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“Spider Woman’s Granddaughters” by Paul Gunn Allen Essay

In the introduction of Spider Woman’s Granddaughters, by Paul Gunn Allen, she provides background information pertaining to Native American history and culture. The purpose of this preface is to offer the knowledge necessary to understand the stories. She achieves this goal with the employment of the rhetorical strategies pathos and reference to authority.

Allen strongly utilizes pathos. Her use of vocabulary conveys an extremely negative perception of the Anglo-American interactions with the Native Americans. Allen initially describes a road that travels through an Indian Territory in Oklahoma as a “beautiful drive, lined tastefully with billboards” however then reveals that the roadside signs mark the sites of “starvation and slaughter”. She continues to portray Anglo-Americans as “insidious” and “pernicious”. Allen also illustrates the affects of the “massacring” of the Native Americans: “our numbers were horrifyingly diminished”. These desperate, emotional words are deliberately used to provoke pathos effectively.

Allen’s reference to authority compliments her appeal to emotion, as her points are represented with the words and opinions of indubitably respected figures. She shows the stubborn and misunderstanding views of Senator Dawes: “He noted that Indian people had a good literacy rate, adequate food and shelter, medical care for all, and a thriving economic base, but he was disturbed because they continued to live communally.” She includes this adamant refusal of the Indian lifestyle that was ultimately the cause of the suffering and injustice endured by the Native Americans, and reflects it in the words of an American leader.

Allen exhibits the opinion of William Brandon: “Of the approximately 150 million acres owned by the Indians in 1880… over ninety million acres… were extracted from the Indians’ pocket.” She also alludes directly to the holocaust by describing the westward expansion as such, and provides further allusion by relating schools to concentration camps.

Paul Gunn Allen’s use of the rhetorical strategies of pathos and reference to authority create a nearly irrefutable vision of the Native American’s inauspicious history. Given this overview, the reader is provided the necessary intellect to fully comprehend the stories.

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