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“A Word About Words” Havel Evaluation Essay

Havel’s essay entitled “”A Word About Words,”” Havel came to the conclusion. We have an ethical duty to always be suspicious of words. The three arguments Havel makes to support this claim are that we’ve always believed in the power of words to change history, and all events in the real world always have their prologue in the realm of words. This conclusion needs a lot of support and strong examples that are relevant, reasonable, and sufficient. Havel’s first argument is that we’ve always believed in the power of words to change history. He supports this argument with two pieces of work that have had an effect in history. The first is an essay called “Two Thousand Words” which was a story for invading a country and the second is a one page passage called “A Few Sentences” that was capable of shaking the whole structure of a country. The examples Havel used are both relevant, and argumentative because they are both examples where words have had an impact on events in the past.

They are both reasonable examples that I find believable, and I feel these examples are sufficient enough to make this argument legit. Havel’s next argument is that words that are similar can be twisted. Havel cites how Marx, Freud, and Jesus have had their words twisted to meet any meaning over time to suit the needs of different people. The words of these people have been used for evil things and good things over time and this is sufficient proof that Havel’s argument is sufficient, reasonable, and relevant. Havel also cites how the word peace can be used for great things, but has also been used to justify horrible things like the massacre of many people. When reading Havel’s essay, it appears that he loves the word peace, even though he is argues against it. He even goes as far as calling it beautiful. Havel also goes into detail about his experience with the Czech people and how they’ve learned to not trust words. They have learned that those in power will use words to manipulate, and that words don’t always mean what one would assume. Havel cited many examples for this argument to make it clear.

He believes that those of us who live under a government that believes in free speech may have trouble understanding how much words can be misinterpreted because they’ve never had the need to examine words. Some of these examples are unexplained clearly in his essay, but the example of the Czech people is a good example of what we should be doing as a society with words. This argument, especially with the last two examples, is sufficient. The argument could be worked on, to be more relevant, I feel it is relevant enough to get the point across. I also feel the argument is reasonable because it shows how words shouldn’t be mistreated and shows an example of a society that questions words before believing them. Havel’s third argument is that all important events in the real world, always have their introduction into the realm of words. He cites his colleague Andre Glucksmann who said: “to listen carefully to the words of the powerful, to be watchful of them, to forewarn of their danger, and to proclaim their dire implications or evil they might invoke.””

The Czech people’s response to the words said by the government is an example of this. The people learned not to trust the government because their words are dangerous and are often manipulative. He goes on to say that the Czech people are now better equipped because they are wary of generalizations and clichés. Havel was passive with this part of his essay. He could have provided a better example for this to make a stronger argument. I don’t feel this argument is sufficient, relevant, or reasonable because it isn’t clearly stated. Overall, this essay had some very interesting points to consider. Havel is clearly an intelligent man, but I have one main comment on this essay.

Havel didn’t organize it as well as he could have. Trying to figure out what he was referring to in many of his examples was difficult for someone who isn’t part of his very limited target audience. He did a good job at using phrasing to emphasize his main points, but his examples and reasoning for his beliefs were hard to understand and hard to find in his essay. I agree with Havel’s main point in the essay, but I feel that part of the reason why I agree with it is I felt the same way before I read it. I don’t feel like it is strong enough to change someone’s mind if they were stuck on the idea that they don’t need to be skeptical of words in a country with free speech.

The argument would be enough, if someone hadn’t thought about it before or had no opinion on the issue. The main part of it that made the argument weak was the effort needed to understand Havel’s main argument along with his reasoning. Overall I feel that Havel’s argument is sufficient, reasonable, and relevant, but I feel that he could have explained it better to get his point across to a wider range of people. After reading Havel’s writing, it took me a few attempts to finally understand some of what he was talking about.


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