselves look better; showing this by personal experience and examples. She proves that is nearly impossible to eliminate lies from our life and how many lies have been adopted by our culture and many things have been based on simple “harmless” lies.
First, she breaks everything down into each individual type of lie and uses logos to convince the reader. By giving examples of how she lied four times in one day because she didn’t want to face the consequences of what she had done. She avoided a 60$ overdraft fee, and a family argument. Only to point out and show what lying can do for you and how much the truth really hurts.
Second is how different ways lies affect you. As you all know there are the white lies and the blunt lies. But, as Ericsson stated, many lies have been have been adopted into our culture such as stereotypes and clich├ęs. Also, many people don’t realize the effects of the simple lies, which Ericsson points out again with logos, showing how the stereotypes separate social classes and groups of different people because of them. Right now the Mexicans are looked at as a source of work instead of as regular U.S. citizens. Every day we face different kinds of lies, but our culture has grown accustomed to classes and different cultures, destroying the connections between the different groups of people.
Finally, lies have become part of who we are. You can be as honest as you try to be lies will still become part of you every day speech; engrained in your DNA. When ever you look at someone no matter what judge who they are yet you have no idea who they are. In our society today lies are a part of who we are, those who say otherwise are fooling themselves.

Machiavelli's Morals of a Prince

Perhaps even more famous than Plato, Machiavelli's name has become more well known as an adjective (Machiavellian) rather than the name an actual person. The main cause for Machiavelli's success in the world of rhetoric is this essay, The Morals of a Prince. To be short, people from the 16th century often discussed which moral values make a person of power and leadership such as a prince successful and not dead. Scholars from that time would say that it is better to be a good prince or a bad prince based shallow reasoning and somewhat clouded logic; Machiavelli thoroughly researched and hypothesized about this topic from an unbiased perspective that allowed him to really answer certain questions with historic proofs and logic. This put him a step ahead of his time, in my opinion, because the ability to find the answers to questions that are as sensational to different powerful groups like the church and state did not typically smile upon those of the 16th century.

The most prevalent writing trait found in Machiavelli's writing is logos. His appeal to reason is uncanny, as shown in his writing here, "....for if you exercise you generosity in a really virtuous way, as you should, nobody will know of it, and you cannot escape the odium of the opposite vice. Hence, if you wish to be widely known as a generous man, you must seize every opportunity to make a big display of your giving. A prince of this character is bound to use up his entire revenue in works of ostentation." Logos aplenty.

I would also like to note what Machiavellian refers to with respect to a person. Often times, it means, when referring to a person, that the ends justify the means to a person's case. For example, if you're a prince and you'd like to stay a prince, you wouldn't necessarily be concerned with the well-being of your populous unless it concerns you; staying a prince is the top priority, in other words. It's important to include this adjective in my analysis of Machiavelli's, The Morals of a Prince, because it is this point of view that is truly represented in his essay, which is why this essay was included in the book, 50 Essays, in the first place, and why it's an important book to read.

Just Walk On By

Just Walk On By is an essay driven by emotion and resentment. Brent Staples writes about his experiences of continually being mistaken for a criminal, as a young black male. Clearly, anger fuels Staples’ writing, yet he maintained a calmness throughout the essay and did not point fingers. He understood why females acted the way they did around him. They had a reason to: young black males are drastically overrepresented by perpetrators of street violence. Brent Staples learned this growing up around fellow African American men who ended up in jail.
At the beginning of the essay, Brent’s word choice was purposely misleading. He started out by saying, “My first victim was a woman…” This led me to think that the author was a criminal. But as I read on I realized that I had made the same mistake many other people had. As a young black male in Chicago, Brent Staples had been mistaken for a burglar, murderer, or simply a vicious man. He did an excellent job describing the fear he saw when he walked by people: “They seem to have their faces on neutral, and with their purse straps strung across their chests bandolier-style, they forge ahead as though bracing themselves against being tackled” (363).
There were a few rhetorical devices the author used that really helped him get his point across. An onomatopoeia is the use of words whose pronunciation imitates the sound the word describes. Staples uses this to create the atmosphere he often endured on pg 363 when he says, “I could cross in front of a car stopped at a traffic light and elicit the thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk of the driver- black, white, male, or female- hammering down the door locks.” Explaining how innocent he really is, Staples says, “As a softy who is scarcely able to take a knife to a raw chicken – let alone hold one to a person’s throat – I was surprised, embarrassed, and dismayed all at once” (pg 363). This is an example of an analogy, which compares two things.
In my opinion, the best use of a rhetorical device is the author’s last sentence when he uses a simile. It is about Staples’ whistling classical music being the “equivalent of the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country” (pg 365). The cowbell is supposed to warn bears to stay away, just as Brent’s whistling warns concerned strangers that he is harmless. As a white female, it is impossible for me to completely understand the experiences of Brent Staples. Even though I too have been judged by my appearance, I have no idea what it’s like have people running from me, scared. The fact that Staples would have to walk by a building he was about to enter just because he doesn’t want skittish people to think he’s following them, is unacceptable. On the other hand, Chicago has some frightening people that might be harmful. It is a difficult topic to write about, however Brent Staples drew a great portrayal of his point of view.

Why Don't We Complain

A little girl pouting because she doesn't get what she wants; a soccer player who stops running because it's too hard; or a customer at the store saying that her strawberries are no good are all ways to complain. But, when someone has something legitimate to complain about, it gets pushed aside when it really should be said. That's what I learned from William F. Buckley Jr., in Why Don't We Complain.

When looking at the writing style of William F. Buckley Jr., I find that he uses imagery all throughout his writing. He uses words to paint a picture in your mind; a picture that will help you understand his point of view. Like, when he is describing the situation on the train, where it's 85 degrees and no one musters the confidence to complain about their suffering, he includes every detail about all aspects of the situation. Such as the setting, obviously; and the characters, like the conductor who walks through eighty sweaty men and doesn't realize that anything is wrong. He also includes the overwhelmingly bad mood that everyone must be in. His writing gives you the total ability to see where he's coming from and where he draws inspiration.

One of Buckley's explanations as to why people don't complain is this: "the observable reluctance of the majority of Americans to assert themselves in minor matters related to our increased sense of helplessness in an age of technology and centralized political power." In essence, this quote means that people are surrendering their voice and opinion to the politic and technology of our technological society. This statement is one of the strongest metaphors in this essay, but it also seems to directly correlate withe the book we just read, Amusing Ourselves to Death. I found it very interesting that Buckley would make a point like this in amongst the scenarios he used to persuade the reader.

The author of this essay frequently uses his opinions and experiences to explain the reasons we don't complain. Whether it is his out of focus movies, or ironic opinions. One ironic statement he made is that "I myself can occasionally summon the courage to complain, but I cannot, as I have intimated, complain softly." This statement is ironic because he starts out needing all this courage to complain at all, but when he does complain, he's loud and outgoing. Personally, I think ironic statements make the writing stronger because the reader has to think more to understand the message.

Overall, this essay by William F. Buckley Jr. taught me that people don't say what they really feel because they don't want to complain. But, those reservations cause the people who really need to be heard to not be heard at all. And when we don't say what we really feel, how will we be heard? We wont be.

Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space

Just Walk on By: Black Men and Public Space by Brent Staples was a very interesting and thought provoking piece. Through his writing he really captured my interest and got me thinking about the role prejudice plays in our lives and the world around us. Within this essay Brent Staples used several rhetorical strategies to make his writing not only stronger, but more meaningful.

Perhaps the simplest method used within his writing is metaphors, which is the comparison of two unlike things to one another for figurative effect. He uses this strategy in statements such as, "I chose, perhaps unconsciously, to remain a shadow--timid, but a survivor (page 364)." and, "I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi...It is my equivalent of the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country." Brent Staples uses this strategy to reveal how much he had to be on guard in order to survive. By using metaphors he allows the reader to better understand the position he was in and the precautions he was forced to take.

Another extremely effective writing technique the author uses is imagery. This is where he uses descriptive writing that draws on vivid sensory details and figurative language to re-create an experience for a reader. We see several examples of this in his work in statements such as, "I was to become thoroughly familiar with the language of fear (page 363)." or "Elsewhere...where sidewalks are narrow and tightly spaced buildings shut out the sky --things can get very taught indeed (page 363)." and "They seem to have set their faces on neutral, and with their purse straps strung across their chest bandolier-style, they forge ahead as though bracing themselves against being tackled (page 363)." This technique makes very easy for the reader to better experience the story that is being told. His language is very compelling and descriptive which better engages the reader as through it they can more easily relate to either the author who has been the cause of fear or one of the women who has been the victim of fear.

Another strategy that Brent Staples seems to employ is that of self-blame. Throughout his writing he makes statements that sound as if he believes it to be his fault that people are scared and prejudiced against him. Through doing so he engages the compassion and sympathy of the readers. We see examples of this when he states, "My first victim was a woman... (page 362)" or "I now take precautions to make myself less threatening (page 365)," and "...I first began to know the unwieldy inheritance I had come into--the ability to alter public space in ugly ways (page 362)."

Another technique that is used is the way the author shows how he reacts emotionally to these situations. By showing his emotions in his writing Brent Staples shows he is only human, just like everyone else, and therefore someone the readers can relate to as they have reacted in much the same manner to situations in their own lives. You see examples of these emotions when he says, "The kind of alienation that comes of being ever the suspect, a fearsome entity with whom pedestrians avoid making eye contact (page 363-364)," and "Over the years, I learned to smother the rage I felt at so often being taken for a criminal."

Overall, I enjoyed the way the author used more intricate and complex sentences with the occasional simple, short sentence. It gave it an unique style that made it all the more enjoyable to read, aided by it's simple storyline. I found this essay to be very enlightening towards prejudices some people are forced to face everyday. Brent Staples also added in details about his past and the situations he faced that enhanced the piece to not only make it more educational and thought-provoking, but believable.



Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Douglass's "Learning to Read and Write"

In "Learning to Read and Write", Frederick Douglass uses different strategies to get his point across to you. Its amazing how much he had to go through in order to learn and write while we have it simple and don't want to. Look at all the things that he had to do, while we have more than enough things, in order to learn to read and write. Exposition and astonishment are found in "Learning to Read and Write."
Douglass has some expositional areas in his essay that if you pay attention to all the things that he has gone through, you would be able to put it together. Throughout the essay, Douglass explains how he got to write and read. He started out with his owner showing him the alphabet and why it wasn't common for slaves to know how to read and write. After a long time of just looking at the alphabet and text, he began to read and understand a bit of what it was. Letters at a nearby ship yard helped him learn to read by seeing what they meant. Writing, which he didn't have a place for, came to him by using chalk, walls and the ground. He explained all of the things that he went through to finally get reading and writing to eventually drop in place for him after a long time of hard work.
Astonishment was put in this essay by Douglass to show the types of things that all should do. First of all, the kindness of the people that were around him more than just good. He had people that gave Douglass advice on how to get free. Douglass had others that were kind by giving him tools in which he would need for the future, and he did use them. If you look around, there are not to many people that would actually take the tools that you give them and use them or even give you the tools in order for you to use, of these there are more of though. You should be one that does use the tools that are given to you instead of just putting them to waist. You should also give tool to get others going, not to put them down. What also was astonishing, was that he went through all the things above in order to learn to read and write, when we have it so easily.
Douglass uses a few strategies in, "Learning to Read and Write", this short essay to tell about all the challenges that he had to go through in order to achieve something that we think is simple. The strategies have some meaning behind them. The astonishing thing is what he did, that is something that many more people should do in their lives. Give and use tools other than wasting them is one thing that you should remember to do.

On Dumpster Diving

On Dumpster Diving describes one man's experiences scavenging dumpsters for food and whatever else he needs to survive. The author, Lars Eighner, uses a variety of rhetorical devices throughout the essay, as well as ethos, to get his point across, and lead to some more abstract ideas.

One of the main schemes Eighner uses is antithesis. For example, he use antithesis in the phrases: “...which is not so much a positive sign as it is the absence of a negative one,” and “A boxed pizza can be written off; an unboxed pizza does not exist.” The latter is also an example of parallelism, as is the sentence: “He can wipe the egg yolk off the found can, but he cannot erase the stigma of eating garbage out of his mind.”

Asyndeton is present when Eighner writes: “Boom boxes, candles, bedding, toilet paper, medicine, book, a typewriter, a virgin male love doll, change sometimes amounting to many dollars...” Another scheme used is anaphora: “I like the frankness of the word 'scavenging,' which I can hardly think of without picturing a big black snail on an aquarium wall. I live from the refuse of others. I am a scavenger. I think think it is a sound and honorable niche...”

Ethos is strongly present throughout the essay, since the author is writing about his life and what it is like Dumpster diving. You know that the author knows what he is talking about, since he has real life experience. Pathos is also used, such as when Eighner describes the dead or dying animals in the Dumpsters, and when he writes: “Dumpster things are often sad ─ abandoned teddy bears, shredded wedding books, despaired-of sales kits. I find many pets lying in state in Dumpsters,” he is appealing to the readers' emotions.

Altogether, On Dumpster Diving is a very interesting essay, which uses rhetorical devices, humor, and anecdotes to move into more important lessons, such as “the transience of material being.” These abstract ideas are pretty much summed up in these two sentences: “Between us [the very wealthy and the author] and the rat-race millions who have confounded their selves with the objects they grasp and who nightly scavenge the cable channels looking for they know not what. I am sorry for them.”

I get lost in the kitchen too.

Lost in the Kitchen by Steve Barry is an amusing story written about how men are basically hopeless in the kitchen. The story is taken from Barry’s own Thanksgiving experience in which he and his friend, Gene, unsuccessfully attempt to make themselves useful in preparing dinner. The two bumbling men are asked to carry out one specific job. WATCH THE CHILDREN. As Barry states in his essay. “You cannot watch small children and the Detroit Lions at the same time, and lets face it, the Detroit Lions are more interesting.” Barry ends his essay telling the reader about how most men rarely prepare food in the kitchen, and when they do, it’s their one special dish.

I personally found Dave Barry’s essay lighthearted and humorous, but that is not what I am going to talk about. I found quite a few rhetorical devices contained within Barry’s essay, but the one that I noticed the most was appositives. It is my opinion that Dave Barry used appositives to help his writing style to be wittier. Those few words within the commas impact the mood of the story drastically. After I first read this essay, I reread it without the appositives, and found it to be somewhat bland. The humor had seemed to just disappear from the essay.

The other thing that caught my eye was Dave Barry’s use of commoratio, which is repetition of a point several times in different words. This whole essay is about Dave Barry telling his reader how men are useless in the kitchen. He says in the first sentence “Men are still basically scum when it comes to helping out in the kitchen.” Later on the same page, Barry states “most men make themselves as useful around the kitchen as ill-trained Labrador retrievers.”

Although this essay is short, it is definitely in my opinion, one of the best essays in the bunch. He doesn’t use compassion to touch your heart, but rather his sense of humor, to tickle your funny bone!

Lost in the Kitchen Analysis

In Dave Barry's essay, Lost in the Kitchen, we are shown a humorous story about two men's ineptness at helping to prepare for their Thanksgiving dinner. However, as you look closer at the essay you find that the actual message the author is trying to convey is one of stereotypes, and how they appear everyday in our lives, even during the preparations for a simple Thanksgiving dinner. In order to convey this message he uses several strategies and techniques to draw our attention to the use of stereotypes in our lives and to help us better understand the point that he is trying to get across.

The main technique we find Dave Barry employing is the use of humor. Throughout this essay he focuses on keeping the tone light and humorous so as to entertain and yet still educate. We see him casually admitting his and others shortcomings as men and directing the humor at himself as he makes fun of his horrible behavior. In doing so, he makes this piece very easy for the reader to relate to; whether you are a woman who can sympathize with the other women in this essay as you, yourself, have had experience with men who have acted in much the same manner or you are a man who can easily relate to Dave Barry and his actions on Thanksgiving as you have acted in pretty much the same manner yourself.

Another strategy we find Dave Barry using is that of figurative language, which is imaginative language that compares one thing to another in ways that are not necessarily logical but that are nevertheless striking, original, and "true." Figurative language includes metaphors, similes and allusions. We see the use of this in the following statements, “…most men make themselves as useful around the kitchen as ill-trained Labrador retrievers (page 61).” and the statement, “I would no more enter that kitchen than I would attempt to park a nuclear aircraft carrier… (page 62)” and, “I realize this is awful. I realize this sounds just like Ozzie and Harriet (page 62).” All of these statements are being used to add to the stereotype about how useless men are in the kitchen and to enhance and get across his point that, well, these stereotypes are pretty much accurate and true.

Other techniques used include the use of assertion, which is a statement that a writer claims is true without necessarily providing objective support for the claim. This strategy can be seen in statements such as, "Men are still basically scum when it comes to helping out in the kitchen (page 61)." and, "I think most males rarely prepare food for others, when they do, they have their one specialty dish (spaghetti, in my case) that they prepare maybe twice a year in a very elaborate production, for which they expect to be praised as if they had developed, right there in the kitchen, a cure for heart disease (page 62)." These two statements are used to get across the point that men just aren't any good at helping out in a kitchen. He's not saying that's right, in fact he admits men are "scum" because of it, but he is trying to get across the point that these stereotypes do exist and are accurate.

Causal analysis is another rhetorical strategy that I observed being used. It examines the relationships between events or conditions and their consequences and can be seen at the end of the essay as Dave Barry talks about his and his wife's opinion on the issue. He states that, "Women do not make it easy to learn. Let's say a woman is in the kitchen...and the man...offers to help. So the woman says something like: "Well you can cut up the turnips." Now to the WOMAN, who had all this sexist Home Economics training back in the pre-feminism era, this is a very simple instruction. It is the absolute simplest thing she can think of (page 63)." However, his wife makes the point that, "Before Women’s Liberation, men took care of the cars and women took care of the kitchen, whereas now that we have Women’s Liberation, men no longer feel obligated to take care of the cars (page 63)."


In the end Dave Barry's humor was used to add to the simplicit tale of a Thanksgiving dinner. Through the use of rhetorical strategies and techniques he was able to talk about the issue of stereotypes without being overbearing. By making the piece light and humorous he was able to engage the reader and yet still make his point. Through acknowledging his own shortcomings he makes it easier for the reader because they can relate to his shortcomings instead of just being accused of their own. He reveals that stereotypes still exist even in his own life in a simple sentence that says, "This seemed pretty accurate to me, so I thought I'd just tack it on to the end here, while she makes waffles (page 63)."

Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain

Dead people. Not exactly my first choice of topics to read about, but the writing style displayed on the first page, and in fact in the first couple of sentences pulled me in.

Jessica Mitford, the author, describes in this essay the process corpses go through while at the funeral parlor. Her word choice is strong, taking you visually, step by step, through that process. She uses vivid imagery, describing scenes in detail so you can picture it as if you were there.

Considering the topic of the essay, I find the author’s tone quite interesting. Throughout the essay her writing has an air of sarcasm. She is informing the reader of what goes on in a funeral parlor and the process a corpse goes through, but it is almost in a joking way. Her tone seems to indicate that she finds the whole procedure of making a dead person beautiful again then letting the family view them, somewhat ridiculous.

The use of the persuasive appeals is important when trying to effectively get your point across. However, Mitford only uses pathos, the appeal to emotion, and some logos, the appeal to reason. She doesn’t use any ethos, the persuasive appeal of one’s character. She never explains what background she has in this subject; in fact, if it weren’t for the couple of paragraphs before the essay, we would have no clue why she is writing about this topic at all. This essay is good writing but with some ethos it could be stronger than it is now, more powerful, and have a little bit more of an effect on the reader.

Mitford also uses many schemes and tropes to help her convey her point of view. One of the schemes she uses several time is asyndeton, and example of which is, “and is in short order sprayed, sliced, pierced, pickled, trussed, trimmed, creamed, waxed, painted, rouged and neatly dressed…” Anaphora is also uses by Mitford, such as when she writes, “before an autopsy may be performed, before the deceased may be cremated, before the body may be turned over to a medical school for research purposes.” She also uses an oxymoron, which is a trope, when she says “He has done everything in his power to make the funeral a real pleasure for everyone concerned.” The biggest rhetorical device used was the hyperbole, because the whole essay pretty much was one, using exaggerated terms and situations to draw more attention to the topic.

While the topics of death, embalming, and funerals are not the most pleasant topics to discuss. Mitford made them interesting and even a little entertaining. Her tone, word choice, and use of rhetorical devices make this a strong, easy to read piece of writing.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Death of the Moth

A surprisingly interesting essay, The Death of the Moth contains a wide variety of rhetorical devices that make it powerful yet simple. Although it is relatively short, the author, Virginia Woolf, is still able to write a lovely, detailed story with a strong, underlying metaphor.

One of the most common tropes the author uses is simile. For example: “...until it looked as if a vast net with thousands of black knots in it had been cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until ever twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it,” is a simile Woolf uses to describe a gathering of rooks in the trees outside her window. Also: “It was as if someone had taken a tiny bead of pure life and decking it as lightly as possible with down and feathers, had set it dancing and zig-zagging to show us the true nature of life,” is a simile used to illustrate the moth and the immense amount of energy it has.

Another device Woolf uses is parallelism, which occurs when she writes: “That was all he could do, in spite of the size of the downs, the width of the sky, the far-off smoke of houses, and the romantic voice, now and then, of a steamer out at sea.” A good example of hyperbole is present when the author describes: “One could only watch the extraordinary effort made by those tiny legs against an oncoming doom which could, had it chosen, have submerged an entire city, not merely a city, but masses of human beings...”

Throughout the essay, personification is used to add even more significance to the event occurring. Life, death, and the moth are personified, and by the addition of human-like characteristics, Woolf is able to represent abstract ideas in a more concrete manner. One example of this device is shown when she writes: “Yet the power was there all the same, massed outside indifferent, impersonal, not attending to anything in particular. Somehow it was opposed to the little hay-coloured moth.” Of course the forces of nature cannot really be opposed to any certain creature, yet this description helps you become sympathetic towards the moth in its struggle against this seemingly evil force. The moth is also personified throughout the essay, several examples are: “Nevertheless, the present specimen...seemed to be content with life,” “the insignificant little creature now knew death,” and “O yes, he seemed to say, death is stronger than I am.”

By using such a simple creature's struggle against death as a metaphor, Woolf creates a beautiful essay on the fragility and impermanence of life. Her simplicity and detail keeps her essay from becoming overcomplicated, overly dramatic, or depressing. It was a surprisingly light and meaningful essay on an event that most people would probably overlook.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Compassion

Compassion is a trait that I believe everyone posses to some extent. It’s just human nature to care for someone else. My belief in this is why I choose to write about On Compassion by Barbara Lazear. Compassion by definition means to feel sympathy for another. I think this essay is one of the best essays I have ever read! I learned from it but I also confirmed my beliefs.

The first writing technique I noticed in this essay was how amazingly the essay flowed. It was very well put together and structured. There were no “choppy” spots or places where I had to re-read the sentences. Reading this essay was a pleasure because I didn’t have to think so hard about why it was written a certain way. By that I mean it was written very simply. It is also pleasing to the eye. The sentences were varied in length, from short to long.

Another technique that Barbara Lazear used, amazingly, was her word choice. Her choice of words was intellectual but not to the extent that it made me feel dumb. She used common words that got the point across. She extended a lot of information this way. Barbara told about her feelings of compassion and how her experiences of seeing the homeless has made her a more compassionate person When she talked about her own experiences I was more drawn in to the story.

I also loved how she used imagery so much in this essay! She really brought this essay to life with her description of the homeless, children being shielded and store owners giving out free food. The imagery that really got me was when she described the homeless man trying to cross the street and a woman with a child, shielding the child from the man and trying to pass him money. The imagery she used made me feel for the homeless. When I read a story, essay or book I like to be able to “feel” and “see” what is happening in the sentences. Imagery is one of the main reasons I love to read. Being able to “see” something without even seeing it is magical.

Barbara Lazear used compare and contrast in this essay. She compared how she would have treated a person to how other people treated a person. I think it’s very unique that she wrote about her own experience compared to other peoples. If she was the woman on the street she would have been kinder to the man then the women with the child who just wanted him to leave.

In conclusion, On Compassion was the best essay I read in this book. Not only was the writing superb, the topic was well chosen! Since I love reading about human behaviors I was really interested in the essay. I would recommend it to anyone who is compassionate, caring or just wants to learn. Barbara Lazear did an excellent job of writing this essay she included almost every main technique!

Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Often times I hear the media giving praise to Plato's works, describing them as highly logical, legendary, and even entertaining. So many people regard him in the highest esteem, that it seemed a waste not to read at least one of his works, maybe have an epiphany or two, and be entertained as well. After reading through the essay, however, I had realized just how intricate and difficult this analyzation would be. Upon meandering through the tidbit of The Republic that is "The Allegory of the Cave" for the second time, I decided that (I thought that his work was very difficult to understand and hard to follow. Feel free to laugh at me if I get this wrong) Plato was trying to convey that real world things are not to be labeled. For instance, a hand is something that is remembered as a picture, sound, or feeling. However, a hand is so labyrinthine in it’s entirety that you can’t expect your idea of a hand to truly encapsulate the awesome scale that a hand requires. It is therefore important to keep thinking of something as it is, not as you would picture it, so to speak.

Even my obtuse explanation of this allegory you can tell that Plato's generation, or at least Plato himself spoke in tongues that were a cluster**** of analytical gibberish (this was before the age of print, photograph, or telegraph, so things would be communicated differently as stated in Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death) which are most likely not helped by translation into the English language. There are a few major writing styles in his essay that are still employed after all the years since Plato’s time, though. One might take note of the fact that Plato's essay contains, and is based upon, allegory, an explanation of an idea through imagery or a story, to validate his views on human nature. This would be a strange move in the modern world, because we typically go to statistics, facts, and other proofs to explain our ideas. In Plato's world, however, a solid allegory is sufficient to validate most arguments. Also dominating the print of this essay would be Plato’s use of unique rhetoric. In this essay, Plato is trying to persuade his colleague, "Glaucon", to see his way of thinking through thorough explanation and assumption. Plato(Plato's translator more likely") uses a not unheard of, yet sadly unused way of explanation in which a person simply explains in detail the situation or concept; stopping to introduce a new level of detail to his concept. Another interesting writing style demonstrated by Plato is the order in which he chooses to place words in a sentence. For example, on page 285 near the bottom of the page, Plato is showing his colleague how a theoretical epiphany in his allegory is handled by human beings. It says, "...-will he not be perplexed?" Even though this sentence is grammatically correct, it certainly is a strange choice. Why not say, "It'd probably perplex him, right?" as someone from our country and time would say, or at least, "won't he be perplexed?".

While I'll say that it is somewhat of a pointless idea to try to analyze the writing styles of a piece of literature that has been translated into our language and has therefore lost most of the original literary genius of its creator and taken on that of the translator, many of Plato's underlying concepts still shine through. To me, the more important thing is to have read and tried to understand what the author was thinking in this circumstance. One could contest that my work was a complete waste of time because I am looking for the literary styles of great writers, not their translators. To that I will only say that I thought Plato would be an interesting read. It was, and I learned alot about the ways in which communication and education were delt with around the 5th century B.C.; maybe not too much about the actual writing styles of Plato, though.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lost in the Kitchen

After reading the required ten essays and a few more, I found that one essay stood out in my mind. Lost in the Kitchen by Dave Barry was entertaining, funny, and made total sense to me. The introduction grabbed my attention when the example of Thanksgiving dinner preparations came into view. Barry’s purpose in this essay was to explain why men don’t help out in the kitchen, and Thanksgiving is a perfect example. It was Barry’s opening sentence that really grabbed my attention: “Men are basically scum when it comes to helping out in the kitchen.” The word choice is what makes this sentence grab our attention. “Scum” is a harsh word to use when referring to the entire male race, but when it’s a man stating this; it softens this harsh word and lightens the mood of the essay.
As for rhetorical devices, Barry right off the bat used a simile on page 61: “…most men make themselves as useful around the kitchen as ill-trained Labrador retrievers.” On page 62, anaphora is used: “I realize this is awful. I realize this sounds just like Ozzie and Harriet. I also realize that here are some males out there, with hyphenated last names, who have advanced much farther than Gene and I have, who are not afraid to stay home full time and get coated with baby vomit while their wives work as test pilots, and who go into the kitchen on a daily basis to prepare food for other people, as opposed to going in there to get a beer and maybe some peanut butter on a spoon.” Imagery was also used in this essay to further explain why men are afraid to enter the kitchen. “Surrounding Arlene are thousands of steaming cooking containers… She quickly becomes enshrouded in steam.”
Another rhetorical device that was used on page 62 was asyndeton. “I think most males rarely prepare food for others, and when they do, they have their one specialty dish (spaghetti, in my case) that they prepare maybe twice a year in a very elaborate production, for which they expect to be praised as if they had developed, right there in the kitchen, a cure for heart disease.” This brings me to sentence length. The last example I gave you was a long sentence that carried on and on. Most of the sentences in this essay were shorter, but others were longer. There was a good balance between stretched out and compressed sentences making Lost in the Kitchen flow extremely well. Barry’s tone throughout this essay is easy going and humorous.
Contributing to the tone was the absence of statistics. Statistics were not used in this essay because it was more of an experience-based writing making it more enjoyable as I see it. Because Barry used real-life examples it made it easier for the reader to relate to what he was trying to get through. Lost in the Kitchen was a light essay, but I got a lot out of it.

Mother Tongue- -Amy Tan

After I browsed the table of contents and saw an essay by Amy Tan, I knew I had to read it. I’ve read her book, The Joy Luck Club, for a report and it was very well written. I could to relate to that novel because of the way she executed some aspects of the Chinese culture. Tan used various schemes and tropes in this essay to give more variety in her writing which also helped me to relate to “Mother Tongue.”

One rhetorical device Tan used was asyndeton. An example of that on page 403, “…grammatical phrases, burdened, it suddenly seemed to me, with nominalized forms, past perfect tenses, conditional phrases, all the forms of standard English that I learned in school and through books, the forms of English I did not use at home with my mother.” Another example, “…her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech, and the nature of her thoughts.” There were many words in the sentence with frequent comma usage and no intervening conjunctions.

In the author’s essay, many parts consisted of repeating the same word(s) in the beginning of sentences or clauses, which is the definition of anaphora. “I am not a scholar of English or literature. I cannot give you much more than personal opinions…I am a writer…I am someone who has always loved language. I am fascinated by language in daily life…” (Pg.402) Tan frequently used anaphora throughout and many times, “I”, the first person point of view was used. Her sentence fluency varied, with many short and choppy sentences and numerous long and fluent ones.

I could relate to “Mother Tongue,” because depending on the situation, the author used different types of “Englishes”. Tan spoke “broken” English with her mother, and a more sophisticated one with other people. I also sometimes speak “broken” English with some of my family (more with my grandmother and infamous uncle). Like the author, I don’t like the term “broken,” because I don’t see it as something needed to be fixed. I actually prefer the term, “Engrish,” (East Asians have a more difficult time pronouncing the letter “L.” Do you get the pun now?) because of the way I usually mix English with some Korean/Chinese words so they can understand my thoughts to a better extent, but that is just me.

Tan did an excellent job of describing society’s perception of people with accents, because I also notice it when I’m with some of my family. “…the hospital did not apologize when they said they had lost the CAT scan… She said they would not give her any more information until next time… So she said she would not leave until the doctor called her daughter…And when the doctor finally called her daughter, me, who spoke in perfect English-lo and behold-we had assurances the CAT scan would be found…” Tan’s tone seemed to be on the sarcastic side while describing her mother being discriminated for not speaking properly. She gave me a superb example of how most Americans infer that information from people who don’t speak English fluently is of less quality than people who do.

Overall, Tan excelled in using rhetorical devices. There was a good variety of sentence fluency, there was logical tone, and superior word choice was present. I like the fact that she noticed how people who speak “proper” English may look down on people who don’t. Her essay was witty, realistic, and had many interesting points which I agreed with, even before I read it.

CRITICAL ACCLAIM Critical of Criticizers (try saying that 5 times fast)

By Daniel S.

I had read William F. Buckley Jr.'s "Why Don't We Complain?" and my mind was full of thoughts of how meek we are, accepting things that we shouldn't. Then, I heard this, this song which goes on a complete opposite tangent. If it had been written as an essay, I feel it would have been titled, "Why Do We Complain (Criticize) So Much?"

My curiosity about the meaning was immediately piqued when I first heard the song. After listening to it twice and still unable to completely understand it, I looked up the lyrics and listened to it yet again. My fourth run through brought me to this conclusion, that William F Buckley Jr. was right, yet wrong at the same time.

When he wrote "Why Don't We Complain?," he wrote of speaking up, and making change happen. When Avenged Sevenfold wrote Critical Acclaim, it is my opinion that they were tired of people speaking up, but not making change. With the lyrics: "(Shh, quiet, you might piss somebody off) / Like me motherf***er you’ve been at it for too long." I got the impression that people are complaining/criticizing and they have been for too long, suggesting that instead of following their complaints up with a change being made, they were instead more willing to just continue their bewailing.

Then, when they sing, "So, how does it feel to know that someone’s kid in the heart of America has blood on their hands fighting to defend your rights so you can maintain the lifestyle that insults his family’s existence / Well where I'm from we have a special salute waved high in the air towards all those pompous a**holes who spend their days pointing fingers," it seems as though they are addressing everyone or anyone that criticizes or protests the war in Iraq. I don't think they are for or against the war, but at the very least they should be supportive of the troops for going to defend your rights.

After that, these lines seem important: "All the way from the east to the west we got this high society looking down on their very foundation. Constantly reminding us that our actions are the cause of all their problems. Pointing their fingers in every direction. Blaming their own nation for who wins elections. They never contributed a f***ing thing to the country they love to criticize." I think Avenged Sevenfold is angry with the people who seem to have nothing better to do than just point out mistakes being made and criticizing everything that goes on in the country, when they don't do anything at all to prevent or even take care of afterwards.

Finally, near the end of the song, Avenged Sevenfold states something that I think is one of the most important parts of the song. "Excuse the obscene / Ignore the untrue / Depictions we see / Try and get through / And many mistakes can hurt / I’m not the last, but I sure ain’t the first!" This final verse seems to be the point that they are trying to make. I think that it is the suggestion that everyone who listens to this song should "excuse the obscene," which I think means we should realize that mistakes happen. Then the listener should "ignore the untrue," or get the facts straight and not just make assumptions. After that they should "try and get through," or make their voices heard to those in authority; but "many mistakes can hurt," which in my opinion means that they shouldn't make the mistake of hurting society by just contributing to the whining. The listener should not criticize what is going on, but rather the listener should take action towards the right way of doing things, not necessarily the "right" as the listener thinks it is, but what is best for the whole, so that their "mistake" will not hurt. The ending of the verse suggests to me that Avenged Sevenfold wants their listeners to continue this idea, but not to make the mistake in thinking that Avenged Sevenfold is the first group to have it.

In conclusion, I think that Critical Acclaim is somewhat contradictory in the fact that it seems to be criticizing criticizers, but it is right in the way it is being done because they have suggestions for steps that should be taken instead of just sitting on our butts carping about problems we could have prevented. I suggest that you read the full lyrics to this song, listen to it (right now it's only available on their myspace, which I included a link to), and then post a comment here with your opinion of this song. And by the way, I did censor the lyrics, but you should take care in where you listen to it or who listens to it as they do swear, right away, but I think the message is a good one.

Critical Acclaim by Avenged Sevenfold
http://www.myspace.com/avengedsevenfold
(Shh, quiet, you might piss somebody off)
Like me motherf***er you’ve been at it for too long.
While you feed off all those insecurities, you stand in front of me and bite the hand that feeds.

Self righteousness is wearing thin (lies inside your head, your best friend)
I’ll bleed but not for fellow man (broken glass, you’ll fade reflection)

Telling them it’s all for something real
Don’t respect the words your speaking
Gone too far

So, how does it feel to know that someone’s kid in the heart of America has blood on their hands fighting to defend your rights so you can maintain the lifestyle that insults his family’s existence
Well where I'm from we have a special salute waved high in the air towards all those pompous a**holes who spend their days pointing fingers.

F*** you...

(Shh, quiet, you might piss somebody off)
Like the heartbeat of this country when antagonized too long
I’ll be damned if you count me in as part of your generous hypocrisy; collected and amazed.

Tabloid gossip we roll as real (There’s no need for us to bury you)
Selfish agenda, once again (right this way, you dug your own grave)

Telling them it’s all for something real
Don’t respect the words your speaking
Gone too far

All the way from the east to the west we got this high society looking down on their very foundation.
Constantly reminding us that our actions are the cause of all their problems.
Pointing their fingers in every direction.
Blaming their own nation for who wins elections.
They never contributed a f***ing thing to the country they love to criticize.

Excuse the obscene
Ignore the untrue
Depictions we see
Try and get through
And many mistakes can hurt
I’m not the last, but I sure ain’t the first!

Self righteousness is wearing thin (lies inside your head, your best friend)
I’ll bleed but not for fellow man (broken glass, you’ll fade reflection)

Telling them it’s all for something real
Don’t respect the words your speaking
Gone too far

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Two Ways to Belong in America

How do you belong in America? That was the first thing that popped in my head when I saw Bharati Mukherjee’s essay Two Ways to Belong in America. This essay was about the differences between Bharati and her sister Mira’s views on immigrants. Throughout the essay Mukherjee used rhetorical devices such as: compare/contrast, fluency, and tone. She used these in such a way that it was both interesting and easy to read.

“She, for the lack of structure in my life, the erasure of Indianness, the absence of an unvarying daily core. I, for the narrowness of her perspective, her uninvolvement with mythic depths or the superficial pop culture of this society.” (Page 273) The difference in what Bharati and Mira pity in each other is one of the many ways the girls are compared and contrasted. Bharati made it really easy to understand the uniqueness of each sister. It was also really interesting to see how different two sisters can be that are raised in the same house.

I originally thought that the continual use of the mixing sentences of different lengths choppy and hard to read. However, I found it an enjoyable essay. The sentences were smooth most of the time, but sentences that listed hampered the ability to read the essay fluently. “I’ve obeyed all the rules, I’ve paid my taxes, I love my work, I love my students, I love the friends I’ve made.” (Page 274) Some of the sentences such as that one were a little choppy, but others were smooth which balanced the essay. Such as, “I am moved that thousands of long-term residents are finally taking the oath of citizenship.” (Page 272)

The tone in this essay really stood out. It was really easy to understand the emotions that were going between the two sisters. Mira, you could tell, was upset that immigrants needed to be a citizen. “This is such an unfair way to treat a person who was invited to stay and work here because of her talent.” (Page 274) Bharati embraced the idea of becoming a citizen. “She is happier to live in America as expatriate Indian than as an immigrant American. I need to feel like a part of the community I have adopted...” (Page 275)

The rhetorical devices that Baharti used is kept me interested: the comparisons and the contrasting, the tone, and the fluency. After reading through the essay my question was answered and the answer was of course, obvious. In Baharti and Mira’s opinion, the two ways to live in America was either as a citizen or as an immigrant.

Friday, August 17, 2007

There Is No Unmarked Woman

As I looked over the table of contents in the 50 Essays Portable Anthology one essay caught my eye. There were no flashy abnormal words or highly descriptive adjectives. My eyes just caught the word woman and I wondered what Deborah Tannen meant by saying there is no unmarked woman. So following this pondering I began to read her essay. Immediately I found myself engulfed inside her words and have her incredible rhetorical devices to thank.


When one begins reading an essay, the reader always hopes that the author will start out with a “bang” so to speak. The reader wants to immediately be drawn and interested in the essay and Tannen does just that. She uses her first couple of paragraphs to hook the reader as all good writers should. The way she achieves this is she paints a scene visually with her words. It helps the reader to stay focused and entertained in the beginning so they actually want to keep reading. I’ve found it also was a good way to introduce her main points in the essay.


Word choice says a lot about an author. One can sound childish, scholarly, or even disturbed with the help of word choice. I found that Tannen came off as intellectual but casual with her choice of words. She chose no large scholarly words that most would have trouble understanding. Instead, she chose words that intellectually described her points. I found this method very pleasing while reading.


When it came to sentence structure Tannen excelled. A good variety of both regular lengths, abnormally long, and substantially short sentences could be found. She may have casually favored the longer sentence. Although, it wasn’t enough that one got annoyed with it. To conclude, sentence-wise her essay was well written.


As for fluency and tone, both appealed to me. Tannen had a smooth charming fluency with her words. I did not find a single choppy spot as I read. I never found myself having to go over what I just read, because it continued at a smooth faster pace. Personally, I found her tone to come off as slightly feminist. It may have been just the topic her essay was on, but she still seemed to almost blame men or resent them for the fact that they had the choice to be unmarked or not.


In summarization, Tannen used the help of rhetorical devices to her advantage. By using good sentence fluency, an interesting tone, fantastic word choice, and imagery she hooks and keeps the audience. My applause goes out to Tannen for creating an essay were a teen might be able to read all the way through it without pausing to reread a section because of either a lack of interest, or complexity in words.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Stunt Pilot

When choosing an essay to read, the words, “Bellingham, Washington,” stood out to me. I thought it would be interesting to read about something that took place in an area close to where I live. The Stunt Pilot is a descriptive essay about a fearless stunt pilot named Dave Rahm. The author, Annie Dillard, uses many devices to allow the reader to feel like they are also flying in the airplane.

When reading the selection, it was obvious to me that Dillard was a poet. Her sentences seem to flow, using schemes and tropes such as metaphors, personification, and other rhetorical devices. Dillard often uses similes to depict Rahm’s flying. “The plane looped the loop, seeming to arch its back like a gymnast . . . . “It played with its own line like a cat with yarn” (pg 89).

Imagery is another important device used when portraying the movement of a stunt pilot. When Annie Dillard got the chance to ride with Rham, she was amazed at the atmosphere she had entered. Annie described the nature from above clearly, “Patches of cloud obscured the snow fleetingly…mountainside coming up at the windows from all directions, ice and snow and rock filling the screen up close and screaming by” (pg 92). Dillard’s sentences are long with vivid word choice, often separated with commas and semi-colons to emphasize the intensity of the moment.

Annie Dillard constantly contrasted Dave Rahm with an artist. The movements he made with his airplane, or “paintbrush,” were a masterpiece. I believe Dillard wanted to show that the pilot’s talent was really an art form. The author had expertly illustrated Rahm’s character. Annie portrayed him as a strong man who never showed emotion. His capability to fly an airplane depended strictly on “matter-of-fact” flying; that he never revealed how he felt, or saw the art he created. His purpose was to entertain the crowd and nothing else.

I found it very interesting that the life expectancy of a crop duster pilot is only five years; that pilots will risk their lives everyday just to experience the exhilaration of flying. I couldn’t imagine any hobby of mine to be worth the expense of my life. But according to Mermoz, the early French aviator, “It’s worth the final smashup.”

Friday, August 10, 2007

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman has accurately summed up what is happening in our country today. Our brains are getting filled with unnecessary information that relates to us in no way. We hear all kinds of stories of terrible things happening like people getting killed in other states. Or countries like from the Iraq war. The majority of us are left unaffected and unconcerned by the forty-five second announcement we hear from the media friendly news announcers. Then our attention is turned to the kibbles commercial that has just interrupted the unimportant stream of information. Neil has convinced me that our country is amusing it’s self to death.
To me Postman has used logic and reason to persuade readers of what is happening in our country. How we have moved from receiving necessary information about what will affect us to being bombarded with vast amounts of irrelevance. Before television and radio news was a seldom heard item brought across the country at 35 miles per hour by train in the form of a newspaper. Now information goes from broadcasting station to satellite to your T.V. in seconds. He shows this problem constantly throughout the book bringing up analogies and metaphors. One such example is how Japanese cars are better built than American cars but they have to compete with the American car image. This is easily proven by turning to King 5 news. You find no ugly people and many irrelevant stories except maybe one item like the weather for the next couple of days. But that can always be chancy also because there are many occasions in which the weatherman is completely wrong.
In conclusion, I believe many people in our country I believe have stopped thinking. Instead irrelevance and unimportance drilled into our heads. As Postman predicted and saw in 1985 is still happening today but even more so. We have more technology, more sources of information and better ways to get it to more people. Truly we are amusing ourselves to death.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Amusing Ourselves To Death

After finally receiving a copy of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death in the mail from Amazon, I ripped it open furiously and started reading. It was already the 7th of August, way past the due date. Time had its iron grip on me, and I was being governed by it. Instead of being a "time keeper, or a time saver" I was now a "time server." But instead of speeding through it as I had been planning on doing, something caught my attention, and slowed me down a bit. This wasn't any ordinary book, this wasn't any typical novel. Neil Postman argues such an important cause, I physically had to slow down and try to better comprehend what I was reading. To some, Postman might seem a little psychic. Finishing the book in 1985 he accurately summarized what was happening in his generation but also accurately predicted what would happen in the following generations.

Concerning rhetorical devices, I believe that that Postman's primary device is Logos, which is the appeal to reason. He uses facts and quotes to persuade and reason with the reader. Quoting famous people such as Plato, Bruner, Franklin, Solomon, Aristotle, and even Jesus his various points are hard to argue with. Who would dare to argue with Jesus's paraboles or with Plato's ideas? Pathos is also used, but more sparingly. In Greek, Pathos is literally the appeal to emotion, and Postman uses this device when describing his emotions to what is happening, as well as ours and how they are both evolving.

I think that is is very obvious that the main thing that Postman is trying to do in writing this book, is to try to educate us on how we are being negatively impacted by the media, and other various devices we are setting up (time). His arguments are very valid. As I mentioned before, Postman wrote this book more than twenty years ago, and his predictions are very accurate. He talks about how our society already was starting to fall out of the Age of Typography and ascend into the Age of Television. Our current generation is totally run by the media, and it would be a scary thought to imagine what our culture would be like if suddenly our TVs, radios, and clocks stopped functioning. Surely chaos would be inevitable.

Postman's audience is everyone. From the young children who watch Jimmy Neutron, to the teenagers who watch MTV, to the adults who watch CNN this book applies to all of us. I for one have been affected and persuaded by this book, and will try to follow Postman's ideas on how to correctly and safely watch television. (If at all) So in conclusion, I understand that the media is a major part of all of our lifes and that is is unlikely that it will ever change. But hopefully, there will be more people like Postman who will try to persuade us of the dangers of our modern media culture, and hopefully there will be more AP English groups that will read, analyze, and learn from Postman's ideas before it is too late.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Graduation Through the Eyes of Maya Angelou

Graduating is one of life’s most memorable moments. This can range from a wretched time full of good-byes or a stepping-stone to greatness. Whichever way graduation is viewed, it is undeniably important. It is especially important to Maya Angelou, the author of Graduation. Angelou’s graduation was a pivotal moment in her life. She leads her audience through her graduation as if they were sitting alongside her. She does this using a variety of techniques.
Angelou’s primary method of telling her story is through imagery. She describes the scenes using a variety of techniques. One very common trope she utilizes is similes. On page 10 she describes the graduates, “Like travelers with exotic destinations on their minds…” again on page 13 when she says, “Everyone said I looked like a sunbeam.” This use of similes gives a true picture of what was going on.
The next technique that Angelou is very conscious of is word choice. The first time this really occurred to me was on page 10 when she chose to use the word “Negro.” It struck me as very important because you can get a feeling for what time period the literature was written in. For example, use of the “n” word dictates a certain time period and social feelings of the time. On the other hand, in today’s society we use the term “African-American” which has a different connotation of the word. Another word that struck me as important was “Momma” on page 11. You can make several assumptions about families based upon what they call each other.
Personification was also present frequently. On page 12 she mentions brushing withdrawal. On page 13 she speaks of a scent wafting. Additionally on page 13 she talks of the sun being young. These are all examples of inanimate objects displaying human characteristics or actions.
Foreshadowing was extremely evident in this short piece. On page 10 Angelou says, “Unlike the white school,” which gently nudges the conflict. Again on page 15 she says, “…overcome with a presentiment of worse things to come.” The mood also changed greatly with her choice of words and lengths of sentences. When things were exciting her sentences were long and descriptive. As things began to depress her, her sentences became short and sarcastic.
Maya Angelou used various techniques in this excerpt from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. She uses a variety of techniques such as personification, similes, and word choice. She also used many other techniques, which weren’t discussed. However, the important point of all of these techniques is that they amplify the imagery used in the literature. This imagery is important because it’s helping identify the mood and feel. Basically, the techniques used were chosen to help lead the audience through Maya Angelou’s graduation in terms of feeling and atmosphere.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rhetorical Analogy of Amusing Ourselves To Death

Upon finishing Neil Postman's book, I was oddly aware of how accurate his predictions were. He wrote this in 1985, and the media then was hardly the star crazed embarrassment it is now. He foresaw it snowballing into something much worse. He knew that eventually America would stop searching for the truth and allow themselves to be spoon-fed media modified lies.

As for the validity of his argument, Postman obviously knew of what he spoke but relied heavily on quotes from others. It was as if each of his ideas bloomed from those of another. He prominently used logos, appeal to reason based on logic, which was fitting for his purpose. He also used a lot of deductive reasoning, although he was slightly less general about his topic. His main strategy of persuasion was changing a perception, or changing how Americans perceive the media.

In the beginning I did not think that I was the correct audience for this book. I believed that teenagers don't have much of a direct affect on the media. Then I realized most of what is on television is specifically aimed at young adults. I realized that as the next generation, I and others my age, are exactly the people that need to be reading this book. On the other hand, I don't believe that we were Postman's original target.

I believe that Amusing Ourselves To Death was basically a cause and effect analysis. Postman touched upon the direct affects of the media, and he certainly thoroughly explained the reasons as to how they were happening. Although I disagreed with the argument, Amusing Ourselves To Death was most persuasive and Neil Postman's claim was definitely a valid one. He truly clarified exactly how far the media could take their control of the American mind.

Aren’t I a Woman?--Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth’s speech, while short, was mainly composed of rhetorical devices. Her body language throughout helped the listeners to visualize her words better, as most public speakers know. Just by skimming over the speech for the first time, I realized that it was going to be a powerful one.

Truth started out by using a rhetorical question for the title of her speech. It is unclear whether she gave it that title, or if it was chosen for her by publishers, but it seems to fit. Truth asks that question throughout; Four times to be exact. That number may not seem like a lot, but it is if you look at the length of her speech.

The rhetorical question “Aren’t I a Woman?” was added after phrases, in sequence. That would also make it an epistrophe. For example, “…-and aren’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well- and aren’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen them almost all sold off into slavery, and cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard- and aren’t I a woman?”

That last quote brings me to another scheme and trope, polysyndeton. “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles or gives me any best place, and aren’t I a woman? I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me- and aren’t I a woman?” At that point of her speech, she uses many conjunctions, like “and” as well as “or.”

Truth’s experiences explain her use of ethos. Ethos is used to establish the speaker or writer’s credentials and to provide proof that they have enough experience with that topic. She spoke of being demeaned and underestimated because she was an African-American woman. “That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles…” Truth spoke of her experiences with sexism and racism, which would mean to me that she is very knowledgeable in those subjects.

As I said before, Truth set a very powerful tone. The environment (thunder and lightning) and her gestures also helped. To me, her sentence structure seems to vary. Some parts are more fluent than others, but that is the result of using many conjunctions in some areas, but not in others. "Aren't I a Woman" was very moving and I can see why Truth’s speech was published and made famous.