Employing simple anecdotes, William F. Buckley argues in his essay “Why Don’t We Complain”, that as people continue to ignore rudimentary issues, their passivity is transferring into political indifference. Buckley begins with a simple story of how “train temperatures in the dead of the winter… climb up to 85 degrees without complaint” and how “For generations, Americans who were too hot, or too cold, got up and did something about it”. Although there were many passengers on the train, all visibly uncomfortable, no one said a word to the conductor about the issue. Buckley implies that the recent disinclination of Americans to speak up about a problem with a simple solution is only the beginning of a mute American population, muteness already visible in politics. Buckley blatantly states “the observable reluctance of the majority of Americans to assert themselves in minor matters is related to our increased sense of helplessness in an age of… centralized political and economic power”. Less and less people step up to fix minor matters, such as the heat on train. Buckley equates this hesitance in simple issues to be the mirror of the lack of voice in politics from the general population. As minor incidents are simply brushed aside, political opinions will continue to progressively be suppressed. 2. “Serving in Florida” Question 2
In the essay “Serving in Florida”, Barbara Ehrenreich describes individuals she works with through direct comparisons of how they adapt to survive in poverty. Ehrenreich speaks with her co-worker Gail, who is “thinking of escaping from her roommate by moving into the Days Inn” which is 40 to 60 dollars a day, forcing Ehrenreich to reflect on her own living situation, only “made possible by the $1,300 [she] had allotted [herself]… when [she] began [her] low-wage life”. Obviously the living conditions for Gail and Ehrenreich are deplorable, but through the direct comparison of their situations, Ehrenreich depicts the constant struggle for necessities continually endured by people such as Gail. Ehrenreich portrays the healthcare, describing how “If you have no money for health insurance you go without routine care…. And end up paying the price”, such as Gail, who “spends $9 a pop” on unnecessary medication only needed due to her lack of coverage, as well as Marianne, whose “boyfriend lost his job as a roofer…
after getting a cut on his foot for which he couldn’t afford the prescribed antibiotic”. Ehrenreich reflects on the fact that if this were actually her life she wouldn’t be doing much better, expressing the intimate details of poverty through her co-worker’s trials and triumphs compared to her own. The examples of the individuals she encounters while experiencing this life are effective standing on their own, but wrapped into the story of Ehrenreich’s experiences allows the general population to grasp the harsh reality of poverty.
3. “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” Question 3
Zora Hurston’s use of details in “How It Feels To Be Colored Me” summarizes her thoughts, allowing her to expound on great imagery and make her message easily comprehendible and relatable, strengthening her points. Hurston begins with pointing out the “contrast” between single white and colored people in the crowd of opposite pigment, depicting a scene at a jazz club where “the great blobs of purple and red emotion have not touched [the white man]. He has only heard what I felt… He is so pale with his whiteness then and I am so colored”. Hurston not only hears the soul music, but also feels it, allowing herself to travel with the music through her imagination; something the white man was seemingly incapable of doing. The single detail of sharp contrast when different pigmented skin colors stand alone among a crowd allowed Hurston to take flight into the anecdote from the jazz club, allowing her to emphasize her point that there are some cultural difference among whites and colored people. Hurston then goes on to express that “at certain times I have no race, I am me” and then continues to illustrate people as bags, whose contents could be “dumped in a single heap and… refilled without altering the content of any greatly” and even adds that “a bit of colored glass more or less would not matter”. Her descriptions of people’s content being the same through images of junk in old bags allows her to drive home the point that people aren’t all the different, no matter the appearance. The small detail of Hurston claiming she has no race allows her to plunge into the powerful bag metaphor, effectively portraying her conception of race. Hurston’s simple details followed by powerful yet perceptible images powerfully portray her thoughts and points on racial conflict. 4. “No Name Woman” Question 2
In “No Name Woman”, Maxine Kingston’s ancestral line serves as a life lesson, whereas in “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”, Alice Walker inherits culture and hope. Kingston recounts the first time hearing of her aunt “who killed herself” due to the fact that she was pregnant, and “could not have been pregnant… because her husband had been gone for years”; the mom adds a reminder: “Don’t humiliate us. You wouldn’t like to be forgotten as if you were never born”. Kingston’s aunt disrespected the honor of her family and her village by her lack of faith to her husband, and creating another person dependent on the village for food, which is always scarce. Her ancestry and aunt serve as a lesson to always respect family and their well being, or risk being forgotten forever. In sharp contrast to Kingston’s story, Walker’s experiences stem from her mother, describing “her face, as she prepares the Art that is her gift” as “a legacy… for all that illuminates and cherishes life” and “respect for possibilities- and the will to grasp them”. Walker’s memories of her mother gardening, her “art”, allowed her to connect her mother’s trials and tribulations in her art to the other black, women artists in history. This connection formed a realization and motivation that Walker is capable of following her dreams as well as finding success. Kingston and Walker receive different messages from their ancestors, one as a reminder not to make a grave mistake, and the other as a message of hope and possibility. 5. “On Being A Cripple” Question 2
In Nancy Mair’s essay, “On Being A Cripple”, Mair proudly declares that “As a cripple, I swagger”, conveying that the disease does not lessen her as a person, however that society also needs to address the brutality being crippled imposes. Mair bluntly states “I am not a disease” and that “I may be frustrated, maddened, depressed by the incurability of my disease, but I am not diminished by it”. Mair uses the word “swagger”, meaning to strut with an insolent or defiant air, in order to relay that although she may be slightly physically debilitated by her disease, it does not make her any less dignified, or “diminished” than any one else. Although Mair has MS, she is declaring to the public that she is still strong, and refuses to be defined by her disease. Mair refers to herself as a cripple, seeing that “people – crippled or not – wince at the word ‘cripple’, as they do not
‘handicapped’ or disabled’… Whatever you call me, I remain crippled” and asserts that “society is no readier to accept crippledness than to accept death, war, sex, sweat, or wrinkles”. The use of the word “cripple” in this essay allows Mair to force society into facing the blunt and unsophisticated reality of being crippled, something which the words “handicapped” and “disabled” allow them to bypass. Although Mair expresses her strength and compassion from having MS, she also wants society to understand that no matter what word is used to describe the diseased, it doesn’t lessen the impact of the disease or make it any more bearable. Mair’s essay reflects that MS does not characterize her, yet that people need to stop sugar coating and ignoring the realities of disease. 6. “Two Ways To Belong in America” Question 2
Through the essay, “Two Ways to Belong in America”, Bharati Mukherjee compares herself to her sister, Mira, while at the same time on a larger scale comparing life as an immigrant American to life as a resident alien. Mukherjee wrote this essay in order to “address a movement in Congress to take away government benefits from resident aliens” (description) and comments that “My sister is an expatriate, professionally generous and creative, socially courteous and gracious and that’s as far as her Americanization can go. She is here to maintain an identity, not to transform it”. Mukherjee adopts America as her new life and culture, whereas her sister Mira maintains an Indian identity and will return home as soon as she can. Although they both came to America in the same situation, their approach to American ways created two very different lives and impressions to other Americans and the government. Mukherjee explains that while “I embraced the demotion from expatriate aristocrat to immigrant nobody, surrendering those thousands of years of ‘pure culture’… She retained them all” and “is the voice… of an immigrant community of the millions who have stayed rooted in… one ancestral culture… for the entirety of their productive years”. Although Mukherjee directly compares herself to her sister, she also realizes that her sister speaks for many in her same situation, allowing the essay to stand as a comparison not only between two sisters, but also between two different lifestyles as an immigrant in America.
7. “I Just Wanna Be Average” Question 2
In Mike Rose’s essay, “I Just Wanna Be Average”, he describes two educational limitations, the limitations set by his school, and the limitations he brings upon himself, which seemingly dictate his future after school. Rose explains that his school “relied on a series of tests… for placement” and “I was placed in the vocational track”, where “you’re defined by your school as “slow” and “placed in a curriculum designed not to liberate you but occupy you”. Although Rose’s placement in the vocational track was an accident, he was never challenged academically until the mistake was realized two years later; By then he was quite behind in the curriculum. The school’s reliance on the “tracks” for students, varying from vocational to college prep, determine the student’s level of education and typically their future after high school, which from Rose’s knowledge, are barriers students typically never overcome. Not only was the level of teaching Rose received his only boundary, but also the learning limitations he set on himself. Rose states, “I was undisciplined” and thought “why work hard in a class that didn’t grab my fancy?” and remembers feeling “embarrassment and frustration and… some anger in being reminded once again of my longstanding inadequacies”. Rose’s own lack of academic vigor held him back, which he didn’t realize until his embarrassment and difficulties in the college prep track. Rose was a rarity; He didn’t allow the academic barriers created by his school and himself to pave his future – he followed his own path.
8. “In Regarding the Pain of Others” Question 2
In “Regarding the Pain of Others”, Susan Sontag asserts many things in regards to the effect photographs induce on people, first stating facts leading up to her claims, then backing them up with factual evidence leading into another assertion. Sontag begins with referencing to “beautifying” and how it is a “classic operation of the camera” and “tends to bleach out a moral response to what is shown”, allowing her to lead into her argument about “uglifying, showing something at its worst” in order to “invite an active response”; yet that for “photographs to accuse… they must shock”. Sontag first alludes to beautifying in order to lead in to her allegations
of uglifying for shock. Sontag begins with factual evidence creating a logical path to her allegations, in order to create stronger and more plausible claims. Sontag provides an example for her statement, stating, “Canada… decided to supplement the warning printed on every pack of cigarettes with a shock photo” but continues on to say that “shock can become familiar” and that “one can become habituated to the horror of certain images”. Sontag first provides an example backing up the effects of shock photographs through research done in Canada, then with the same evidence, leads into another opinion. The clever use of factual evidence not only to support previous opinions and lead into another assertion constructs an easy and believable read, and creates the wavering borderline of an exploratory essay or an essay based around an argument.