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Air of Donora Essay

The heavy Air of Donora is a classical art work that relays the untold truths relating to air pollution and how it affects lives. Devra Lee Davis, who is an epidemiologist and a visiting professor in public policy at the Carnegie Mellon University, gives an account of what pollution really is and how families are affected and do nothing due to ignorance, corruption, negligence and poverty. The senior World Health Organisation advisor’s work was among finalists in the national book award in 2002.

The article is adapted from When Smoke ran like Water: Tales of Environmental Deception and the Battle Against Pollution, and is a grim revelation of the effect that pollution had on the lives of people of Donora. The article starts by relating the experiences of the Jews during the holocaust. A story of a Jew family and how some of them managed to escape the holocaust is brought out. According to the author, the experiences that the Jews went through made them immune and when they are asked to relate their experiences they rarely respond.

The author relates the experience of a family of Jew bakers who were spared because Nazi’s required bread. The mayor in this case was used by the Nazi’s to force the family into meeting their needs lest they be killed. Lee Davis goes ahead to develop a relationship between air pollution and the Jew holocaust. Lee Davis states that the relationship should not be mistaken for her misconception of the bloodiness with which Hitler’s army and Nazis butchered Jews rather it should be taken for the significant correlation between the holocaust and the effects that environment pollution has on people.

Donora, PA is a small town where “everyone knows everyone”. The writer vividly creates a picture of Donora as being a small township in a rural setting where children roam freely and life is generally carefree. A first hand account is employed where the author takes on the role of a child growing up in a typical Donora family. A short history of an iron mill that was started in 1900 and was central to the development of a church, a league club and eventually the development of Donora is narrated.

According to the article, dinner times, school recesses and PTA meetings were all announced by the mill whistles which are a clear depiction of how the peoples’ lives were affected by the mill. To put it plainly either one worked in the mill or worked to cater for those who worked in the mill. The narrator’s family moved to Pittsburgh in the 1950s after the mills were shut down and like the Jews nobody spoke about what was happening.

Despite the narrator having stayed in the air polluted Donora, he had no idea that it was polluted until college when he stumbles on an article that stated that Donora was polluted. The narrator’s mum accounts to the narrator in a reminiscent tone of the extent of pollution in Donora. In a single day the mills could burn as much coal as all homes in Pittsburgh. Donora relied on coals and its existence implied that the township was active though the irony is it was also the cause of its downfall. The writer goes to great detail to explain the process of making steel and coke and how it leads to pollution.

When a huge smog covered Donora and people went about their business as usual, death of at least 48 people was recorded and many more developed respiratory complications. The manner in which the authorities responded according to the author was inhuman and may have been central to the suffering that some of the narrator’s relatives and close friends have to go through currently. Analysis There is only one reason as to why the articles or more precisely the book that it has been extracted from reached the national awards final; the book is great.

The author uses both style and content to keep the reader intrigued. Explanations are quite clear and the manner in which the article moves the reader from one setting to another across decades makes it an interesting piece. However, the reader has to be keen to avoid getting lost in time. Most books that discuss the effects of pollution take on a completely scientific approach and bore the reader before even going past the preface. This is not the case for one cannot even know that the main theme that underlies the article is environmental pollution till they are deeply engrossed.

To keep the reader engrossed and interested the author employs imagery, animation and a first person account of how pollution affected the lives of the people of Donora. The author’s choice of words make the situations appear real and her vivid description of events creates a good understanding of how coal industries pollute air and the failure of relevant authorities in addressing pollution arising from negligence and corruption. The author successfully relates air pollution and holocaust for the keen readers though this may be missed by junior reader.

By creating a relation that in either case the people have nowhere to run to, the people in power to protect them are the same who propagate injustice against them, the effects are both short and long-term and cannot be easily forgotten, few want talk about their experiences and deaths are experienced, the author brings out the grief and seriousness with which man should treat air pollution. A strong point of the literary piece is the author’s ability to balance between content and style.

No one can deny the fact that the author’s style is unique and is a key consideration in the book’s nominations to the national awards, but that is not all that the books has to offer. The author uses her profession as an epidemiologists and a WHO advisor to bring out an understanding of industrial air pollution and the effects it has on the society. Her ability to manipulate the terms and situations that lead to pollution in an industrial environment is a reflection of her mastery and so is the vivid picture that she is able to create in the minds of her readers.

The objective of the article which revolves around creating awareness on air pollution and how it is propagated is well met. The article can be considered a contemporary literal material or a research resource at all levels of study. Conclusion A good literal piece is defined by its content and style (Eagleton, 2008). If anyone is interested in literature be it analysis of style or theme, the article is an ultimate resource.

However, the article requires well developed analytical skills and attention to be able to keep up with the author as she changes her approach depending on the issues being addressed and moves across time. One can read the article in one sitting due to the author’s approach and the manner in which information is presented is bound to live a lasting impression on ones perception of air pollution. Word Count: 1173 References Eagleton, T. (2008). Literary Theory: An Introduction. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press.


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