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In a comparison between New Superstitions for Old and Superstitious Minds it is only logical to begin with a comparison between the titles. What is superstition, or better yet who are the people who own superstitious minds, as Letty Cottin Progrebin suggests? It can be defined as excessively credulous beliefs in and reverences for supernatural beings. Humans with superstitious minds are those who show belief in superstitions. Although both of these essays are about superstition, they are both written very differently; which can be seen through the tone, the purpose of the essay, and the effect of the essay.
The tone of New Superstitions for Old can be described as criticizing, lecturing, and somewhat belittling the reader which can be seen throughout the essay. Margaret Mead believes superstitions are a joke, which she states in her quote, “It is a kind of joke, of course, but it makes you feel safe.”(630) she is criticizing those whom actually believe that superstitions hold power over their daily lives.
Mead also claims that many do not literally believe the art of knocking on wood will remove danger (629). It seems as if she is speaking in a very sarcastic tone, implying that those who believe are acting on a childish basis. Mead also emphasizes, “Civilized people are not alone in having grasped the idea of superstitions” (631)
Purpose is a major difference between the essays; New Superstitions for Old takes a more academic and educational approach. This can be seen through Meads quote, “for we know that natural events have natural causes” (629) Margret Mead suggests that the reader is an educated individual who has the ability to comprehend the link between natural causes and effects.
This recurring theme can be seen again when the author says, “Superstitions, however, belong to the category of beliefs, practices and ways of thinking that have been discarded because they are inconsistent with scientific knowledge.”(629) it is easy to pick up the educated tone of the author, the essay as a whole seems to be more complex than others seen in the book, lastly the author goes on to talk about psychology in children when she notes, “Child psychologists recognize the value of the toy a child holds on his hand at bedtime” based on the words and meanings used it’s safe to say this essay has an educational approach.
The effect of New Superstitions for Old can be categorized into two sections; the first section dislike the essay because it made them feel attacked or it was too complex to enjoy, however while looking over a peers essay he implied that the author was merely unafraid to state her opinion and her style of writing make him think deeper into the meaning of the essay. After reading others opinions it made me question my own. How did I feel about the essay? Left me with an interest of learning more on the topic, it helped me see the connection between religion and superstition, it intrigued me to ask myself why I feel the need to have my teddy nearby ever night since I was a child of three years (630), but then I realized the answer id burred into the pages, “They allow us to keep a private world also, where, smiling a little, we can banish danger […]” the last sentence in her essay has to be one of the best.
The second essay which speaks about superstition in a different light is Superstitious Mind by Letty Cottin Progrebin. We can see the difference in tone, purpose, and the effect of the essay by looking at the explanations provided below.
I believe the tone of Letty Cottin Pogrebin in Superstitious Minds is felt as more of a personal and family oriented essay. The tone gives the reader more of a home like feeling. In the introduction of the two essays, Is Superstition a Form of Belief? The author writes, “By keeping the same rituals as her mother, Pogrebin senses her mother’s protection.”(633) Often mother is the first word that comes to mind when we think home, aside from that the opening biography paragraph it is mentions that Pogrebin had an interest in family politics (633). It can clearly be seen that the author wanted to keep a connection between herself and her mother from this we can conclude that they had a proper relationship; she insists those small superstitions are what keep her mother with her (635). Through this essay Letty Cottin Pogrebin allows us to see a glimpse of her person life.
The purpose of this essay is more of an informative, entertaining, and somewhat passing down a story. Letty Cottin Pogrebin begins her essay with the word “I” this conditions the reader to expect more of an opinion based. Pogrebin tells the reader a little about herself in the first sentence then moves onto explaining different stories and events of her life, when she was growing her mother would sneak into her room at night and remove evil spirits from her body (634). Another story she shared was about a poster, when she was a teen she said something along the lines of, “it will hang over my dead body” her mother respond, she tore it to pieces (634). Letty Cottin Pogrebin tell numerous of different stories about her mother, children, and childhood, none based on logical facts, they are simple and entertaining.
In Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s essay Superstitious Minds the effect of the essay is a bit emotional it reminds the reader of those little things in life that mean the most. Many of my fellow students enjoyed this essay but a few felt as if it were a bit shallow, I personally think it’s a lovely essay, a tribute to the mother, it triggered some emotions in my heart. Sure the mother in the essay seemed to believe in superstations a little too much but the reader needs to keep in mind the environmental factors she faced, she had no control over her life (634). This essay left me with a beautiful bitter-sweet feeling when the author said, “My mother never lived to know David, but he knew she would not want the moon to shine upon him as he slept” after reading that sentence my eyes became a bit teary.
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