Eye Witness Essay
This essay is based on “The Story of an Eyewitness” by Jack London and “Leaving Desire” by Jon Lee Anderson. “The Story of an Eyewitness” talks about how the San Francisco earthquake and fire destroyed the city in 1906. “Leaving Desire” talks about a victim of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. London and Anderson’s coverage of these disasters are different in several ways. Some examples of their differences are portrayed in the author’s purpose, the achievement of their purpose, and the authors focus.
– Purpose for Writing
London’s purpose for writing is to describe the destruction of San Francisco from the earthquake and fire. London describes the effects the disasters had on the city. For example, “The earthquake shook down in San Francisco hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of walls and chimneys… I passed through Union Square. It was packed with refugees. Thousands of them had gone to bed on the grass. Government tents had been set up…” this describes how the disasters had an effect on the living conditions in the city.
London describes the attitude of the people in San Francisco, which is sort of a hopeless feeling because they knew that their valuables and their own selves couldn’t be rescued. In the text, “ ‘yesterday morning’ he said, “I was worth six hundred thousands dollars. This morning this house is all I have left. It will all go in fifteen minutes. ” The victim of the earthquake has an attitude of ‘there is nothing I can do’ (hopeless), and London doesn’t really state it but its apparent by what the victim says. London Also describes the remains of San Francisco, which is barely anything.
In the article he writes, “San Francisco is gone. Nothing remains of it but memories and a fringe of dwelling houses on its outskirts. ” This plainly states that everything is gone, but further into the article (page 413) he builds it up in description. Anderson’s purpose for writing is to create the mood of empathy in the reader from the victim’s experience. Anderson has also witnessed heartbreaking things in New Orleans, for example, “As the water rose, they took refuge in the choir loft. They stayed there for eight days, drinking the water the storm washed in.
We were down to our last two crackers. ”…” That created an empathetic mood because the old married couple barely made it through these eight days and only had little to eat and unsanitary drinking water. Anderson learns how the disaster effected the main victim in this article, Lionel Petrie. For example “Petrie took a step back on his porch…”Can I take my dog with me? ”… “I hate this. ” Then she said to him, “I am so sorry Mr. Petrie, but, no, they won’t allow us to take animals. You will have to leave him here. …” This creates a mood of empathy because thinking he probably loved his dog very much it would be hard to leave him there to perish in the storm.
Anderson gives details about what Petrie had to witness in his town. For example “As we made our way down Desire, Petrie looked around him at the devastation, his neighbors houses submerged in water. He said “Oh my God. I had no idea. ” Petrie’s shocked and disturbed feeling really advances the mood of empathy in the article because he is so overwhelmed and hurt by what he saw, thinking it wasn’t going to be as bad as it was.
How Purpose is Achieved London achieves his purpose by using descriptive language and words/terms. He describes his surrounding and the destruction of the city, like he says, “The streets were humped into ridges and depressions, and piled with the debris of fallen walls…The steel rails were twisted into perpendicular and horizontal angles. ” London describes what the city looks like by using descriptive words such as depressions, horizontal, perpendicular, steel, and twisted. He also discusses the people of San Francisco and their reactions about what happened or what was to come.
For example “Try that piano. Listen to its tone. There are a few like it. There are no horses. The flames will be here in fifteen minutes. ” This victim doesn’t state that he has given up on trying to be saved but the words he says expresses that he has lost all hope. London tells how everything is destroyed in the city by repeating the same descriptive phrase. He says, “Its industrial section is wiped put. Its business section is wiped out. Its social and residential section is wiped out…” London describes sentence by sentence how all together San Francisco s gone.
Anderson’s purpose is achieved by getting a primary source and being a primary source of the aftermath of the hurricane. He was able to get information about Petrie’s sad experience. For example “Petrie explained that his wife and son and daughter had left the city… He didn’t know where his family was now…” The author creates an empathetic mood by getting the reader to think about losing our family members or not knowing where they were and wondering if you would ever see them again. Anderson tells about Petrie’s worries and fears of the unknown.
For example “Petrie told me that he was worried about his aunt Willa Mae Butler: “She’s about eighty-two and lives on… I’m worried she’s dead, because this time she said she wasn’t going. ” Petrie is unsure about his families’ safety and that actually creates a mood of sympathy. People have experiences this in natural disasters like the earthquake in the fall of 2011. Anderson uses the surroundings to create a mood of empathy in the reader. For example “A boat came up and deposited an elderly black couple… They took refuge in the choir loft.
They stayed there for eight days, drinking the water the storm washed in. ” This creates a mood of empathy through the surroundings because he saw the couple and heard what they went through and its heartbreaking they had to go through it. – Focus of the Author London focuses on San Francisco as a whole. He focuses on how the earthquake had an impact on the entire city. For example “San Francisco is gone. ” He doesn’t say one specific area of the city is gone, but the entire San Francisco. London also tells about where the fire hit and where it was heading.
He writes, “I sat on the steps of a small residence on Nob Hill… To the east and south at right angles, were advancing two mighty walls of flame… I went inside with the owner of the house on the steps of which I sat… “The flames will be here in fifteen minutes. ” London tells where the flames were a citizen of San Francisco tells when the flames will be in fifteen minutes. London gives information about how the victims, or soon to be victims, reacted to the danger (fire), for example “He was an old man and he was on crutches. Said he: “Today is my birthday.
Last night I was worth thirty thousand dollars. I bought some delicate fish and other things for my birthday dinner. I have had no dinner, and all I own are these crutches. ” The old man seems to be very disappointed that the fire has destroyed everything he owned. His reaction to the disaster is disappointment. Anderson’s main focus is on Lionel Petrie and Ninth Ward of New Orleans. He only covers one part of New Orleans in the story. For example “Alladio was out on a search for trapped survivors… in one of the poorest and worst-hit parts of the city, the Ninth Ward, in eastern New Orleans.
That basically tells what area the article mainly focuses on. Anderson’s article is based on the experience of Lionel Petrie and barely anyone else’s. For example “Petrie explained that his wife and son and daughter had left the city by car, heading for Baton Rouge… he didn’t know where his family was now, and if he left, they wouldn’t know where he was. ” This tells about Petrie’s experience in not knowing whether he would see his family again. Anderson is writhing about Lionel Petrie who lived in Ninth Ward of New Orleans so that would most likely be the place Anderson would cover and focus on.
In the story it says, “When I first saw Lionel Petrie, he was standing on the second story porch of his house, at the junction of Desire Street and North Bunny Friend, in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. ” This is the first sentence of the entire article so apparently it is about Lionel Petrie who lived in Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
– Conclusion In conclusion London’s purpose, achievement of purpose, and focus, differ from Anderson’s. They both use their differences to cover the disasters in their articles. Though the author’s methods of reportage were different, both were very effective in achieving their purposes. (Jon Lee Anderson)
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 September 2016
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