english report and need a sample draft to help me learn.
Write a paper where you identify one of the disciplinary perspectives described in the first milestone assignment and explore how that discipline constructs arguments by establishing claims, identifying evidence, and connecting both using implicit and explicit assumptions. Identify six high-quality academic sources written by scholars of that specific discipline and examine the reasoning and analytical processes they use. Carefully read and annotate each source and then consider the following questions as you develop your response:
What are the standards of evidence, support, and justification?
What are the dominant assumptions and beliefs within the discipline?
What are the consistent means of interpretation of data and evidence?
What are the common methodological approaches used by scholars in the discipline?
How do your beliefs, values, and assumptions compare with those of the discipline you have examined?
While the rough draft of this assignment is 500 words of original writing, keep in mind that before it can be included in the final portfolio, you will need to revise and extend this milestone into a final draft that is a minimum of 1000 words of original writing. In addition, prepare an audio or video note that will be submitted with your final portfolio in which you discuss your approach to completing the assignment, your original thoughts during the outlining and drafting stages, and the strategies you used during the revision process.
Why do I want you to do it?
This aligns with CLO 2 and CLO 4.
How do I want you to do it?
A minimum of 500 words of original writing (Final Portfolio Draft: 1000 words).
A references list with a minimum of 6 sources published with at least one linking in-text citation to each entry in the references list. These sources must all be high-quality studies, formal reports, academic books, or peer-reviewed studies. You can obtain these sources from the library’s databases (e.g., Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, ERIC) or an affiliated scholarly repository. In general, if a source does not have expert authors who study the topic professionally, does not examine the subject using a defined disciplinary approach, and lacks a references list, it does not qualify as a scholarly source.
Double-spaced text, with no extra spacing before or after paragraphs, written in 12-point Times New Roman font, with standard margins (1″ on all sides).
Proofread to be free of all grammatical and spelling errors.
Close adherence to all assignment directions.
Formatted in MLA 9.
Submitted in the Microsoft Word file format (.docx or .doc).
67 5 DEVELOPING RESPONSES TO READINGS: ESSAYS o discover how your reading relates to your own patterns of thinking or your image of the world, you must develop your responses into extended, coherent statements. The argumentative essay establishes your position either agreeing or disagreeing with an idea you have read about. The essay comparing reading and experience allows you to explore how your reading relates to those experiences that have helped shape your thinking; on the basis of your experience you can begin to evaluate the validity of what you read. These two forms of essays will enable you to thoughtfully choose and defend positions, a necessary skill in all professions. T
68 Part 1 Writing About Reading Argument The privacy of making annotations and keeping a reading journal allows you to explore your reactions without committing yourself to any public statement, but sometimes you must take a stand on what you read. On a philosophy exam, in responding to a business report, or in a late-night bull session, you will be cornered into agreeing or disagreeing with something you have read. It starts in school, when you are asked to agree or disagree with one statement or another in an exam question. Lawyers argue against the opposing lawyers’ briefs; the judge agrees with one side or the other. Managers must argue for or against proposals affecting corporate decisions. Technical experts must give their opinions about projects. Political life is a constant debate. The more important and public the situation is, the more focused, developed, and organized your argument must be. A random catalog of your top-of-the-head opinions—as expressed in annotations and journal entries—will not form a coherent, well-developed response. Your thinking must go through several stages of development before it can lead to an argumentative essay. Understanding and Developing Arguments Because each argumentative situation is different, you will find it useful to think through the elements of each situation. These can be expressed in a few simple questions. With whom are you arguing and why? First and most obviously, you need to know with whom you are arguing and why. In an argument you define your claims or beliefs in opposition to the claims of another person. But why would you want to oppose yourself to someone rather than just try to get along in an agreeable way? You usually argue only at special times when you have something to gain, protect, or help. If somebody accuses you of a crime and brings you to court, you certainly need to argue in your own defense to avoid fines, a penalty, and a criminal record. It is so important that you do this well that you will probably hire a lawyer to argue for you. Or you may argue with a friend to keep him or her from making a mistake. If you want to gather votes for your candidate, you may argue with someone who you hope may come to vote your way. If you are working cooperatively with someone else and need to agree on some plan of action, you may each argue for your separate proposals so that you can together make the best decision. And if you want to understand an issue more deeply, you may argue with someone thoughtful who holds an opposite opinion. In each case you identify a specific person with whom you are arguing and perceive a benefit coming from the argument. If you do not identify whom you are arguing with and why, you are likely to get into useless, unfocused quarrels or to miss important situations in which you really do need to present your differences. More importantly, your arguments will probably not lead to any kind of useful resolution. You will end up quarreling just for the sake of quarreling unless you know what you want to accomplish and drop the debate when you have either achieved your goal or recognized that you cannot gain anything by further attempts at persuasion. If you and your friend support opposite political parties, for example, a disagreement over a candidate could lead to a continuous quarrel. You can contain the debate by recognizing that you will never convince each other and that your friendship is more important than politics. Or you may recognize that it is enough to get your friend to agree to one point rather than to accept your whole philosophy. On the other hand, you can keep the debate going as long as you realize that the point of the disagreement is to explore each other’s ideas rather than to actually convince each other. To whom is the argument really directed? You should also be aware for whose sake you are arguing. Often you do not argue to convince the person with the opposite view but to convince
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 69 some third party, an audience to the debate. When two lawyers argue in court, they are not each hoping to get the opponent to cry uncle. Each is trying to convince the jury to support his or her side. In school or on the job you are often in that situation, trying to convince the teacher or your boss that you have a better view than some other view presented in your reading or by a coworker. Frequently, too, you argue for your own benefit, to clarify your own thinking, and to see exactly where you stand and how well you can support your position. Many college assignments serve this purpose: the teacher challenges you primarily to help you develop your thinking by articulating a position. In this chapter, the essay arguing with reading is this sort of assignment. What is the key issue in the argument? Next you need to identify the specific point at issue. Although you may generally dislike a plan proposed by your business partner, for example, you are more likely to develop some workable alternative if you can identify specifically what you find wrong in it. Is the plan based on unrealistic or vague ideas about the size of the potential market, or does it expose the company to excessive debt? You are more likely to get your partner to see your point by expressing and supporting your specific complaint than by launching an overall attack against the entire plan. Then your partner can either change the plan to take your objections into account or even recognize that your objection is so fundamental that the entire plan is unworkable. The more narrowly you can identify the issue, the less you will have to prove, the more you can concede to your opposition, and the more easily your audience can give way on specific points without having to give up all its cherished beliefs and commitments. Moreover, on a narrowed, focused issue you will probably be better able to argue your case with specific evidence and focused, plausible reasoning. Is the key issue truly arguable? Once you have identified the issue, it may turn out that it is not arguable. At one extreme are questions of purely personal preference, such as which flavor of ice cream is most delicious or which music you would rather listen to. Although it may be fun to argue about these purely arbitrary individual choices, you are unlikely to persuade anyone to change his or her taste. At the other extreme are issues of fact that can be resolved by checking a reference work or collecting some data. The date of a novel’s publication, the charge of an electron, and the major league baseball record for the most stolen bases in a season are not in the usual sense matters of argument; they are empirical issues to be determined by checking a scholarly biography, a physics handbook, and the baseball record book. And behind each of those reference works is some kind of empirical experience such as an examination of publication records, some scientific experiments, and some baseball record keeping. Although one may argue more fundamentally about whether we have an appropriate concept of electrical charge or whether the Millikan oil-drop experiment is a sufficiently accurate measure, the actual data generated by any empirical procedure are what they are, and not a matter of argument. You can look them up. Truly arguable issues are in the middle, where substantial reasons and relevant evidence may actually change someone’s mind. How will you argue the issue most effectively for your audience? Only after you have your issue, audience, and goals well defined can you really begin to evaluate what specific points you want to make and how you can effectively persuade your audience. Of course, throughout the process of defining the argumentative situation, you will be coming up with things you will want to write, but only once you know what you want to accomplish in your writing can you really focus and develop those ideas appropriately to your task. Classical rhetoric (the art of argumentation) identifies three ways of persuading an audience: through ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is the image you project of yourself as a good,
70 Part 1 Writing About Reading trustworthy, believable person whose word should be given appropriate respect. Of course, what makes a believable image varies from situation to situation. Someone who knows the inside story about a football team will sound different from someone who knows the latest developments in quantum physics. Thus you need to be able to project the appropriate ethos for each subject; if you are too obviously faking an expertise or personality that does not fit what you know and who you are, your ethos will appear untrustworthy. Teachers can usually spot students who fake an expertise in their subjects. In academic argument, at least, it is best to present yourself as knowing only as much as you do know; then you will gain a trustworthy ethos for those things you do know or have thought through. Pathos is the appeal to any of the emotions or feelings of your audience. In some situations the appeal can be very direct, as when an international charity appeals to our concern for children. Feelings are always a component of arguments, even of the most abstract kind. To be convincing, even a mathematical proof requires the reader’s interest in mathematics and the special problem area; otherwise, the reader will not read and think deeply enough to be persuaded. On the other hand, you must be careful not to appeal to emotions that are inappropriate for the situation or that might bring the discussion down to a level of dangerous emotionality. If you try to appeal to a teacher to change your grade out of pity for your heartbroken parents, you are likely to only discredit yourself even more as a serious student. Or if you are a politician and appeal to people’s hatreds and prejudices rather than their hopes for the future and concern for social improvement, you may win an immediate victory, but in the long run you may be doing serious harm-to them and to yourself. Logos is the logic or reasoning of your argument. Part of logos is formal deductive logic, or syllogistic reasoning; part is inductive logic, or the use of evidence and experience; and part is informal reasoning using the assumptions, beliefs, and reasons generally accepted by your audience. Formal Logic Formal logic (or deductive logic) is the most precise method of reasoning but is limited in its scope. It’s most important use is to help you avoid obvious errors, in making deductions, that would discredit your arguments as clearly faulty. In this way deductive logic is like the rules of arithmetic: it does not tell you when to add or what numbers to add up, but it does keep you from adding incorrectly. To have a convincing argument, you must respect the rules of formal logic in all your deductions. These rules define what conclusions follow from a given set of propositions. In their most familiar form, deductive arguments appear as syllogisms, which consist of a series of premises and a conclusion that follows from the premises. Consider this example: No human being has feathers. Johnson is a human being. Therefore, Johnson does not hove feathers. Actually, there are four types of deductive arguments. The above example is called a categorical argument (in which the conclusion is based on the general category to which the specific example belongs). The next example is a hypothetical argument (in which the conclusion depends on some hypothetical condition being true): If gas supplies are short, gas prices will rise. Gas supplies are short.
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 71 Therefore, gas prices will rise. The third type is the alternative argument (which is based on the elimination of a limited number of possible alternatives): Either Jones is evil or he is stupid. Jones is not stupid. Therefore, Jones is evil. The final type of deductive argument is the disjunctive argument (in which a situation is shown to be impossible): A person cannot be in two places at one time. The person Lucretia was in Washington lost Saturday evening at 10 P.M. Lucretia was not in Boston lost Saturday evening at 10 P.M. Formal logic serves very well for determining all that can be inferred from a given set of propositions, or first statements. In abstract fields of study, such as mathematics and formal logic itself, chains of syllogistic logic can produce complex conclusions of great certainty. Deduction plays a role in most areas of study. However, formal logic does not help you in judging the truth of first propositions or in making statements beyond those that are implicit in the first propositions. That is, formal logic will not help you prove whether, indeed, human beings do or do not have feathers or whether Johnson is the name someone has given to a pet parakeet. Moreover, such a set of propositions will not help you discover why human beings do not have feathers. Formal logic does not cover most arguments, questions, and statements that people are actually interested in. In practice, formal logic at most tells you what you cannot do—what is a breach of basic ground rules of rational argument-rather than what you should do. Further, there are dangers in relying too heavily on deductive logic in any but the most abstract disciplines. Although some mathematical propositions-such as parallel lines never meet-are true by definition, most propositions about actual people, objects, or situations in the world are only simplifications and approximations, such as politicians must pay attention to the interests of their constituents if they hope to be reelected. The specifics of any situation referred to by this general statement are much more complex than the general words indicate; for example, the politician’s constituency may include many conflicting interests. Even in such an abstract field as theoretical physics, the basic propositions of Newtonian mechanics were found to be only approximations that did not apply under extreme conditions, such as speeds approaching the speed of light. Even Albert Einstein’s revisions of the propositions of mechanics are held by many physicists to be only simplifications and approximations. If you take approximate statements and combine them with other approximate statements and run them all through many deductive operations, the possible errors can compound dramatically. You may wind up with conclusions that are not at all reasonable. Thus you should not try to deduce too much from simplified statements about the world. Inductive Logic and Evidence Many of the arguments we make depend on the evidence we provide in their support. In providing evidence we are using inductive logic, drawing generalizations from
72 Part 1 Writing About Reading specific observed events. Sometimes the generalizations flow very directly and certainly from the evidence, but sometimes the link is more distant and less certain. The statement that in World War II hostilities between the United States and Japan began on December 7, 1940, is supported by so many witnesses’ observations of the attack on Pearl Harbor, so many destroyed ships and lost lives, so many documented news reports, and by the well-publicized declaration of war by the U.S. Congress on the following day that the statement is beyond argument. The claim that the United States was not prepared for the attack on Pearl Harbor is almost equally certain. We know this because of the well-observed absence of organized U.S. military resistance to the devastating attack and later analysis of communications indicating that clues about the attack were overlooked just because nobody expected it. Far less certain and therefore more arguable are more general claims, such as that the U.S. leadership deliberately ignored clear warnings of the attack and thereby sold out the United States. The evidence’ for such claims does not go beyond the evidence that clues to the attack (such as intercepted secret Japanese cables not being taken seriously) were ignored and the previous claim that the United States was not prepared; moreover, the claim goes against much other evidence revealing the serious concern of the U.S. leadership for military preparedness in the months preceding the war. Every discipline uses its own particular kind of evidence, with its own methods and standards for collecting, interpreting, and drawing conclusions from the data; these are examined in Part 3 of this book. Induction as a form of argument is especially well developed in the experimental sciences. As evidence mounts for any claim in academic disciplines, that claim becomes treated with increasing certainty and takes on the appearance of reliable knowledge. Informal Reasoning Much argument does not proceed fully by either induction or deduction but rather relies at least in part on assumptions that the audience is willing to grant, either because they are self-evident or because they are so well established in a particular community that they are not open to question. In classical rhetoric, arguments based on unspoken assumptions are called enthymemes. For example, in the United States, with our well-established belief in freedom of speech as formalized in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, we immediately assume that anyone has a right to criticize actions of our government. When we criticize, we do not have to justify our right to do so or argue that we are not intending to harm our society by the criticism. That assumption is not common in most other countries, including major Western democracies. In each community one can rely on many such assumptions for communal assent in argument without having to prove them from first principles. Although some of these beliefs could in fact be argued much more fully, one no longer needs to do it because they are so well established. In physics, for example, one can invoke the conservation of energy as a reason without having to retrace the whole argument for that principle. Cold fusion, on the other hand, has little acceptance and will not be accepted as a reason for another claim. Some beliefs are not very deeply founded on prior arguments and merely reflect some local belief, such as that a man who wears a suit and tie is more responsible and trustworthy than one who does not. Although this point is quite debatable, many men show respect for it both in how they dress for business and in how they evaluate the people they do business with. Many women, as well, adopt business clothes that imitate male styles. So even though this belief may not be well founded, one could use it to help convince an audience that someone in a suit is a more respectable businessperson than someone who does not adopt business dress. Some social assumptions upon which people can base successful arguments are even less well founded and more harmful, such as those that rely on ethnic or racial prejudice and hatred. If people see through your manipulation of unfair and unfounded social beliefs, you will lose their trust and will be branded with the unacceptable ethos of racist, cynical manipulator, and demagogue.
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 73 The philosopher Stephen Toulmin has given us a method for analyzing these ordinary informal methods of argument. Toulmin believes that we draw conclusions from given data by means of warrants, which act as bridges between data and conclusions. For example, starting with the information that Marianne Hodge has made As throughout the semester in her writing course, we draw the usual conclusion that she will receive an A as the course grade. The warrant that allows us to go from data to’ conclusion is that students who receive A’s all semester long receive a final grade of A. If we were pressed to give backing for this warrant, we might further say that the final grade in this particular course is based on a straight average of all grades for the semester, except for special circumstances that do not occur more than one time in a hundred. The last phrase “except for …” gives the necessary qualification to the conclusion. Schematically, the argument would appear as follows: In general, ordinary arguments take the following schematic form: In order to make a convincing argument, you must have warrant and backing that your particular audience finds acceptable. If, for example, a student believes that Professor Jones assigns final grades by randomly pulling letters from a fishbowl and not by taking an average of the grades, our warrant and the conclusion that follows will not be convincing to that student. In writing arguments for any of the academic disciplines, you must use warrants and backings that are accepted as valid and relevant by the appropriate discipline. Examining arguments by this method will help reveal what assumptions lie behind the warrants and backings of those arguments. You can then decide whether others will accept the same warrants and backings and whether those backings and warrants are ones with which you wish to be associated. Similarly, in reading other people’s arguments, you will be able to evaluate how acceptable their assumptions are.
74 Part 1 Writing About Reading EXERCISES 1. Discuss with the class the following editorial essay from the New York Times, “Reading, Writing, Narcissism,” by Lillian G. Katz, a professor of early childhood education. Using your knowledge and experience of education and public debates over educational approaches, discuss the argumentative situation, audience, strategy, and effect of this essay. Consider the ethos, pathos, and logos of the argument. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] 2. Discuss with the class the following pair of opposing arguments from the American Bar Association Journal, the professional journal of lawyers. The arguments are for and against active euthanasia; that is, doctors assisting in the death of terminally or otherwise seriously ill patients. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] 3. Discuss with the class what kind of argument the anonymous author of the following selection, “It’s Over, Debbie,” was making. The article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Try to determine what position the author is taking, on what issue, for which audience, to achieve what effect. Also consider the roles of ethos, pathos, and logos. To help you better understand the background of this article, review the article “JAMA’s Jam” reprinted on page 57. You may also wish to compare the point, audience, and strategy of this article with those of the arguments on active euthanasia reprinted in question 2 above. What are the differences between them? [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] 4. For each of the arguments presented in the first three exercises above, discuss how the argument directly or indirectly arises out of and refers to previous statements made by people other than the author. Which of those statements of others help set up the situation? Which help frame the issues? Which are evaluated positively or negatively in the argument? Which provide direct points of opposition? Which provide support for the author’s argument? Steps in Developing an Argument 1. Identify whom you are arguing with. 2. Identify why you are arguing. 3. Identify to whom you are directing your argument. 4. Identify what you are arguing about. 5. Judge whether the issue is really arguable. 6. Examine your potential supporting arguments. 7. Evaluate how well your supporting arguments are likely to work at this time on this issue for this audience. Consider the ethos and pathos of the argument. 8. Organize, develop, and present your arguments. Realize your arguments in a forceful statement directed at the audience you wish to influence. Consider the forms of logic you can use to advance your arguments.
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 75 5. Using the basic questions posed on pages 68-69 and the steps outlined on page 73, in a class discussion analyze each of the following situations and how you might handle it. a. You are brought before the dean of students for violating the college’s social regulations. b. Your teacher has given you a low grade on a paper you believe deserved a much higher one. c. You find an editorial in the college newspaper to be offensive or harmful to some group or organization which you either belong to or sympathize with. d. You wish to convince some friends or classmates to support a candidate for school or local office. e. You are a member of a group project team, and you want the group to follow your plan and avoid the mistakes you see in alternative plans by other group members. 6. Describe a situation from your academic, family, or community life in which you recently felt the impulse to argue with someone. Use the questions presented in this section and the “Steps in Developing an Argument” on page 73 to analyze the argumentative situation, sharpen your goals, and identify an argumentative strategy. After discussing with the class your ideas about developing the argument, write an argument of an appropriate length to the appropriate audience. 7. Think of a controversial schoolwide, local, national, or international issue about which you feel strongly. Try to answer the questions presented earlier in this section, and then write an argument defending the opposite position from the one you hold. Remember to look at the issue logically, and try to keep your own emotions out of your defense. Once you have established the logical position for the opposition, write an argument for your own side on this issue that specifically addresses those opposing arguments. Writing an Argumentative Essay in Response to Your Reading In college one frequent assignment is to discuss some idea you have obtained from your reading or lectures. Discussion in this situation means arguing for or against the validity, importance, or applicability of what you have been learning. You might discuss how an economic principle explains or does not explain the growth of the service sector in the American economy or whether a particular interpretation of the motivations of a character in a novel seems accurate to you. Such questions are all forms of argument, but very special kinds of argument. The purpose of this essay is primarily educational, to help you develop your reasoning and involvement with the subject. Thus in a sense it is not so important to persuade others of the absolute correctness of your view as to persuade yourself that you understand the issue as well as you can. Your most obvious audience is usually your teacher, who only needs to be persuaded that you have developed your thinking carefully, have used appropriate knowledge of the subject, and have shown some special insight into the issues. Since the teacher is usually more expert on the subject than you, you cannot realistically expect to change his or her mind. The people who wrote the texts you are arguing about also are unlikely ever to read your responses, so you cannot aim at persuading them. So the main aim is to persuade yourself and then demonstrate to the teacher that you had good reasons to believe yourself. For this kind of paper the ethos (or character) you project is that of a good, committed student of the subject, which should affect the pathos (or feelings) of the instructor, for most teachers have good feelings toward those who show commitment toward and understanding of their
76 Part 1 Writing About Reading specialty. But the major emphasis, of course, must be on the logos, the reasoning and evidence you develop to support your position. Your ability to develop a logical, well-supported argument will both project your ethos as a good student and appeal to the pathos of academics’ love for the intellect. In the argumentative essay about reading, or the discussion essay, you present and support a direct opinion about an idea, position, or piece of information you have encountered in your reading. You need not list all your ideas, associations, and reactions to the entire piece; you need only locate one specific thought or theme to comment on. You might agree or disagree with anything in the reading-from how a word is spelled to the truth of the main idea-but obviously, the more important the aspect you choose to discuss, the more forceful and significant your own comment is likely to be. Whether you agree or disagree with what you read depends, for the most part, on how well it fits with what is already in your mind, or what Kenneth Boulding calls your “image of the world.” That is, everything you have heard, read, thought, said, done, or experienced has been combined in your mind to create your own picture of the way the world is. Some readings are consistent with that picture, and you are likely to say that those readings sound right, that you agree with them. Other readings clash with parts of your image of the world, so you will disagree. (We will discuss in Parts 2 and 3 those special cases wherein you withhold judgment until you go out and gain some more information, adding to your world view through new primary experience, reading, or other forms of research.) Because your world view is deeply ingrained, you may not always be fully aware of why you agree or disagree with what you are reading. You will have to work hard to discover your reasons. You need well-developed reasons to make your essay convincing, to show that you are giving more than a glib comeback. Without well-supported reasons, the reader has only your word to go on. No doubt, you are an honest and trustworthy person, but that alone will hardly convince readers who do not know you. The human mind being what it is, you can often come up with strong reasons for disagreement more easily than you can think of reasons for agreement. Disagreement creates friction. The mind objects to something and comes up with counterarguments: “But doesn’t that stupid writer see….” What you are seeing (that the writer does not) is the source (or underlying reason) of your opinion in the first place. Explaining your reasons fully, giving examples, citing experiences, and referring to other ideas that you have read or simply know will help you develop a convincing argument. Agreement is harder, because when you agree you are at peace with the reading. You can easily nod your head yes and read on. Unless you push your reasons for agreement very hard, you are likely to come up with little more than a summary of the original with occasional declarations of agreement: “Another valid point this author makes is. . . .” In order to create a well-developed statement of agreement, you must either (1) recall those experiences, ideas, or pieces of information that previously led you to the same conclusions or (2) take the idea in the reading further to show how well it conforms to other aspects of your knowledge. Developing the Essay To develop an argumentative essay, first read over your annotations and journal entries on the text you are going to discuss. See which comments seem the most significant in retrospect, and determine whether several comments may be related to a common theme of agreement or disagreement.
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 77 Second, decide which of your comments will become the basis for your essay. A single comment may be the source of your essay, or you may develop a single consistent theme out of several comments that seem to point in the same direction. Try to pick a theme that raises a significant issue in the reading and that you will be able to support and develop convincingly. Commenting on an idea central to the original article or essential to a fundamental criticism or having application to other broader issues will add to the interest of your essay and keep you from nit-picking on side issues. You may find that some of your comments agree with certain aspects of the article and other comments disagree. Remember, you need not cover every aspect of the article, so try to pick an aspect on which you have a consistent, clear position. If you find that you have mixed feelings on every significant issue, some in agreement and some in disagreement, you can write your paper partly agreeing and partly disagreeing. But if you do this, make sure the paper remains focused on the single issue you choose and develops the complexity of your reaction fully. Let the reader know how your agreements and disagreements balance each other. Sometimes the complexity of reaction may even be connected to a single source, as when the daring of a political proposal seems to cut right to the core of a problem, but such boldness seems unrealistic given the difficulties of the political process. However you organize your complex position, do not let the paper deteriorate into a checklist of statements you like and do not like. Third, formulate your agreement or disagreement into a thesis or main conclusion that will guide the overall direction of your paper. The essay should provide a single strong reaction stemming from one issue suggested by the original text. Fourth, list and develop all the arguments that support your disagreement or agreement. Look deeply into why you feel the way you do, and convey to the reader in concrete and substantial detail the good reasons you have. Fifth, reread the original text and your previous comments to consider two points. First, make sure your reaction is substantial and clearly justified. Sometimes the original will differ from your memory of it. A strong reaction to an idea can lead your memory to oversimplify the original to make the idea more clearly agreeable or objectionable. After having written out your own feelings, you may be in a better position to read the original more dispassionately and accurately. In addition, rereading the original and your first reactions may enable you to advance your ideas further and may suggest more key passages, details, and examples that you can use to develop your discussion. Your focus on a topic will let you know much better exactly what details you need to support your argument. Sixth, after you have gathered, selected, focused, and developed your ideas, plan how this material will fit together. Although there are many ways to organize an argumentative essay, often a very straightforward pattern is all that is necessary. The opening should include (1) the book or article that evoked your response, (2) the particular item, idea, or theme to which you are responding, and (3) a clear statement of whether you agree, disagree, or take a more complex, mixed position. The opening section should also include whatever background is necessary to understand either the idea you are responding to or your response. But do not feel you need to summarize all the original text or tell your whole life story as background. Just tell enough to make your discussion intelligible. The substance of your agreement or disagreement should form the main body of the essay. If you have several separate points to make in support of your position, you might simply build a paragraph around each of these points. Carefully consider, however, the order in which you place the paragraphs so that the argument will get stronger instead of sliding downhill. If you wish to make a series of logically related points, again you might devote one paragraph to each point, but you should arrange the paragraphs to bring out the logic of their connection. Finally, if you are
78 Part 1 Writing About Reading making only one, extended point, break that single, large reason down into a series of stages or aspects to be developed in several paragraphs. That will make your reasoning easier to follow and your point more memorable. No matter how you organize your essay, the reader should be able to follow the organization and ideas readily and fully. Carefully chosen examples will help the reader grasp your complete idea. Using appropriate transitions between ideas and constantly tying each point to the main idea will help the reader see how your whole essay fits together. The ending should offer a sense of completion by linking your ideas effectively in some strong statement of your position. Because this essay is responding to a text, the conclusion might recall the original idea to which you are responding, reminding the reader exactly what you are agreeing or disagreeing with. AN EXAMPLE: TWO READERS DISAGREE WITH AN EDITORIAL During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton outlined his plan for a national service program designed to provide an alternative to government loans. After taking office in January 1993, President Clinton began to take steps toward implementing this plan. In an editorial published on the op-ed page of the New York Times on June 3, 1993 (reprinted below in assignment 1 on page 80), Michael S. McPherson and Morton Owen Schapiro express skepticism about the feasibility of Clinton’s plan. Claiming that the price is too high, they argue that few students will be motivated to commit themselves to two years of community service at minimum wage just to get forgiveness of a $10,000 school loan. Their prediction, based on projected average earnings for college graduates, is that participants would lose at least $20,000 in earnings for two years of service; thus they conclude that only the most altruistic of graduates would choose to serve. McPherson and Schapiro believe that in order to make the plan more attractive, the Clinton administration would have to offer a larger stipend, increase the annual ceiling on loan forgiveness, or do both; and that the cost of doing so, absorbed by the taxpayers, would make the plan economically unsound. Ten days after this editorial appeared, the New York Times published two letters to the editor by readers who argued with McPherson and Schapiro’s views. One reader represents the voice of pragmatism; the other, the voice of idealism. In his letter, Duane J. DeBruyne, a Peace Corps volunteer in the late 1970s, draws parallels between criticism of Clinton’s plan and early criticism of the Peace Corps. He claims that, like the Peace Corps, the national service plan will be economically beneficial both to those who serve and to the nation as a whole. Long-term benefits—measurable in terms of salary gains and upward career mobility—as well as the desire to serve will attract recruits to the program. He also argues that McPherson and Schapiro overlook the long-term benefits to the country as a whole. Guidelines for Developing an Argumentative Essay 1. Read over your annotations and journal entries on the text you are going to discuss. 2. Decide which of your comments will become the basis for your essay. 3. Formulate your agreement or disagreement with the author into a thesis. 4. List and develop arguments that support your thesis. 5. Reread the original text and your previous comments. 6. Plan how you will organize your essay.
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 79 [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Greg J. Scholl develops a different kind of argument, focusing on the assumptions behind the editorial’s reasoning. Taking issue with what he sees as a shortsighted, number-crunching view of the costs and benefits of Clinton’s national service plan, he claims that McPherson and Schapiro underestimate the altruism of many of today’s college graduates. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] A STUDENT EXAMPLE FOR DISCUSSION After reading McPherson and Schapiro’s editorial on Clinton’s national service plan, and the two letters to the editor sent in response, James Margolis, a student pursuing a degree in history with the goal of becoming a high school teacher, found himself disagreeing with McPherson and Schapiro. In his essay’s introductory paragraph, James clearly states why he disagrees with the argument presented in the editorial and in what ways he agrees with the counterarguments presented in the letters: he shares DeBruyne’s and Scholl’s enthusiasm for Clinton’s national service plan but admits that his enthusiasm comes from personal and perhaps even selfish considerations of the short- and long-term benefits. In the body of his essay, James spells out in detail his reasons for disagreeing with McPherson and Schapiro and draws on relevant points from the letters to strengthen his own counterarguments. Although in the course of his essay he refutes the argument presented in the editorial, his primary concern, like that of DeBruyne and Scholl, is to present his own argument for implementing Clinton’s national service plan. In the second and third paragraphs, he addresses the short-and long-term financial benefits of the plan; in the fourth and fifth, he addresses its career benefits. Sample Argumentative Essay The National Service Plan: A Student’s View As a third-year college student majoring in history who has already acquired a bit over $10,000 in student loan debt, I find McPherson and Schapiro’s rejection of Clinton’s national service plan to be shortsighted and insensitive to the experiences of many college students who are struggling to put themselves through school only to face enormous financial burdens upon graduation. Although I know that some of my peers do not share my predicament, and that some who do would rather pay off their loans than put off starting lucrative careers, I share DeBruyne’s and Scholl’s enthusiasm for Clinton’s national service plan. However, I must admit that, should this plan be implemented, I would consider volunteering primarily due to its short and long term personal benefits. For students from middle income families, like myself, who do not qualify for government grants and whose high school performance was above average but not extraordinary, national service would provide an alternative to starting out their adult lives in debt. At this point in time, the only alternative to government loans is military service, an option I seriously considered prior to enrolling in college. In exchange for four years of service in the armed forces, I would have received the GI bill, which in turn would have enabled me to attend the college of my choice without going deep into debt. I chose debt because I did not want to graduate from college at the age of 26 and then attempt to compete for jobs with younger, fresher faces. I also did not think I would do well in a military environment. Like DeBruyne, I question the accuracy of McPherson and Schapiro’s number-crunching. Their account of the short term loss seems minimal when considering the long term financial
80 Part 1 Writing About Reading payoffs of service. I wonder what the cost of the interest on my loans will be over ten years—surely at least as much as the loans themselves. Also, given the extent of my debt, I will be paying out at least $130 per month for the next ten years. I want to be a teacher, which is not a particularly lucrative career, nor one with much job security at this time of state budget problems. The income I might lose in the short term while doing national service will not be so great as to outweigh the long term cost of paying off the loan on my own. National service also would provide an opportunity for graduates to obtain much needed experience in their chosen fields. The only alternative at this point is for students to volunteer as interns or, if they are lucky, find paid summer employment in their chosen field. For students like myself who must hold down part time jobs during the school year and make even more money over the summer in order to finance their educations, internships are luxuries they cannot afford. If they could gain experience in national service after graduation I believe that many would volunteer, especially if doing so would have the added benefit of relieving financial obligations. In addition, the experience gained in national service would make those who participate better equipped to compete in today’s shrinking job market. Unlike McPherson and Schapiro, I do not feel optimistic about the economy in the next two to four years, and many economic analysts think that things are going to get worse before they get better. In my home community, there are at least fifty applicants for each teaching position that opens up. Having hands-on experience would set me apart from other applicants with similar academic credentials. Finally, obtaining a teaching credential requires an additional year of school and, before I invest the time and the tuition, I would also like to be sure of my choice. Serving the community in the field of education for two years would test my commitment to this career. In their emphasis on the short term monetary cost to participants in Clinton’s national service plan, McPherson and Schapiro overlook its long term benefits. Even students who are not “altruistic” have good reason to find the plan appealing. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS 1. Write an essay either agreeing or disagreeing with some aspect or issue in the following editorial on national service, the letters to the editor sent in response (see page 79), or the student’s response on pages 79-80. In arguing, also develop and argue for your own position on national service. Direct your essay to your classmates as part of a class discussion. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] 2. For a special supplement to your school newspaper on values in modern life, write an argumentative essay responding to the following article reprinted from Psychology Today magazine on how our attitudes toward money are changing. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Writing an Essay Comparing Reading and Experience Whenever you read, you understand what the writer writes only because you are already partly familiar with the objects and concepts the writer symbolizes in the form of language. If the writer uses words you do not know to describe objects you have never seen, you might as well be
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 81 reading gibberish. An advanced physics textbook or a specialist’s book on horse racing will mean little if you are ignorant of these subjects. Even when you recognize all the words, if the writer puts them together in a way that contradicts your knowledge, you will reject the statement as nonsense contrary to sense. You are not likely to accept a writer’s construction of reality if he or she claims that “babies are found under cabbage leaves.” However, just because statements make sense to you-you understand them and they fit your perceptions of the world—does not guarantee that they are absolutely true. Your knowledge can grow by the conflict between what you have already accepted as sense and new claims that at first seem to be contrary to sense. To Europeans in 1492, Columbus’s claim that he would sail around the globe violated both their sense of possibility and their sense of specific fact. Only when other navigators, following Columbus, sailed entirely around the world and returned alive did new possibilities and new facts replace the old. Evidence for a curved earth had been noticed by Greek astronomers two thousand years before Columbus; Eratosthenes could even calculate the earth’s diameter. But the same evidence, easily observable without special equipment, was ignored by the astronomers of Columbus’s time. They “knew” the world was flat, so they had no motivation to look for evidence of roundness. Human beings tend to observe only what they already believe is there. Such examples point to a difficult situation: we must rely on what we know to understand and judge what other people say, yet we must keep in mind that what we know may be eventually proved wrong. If we are to be thoughtful and critical as readers, we must rely on what we know to identify and judge the ideas presented by the reading. Yet reliance on previous knowledge stands in the way of learning and accepting new ideas. There is no way to escape this dilemma. But by keeping it in mind and trying to accept a book on its own terms before judging it on ours, we can be both critical and open to new ideas. By being attentive to a writer’s claims, by doing our best to see what that writer wants us to see—even though the writer’s claims go against our prior knowledge—we may discover new ideas we can accept as part of our own view of the world. Finally, no matter how sympathetic a reading we give to any piece of writing, we must return to the question of whether it makes sense. The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to judging any piece of reading by using common sense and experience in a more careful, less biased way. In sociology, psychology, political science, and other social science courses, you are often called on to relate the concepts presented in the course to your personal experience. Making such comparisons helps you understand what the concepts mean and how they work in the real world. You may even be assigned an essay comparing reading and experience. Out of school, when you write to persuade people to accept your ideas, evidence drawn from your own experience will help convince readers that your ideas are more than nice-sounding abstractions. Opinion essays in newspapers and magazines often advance ideas based on the essayist’s experience. The essay comparing reading and experience is also the first step toward the more disciplined use of evidence that you will learn in your academic and professional specialties, as discussed in Part 3. Experience, Memory, and Common Sense To see both the value and the problems of that grab bag of personal experience and random knowledge we bring to any particular reading, let us look at the case of George Washington Plunkitt, the Tammany Hall politician. In the late nineteenth century, the government of New York City was run by a group of politicians known collectively as Tammany Hall. Under the leadership of Boss Tweed, they took advantage of the power they held for their own profit and the
82 Part 1 Writing About Reading profit of their friends. Eventually a number of journalists, including Lincoln Steffens, exposed the Tammany Hall politicians as crooks; since then Tammany Hall has become the symbol for po-litical corruption. However, from George Washington Plunkitt’s inside view as a member of the Tammany organization, the situation didn’t look nearly as bad as it appeared to the reforming journalists on the outside. When Plunkitt came to read Lincoln Steffens’s expose, The Shame of the Cities, he reacted by presenting his own insider’s viewpoint. He expresses his down-to-earth thinking in down-to-earth language, thus making his position, though corrupt, seem almost plausible. On The Shame of the Cities I’ve been readin’ a book by Lincoln Steffens on The Shame of the Cities. Steffens means well but, like all reformers, he don’t know how to make distinctions. He can’t see no difference between honest graft and dishonest graft, and consequent, he gets things all mixed up. There’s the biggest kind of a difference between political looters and politicians who make a fortune out of politics by keepin’ their eyes wide open. The looter goes in for himself alone without considerin’ his organization or his city. The politician looks after his own interests, the organization’s interests, and the city’s interests all at the same time. See the distinction? For instance, I ain’t no looter. The looter hogs it. I never hogged. I made my pile in politics, but, at the same time, I served the organization and got more big improvements for New York City than any other livin’ man. And I never monkeyed with the penal code. The difference between a looter and a practical politician is the difference between the Philadelphia Republican gang and Tammany Hall. Steffens seems to think they’re both about the same; but he’s all wrong. The Philadelphia crowd runs up against the penal code. Tammany don’t. The Philadelphians ain’t satisfied with robbin’ the bank of all its gold and paper money. They stay to pick up the nickels and pennies and the cop comes and nabs them. Tammany ain’t no such fool. Why, I remember, about fifteen or twenty years ago, a Republican superintendent of the Philadelphia almshouse stole the zinc roof off the build in’ and sold it for junk. That was carryin’ things to excess. There’s a limit to everything, and the Philadelphia Republicans go beyond the limit. It seems like they can’t be cool and moderate like real politicians. It ain’t fair, therefore, to class Tammany men with the Philadelphia gang. Any man who undertakes to write political books should never for a moment lose sight of the distinction between honest graft and dishonest graft, which I explained in full in another talk. If he puts all kinds of graft on the same level, he’ll make the fatal mistake that Steffens made and spoil his book. A big city like New York or Philadelphia or Chicago might be compared to a sort of Garden of Eden, from a political point of view. It’s an orchard full of beautiful apple trees. One of them has got a big sign on it, marked: “Penal Code Tree—Poison.” The other trees have lots of apples on them for all. Yet the fools go to the Penal Code Tree. Why? For the reason, I guess, that a cranky child refuses to eat good food and chews up a box of matches with relish. I never had any temptation to touch the Penal Code Tree. The other apples are good enough for me, and 0 Lord! how many of them there are in a big city! Steffens made one good point in his book. He said he found that Philadelphia, ruled almost entirely by Americans, was more corrupt than New York, where the Irish do almost all the governin’. I could have told him that before he did any investigatin’ if he had come to me. The Irish was born to rule, and they’re the honestest people in the world. Show me the Irishman who would steal a roof off an almshouse! He don’t exist. Of course, if an Irishman had the political pull and the roof was much worn, he might get the city authorities to put on a new one and get the contract for it himself, and buy the old roof at a bargain-but that’s honest graft. It’s goin’ about the thing like a gentleman, and there’s more money in it than in tearin’ down an old roof and cartin’ it to the junkman’s-more money and no penal code. Plunkitt’s candid firsthand observations reveal some everyday facts about the political world of his time. His distinction between honest and dishonest graft amuses us because both types are crooked enough by our standard laws-but apparently Plunkitt believed the distinction existed in
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 83 his world. From his insider’s view we also get a sympathetic portrait of the human desire to profit from situations. Plunkitt presents a working system that makes civic improvements by spreading the money around to friends. He even has some firsthand observations on ethnic and moral differences between New York and its rival in corruption, Philadelphia. If Plunkitt doesn’t disprove Steffens’s accusation that he and his friends are crooks, at least he lets us know the human workings of the corrupt system. On the other hand, Plunkitt’s comments are bigoted, self-interested, and narrow-minded. The whole point of the distinction between honest and dishonest graft is to show that he and his cronies are honest fellows, much better than those rascals in Philadelphia. To make his own crowd look better, he flatters his own Irish ethnic group and insults older mainline Americans. Since his whole life has been committed to the Tammany system, what he knows and thinks are mostly Tammany rationalizations and self-defense. For intellectual, emotional, and legal reasons, George Washington Plunkitt cannot step outside the Tammany viewpoint in order to consider the criticisms of reformers like Lincoln Steffens. He finds some sense in Steffens only when he can bend the reformer’s statements to prove what he already believes-that Philadelphia is more corrupt than New York. In Plunkitt’s case the stakes are unusually high. To accept Steffens’s book as making sense, the Tammany Hall politician would have to admit that he and his friends were dishonest. Very few people have that much intellectual honesty. Even under less extreme conditions, we tend to defend our existing opinions and commitments. We would rather not pay much attention to ideas that might upset our personal apple carts. Yet a stubborn defense of our personal opinions is not simply narrowness; those apple carts we have constructed in the course of our experience are the sum of all we have come to know. We usually work to make sense of our past experiences, so that our generalizations—those structures of thought that form our common sense—are worth taking very seriously and should not be given up simply because a writer comes along with an opposite viewpoint. Writing an essay in which we compare our experiences to the claims of an author allows us to develop in explicit form our knowledge about the accuracy of the writer’s claims. With all the issues out in the open, we can see how much we agree or disagree, and we can begin to judge where the better sense lies. Intellectual honesty enters if we are able to rearrange or even add to our apple carts on the basis of some new and convincing ideas we have read. Developing the Essay Comparing Reading and Experience The essay comparing reading and experience is simply a paper in which you compare the ideas described in your reading to personal experiences that the text reminds you of. As you carry out the early steps of reading, annotating, and journal writing, keep in mind two key questions: “What experience does this reading bring to mind?” and “How do the generalizations in this passage compare to what I have learned from personal experience?” In your marginal comments and journal, list as many related examples from your own life as you can. When you read through your first responses and marginal comments, think about them in two ways. First, see whether your personal experiences generally agree with or contradict the ideas of the passage. Second, see which of these personal associations presents your general train of thought most accurately. Follow through all the implications of your chosen comments-those that are most promising and forceful. Analyze in detail how your examples and ideas support or diverge from the statements in the reading. You can develop your thoughts through extended reading notes, journal entries, preliminary outlines, or even sketchy first
84 Part 1 Writing About Reading drafts. Remember that you can always revise these early attempts to cut out digressions and tighten up the organization and logic. In the opening part of your essay, identify both the specific passage and the specific experiences or personal beliefs that you are comparing to that passage. Then set up the general pattern of agreement, disagreement, or qualified agreement that will ultimately emerge from your comparison. The main body of the essay will, of course, be comparative in structure. Because the reading stands independently of your essay-and can be referred to by the reader-you will probably devote more space to your personal experiences than to the reading. However, you need to summarize or paraphrase the passage with enough precision to enable your reader to know exactly what you are comparing from the original passage. Decide whether a short quotation, tight paraphrase, or compact summary will be most effective in acquainting your reader with the original. Exactly how much of the original you repeat will depend, to some extent, on how familiar your readers are with it; further guidance on methods of referring to the original appears in Chapter 11. The body of your paper should be devoted to those experiences that bear favorably or unfavorably on the reading. Always make sure that your experience is discussed in relation to the ideas from the reading; do not allow the narrative of your experiences to become an end in itself. The purpose of the essay is to illuminate and to evaluate, through your experience, the ideas contained in the reading. Four Frameworks for Making Comparisons Your comparison may be organized in one of several ways. The first method is to use your personal experiences to explain and develop one or more of the important ideas in the original passage. If you use this method, your introduction will consist of a concise statement of the major ideas of the original. In the body of the essay, you will explore these ideas by examining carefully chosen, effective examples taken from your own life and experiences. In the conclusion, you will reassert the general truths of the ideas as confirmed by your personal understanding of them. You may be familiar with this organization under the name of exemplification, or illustration. A second organization is the traditional comparison, where ideas are compared on a point-by-point basis. The first point from the reading is discussed with your first related experience; the second point, with your second related experience; and so on. For the conclusion of this essay, you sum up all the smaller insights that you reached by the point-by-point comparisons. A third method-patterned contradiction-is useful when the reading presents a consistent point of view that directly contradicts a consistent point of view suggested by your experience. In the first part of the essay, you draw together all the points from the reading to show the consistent pattern; then you draw together all the observations from your own experience to show the opposite pattern. In the conclusion, you discuss the specific differences between your point of view and the point of view of the original writer. The trick of this method is to maintain the comparative tension between the two points of view, even though you discuss them separately; otherwise, the essay may simply fall into two unrelated parts. You can avoid this pitfall and keep your reader aware of the two opposing viewpoints (1) by making clear cross-references and explicit comparisons between the two parts, (2) by repeating key phrases, and (3) by maintaining parallel order of points between the two parts. In a fourth method, if the reading and your experience agree, you may use the reading to explain the experience. Then the essay will punctuate a personal narrative by references to the reading to show the full meaning of the experience. You may focus the conclusion directly on the
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 85 usefulness of the ideas you derived from the reading. This last method is particularly good for demonstrating how compelling ideas, presented persuasively by a writer, can reveal to the reader the order behind the apparently haphazard events of day-to-day life. A STUDENT EXAMPLE FOR DISCUSSION The following essay illustrates the first method of organization, exemplification. The student Lai Chung Leung uses the experience of himself and his family as they immigrated from China to Hong Kong to the United States to exemplify the ideas about social mobility presented by Seymour Martin Lipset and Reinhard Bendix (reprinted on pages 87). Lai Chung Leung begins his essay with a summary of several related major ideas from the section that he considers important. Then he connects those ideas to his experience. As he elaborates on the experience, he shows how Lipset and Bendix’s ideas provide a framework for viewing what happened. Just as his family’s experience illustrates the ideas, so the ideas illuminate the experience. The discussion deepens both Lai Chung Leung’s and our understanding of the ideas and his life. By the end he is able to add some further thoughts about the significance of Lipset and Bendix’s thinking. Sample Essay Comparing Reading and Experience Class, Mobility, and the Lai Family in Three Societies In Social Mobility in Industrial Society, Lipset and Bendix describe and explain mobility in social terms and go on to analyze the importance of mobility opportunities to the well-being and stability of a society. They see a balance in every society between the tendency of those who have wealth and power to keep these things for themselves and their relatives and the society’s need for new talents, skills, and energy. When power and wealth are held too tightly by closed classes, the society becomes stagnant and those without wealth and power may become so disenchanted that they may pose a revolutionary threat to the social order. My family’s experience and my own personal experience in three different societies show exactly the kinds of differences Lipset and Bendix describe, with precisely the political consequences they predict. Where there was social stagnation, in China, my family suffered from lack of opportunity along with many others; this problem led to a very unstable political situation, which in turn led to recurrent revolutionary threats. In the more dynamic society of Hong Kong, my parents could improve their situation a bit and became less disillusioned, but they still recognized that opportunities for themselves and their children were limited because pattems of education Four Frameworks for Comparing Reading and Experience 1. Exemplification. Use your personal experience to explain one more main ideas of your reading. 2. Traditional comparison. Compare your personal experience on a point-by-point basis with the reading. 3. Pattern of contradiction. Draw observations from your own experience that show a pattern contradicting that of the points made in the reading. 4. Explanation of the experience. References to your reading punctuate a personal narrative, revealing the full meaning of your personal experience.
86 Part 1 Writing About Reading still tended to keep real success and power in the hands of the families of the already successful and beyond the reach of most working people. In the United States, however, real educational opportunities made it possible for me to move slowly toward a better way of life. Although life is hard here, I still feel as though I have a real future as part of the American society. As my parents have often told me, from time immemorial my ancestors were hard-working but poor peasants in mainland China. For many centuries China had a very strong caste system, and there were few ways to move out of the rural peasant class. Society was stagnant, mobility was limited to a lucky few, and one’s role was almost always determined by birth. The descendants of peasants, as my family was, would remain peasants, to be exploited by the ruling class. Centuries of exploitation led to great resentment and resulted in the Communist Revolution of 1949, which crushed the existing caste system. The events of 1949 exemplify what Lipset and Bendix call group mobility, whereby a formerly lower class displaces an entire upper class. Severely exploited peasants and urban workers were denied access to the ruling class and became actively discontented, especially during the economic setbacks that followed the Second World War. In order to create new opportunities for themselves, they overthrew the long corrupted and outdated imperial regime. A society that provides no mobility asks for its own destruction. At the beginning of the revolution, both my parents were delighted to see the changes taking place. They thought that for the first time new opportunities would open for them. They thought they might get more money for the rice they grew, that their children might be trained for better jobs, or that the government would simply ensure that their lives would be more prosperous. They were soon disillusioned. Economic conditions became worse after the Communist takeover, and rather than what wealth there was being shared, that wealth fell into the hands of the new ruling class of Communist leaders. Only the families of the new political and military rulers enjoyed improved lives. One oppressive ruling group had been displaced only to be replaced by another. We see in recent years how much new resentment has built up against the protected privileges of the ruling party elite and the resulting social stagnation, finally erupting in the temporarily squashed revolution of 1989. However, fifteen years before the Tianammen Square massacre, my parents had already left China, crossing the border to Hong Kong, where opportunities were comparatively many, but they soon discovered that for them those opportunities were limited. They were able to support the family. My father worked in a dockyard and my mother became one of the third world female factory workers in the global assembly line as she assembled parts for an international electronics corporation. All members of the working class, though, they had no chance to improve their situation. They had become part of the permanent Hong Kong working class. This was because they were only semiliterate and Hong Kong at that time presented only limited education for them or for their children. As Lipset and Bendix point out, education is both a major pathway for social advancement and a method of keeping power in the hands of the powerful. If education is expensive or in other ways restricted to wealthy or powerful families, people from the lower classes will never have access to the positions of social leadership that require an education. This is precisely what happened in Hong Kong, where the British colonial powers restricted higher education to only the overseas British officials, executives, and owners, along with a very small and trusted group of socially powerful Chinese families. The large Chinese working class was denied advanced educational opportunities (except for a few extremely talented students who were quickly brought into the ruling class). Basic education was provided for everyone, but only a small percentage were allowed to go on to higher secondary and university education. Thus most Hong Kong workers could improve their lives only so far, and few of their children could escape the working class. My parents encouraged me to study hard and I did well in school, but I was not lucky enough to be among that 1 percent chosen from the working class to be given a chance for higher education. With no family money for private education, I was at a dead end. My parents and I decided to take a risk. We knew that education was the surest pathway to success if I could obtain it and use it in a society that would accept my talents. We had
Chapter 5 Developing Responses to Readings: Essays 87 always heard of the opportunities for education and jobs in the United States, and particularly the education available at public universities. But we also knew that life had been very hard for many Chinese immigrants who were never able to escape the bottom end of the American working class. We decided to take the risk. Public education may be inexpensive for Americans, but it is astronomical when compared to Hong Kong wages. I worked for two years and saved almost everything. And my parents added in almost their entire life savings. With that I could afford an air ticket, one term’s tuition, and a few months’ rent for a small room in a distant relative’s apartment in New York. And so I came to the City University of New York, where I am pursuing my educational opportunities. I have been here three years and I see that there are many risks. Not all students succeed. Not all successful students can get a good job. There is still some discrimination against nonwhite people and immigrants. And life in New York itself is very hard and full of many risks just to walk down the street. And yet here I believe I have a chance to make a better life for myself. Here my hard work may mean something. Here my talents can grow through education. Here I can learn those skills that society needs and will reward. As Lipset and Bendix say, there is always a need for hard-working, talented people to carry out the important tasks of society. Here I think I will be allowed to be one of those hard-working, talented people. Perhaps the most important idea that comes from Lipset and Bendix as it relates to my experience goes beyond the idea that there is such a thing called social mobility that is in tension with the desire of the socially powerful people to maintain the power. The important idea is that different societies deal with this tension in different ways. How your society deals with this tension can make all the difference in the world for you. Unless you are in a society that provides opportunity and recognition, all your hard work and struggles for advancement may mean little. I have lived in three societies. With my parents’ help I think I have finally found the right one to live in. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS 1. Write an essay comparing your own or your family’s experience of social mobility with the following sociological definition and discussion of social mobility by Seymour Martin Lipset and Reinhard Bendix. Consider your audience to be your classmates in a course in sociology, where you are all trying to understand the practical meaning of concepts such as social mobility. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] 2. Write an essay comparing the following article by Kate Moody on the effects of television watching on children’s concepts of human relationships to your own experience as you grew up and the experience of people you know. Consider your audience to be a group of parents concerned about the influence of television on their children. Your experiences may serve either to calm their fears or to make the parents more likely to take action. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] 3. Write an essay comparing your experience to the concepts and arguments presented in either a or b. Consider your classmates your audience as you explore the meaning and implications of your course reading. a. Gordon Allport’s discussion of groups (page 19) b. Lilian G. Katz’s editorial, “Reading, Writing, Narcissism” (page 74)
88 6 RECOGNIZING THE MANY VOICES IN A TEXT n our reading we usually attribute a single point of view or single voice to the author. But that voice is only one voice of many, including the reader’s, that may speak in the writing. Each writer is likely to use the voices of many people in creating his or her own text. A writer can use other people’s voices directly through quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Other voices enter a text indirectly as background. Most deeply, a writer’s own mode of expression springs from the language, meanings, and patterns of thought learned from others over a lifetime. By coordinating all such voices to serve his or her purposes, a writer creates the author’s perspective in a text. Grasping the structure of voices an author uses in writing helps one avoid confusing the author’s point of view with that of other voices the author may draw upon. The essay analyzing voices will help you develop the skills to sort out the voices in a text and will introduce you to one form of analytical writing. Your ability to recognize how voices may be orchestrated to create one single voice of authority will enable you to draw upon and control effectively a number of voices in your own writing. I
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 89 The Voice of Authority and Our Voice When we read, we usually attribute a single point of view to a text. That single point of view, expressing a coherent statement of a single individual, we identify with the author’s voice. We recognize in a voice the sound of a single person talking. We take the disembodied print on the page and recreate the person making the statement. When we respond to our reading, we talk back to the author. We agree or disagree with what Robert Bell says about friendship. Sociologists’ discussions of social mobility prompt us to reflect on our family and personal history. By adding our own voice to that of the writer, by becoming authors of our own comments, we engage in a dialogue with the voice of the text. Authority (the power of being an author, of making a statement) is no longer limited to the author of the printed word. As readers, we share the power with the author. Even while challenging an author’s position or point of view, we may still grant the writer much respect and authority, for whatever wisdom, knowledge, or accuracy is evident in the text. Indeed, the fact that the author’s words are published indicates that at least some people found enough merit in them to warrant publication. Publication in itself, nevertheless, does not turn a writer’s ideas into unchallengeable truths. Developing awareness of a writer’s voice gives readers a sense of the person writing. Identifying the voice of the writer helps us avoid being intimidated by the impersonal authority of the printed page. We will not be afraid to question ideas in print if we can see that they are authored by real people. Furthermore, seeing how other people express themselves in writing also helps us gain control of our own written voices. We will see how to voice our thoughts confidently on the page so our ideas will be heard and respected by our readers. In this chapter, we will begin working on the analysis of texts. Through analysis, we gain greater understanding of what we read and of techniques we can use in our own writing. By analyzing how texts work, we are more likely to respect texts that treat readers intelligently and fairly. We are less likely to be influenced by texts that do not respect us as readers. The essay analyzing voices will, in particular, help us sort through the confusing multiplicity of voices that appears in many texts. As a result, we will be better able to recognize who holds which opinion and what exactly the author believes. The essay analyzing voices is one of a number of types of analysis in this book. The Many Voices of a Text A writer’s voice is often composed of many voices, which the writer brings together in a conversation. The writer’s voice emerges in the way she calls on all the voices and combines them in making an overall statement. In order to identify the dominant voice of any text, as readers we need to hear distinctly all the voices that the writer calls on. As examples of how texts use many voices, we will examine a series of newspaper and magazine articles concerning major political decisions about increasing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War during 1965 and 1966. Obvious Voices Under the Writer’s Control The most obvious way a writer brings another voice into a text is by direct quotation. The quotation marks signal that someone else’s words are erupting into the text, changing temporarily the voice speaking. However, in the words surrounding the quotation, the writer creates perspective for the quoted material. Thus the writer influences how the reader will
90 Part 1 Writing About Reading interpret the quotation, and the writer retains control of the other person’s voice, making it serve the overall meaning of the passage. Similar, but a little less obvious, is indirect quotation, where the writer paraphrases the words of the other voice but clearly identifies the other voice as the source of the ideas. Through the paraphrase the writer can interpret the meaning of the indirectly quoted material and focus attention on details most relevant to his or her own point. Thus in indirect quotation the writer can exert even more control over the other voice than in direct quotation. As an example of the way a writer can use directly and indirectly quoted voices, let us consider the September 3, 1965, Time magazine report of President Lyndon Johnson’s announcement of the decision to build up U.S. troop strength in Vietnam. In this article the writer first seems to let the president’s voice overpower anything the writer has to say. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] The unidentified author of this piece speaks with the voice of Time magazine. That voice says, “This is what happened; this is the news of the week.” As clearly identifiable is another voice, that of the then president of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson. We know Johnson’s voice by the description of him speaking and by his words within quotation marks. We also hear President Johnson’s ideas paraphrased. For example, “That, he said, symbolized U.S. power.” The second voice, President Johnson’s, is so powerful that it dominates the paragraph. The voice of Time merely repeats the president’s words. Some details in the report let readers know that the author is there, gathering information at first hand and developing an impression of the situation. The throwaway phrase of the second sentence, “assuming a pose and a phraseology he has been using a lot in private,” reminds us that the author has direct, private, authoritative knowledge of the president’s manner and thoughts. The colorful description of President Johnson’s clenched fists and of his punches in the air shows the writer’s effort to re-create his feelings on seeing the president. The next paragraph presents more directly the point of view of an interpreter. The author, speaking as Time magazine, explains the significance of the president’s words and behavior. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] In subsequent paragraphs the voice of the author becomes dominant, passing judgment on President Johnson’s words and actions. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Reading Time magazine’s report, we hear two clear predominant voices. The voice of the president of the United States in the opening paragraph soon gives way to the authority of the writer’s commentary. If we were to read the article simply as one authoritative voice, that of the president or of Time magazine reporting the facts of what actually happened on September 3, 1965, we would miss the meaning and drama of the piece. Voices Behind Voices Frequently behind the obvious voices represented in a text are less obvious voices that are not as clearly identified. These hidden voices are part of the drama created in the text, for they reveal the entire world of characters the writer is representing. The more fully you can identify this web
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 91 of less obvious voices that lie behind the obvious voices, the more you can perceive the full picture the writer is creating. To see how a text creates a drama of multiple voices, some obvious and others not so obvious, consider a short section from the transcript of President Johnson’s press conference in early September 1965, as printed in the New York Times. Newspaper transcripts, although prepared by individuals, are printed by newspapers without an attributed author. Thus the newspaper presents the impression of an impartial record of events. Q. Mr. President, the Russians are reported to be saying that North Vietnam might be willing to start negotiations if there is another cessation of U.S. bombing. Do you credit these reports? And if so, are there any plans for another temporary halt of the bombing? A. I don’t know where the reports are. I haven’t seen them and we hear a lot of reports but as far as I’m aware, there’s nothing official about them. I expect some newspaperman is speculating. The voice of a reporter engages the president’s voice in a dialogue. At a press conference the voice of the president of the United States clearly is more powerful than that of any reporter. The president answers questions and gets to voice the last word on any topic. Reporters raise subjects in their questions. Their only power is to try to make the president address issues he might like to avoid. In fact, President Johnson’s response to the first question allows him to avoid entirely the second one about military plans, a subject no military leader would be likely to discuss in public. Behind the voices of a reporter trying to learn information and of a president controlling the information revealed, other, more shadowy voices may be heard. There are voices of the Russians (that is, of Soviet government leaders) and of an unnamed source reporting what Soviet leaders are saying. Further in the background are voices of the North Vietnamese (that is, of that country’s political leaders), whose words and ideas are filtered through the voices both of the Soviets and of the anonymous news source. The reporter identifies this chain of voices and asks the president to respond to the Vietnamese voice at the end of the chain. Johnson skirts the question by not accepting the news source as authoritative. He thereby eliminates the voices of both the Russians and the North Vietnamese. By silencing them, the president does not need to respond to them. This tactic means he does not even have to discuss whether the Soviets can speak for the Vietnamese, whether the words of either as reported are reliable, or what an appropriate U.S. response to this hypothetical international dialogue would be. Unless we as readers are able to identify and to understand the interactions of all the voices in such an exchange, we will not be able to understand what is going on in what we read. Writers’ Positions, Interests, and Biases In representing their story in a particular way, writers create a point of view or perspective. They have us look upon the characters (and the words of those characters) in a way that influences us to see the story the way they want us to see it. Often that point of view is part of a set of attitudes or beliefs the writer has about the subject because of personal conviction, an institutional role, or a personal advantage to be gained. Thus an ecological activist is likely to portray the voices expressing the need to preserve our forests as wise and informed, but the voices of supporters of the logging industry as greedy, short-sighted, and socially irresponsible. Similarly, the president of the logging company is likely to represent the words of his company’s reports in a favorable light while portraying the activists as un-informed about economic realities, the needs of consumers, and the quiet social responsibility of all the workers in the company.
92 Part 1 Writing About Reading The attitudes or biases of writers appear, then, in the ways in which they present the other voices they use. The more clearly a writer separates the voices represented into a good guy, bad guy opposition, the more clearly that writer is aligning himself or herself with one side or the other. Such choosing of sides is particularly likely to occur on controversial issues on which strongly opposing positions have solidified, as on the abortion issue or, in the late 1960s, the issue of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On such passionate issues with strongly divided oppositions, writers may express distaste and even disrespect for members of the opposition, as in the following selection from the prowar National Review of January 25, 1966. In this selection only those voices that clearly support the war receive favorable treatment. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Constructed Conversations Whether people are deeply divided and holding entrenched positions or are carrying on an open exchange of ideas, each speaker in a face-to-face discussion will grasp the conversation from a personal perspective. Comments reflect each speaker’s private interpretation of the conversation. In making a new comment, a speaker may even explicitly express opinions about comments made by previous speakers. In a small group, though each participant interprets the conversation from a personal point of view, everyone present has an opportunity to hear what others have had to say. When a conversation is carried on in writing, not every writer involved can rely on all readers to be familiar with past discussions of the subject or to agree with the writer that the same material is relevant background. The discussion in writing does not take place where all participants can watch one another enter and leave. Writers, therefore, need to refer explicitly to previous comments by other people that they feel are relevant to the subject at hand. Writers must describe, interpret, and evaluate the background statements that they decide are essential to the discussion. As already discussed, these interpretive and evaluative decisions depend on the interests, ideas, knowledge, and point of view of an individual writer. A Marine officer will view disagreement over military involvement in Vietnam differently from a student leader. Both will view the matter differently from a member of Congress, or a news analyst. It is not just that their opinions on policy may differ. Each of these people organizes experiences around different concepts and is concerned about different issues. A military officer wonders how the war can be won. A student leader wonders whether young people will or should be required to lose their lives for the cause. A member of Congress considers whether the war ought to be fought at all. Thus when each person considers the conversation, each will construct it from a personal point of view. Here follows the December 4, 1965, comments of TRB, an anonymous columnist writing in the New Republic, who talks of himself in the plural “we” to adopt the role of a general observer. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] TRB, who purposefully emerges in the piece as an opponent of the official policy, portrays the various speakers in the ongoing policy debate and assesses their thinking and contribution. The columnist tries to make it appear that the side espoused in the column is more reasonable than that of prowar opponents. The writer does this in part by comparing various views against the
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 93 expressed opinion that the expanding war is likely to get even larger and unlikely to end soon. On the other hand, TRB recognizes that prowar sentiment is growing among powerful political leaders, who are disparagingly termed “warhawks.” We get one writer’s view of what everyone else said; we read TRB’s construction of what the conversation has been. In reading any such account you must always make your own judgments as to whether a writer’s construction of the beliefs, wisdom, and authority of the voices in a debate is fair and accurate. TRB’s typically explicit construction of the state of conversation is a common form of political analysis because politics is very much a conversation of voices negotiating for dominance as the final authority. People in political battles are always thinking about who says what and why. In other controversial situations each writer will present a personal view of the background to set the tone for new arguments. In the academic world, reviews of a discipline’s literature (see Chapter 11) and literature discussions in other essays (see Part 3) are important ways academic disciplines assess the state of a scholarly inquiry, establish what is known, and prepare the way for new contributions. When you read, you need to pay attention to how a writer constructs a conversation, both to understand how the writer is trying to contribute to the conversation and to evaluate whether you construct the conversation in the same way the writer does. Deeply Embedded Voices As already mentioned, the voices of different people and different groups are not always reported by direct quotation, nor are the voices always clearly identifiable. Some voices may even fade into a familiar background of a long-term discussion. When a writer uses the words right to life or freedom of choice, we know the author has not coined these phrases. We hear in them echoes of two decades of debate on abortion and even wider echoes from past centuries’ discussion of individual liberties and rights. Opinions, phrases, and catchwords become resources for all writers. Each use of them reverberates with the many voices of those who have used the terms previously. The more we as readers recognize such echoing voices, the more we are able to grasp about how a writer enters a discussion and what the writer contributes to it. We grasp that all statements float upon the depths of language used by those who have come before. Consider, for example, the opening of a New York Times editorial for January 21, 1966, which considers what move the United States should next make in the Vietnam War. The Vietnam Decision Failure of the Johnson peace offensive thus far to bring about formal negotiations with Hanoi inescapably raises the question: What course should the United States now follow? Much depends on Washington’s evaluation of Hanoi’s ambiguous public and private replies and on the official estimate of how long it is safe to keep the bombers grounded. Is Hanoi holding out for concessions? Or is Hanoi seeking to avoid a conference out of the conviction that the United States will get tired and withdraw? President Johnson expressed the latter belief yesterday. But his conclusion from this remains unclear, since he also said: ”The door of peace must be kept wide open.” Many factors counsel patience. The two-month absence of North Vietnamese Army units from combat in South Vietnam-which may signal a Hanoi desire to continue the diplomatic exchanges—is one such factor. Far more important is the fact that the military balance in South Vietnam has been fundamentally transformed in the past year. The Times editorial, while directly quoting President Johnson, relies too on many unattributed opinions, statements, and long-standing points of discussion. The first six words—”Failure of the Johnson peace offensive”—rely on readers having consumed many news reports on U.S. military efforts to force North Vietnam into peace negotiations, on the current
94 Part 1 Writing About Reading temporary halt to U.S. bombing of North Vietnam to encourage peace negotiations, and on the continued lack of peace negotiations. The opening words also count on readers’ familiarity with presidential statements about the purposes of U.S. military and diplomatic moves as well as with political commentators’ evaluations arguing that diplomatic moves have failed. Sometimes background voices may be so deeply embedded that they can be recognized only by people who have followed an ongoing conversation for a long while. We recognize when our brother starts sounding like our father or when a teacher uses an idea or phrase voiced earlier by a student. A newcomer to either conversation would not hear those echoes of other views. We build our repertoire of knowledge, language, and ideas from what we have heard and read, whether or not we are conscious of this process. For example, after I read an author with a distinctive style, my writing may be affected. I start using images, phrases, sentence patterns, or ways of reasoning characteristic of the writer. If I find the writer’s ideas powerful, they float through my mind and influence my thinking. At first the writer’s influence may be quite pronounced, but after a time the influences mix with what I have gathered elsewhere, so that the effect may no longer be particularly noticeable. This deep embedding of other voices in ours makes our language and thinking richer. Recognizing how writers make use of the wealth of other voices, we can become more aware of how to take advantage of this resource in our own writing. Whether we are directly quoting an expert who supports our views, characterizing a position we wish to oppose, or indirectly echoing the phrases of other writers, we can learn to use others’ voices to shape our own original statements. Maintaining Control of Voices As we become aware of multiple voices in our reading and writing, there is always the danger of losing track of who is saying what, of whose voice is in control. Unintelligible voices risk running into each other, and we can get lost in a tower of Babel. When we read, we need to recognize how a writer controls various voices within a text to fit them together into a coherent statement. When we write, we need to exert control over the voices we use so that we say what we want to say and present readers with a coherent point of view. As a writer, you must establish an authority over all the voices you use. If you fail to do so, readers will not know what you are saying. As I was writing an analysis of an excerpt about the Vietnam War for this chapter, I thought of the words of the literary critic Bakhtin, who discussed voices in novels. You might have wondered where my analysis was leading if I had interrupted my analytic passage to quote a few of Bakhtin’s abstractions, as follows: The word in language is someone else’s. It becomes “one’s own” only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent. An abrupt introduction of Bakhtin’s comment would confuse you because it is a new voice from another conversation. If I made the connection to the quotation from Bakhtin clear, I would be introducing Bakhtin’s words gradually into the chapter’s conversation about writing. In Bakhtin’s terms, I would have populated his words with my intention. Just as we must make clear how our controlling voice is making use of all the other voices we bring in when we write, when we read we must recognize how a writer’s voice dominates the many voices evoked in the text. Sometimes an author makes it easy for readers to see what his or her stance is and how the other voices in the text relate to it. A decade after the end of the Vietnam
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 95 War, U.S. Army General William Peers, looking back at the pivotal 1965 political period, passes unmistakable judgment on the many voices of that time. In mid-1965, the decision was made to send U.S. combat forces to South Vietnam. We should have immediately committed sufficient ground, air, and naval forces so as to end the conflict in the shortest possible time. Such a commitment would have saved countless lives and injuries, avoided the no-win situation in which our forces became involved, and greatly reduced the inner conflict which so divided this nation. But the U.S. did not do that. American leaders did not mobilize the armed forces, federalize the National Guard, or call reserve units to active service. War industries, the economy, and the population were not mobilized. Nor were funds provided for deploying sufficient combat forces to do the job quickly and get it over with. Instead, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara made the decision, with the approval of the president, to fight a war of gradualism, a piecemeal kind of war, employing an initial minimum force and adding to it bit by bit as the situation dictated. As a result, it became a Pentagon war, not a people’s war, and dragged on for eleven years, much to the disillusionment of the American people. General Peers clearly wishes that government leaders would have said unequivocally in 1965 to the military, industry, and the general public that we should win the war. The writer believes the Vietnam War failed because leaders sent conflicting messages to all groups. The antiwar opposition of the American people Peers sees only as the result of U.S. leaders’ faulty communications. Sometimes, however, authors stand in complex relation to voices in a text. For example, the military historian Alexander Cochran, writing in 1984, does not pass immediate judgment on the voices of 1965. Instead he tries to piece together how important decisions were made. Below Cochran discusses the fifth of what he identifies as eight crucial decisions made during a short period. The fifth decision for war came in late July 1965, one that George Herring has called “the closest thing to a formal decision for war in Vietnam.”1 The internal debate leading to President Johnson’s decision of 28 July 1965 to deploy the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) plus other support troops to Vietnam has been extensively studied, thanks to The Pentagon Papers and a remarkable collection of National Security Council papers entitled “Troop Deployment of U.S. Forces” at the Johnson Library.2 For this analysis, only a few comments are important. The July decision was based upon recommendations submitted to the president by McNamara after the Honolulu meetings of late April 1965 and, even more important, upon a new estimate submitted by General Westmoreland which dramatically revised upwards his March 1965 requirements for American ground forces because of declining South Vietnamese battlefield strength. He now concluded that “the South Vietnamese Armed Forces cannot stand up to [North Vietnamese reinforcements and a Viet Cong offensive] … without substantial U.S. combat support on the ground.”3 This report played to McNamara’s earlier warning about a “spectacular defeat.” Despite George Ball’s protestation, the option of withdrawal was not seriously considered. The sheer inertia created by the earlier decisions proved overwhelming. 1 George C. Herring, America’s Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1970-75 (New York: Random, 1979) 142. 2 Deployment of Major U.S. Forces to Vietnam, Jul 65, National Security Council Histories, NSF, LBJL. The best treatment of this debate is Larry Berman, Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam (New York: Norton, 1982), which is based extensively on the cited NSC history. 3 Westmoreland to Sharp, 14 Jun 64, in Gareth Porter, ed., Vietnam: The Definitive Documentation of Human Decisions, vol. 2 (Stanfordville, N.Y.: Earl M. Coleman, 1979) 378-82.
96 Part 1 Writing About Reading The July decisions to increase troop deployments were keyed to the numbers recommended by McNamara in April. In the midst of the July debates, the president had sent McNamara to Vietnam for a final assessment. The secretary of defense had wired Westmoreland before his arrival that he wanted his “recommendations for forces to year’s end and beyond,” thus indicating that Washington’s interest now went beyond 1965.4 Westmoreland did just that, expanding his earlier March request, though, as he later candidly admitted, “it was virtually impossible to provide the Secretary with a meaningful figure.”5 The significance of the July decisions was vast. The massive application of American ground combat power was now the key … with the exception of calling up the reserves, President Johnson accepted McNamara’s recommendations of quantitative numbers rather than military strategy. Thus the decision for war was based upon numbers not strategy. Alexander Cochran does not take any position on the merits of the Vietnam War itself or agree or disagree with what any particular person said about the war. The historian is concerned in this excerpt with the way historical decisions were made (“the option of withdrawal was not seriously considered”), what kinds of comments were made, and what information was considered in the course of the decision-making process. The voices heard in Cochran’s text are presented as evidence of what happened during the historical event. Cochran is not involved in a debate over how the Vietnam War should have been fought. He is part of a debate among historians as to how the war was conducted. Cochran has used political and military voices as part of his historian’s statement within a conversation among historians. To glean the full meaning from a text, as readers we need to recognize the various voices in a text, how they relate to one another, and how the author uses each of them to create the overall statement. If we are unaware of the author’s control of the text’s voices, we may think the author agrees with an opinion he or she actually opposes. Understanding a text requires understanding the drama in which the author is engaged and the role he or she plays in it. When we write, we must let readers know where we stand in the drama we present and where the other voices we use fit in. Otherwise, we do not get our message across. 4 Sec Def to Am Emb, Saigon, Deftel 5319, 7 Jul 65, NSF, LBJL. 5 William C. Westmoreland, A Soldier Reports (Garden City: Doubleday, 1976) 142. Questions to Ask About Voices in a Text 1. Are there any voices quoted directly? Why were the particular passages selected for quotation? What framing perspective does the writer give to these quoted voices? 2. Are there any indirectly quoted voices? How does the paraphrase suggest a specific interpretation? 3. Are there any obvious voices hidden behind the obvious voices? Do any of the voices represent institutions or official roles rather than just the thoughts of an individual? 4. Do any of the words or phrases suggest a background of long-term discussion within which the text fits? How does the new text statement fit in with this long-term discussion? 5. What attitude does the writer have towards the various obvious and hidden voices? Does the writer clearly favor one group of voices over others? How does the writer put the various voices into a single argument?
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 97 FOR CLASS DISCUSSION For the selections below discuss the various voices that appear, how those voices are used, what patterns of voices each author uses, and how the author’s voice emerges in relation to the others in the piece. 1. John Muir’s discussion of the need for national parks on pages 38-39. 2. M. Thomas Inge’s consideration of Peanuts as American culture on page 65. 3. J. Larry Brown’s article, “Hunger in the U.S.,” on page 65. 4. Lilian Katz’s editorial, “Reading, Writing, Narcissism,” on page 74. 5. Yale Kamisar’s argument against active euthanasia on page 74. 6. The anonymous essay “It’s Over, Debbie” on page 74. 7. Any article from today’s newspaper. 8. The article below from the New York Times, dated January 28, 1966. (President Johnson had ordered a halt to U.S. bombing of North Vietnam on December 24, 1965, to encourage peace negotiations. When the negotiations did not materialize, bombing was resumed on February 1, 1966. This was one of the longest and most complete of sixteen such bombing halts during the Johnson administration.) [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Multiple Voices in Your Own Writing Once you start to see the different voices represented in your reading, you will become more careful in how you write about those texts. You must notice whether the idea you are responding to is the author’s or belongs to someone the author quotes or discusses. Otherwise, you may get yourself into battles where none exist. Similarly, if you use someone else’s writing to support your position, mistaking one of the voices in the text for the author’s controlling voice, you will weaken your case rather than strengthen it. Understanding the voices in your reading will also help you understand how to use other people’s words, views, and attitudes in your own writing to enlist experts’ support for your own purposes. Part 2, which discusses the research paper, follows up on this theme. The research paper is a way of using the voices of library sources to answer questions and convince your readers about what you have to say on subjects important to you. Part 3 examines how writers contribute to the organized conversations of academic disciplines. Control over the many voices evident in the literature of any discipline is important if a writer is to make well-focused new contributions to knowledge. In writing response essays, synthesis essays, reviews of a field’s literature, library research papers, professional arguments, legal briefs, and other types of academic and professional writing, you will need to orchestrate many voices to establish your own position. Whether you enter politics or business, archeology or medicine, your writing will need to take into account the many voices that together produce the knowledge of your field.
98 Part 1 Writing About Reading Writing short essays analyzing the various voices in individual texts will increase your ability to identify the structure of voices within any text and will help you understand better how to control such voices in your own writing. Your analysis of these voices will also introduce you to writing analytical essays. Writing an Essay Analyzing Voices The Essay of Analysis When writing an essay of analysis you must have a very clear idea of your analytic purpose so that your essay will not be mistaken for nonanalytic writing and so that you do not lose sight of the perspective you are taking as a writer. In an essay of analysis you look at a text, an object, or an event from a very particular point of view. You consider how specific concepts apply or work within the text, object, or event undergoing analysis. In writing an essay of analysis, your main purpose is not to describe or summarize. Your task is to break the subject of your analysis into parts according to appropriate categories or concepts. If the analytical concepts or categories are appropriate, they will help you identify the subject’s underlying structure or meaning. To explain, support, or explore how your analysis applies to the subject under analysis, you will probably need to discuss details, which you may choose to describe, quote, or summarize in passing. These specifics of your subject must only serve to support your analysis. If you let a description, quotation, or summary dominate, you will lose sight of your analytical purpose. The writer-analyst’s primary attention must not wander. In the essay analyzing voices, for example, every sentence must help readers understand how voices are used in a text. Simply repeating what the voices say would change the essay writer’s focus to summary. This chapter concerns a particular kind of textual analysis: pulling a text apart to examine the structure of one aspect of it, its voices. There are many other kinds of textual analysis. Chapter 7 explores the analysis of purpose and technique (sometimes called rhetorical analysis) in which you consider how an author uses a variety of methods to achieve a particular purpose. Chapter 9 discusses how to analyze and evaluate disagreements between texts. Chapter 13 presents the interpretive analysis often used in literary studies arid other disciplines in the humanities. In any form of textual analysis you look at the text from a very specific perspective. If your perspective shifts, your analysis is likely to lose focus. For advice on other specific types of analysis, see pages 104-126, 147-158, and 241-243. Thinking Through Your Analysis Before you begin writing any analysis, you must pull apart the text you are analyzing according to analytic categories to see how the parts fit together or what the text’s substructure is. If you have a clear analytical view of the text before you begin writing, you are less likely to slip into a description, summary, or paraphrase. In analyzing voices, you must identify the voices that appear in the text, see how they fit together, and understand how the author uses those voices to create his or her own voice and to make his or her own statement. Once you have developed an understanding of the structure of voices in the text, you will be able to analyze that structure in your essay. Following the steps below will help you develop your analysis of a text’s voices. First, identify the voices that appear in the text. In your notes list the names of individuals or groups of individuals whose voices explicitly and directly make a statement in the text. Next to
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 99 each name write a few words summarizing each voice’s main message. Leave blank space next to each entry for your later comments on how the author relates to or uses each of these voices. In addition, list the names of other individuals or groups that play an indirect role in the text’s drama. These voices may be represented by the direct voices in the text or they may be familiar background figures in the text’s discussion. Next to each name summarize the voice’s implied message. Leave space for your notes to come. Second, see how the various voices relate to the author’s overall voice or statement. In the space you have left in your notes as described above, comment on where the author of the text stands with respect to each message from the voices listed. What does the writer think about the various messages? How are they used in the text? Does the author approve or disapprove of the messages? Does the author battle against one or more voices or use them as support? Does the author use voices in a less direct way? Third, find patterns in the way the author uses the voices. When you have a sense of where the writer of the text stands with respect to each of the individual voices heard, you can consider the pattern the writer has designed for voices. Are there political opponents of the author’s position, all of whom are obviously disapproved of? Are statistical voices used to provide factual background? Are friendly voices cited for their wisdom or insight? The patterns may emerge more clearly if you diagram the relations between voices or shuffle your list around, perhaps by listing all voices the writer agrees with in one column, all voices the writer opposes in another, and all those used only for evidence, or background, in a third. Fourth, draw general conclusions about how the author uses and controls all the voices. Only when you have a sense of the general pattern of voices can you confidently say how the author orchestrates these voices to make a point. This overall pattern reveals the text’s substructure exposed by your analysis and points to the main conclusion you will draw from your analysis. To help you collect your thoughts, write a sentence or two expressing your general analytic conclusions. These conclusions will become the core of your essay. The rest of your essay will explain and support your conclusions. Writing Up Your Analysis The main purpose of your analytical essay is to describe the underlying structure of voices in a text and show how the author uses these voices to create a dominant voice of authority. The introduction to the essay announces your analytic purpose by identifying both the text under scrutiny and your analytical concentration on its voices. It should clearly state the main pattern of voices found in your text. You can base this statement on the sentence or two you wrote as the fourth step in your thinking process, when you expressed your general analytic conclusions. These analytic conclusions will become the thesis statement for your whole essay. Placing them in the last sentence or two of your opening paragraph will make clear their importance to the details in your essay. In the student essay written by Marie Pacione that begins on page 184, the thesis statement appears in the final sentences of the introductory paragraph: Guidelines for Thinking Through an Analysis of Voices 1. Identify voices that appear in the text. 2. See how the various voices relate to the author’s overall voice or statement. 3. Find patterns in the way the author uses the voices. 4. Draw general conclusions about how the author uses and controls all the voices.
100 Part 1 Writing About Reading “As she traces the history of the media’s coverage of Hillary Clinton during the campaign, those who defend the press and those who criticize the press are set up in a point-counterpoint structure with the critics always getting the last and strongest word. In this article we hear a debate, but where one side clearly comes out the winner.” The body paragraphs of your analytical essay should focus on the individual voices, and the order in which you discuss them should reflect the pattern of voices you have identified. For example, Marie divides the body of her essay into four paragraphs: two devoted to voices that defend followed by two devoted to critical voices. The sequence of her body paragraphs reflects the “point-counterpoint” pattern of voices in Corcoran’s article that Marie has identified in her thesis statement. The essay’s structure leads naturally in the concluding paragraph to a discussion of Corcoran’s voice in relation to the two groups of voices. As this student sample illustrates, you need to discuss within each of your body paragraphs what a particular voice or group of voices represents, how the author of the text related to the voice, how the author uses the voice, and how it fits into the pattern of voices in the text. Using specific examples and evidence to explain, support, and develop your discussion of each voice or group of voices will make your argument coherent and convincing. Use Marie’s essay as a model for developing your analysis of the voices or groups of voices in the text you have chosen to write about. The conclusion of your analytical essay should draw together the pattern of voices to discuss the text’s underlying structure, as revealed through your detailed presentation in the body paragraphs. That substructure of voices should tell you something new about the effects of the text on readers and explain how the author creates coherence from many voices. Your concluding paragraphs should reflect your opening statement of analytic conclusions, as they reveal the insight you have gained from your detailed analysis. Just as the opening statement of analytic conclusions acts as a signpost for your readers, showing them where your essay is headed and what to look for as they read, your concluding statements help them understand the meaning and implications of the analytical journey you have guided them through. For example, in her next to last paragraph, Marie emphasizes how Corcoran orchestrates the two opposing groups of voice in the text to make her argument indirectly. Then, in a final paragraph, Marie suggests how that structure of opposing perceptions helps us see through stereotypes that confuse and distort, so that the article goes beyond criticizing the press to help us hear with less distortion and confusion the voices of women in public life. Sample Essay Analyzing Voices Pilloried Clinton,” by Katherine Corcoran In her article “Pilloried Clinton,” on media coverage of Hillary Clinton during the 1992 presidential campaign, Katherine Corcoran asks the question “Were the women who covered Hillary Clinton during the campaign guilty of sexism?” One way of thinking about this question is to ask whether these reporters presented Hillary in an unbiased way, letting her voice come through clearly, or whether they presented her through one or another inappropriate stereotypes that made her voice sound like it came from a kind of person she is not. While Corcoran early in the article, particularly in the fourth and fifth paragraphs, does present her own view that reporters frequently misrepresented Hillary Clinton through stereotypes, for the most part she uses the voices of defenders and critics of the press. Even though she does let defenders of the press, including some of those reporters who wrote stories criticized in the article, speak for themselves, those voices are always answered by the voices of the critics. As she traces the history of the media’s coverage of Hillary Clinton
Chapter 6 Recognizing the Many Voices in a Text 101 during the campaign, those who defend the press and those who criticize the press are set up in a point-counterpoint structure with the critics always getting the last and strongest word. In this article we hear a debate, but one side clearly comes out the winner. The first group of voices, those which claim that media coverage of Hillary Clinton was not sexist, is represented by specific women in the press who have been accused of sexism in their coverage of the campaign and by some of their defenders. Corcoran first gives a series of examples of suspect coverage, and then lets those accused defend themselves. For example, in her discussion of the “Tammy Wynette slur,” she quotes Newsweek’s Ginny Carroll, who criticized Hillary Clinton for being “heedless to the country music vote,” and cites Ann McDaniel’s defense of Carroll, who claimed that the country music vote is significant because it is a way to appear to be in touch with ordinary people. Corcoran also cites the press coverage of Hillary Clinton’s apparent jab at stay-at-home mothers, “I suppose I could have stayed at home and baked cookies and had teas. But what I decided to do was fulfill my profession,” which set the tone for press coverage of Hillary Clinton for the rest of the campaign. She follows this example with reporter’s defense of her coverage of the sound bite: “The cookies remark was a stupid remark for a political wife to make.” Corcoran also gives a series of examples of the shift in press coverage from serious issues toward concerns over Hillary Clinton’s changing public image, followed by voices defending this coverage. For example, Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times wrote, “Though some voters say they like her precisely because she is a modern role model … so many others have been put off by her assertiveness that she has begun favoring her softer side.” Corcoran follows up this quote with Stanley’s defense of her story: “Stanley maintains she was not stereotyping but covering a dramatic remake in the candidate’s wife. ‘There was a very conscious effort to tone her down,’ she says. ‘I didn’t make that up.’” Another reporter, Michele Ingrassia of Newsday, who described Hillary Clinton as “standing by her man, gazing adoringly,” defends her account, stating that it was not meant to be serious but that it was nevertheless true: “… she did start to gaze adoringly. Trust me.” These representative examples of the voices defending the press against charges of sexism are countered with commentary by representatives of the second group of voices: objective, expert media observers who believe that press handling of Hillary Clinton was in fact sexist. For example, Corcoran follows the description of media coverage of the “cookies and tea” gaffe with a comment by Margaret Colson, the deputy Washington bureau chief for Time magazine, who acknowledged, with regret, that the quotation was used out of context. Corcoran also provides the context: Hillary Clinton’s next sentence was “The work I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed … to assure that women can make the choices … whether it’s a full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination.” Hillary Clinton’s more complete statement reveals that the press reporting distorted and stereotyped her voice by only a partial quotation. Likewise, in her account of why the women in the media covered Hillary Clinton the way they did, Corcoran draws on experts who acknowledge that the press coverage was at least questionable. For example, she quotes Ann Grimes, assistant national editor for the Washington Post and author of a book entitled Running Mates: The Making of the First Lady, who notes the long history of antagonism between women of the press and political wives but also states that the reaction to Hillary Clinton was a mixture of fascination and antagonism. Corcoran also cites Susan Rasky, journalism professor at the University of California at Berkeley and former New York Times congressional correspondent, who argues that the media’s coverage was “more manufactured than real” and that its sexism came from “a long line of sexist stereotypes of first ladies.” Corcoran even manages to pull some of the members of the press to her side. In fact, she concludes her article by quoting Marjorie Williams, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair who covered Barbara Bush during the 1992 campaign and who acknowledges that the press must be held responsible for the manner in which it covered Hillary Clinton: “We’re the ones who are supposed to try for an unbiased and intelligent approach. We’re the ones who have to answer for how stupid it got.” Corcoran does not have to point the finger of blame at the press or cry sexism; a member of the press itself does it for her. By pulling the voices of authority to her side to refute the media’s defense of coverage, Corcoran creates an argument that will convince her readers that the media’s coverage of
102 Part 1 Writing About Reading Hillary Clinton was sexist in spite of insistence to the contrary. The author’s criticism of the press is presented indirectly through the structure of the debate between the two groups of opposing voices, in which every defense is countered by a more compelling and authoritative answer. She does this so successfully that she does not even need to state her own position at the end, or even anywhere after the opening paragraphs. The well-orchestrated argument between defenders and critics does all the work for her. Since stereotypes are themselves a matter of how people perceive things, Corcoran needs to share with us how a number of people perceive the coverage of Hillary Clinton. In that way we can begin to see through the stereotypes that made it hard for the press and the public to gain a calm view of who Hillary Clinton was. Hillary Clinton’s own voice starts to come through a bit more clearly here as the stereotypes in the reporting are exposed. Even more important, however, we can begin to see how the stereotypes tempted and confused much of the press, keeping them from more serious coverage. Seeing how these stereotypes distort may help us from being as confused by them in the future. Perhaps because of articles like this, in the future we may have more responsible coverage of not only political wives but all women in public life. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS 1. Write an essay of about 500 words analyzing the voices in any one of the eight texts listed for discussion on page 97. Your audience will be classmates who are also learning to recognize the role voices play in a text’s meaning. 2. Analyze the voices in any short article you have read as part of your research for the term research project. Your audience will be people who share your research interest. 3. Imagine you have a pen pal overseas who wishes to understand more about politics in the United States. Your pen pal lives in a country with a dictatorial government under which all political decisions are based on the unilateral choices of the head of state. In your pen pal’s country, newspapers report only official government statements. In order to explain to your pen pal the complex drama of political decisions in your country, clip an appropriate newspaper article about an American political decision and in a letter to your friend discuss the various voices that appear in the article and the role they play in the news story. Explain how the journalist’s voice remains distinct from the political voices the journalist uses to report on the decision. 4. As part of a course in philosophy you are asked to read the passage below from Philosophy in the Twentieth Century by A. J. Ayer. You and your classmates are confused as to exactly what Ayer is saying. In order to clarify your understanding of this and other difficult philosophic passages, you have formed a class study group. It is your turn to lead the discussion of this passage. In preparation write a few paragraphs identifying the various voices Ayer uses and the positions they voice in his text. Be sure to identify where Ayer stands at the conclusion of the selection in respect to the subject he raises. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED]
103 7 ANALYZING THE AUTHOR’S PURPOSE AND TECHNIQUE he writer’s overall purpose determines the techniques he or she uses. The writer’s reason for writing a particular article or book may be manipulative, as in propaganda or advertising, or may be more straightforward, as in informative writing. In either case, understanding the writer’s underlying purpose will help you interpret the context of the writing. It will also help you see why writers make the decisions they do—from the largest decisions about what information to present to the smallest details of what words to use. The chapter concludes with instructions on how to write an analysis of purpose and technique. This kind of rhetorical analysis will provide the perspective required to keep you from being pushed by words in directions you don’t want to go. T
104 Part 1 Writing About Reading The Writer’s Purpose Insofar as people know what they are doing, they plan their actions to achieve their purposes. Someone who selects the purpose of being rich will design and carry out a set of actions, legal or illegal, to gain the desired wealth. A person who wants to gain great wisdom will design an entirely different life course. Writers, whether they want most to be wealthy or wise, have specific purposes they hope to achieve by any piece of work. If they are skilled writers—that is, in control of what they write—they design each aspect of what they are writing to achieve their purpose. Being aware of the writer’s purpose when you read helps you evaluate how well the writer has achieved the purpose and decide whether you want to follow where the writer is trying to lead you. The active reader reads more than the words and more than even the ideas: the active reader reads what the writer is doing. The active reader reconstructs the overall design, both the writer’s purpose and the techniques used to realize that purpose. In this chapter, we initially consider the various purposes a writer may have and the ways in which a reader can discern that purpose. Next we discuss the various techniques available to writers and in a case study look at several examples of how technique is related to purpose. The chapter ends with specific instructions on how to write an essay analyzing purpose and technique. The Ad Writer’s Purpose Living as we do in a consumerist and merchandising society, we are all sensitive to the designs of advertising. We know the purpose of most advertisements is to get us to open up our wallets and surrender their contents willingly and even enthusiastically. We are also intellectually aware of most of the techniques that advertisers use to entice us: emotionally charged language, vivid art, attractive models, appeals to our fantasies and our fears. Nike, a manufacturer of athletic shoes and sportswear, for example, has used ad campaigns on television and in print media to encourage us to buy the newest, most high-tech, most fashionable sneakers on the market. How can advertising make us purchase an eighty-dollar pair of high-top basketball shoes when we don’t even play basketball? By making us feel we need them. Advertising tries to convince us that wearing Nike products will make us happy people. The advertising would have us associate positive emotions springing from health and physical fitness with Nike products and feel guilty for being lazy, eating junk food, and talking about turning over a new leaf tomorrow. One particular Nike advertising campaign, built around the slogan “JUST DO IT,” attempts to challenge us to get off the sofa, put down the television remote control, and exercise regularly-and then to associate our feelings of accomplishment and pride with Nike athletic shoes. The slogan suggests that readers will be exchanging bad habits for good ones when they buy a new pair of shoes. Of course, readers must do something to accomplish all this: in order to “just do it” (stop being lazy and start exercising), they first have to buy a pair of Nikes. The slogan also implies (perhaps legitimately) that consumers have something to gain (at the very least, a fashionable new pair of shoes; at the most, better health) and nothing to lose (not exactly true—the shoes are costly). The two-page spread originally appeared in a weekly magazine targeting African Americans in the business world. Like most of Nike’s print ads, this one targets a specific audience: educated, professional African-American males. By repeating the “JUST DO IT” slogan while challenging potential consumers to achieve in every facet of experience, the company is insisting that wearing Nike shoes is a sign of success not just on the basketball Court, but in the game of life. The visual
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 105 impact of the ad is created by the contrast between light and dark in a wide-angle photograph of a dimly lit alley. The only light appears in the distant figure dressed in a white sweat suit, shooting hoops on an outdoor basketball court; in the white lettering of the printed copy running down the right side of the right-hand page; and in the Nike logo in the top left corner of the left-hand page. The lone athlete, the white lettering, and the Nike logo stand out and “rise above” an obscure environment—challenging the potential consumer to do likewise. The narrative itself reinforces and clarifies the message. The first seven lines list the nicknames of athletes who succeeded in sports but not in life, because they didn’t know they had “all the tools.” The twelfth line, “Fortunately, you do,” contrasts these men with the reader directly. The rest of the narrative challenges him to use the tools available to excel in all aspects of life: “Go back to school. Start a business. Coach little league. Vote. JUST DO IT…” The reader could bike to work, get his blood pressure checked, visit Africa, and run for public office without wearing Nike athletic shoes, but the fact that Nike is issuing the challenges—emphasized by repetition of the Nike slogan—suggests that the company cares about much more than physical fitness. This ad underplays its “Buy shoes” message and instead subtly invites the reader to associate positive images and ideas with the company that produces the shoes. The ad’s final two lines restate the contrasts presented in the visual and narrative elements and emphasize the seriousness of the manufacturer’s message: “Remember. It’s a must win situation.” Since this advertisement in the Nike campaign appeals to both the desires and the fears of its target audience, it does not need to provide a direct sell. Instead, through vivid visual imagery and evocative language, the designers of the ad attempt to equate a product with self-improvement and overall success. Neither the word shoe nor a close-up photograph of the product appears in the ad. The company name and logo appear only once, in small letters in one corner; neither appears in the printed copy of the ad. Because of the number and frequency of ads in the campaign, most potential consumers know what this particular ad is about. Emphasizing the product or the company is unnecessary; the “JUST DO IT” slogan is synony-mous with the company name; and just about everyone knows what Nike produces. Federal regulations outlaw advertising claims that are outright deceptions; and some advertisements are designed to be merely informative, to just let us know that a product with specific features is available on the market. Even Nike has designed ads with this intent: for example, the series of ads promoting the “Air Jordan” basketball shoe, with a pump, claimed to provide adequate arch support and decrease impact stress. Nonetheless, even the plainest advertisements emphasize certain of the consumers’ needs and attitudes at the expense of others. Most advertisements try to distract us from a simple, rational consideration of what we need and what we actually receive in return when we purchase particular products. Even the techniques of amusement—if we laugh at the advertisement, we will remember the product and buy it—lead us away from analyzing the value we receive in exchange for our money. FOR CLASS DISCUSSION Discuss how the copywriters and art directors of the two advertisements on pages 195-196 have created both text and art that they think will make consumers want to respond in certain ways. What group of people does each advertisement address, and how does each appeal to its particular audience? Do the ads have features that would appeal to consumers of a particular race, sex, or age group? How is each advertisement designed to generate a particular action from its designated readership? How well do you feel each fulfills its purpose? How do the differences in audience and purpose account for differences in the presentation of each advertisement? Find other magazine or newspaper advertisements for discussion.
106 Part 1 Writing About Reading The Propagandist’s Purpose Propaganda, like advertising, aims to make us forget reason. Propaganda may serve to further political ambitions, to drum up support for questionable governmental policies, or to confuse political discussions by deflecting attention from the real issues. In the early 1950s, Senator Joseph McCarthy relied heavily on propaganda to advance his own career and to create extreme anti-Communist fear and hysteria. In the following excerpt from a speech he delivered in the Senate on July 6, 1950, McCarthy turns his apparent support of President Harry S Truman’s decision to send United States troops to Korea into an attack on supposed Communist sympathizers in Washington. Mr. President, at this very moment GIs are consecrating the hills and the valleys of Korea with American blood. But all that blood is not staining the Korean hills and valleys. Some of it is deeply and permanently staining the hands of Washington politicians. Some men of little minds and less morals are today using the Korean war as a profitable political diversion, a vehicle by which to build up battered reputations because of incompetence and worse. The American people have long condemned war profiteers who promptly crowd the landscape the moment their Nation is at war. Today, Mr. President, war profiteers of a new and infinitely more debased type are cluttering the landscape in Washington. They are political war profiteers. Today they are going all-out in an effort to sell the American people the idea that in order to successfully fight communism abroad, we must give Communists and traitors at home complete unmolested freedom of action. They are hiding behind the word “unity,” using it without meaning, but as a mere catch phrase to center the attention of the American people solely on the fighting front. They argue that if we expose Communists, fellow travelers, and traitors in our Government, that somehow this will injure our war effort. Actually, anyone who can add two and two must realize that if our war effort is to be successful, we must redouble our efforts to get rid of those who, either because of incompetence or because of loyalty to the Communist philosophy, have laid the groundwork and paved the way for disaster. The pattern will become clearer as the casualty lists mount. Anyone who criticizes the murderous incompetence of those who are responsible for this disaster, anyone who places the finger upon dupes and traitors in Washington, because of whose acts young men are already dying, will be guilty of creating disunity. Already this cry has reached fantastic pinnacles of moronic thinking. Take, for example, the local Daily Worker, that is, the Washington Post. The other day this newspaper ran an editorial in effect accusing the University of California of injuring the war effort by discharging 137 teachers and other employees who refused to certify that they were not members of the Communist International conspiracy. This, Mr. President, would be laugh-able if it came merely from the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the New York Daily Worker, and its mockingbirds like the Washington Post. Unfortunately, a few of the Nation’s respectable but misguided writers are being sold this same bill of goods, namely, that to have unity in our military effort the truth about Communists at home must be suppressed. McCarthy begins by flag waving; that is, by playing on strong national feeling. By praising American soldiers, he makes himself appear patriotic with only the interests of his country at heart. He also arouses in his listeners patriotic feeling in support of the self-sacrificing GIs. But in the second sentence, he turns this patriotic feeling against Washington politicians. McCarthy starts name calling, which he continues throughout the speech. With no detailed evidence or other support, he labels certain unidentified members of the government as incompetents, Communists, dupes, and traitors. He repeats these labels throughout his attack, but he never becomes specific about who these traitors are, what their exact crimes are, and what his evidence is. Thus he makes only blanket accusations that cannot be pinpointed and therefore cannot be proved or disproved.
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 107 Guilt by Association As part of his labeling, McCarthy employs guilt by association: he associates members of the government with war profiteers who had been the object of public hatred for many years. Similarly, he associates the Washington Post, an independent newspaper, with the Daily Worker, the official newspaper of the Communist party. Finally, the whole excerpt relies on scapegoating, putting the blame on those who are not truly responsible. If American soldiers are dying and if casualty lists are mounting, McCarthy wants to make it appear that the fault belongs to our government officials and newspapers—especially those that McCarthy does not like. Rather than saying it is the North Korean army killing our soldiers, McCarthy puts bloodstains on “the hands of Washington politicians.” Unfortunately, propaganda is sometimes very effective, particularly at times of crisis when emotions run high. Playing on the Korean War and Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe, McCarthy temporarily gained substantial power and created a climate of terror in this country, a climate that took many years to dispel. Campaign Speeches Not all propaganda strategies are as obvious as those McCarthy used. In fact, most propaganda is much more subtle and difficult to detect, and this is particularly true of propaganda used during elections. The 1992 presidential campaign was no exception. In an unusual three-way race, all the candidates—the incumbent, President George Bush; the Democratic challenger, Bill Clinton; and the independent candidate, Ross Perot—relied on propaganda to court potential voters. Following are the candidates’ closing statements from the second of three presidential debates televised during the month before the election. Notice how in his closing statement, each candidate uses a variety of propaganda strategies to appeal to the electorate. Closing Statements BUSH. Let me just say to the American people in, in two and a half weeks we’re going to choose who should sit in this Oval Office. Who to lead the economic recovery, who to be the leader of the free world, who to get the deficit down. Three ways to do that: One is to raise taxes; one is to reduce spending, controlling that mandatory spending; another one is to invest and save and to stimulate growth. I do not want to raise taxes. I differ with the two here on that. I’m just not going to do that. I do believe that we need to control mandatory spending. I think we need to invest and save more. I believe that we need to educate better and retrain better. I believe that we need to export more, so I’ll keep working for export agreements where we can sell more abroad. And I believe that we must strengthen the family. We’ve got to strengthen the family. Now let me pose this question to America: If in the next five minutes, a television announcer came on and said there is a major international crisis—there is a major threat to the world or in this country-a major threat. My question is: Who, if you were appointed to name one of the three of us, who would you choose? Who has the perseverance, the character, the integrity, the maturity to get the job done? I hope I’m that person. Thank you very, very much. Q. Thank you, Mr. President. And now, a closing statement from Mr. Perot. PEROT. If the American people want to do it and not talk about it, then, they ought-you know, I’m not person they ought to consider. If they just want to keep slow-dancing and talk about it, and not do it, I’m not your man. I am results-oriented, I am action-oriented. I’ve built my businesses. Getting things done in three months what my competitors took 18 months to
108 Part 1 Writing About Reading do. Everybody says you can’t do that in Congress; sure you can do that with Congress. Congress is—they’re all good people. They’re all patriots. But you’ve got to link arms and work with them. Sure, you’ll have arguments; sure, you’ll have fights. We have them all day, every day. But we get the job done. I have to come back in my close to one thing, because I am passionate about education. I was talking about early childhood education for disadvantaged low-income children. And let me tell you one specific pilot program, where children who don’t have, chance go to this program when they’re three and now we’re going back to when the mother’s pregnant. They’ll start right after they’re born. But going-starting when they’re three and going to this school until they’re nine, and then going into the public schools in the fourth grade? Ninety percent are on the honor roll. Now, that will change America. Those children will all go to college. They will live the American dream. And I beg the American people, any time they think about reforming education, to take this piece of society that doesn’t have a chance and take these little pieces of clay that can be shaped and molded and give them the same love and nurture and affection and support you give your children, and teach them that they are unique and that they’re precious and there’s only one person in the world like them and you will see this nation bloom. And we will have so many people who are qualified for the top job that it will be terrific and finally, if you can’t pay the bill, you’re dead in the water. And we have got to put our nation back to work. If you don’t want to really do that, I’m not your man. I’d go crazy sitting up there slow-dancing that one; in other words unless we’re going to do it, then pick somebody who likes to talk about it. Now just remember, when you think about me, I didn’t create this mess, I’ve been paying taxes like you. And Lord knows, I’ve paid my share. Over a billion dollars in taxes. For a guy that started out with everything he owns in— Q. I’m sorry. PEROT. It’s in your hands. I wish you well. I’ll see you tomorrow night. On NBC 10:30, 11 Eastern. Q. And finally, last but not least, Governor Clinton. CLINTON. Thank you, Carole. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Since I suggested this forum and I hope it’s been good for all of you, I’ve really tried to be faithful to your request that we answer the questions specifically and pointedly. I thought I owed that to you and I respect you for being here and for the impact you’ve had on making this a more positive ex-perience. These problems are not easy and not going to be solved overnight. But I want you to think about just two or three things. First of all the people of my state have let me be the Governor for 12 years because I made commitments to two things. More jobs and better schools. Our schools are now better: our children get off to a better start from preschool programs and smaller classes in the early grades, and we have one of the most aggressive adult education programs in the country. We talked about that. This year my state ranks first in the country in job growth, fourth in manufacturing job growth, fourth in income growth, fourth in the decline of poverty. I’m proud of that. It happened because I could work with people, Republicans and Democrats. That’s why we’ve had twenty-four retired generals and admirals, hundreds of business people, many of them Republican, support this campaign. You have to decide whether you want to change or not. We do not need four more years of an economic theory that doesn’t work. We’ve had twelve years of trickle-down economics. It’s time to put the American people first, to invest and grow this economy. I’m the only person here who’s ever balanced the government budget and I’ve presented twelve of them and cut spending repeatedly, but you cannot just get there by balancing the budget. We’ve got to grow the economy by putting people first. Real people like you. I’ve got into this race because I did not want my child to grow up to be part of the first generation of Americans to do worse than their parents. We’re better than that. We can do better than that. I want to make America as great as it can be and I ask for your help in doing it. Thank you very much.
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 109 Bush begins by stroking his audience and attempting to stack the cards in his own favor. At the beginning of his statement, he sandwiches his strongest point—his foreign policy leadership—between the two “big issues” for which he has been criticized: the economy and the budget deficit. He then uses glittering generalities—as to the need to “strengthen the family” and the importance of “character,” “integrity,” and “maturity”—to cause his audience to associate his candidacy with positive emotions. Finally, Bush plays on his audience’s fears when he asks the voters who their choice would be if in the next five minutes, the nation were faced with a major international threat. Perot, as the underdog, strokes his audience much more directly. He underplays his own accomplishments and flatters his audience by repeatedly stating that the voters are important: “It’s in your hands.” He uses plain-folks appeal by reminding his audience that he’s just like them (and therefore not like the other two candidates). “I’ve been paying taxes,” Perot states, “like you,” and he has been using plain, folksy language—“If they just want to keep slow-dancing and talk about it, and not do it, I’m not your man.” Like Bush, Perot uses glittering generalities to associate his candidacy with what his audience holds dear: children and “the American dream.” Clinton, like Bush, engages in some subtle cardstacking. Emphasizing the positive and ignoring the negative, he points to his record as governor of Arkansas, cites statistics to lend authenticity to these claims, and mentions the range of people who endorse him. At the same time, like Perot, he strokes his audience by promising to put “real people” like them first. And he plays on voters’ guilt when he suggests that voting for Bush or Perot will be an act of selfishness that the voters’ children will ultimately pay for. Straightforward Purposes When advertisers or propagandists try to manipulate our opinions and actions, we may become suspicious about the truthfulness of their statements. Fortunately, only a small fraction of writing is deliberately manipulative. More often a writer’s purposes are honest, and the techniques writers use are not aimed at distorting readers’ judgment. A novelist may wish to amuse us. A reporter may wish to inform us as objectively as possible. A political commentator may want us to think seriously about a matter of public concern. Still, we should know writers’ purposes, not to guard ourselves-as we do against propaganda and misleading advertising—but to understand the legitimate uses we can make of writers’ statements. If you are not aware of the general theme of a book, you may be misled about its meaning. Perhaps when you stop by the local bookstore, you pick up a paperback and start reading in the middle: Mario stood in the doorway, a strange light flashing from his eyes. His lips barely moved, “Carmen, I am here.” “But Mario, I thought,…” her voice quivered. “No. There was one thing I had to do first.” His deliberate steps matched the pounding of her heart. His eyes, flashing fire, fixed on her. He stopped in front of her, his lips slightly opened as if he had something to say, but couldn’t say it. He reached for her. True passion? You love romances and are about to buy it. But wait. You turn to the cover. Compelled to Murder. You do not enjoy thrillers so you replace it on the rack. The overall design of a piece of writing helps define the purpose and technique of each small part: the same words that bring expectation and a melting heart in a romantic fantasy bring fear and dread in a murder mystery.
110 Part 1 Writing About Reading The message that words convey depends on the purpose of the words within the context of a larger communication. For example, when the following words appear in a dictionary, they simply provide a definition, one piece of information among many other similar pieces of information. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] The dictionary tells you that affective is one word in the English language with a specific spelling and meaning, used particularly in the field of psychology. If, however, that same definition appears with a dozen other terms on a ditto sheet handed out by your psychology professor on the first day of class, the message is that you had better learn that word, for it is part of the basic vocabulary for the course. If your English professor writes the definition in the margin of your paper-after circling the word you wrote and changing your a to an e—the message is that you confused affective with the more common word effective. In each of these instances, your knowledge of the larger context helps you see the purpose of the text and receive the message its writer intended. A Catalogue of the Purposes of Writing The list of some of the more common purposes of writing that follows may help you identify the purposes of pieces of writing you read. Whenever you read a piece of writing, ask yourself what its purpose is and whether it fits in any of these categories. For example, the list of stock market prices in this morning’s newspaper clearly belongs in the category “the conduct of business” and in the subcategory “to report information needed for making new decisions.” An editorial in the same paper might be considered “instigation of public thought and action,” specifically “to criticize the actions” of a particular public official. The comic strips would be “entertainment,” perhaps in any of the three subcategories. Textbooks, including this one, are for the “transmission of knowledge to a wider audience” either “to provide an introduction to an area of knowledge” or “to instruct rigorously.” As you try to categorize actual pieces of writing that you have read, you may find that one piece of writing may serve several purposes; an amusing parody of a political candidate aims to influence your vote even as it entertains you. You may also find that you need to add categories or subcategories to fit the special text you are examining. Entertainment To amuse and to delight To arouse emotions and sympathies To appeal to fantasy and imagination Instigation of Public Thought and Action To raise questions To criticize the actions of others; to reprimand To weaken the support of opponents To persuade to act, vote, donate, etc. To inform of issues of concern
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 111 The Support of a Community of Common Beliefs To state one’s beliefs; to take a stand To repeat the accepted beliefs of a group; to encourage and reinforce these beliefs o share recent developments and events that are of mutual concern To gain tolerance for one’s beliefs in the wider community To persuade others of the correctness of certain views; to gain approval To recruit active support; to proselytize The Conduct of Business and Government To promulgate laws, regulations, guidelines To report information needed for making new decisions, laws, policies To argue for certain lines of action To request funds or propose an activity to be funded To keep track of funds, projects, activities; to report on accomplishments and failures; to evaluate activities To sell, advertise Transmission of Knowledge to a Wider Audience To satisfy curiosity To provide practical information for everyday use To provide an introduction to an area of knowledge To instruct rigorously, passing on the most recent knowledge, skill, or technique Scholarly Inquiry To present new findings, recent information, the results of experiments To present new interpretations, speculations, thoughts To gather together all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together and to reach some conclusions To show the relationship of two areas of study and to show the light one sheds on the other To determine the truth of a matter and to prove that truth to other researchers Clues to the Author’s Purpose We cannot read the minds of authors to find out what their true purposes are, but externally available clues reveal much about their purposes. Overt Statements Pieces of writing that begin or end with commands like “vote for Paulsen” or “donate to this worthy cause today” make no secret of the writer’s intentions. Titles can clearly indicate purpose, such as How to Be a Big Winner on the Stock Market, The Encyclopedia of Sports, A Report on the Status of Mine Inspection Procedures, The Case for National Health Insurance, and Spanish Self-Taught. Often in scholarly or professional books, and sometimes in more popular works, the introduction or preface specifically states the author’s purpose and outlines the issues that gave rise to the book.
112 Part 1 Writing About Reading Knowledge About Publication Even if the author does not state the purpose of a piece of writing directly, where an article is published reveals much. An article appearing in a professional journal like Journal of the History of Ideas, Harvard Theological Review, or Journal of Geology is most likely to present new information or research and to evaluate current knowledge with a scholarly intent. An article in a general-circulation magazine devoted to one field, like Scientific American, Psychology Today, or High Fidelity, is more likely to present existing knowledge in a way understandable and useful to the nonspecialist, rather than presenting scholarly research. An article in a magazine issued by a corporation or other special-interest group, such as Ford World, Teamster International, or Gun and Rifle, would tend to convey a favorable impression of the organization’s interests. Thus the stated and unstated editorial policy of the publication helps define the purposes of all articles that appear in it. With books, attention to the publisher, the place of publication, and the date will give early approximations of an author’s purpose. A book from an academic press, such as University of Pennsylvania Press or Stanford University Press, will usually have a scholarly purpose aimed at the advancement of knowledge. Commercial publishers range from well-established houses—such as Houghton Mifflin, W. W. Norton, and Random House, which publish nonfiction books of some seriousness of purpose for a general market, as well as other material—to sensationalist houses more concerned with playing on readers’ prejudices or exploiting current popular topics than with providing substantive knowledge. In addition, special-interest publishers press the causes or beliefs of specific groups: many religious publishing houses, for example, are currently thriving. The more you know about the publisher, the more you will know about the purposes of the books it publishes. The date and place of publication also may be a clue to understanding the purposes of the book. A book about Vietnam published in the United States in 1967 will probably be either highly critical or strongly supportive of American participation in the Vietnam War, and a reader would be wise to look out for author partisanship. A book published twenty years later by the same publisher on the same topic may be inquiring into what happened or how Americans now view the morality of that war. Books on the same topics published both in 1967 and 1987 by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing, China, will have different purposes defined by their historical periods of publication. Everything you know about the history of the subject of a book will help you place the purpose of the work in proper perspective. If you become engaged in research touching on a controversy, you will become especially aware of such factors. Knowledge About the Author In much the same way, knowledge of a particular author will give you some sense of the purposes of a book. But beware of oversimplification: one person may write different types of books. Nevertheless, if an author is known primarily as an advocate of a cause, a book by that person is likely to support that cause. Although often the work of ghost writers, autobiographical books by entertainment and sports celebrities frequently will play on popular notions about the celebrity’s life, either by glorification or by expose of scandalous behavior. In this type of autobiography, even the “just plain folks” style currently in vogue is designed for image building. You may assume, however, that the works of reputed scholars writing in their fields of expertise are serious attempts to get at the truth of a matter-just as you may assume that the next book by an evangelical preacher known for spiritually uplifting works will be written to inspire faith. Analysis of the Text The most substantial way of determining purpose—and the way against which all these other methods must be checked—is by close reading and analysis of what
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 113 actually is written in the book or article. The remainder of this chapter is devoted to this type of analysis. What the writer includes is the best guide to what that writer is trying to do. The use of many personal anecdotes might suggest that the writer is seeking your emotional response or sympathetic involvement in the material, just as the heavy use of statistics suggests that the writer’s major interest is in providing documentation and proof of a thesis. Investigation of Apparent Cross-purposes In any book, a discrepancy between the purposes suggested by any of the foregoing clues and what a writer actually accomplishes should make readers wonder. The discrepancy may be favorably explained, as in the autobiography of a political figure who rises above personal conflicts and political ambition to provide a dis-passionate analysis of a controversial career. Marketing strategy or political pressure may cause a book to be given a misleading title or introduction that is not at all indicative of its actual contents. A serious sociological study of close relationships among adolescents would have a misleading title if it were called Sex and the New Teenagers. Sometimes, however, the discrepancy can be a serious weakness, particularly if an author does not achieve what he or she sets out to do. The author of an Easy Guide to Preventive Medicine may use language only an expert would understand. Most of all, a discrepancy may signal a desire to mislead: an interest group may attempt to lend credibility to its case by surrounding it with the trappings-but not the substance-of scholarship. The possibility of cross-purposes should make us wary as readers, but the mere possibility does not warrant drawing premature conclusions. If a conservationist with a well-known interest in the preservation of natural woodlands were to write a history of the lumber industry, as readers we should be most careful in evaluating the author’s evidence. Even if the book contained much scholarly apparatus—with substantiated detail, statistics, footnotes, and other documentation—we still might want to check the facts it cites against other sources and consider whether all the writer’s contentions were supported elsewhere. The writer-conservationist’s interest in condemning the lumber industry might be stronger than an interest in the truth. Yet we should not reject the book out of hand. The author may have produced an accurate, scholarly work that correctly describes the lumber industry. If the facts are on the conservationist’s side, the author’s best strategy is indeed to present all the evidence as objectively as possible. AN EXAMPLE OF DETERMINING PURPOSES The following article from The Conservationist, “Retreads on an Old Problem” by John L. Turner, presents interesting problems in determining a writer’s purpose. The article begins with an amusing picture and then seems to become an informative piece about an environmental problem. But on deeper inspection it shows evidence of many complex and related purposes. As you read this article the first time, look for clues to these other purposes. Retreads on an Old Problem Certainly you remember the classic, three-frame cartoon about the hapless fisherman who, after an excited and prolonged (but mostly self-imagined) struggle, has his catch break the pond’s surface only to learn he has hooked an algae covered tire that had been resting peacefully on the pond bottom. That Cartoon is particularly apropos today in illustrating one of the more difficult but lesser known problems facing solid waste experts—what to do with the one percent of the waste stream composed of used automotive tires. If measured strictly by numbers, the problem seems staggering. About 12 million tires are thrown away each year in New York State—enough, if laid flat, tread to tread, to stretch the
114 Part 1 Writing About Reading entire length of the New York State Thruway 12 times. Nationwide, approximately 260 million tires are disposed of yearly, an amount sufficient to circle the earth nearly four times. As fewer tires are used again through retreading, these yearly totals have been growing steadily and are being added to a national stockpile, scattered along roads, in dumps and hillsides, which contains over two billion tires. While discarded tires are mostly inert, their presence in the environment is hardly benign. Tires are known for their nettlesome habit of rising to the top of landfills, puncturing liners, thereby thwarting the best made plans of reclamation experts. Each year, in New York, they take up an estimated one-half million cubic yards of valuable landfill space at a time when such space is shrinking rapidly. Tires also get caught in the wheels of landfill vehicles. Because of these problems, fewer and fewer landfills are accepting tires which, in turn, has encouraged illegal dumping. !f not shredded or stacked properly, tires can collect water providing ideal mosquito breeding habitat; a State Health Department survey has identified eight mosquito species currently breeding in New York State tire dumps. Waste tires also often catch on fire, giving off billows of acrid, black smoke and generating contaminants which can pose a threat to ground and surface water quality. And regardless of these other problems, a heap of tires next to your favorite fishing or hiking spot is not a pretty sight. Tires are receiving an increasing amount of attention by local and state governments and private industry. A two-day conference on the topic, entitled “Waste Tires in New York State: Alternatives to Disposal,” was held in Albany in late 1987. Sponsored by DEC, the Department of Transportation and the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the conference focused on the nature and magnitude of the waste tire problem and presented a series of workshops detailing possible alternatives to disposal such as re-use. The conference pointed out the need for additional regulations governing the operation and maintenance of existing tire dumps such as the infamous tire pile in Chautauqua County which held, as of 1987, between five and eight million tires. Highlighted in DEC’s statewide solid waste management plan is a bill, first introduced in the 1987 legislative session by Assembly member Maurice Hinchey at the request of the attorney general, which establishes regulations banning the disposal of tires except at licensed facilities and requires that tires at such facilities be stored to minimize the possibility of fire and mosquito breeding. The bill would also create a state fund, financed through a 50 cent assessment on each tire sold in New York, to provide loans and grants to local municipalities, tire dump operators and recyclers. This bill is likely to receive a great deal of attention during the 1988 state legislative session. Independent of this legislative proposal, DEC is currently revising the state’s solid waste regulations to include the transport, storage and disposal of tires. Legislation has also been introduced in Suffolk County which would create a commission to look into the waste tire issue. A tried and true method of reducing the number of discarded tires is through retreading-gluing a new tread onto a used tire. Unfortunately, the trend in automotive retreads is downward due to a drop in the price of virgin rubber; the public is unwilling to buy a retreaded tire when for as little as a dollar or two more they can purchase a brand new one. The number of retreaded truck tires has remained steady, however. Less a tire disposal method than a technique for enhancing fishing opportunities, tires have been used in constructing artificial underwater reefs. If properly sited, tire reefs quickly attract bottom-dwelling, colonizing organisms. These animals attract fish which, in turn, attract anglers. One reef containing over 22,000 tires has been built a mile off the Smithtown, Long Island shoreline. “Tires are ideal in making reefs,” notes Steve Resler, a former Smithtown Bay constable who oversaw the reef construction. “You can stack them in different configurations or various ways depending on the situation,” he says, adding, “blackfish have really taken to the reef.” One major tire manufacturer has used tens of millions of tires in building several thousand reefs around the world. A small number of tires are used in making playground equipment, planters, highway crash barriers and erosion control projects. These uses, and for that matter tire reefs, have limited potential, however, and will likely never make more than a minor contribution in easing the waste tire problem. Using shredded rubber from discarded tires and blending it in road paving materials is an application that has potential for utilizing large amounts of discarded tires. In some applications the tires are shredded into pellet-sized particles called crumb rubber,
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 115 pre-heated and mixed into asphalt creating an asphalt rubber mixture; in other situations the rubber is added to concrete or asphalt concrete. In a 1985 report entitled “Use of Scrap Automobile Tire Rubber in Highway Construction,” New York State’s Department of Transportation estimated that, based on the quantity of paving materials it uses annually in road construction, over nine million tires would be consumed in making an asphalt concrete product which contains two percent rubber. More than four and one half million tires would be consumed for a one percent mixture. The City of Phoenix has applied asphalt rubber compounds in road paving and repair projects for two decades with encouraging results. The addition of the rubber enables the asphalt to better withstand the stresses of vehicular traffic and weather. Test results in Phoenix have found that it lasts up to three times as long as regular asphalt, so while asphalt rubber costs about twice as much as regular asphalt the city has saved money over the long run. Although two studies undertaken by the Connecticut Department of Transportation have reported results generally favorable regarding asphalt rubber, its ability to withstand the rigor of colder climates remains unclear. Recognizing this large but uncertain potential, Governor Mario Cuomo signed a bill in 1987 which directs DOT to initiate a pilot project using asphalt rubber. The agency is to report back to the State Legislature by April 1, 1989 with the results of this pilot project as well as a study comparing asphalt rubber with regular asphalt in terms of cost, maintenance requirements, skid resistance and other characteristics. Furthermore, the bill enables the commissioner to require, after May 1, 1989, the addition of scrap rubber in paving materials used by construction companies that receive contract work from DOT. Several companies are interested in the energy potential of scrap tires. Made from petroleum, tires have a high energy value. It is estimated, for example, that the energy value in, the number of tires disposed of annually in New York is equivalent to 700,000 barrels of oil. Furthermore, if all the tires generated yearly nationwide were burned, they would provide enough energy to keep the country running for one and a half days. Ironically, their potential as a fuel source is one of the reasons why many tire dumps exist as entrepreneurs have collected tires hoping to one day exploit their fuel value. Some communities are investing in tire shredders so that they may more effectively store tires at landfill sites in the hope of eventually mining the tire “chips” as a fuel source. A few incinerating plants are in operation. The first, located in Modesto, California, was built next to the world’s largest tire heap containing between 35 to 40 million tires. It bums about 800 tires an hour generating 14 megawatts of electricity in the process. Another tire burning plant is currently planned in Connecticut. Some companies are shredding tires and using the rubber to make new products. One plant, opening in Minnesota in 1987, manufactures car, walkway and wrestling mats and carpet underlayments from used tires. A polymer is injected into the old rubber “livening” it, providing properties very similar to virgin rubber. Before the advent of this new process, only a small amount (five to 10 percent) of used rubber could be blended into new rubber products before its quality would be compromised; rubber experts now believe that because of the polymerization technique much higher percentages of used rubber can be incorporated in new rubber products. The plant has the capacity to recycle three million tires a year, nearly all the tires annually discarded in Minnesota. The crucial first step has been taken with regard to waste tires-realizing it as a growing problem for which solutions must be developed. Various initiatives proposed or in place in other states hold promise that environmentally sound and economically based programs can be effectively implemented. The extent of this progress, in the future, will determine whether our fictional angler friend hooks more fish than tires. John L. Turner is a writer and naturalist who serves on the board of the Environmental Planning Lobby. The illustrations of old tires and the opening reference to cartoons are clearly aimed at capturing readers’ attention through amusement. Then the many facts about the tire-dumping problem suggest that the article has been written to inform you about a problem, that its main
116 Part 1 Writing About Reading purpose is to convey information. However, other clues point to a deeper understanding of what the article is doing. This article has no overt statement of purpose, so we must by-pass this first kind of clue. But we can learn much from the publication in which the article appears. The masthead on the table of contents page announces that “The Conservationist is an official publication of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.” So the magazine and the article must in some way be advancing the work or interests of that state agency, as well as reflecting official state policy. When we go back to the article with this information, we immediately notice how often it mentions state agencies at work identifying hazards and helping protect the environment. Documents, conferences, and legislation related to the Department of Environmental Conservation are repeatedly mentioned as sources of information and indications of what is being done. Thus an awareness of the publication’s sponsor combines with a quick analysis of the text to suggest that one further purpose is to let the readers know that the state and its departments have been doing their job. In a sense the article itself is part of the state doing its job to identify problems and to enlist public support for solutions. However, if we look at the surrounding articles in the magazine, we notice that there must be something else going on. Most of the magazine is not devoted directly to environmental problems but rather to attractive descriptions of the parks, the wildlife, and the natural beauty of New York State. Much of the magazine seems to try to induce people to enjoy the state’s nature preserves and to have good feelings about the state’s facilities. In such a context, a story about a pollution problem that is being worked on shows how the state’s parklands are being watched over and improved by alert state agencies. So even if your last trip to nature was spoiled by some tire pollution, your next trip won’t be because the state is at work to help you have a better experience in a cleaner natural environment: it is using the tires to improve fishing, build playgrounds, and pave roads. One final clue, information about the author, suggests one more level to the article’s purposes, especially when combined with a bit more analysis of the text. At the end of the article appears a single sentence about the author: “John L. Turner is a writer and naturalist who serves on the board of the Environmental Planning Lobby.” A lobby wants to influence legislation and government programs; in part this is accomplished by gathering public support for legislation on the lobby’s issue and then giving public credit and political support to those governmental officials who have supported the lobby’s cause. When we go back to the article, we now notice the many mentions of legislation and policies already in effect and the closing comments about proposed initiatives. Many agencies and officials, including Governor Cuomo, are described positively as working hard to solve the problem. The article also puts the readers in a mood to support future efforts. Thus here a state agency, through its publication, is working hand in hand with a lobbyist by publishing the lobbyist’s article. The lobbyist in turn supports the work of the state agency by praising the agency and drumming up support for its projects. Thus this article has many purposes, but these purposes do not contradict each other. Rather they fit together to help protect an environment that will be of pleasurable use for all of us. But cleaning up the environment involves politics, legislation, state agencies, informed citizens, and creative advocates. Within that more fundamental purpose, all the other purposes take their part.
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 117 EXERCISES 1. Referring to the catalogue of purposes on pages 110-111, categorize and discuss the purposes of each of the selections printed earlier and cited below. a. Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” on pages 47-48. b. Katherine Corcoran’s essay, “Pilloried Clinton,” on page 54. c. Robert Keyes’s discussion, “The Future of the Transistor,” on page 65. d. The Declaration of Independence, on page 46. 2. Find examples of published pieces of writing, including books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, and college bulletins or handbooks. Categorize and discuss the purposes of each. 3. Find examples of unpublished writing, such as business letters, memos, college papers, and personal writing. Categorize and discuss the purposes of each. 4. Choose a book from your major field or any other field of particular interest to you. List everything you can determine about the book’s purpose from its preface, the facts and context of the book’s publication, the author’s life and interests, and a quick examination of the book itself. The Writer’s Technique Because the writer’s purpose is realized through the specifics of words in combination, the writer’s technique is present in every sentence and in every word-as well as in the larger groupings of paragraphs. Technique is present in every choice made by the writer at every stage of creation. Thus, to observe the technique of any writer, you must use everything you know about reading and writing, about how people present themselves through words, and about how thoughts are shaped by the form in which they are put. Much in this book should help you directly and indirectly in the task of observing technique, but you must also call on everything you have learned before about your own writing and about the interpretation of other writers’ works. The only way to understand technique is to analyze how each writer addresses each writing situation. However, the following check list covers some of the points you might look for and some of the more obvious questions to ask yourself. It will provide a starting place from which to begin your observation and evaluation of writers’ technique. In time, the individual character of a piece of writing should suggest to you appropriate questions for your analysis, because each piece of writing operates in its own way. Check List of Techniques Relationship Between the Writer and the Reader Does the writer ask or expect the reader to do anything? Does the writer address the reader as an expert speaking to other experts, or as an expert speaking to the general reader? Does the writer make sure that the reader follows the discussion? Does the writer engage the reader through humor, drama, or unusual examples?
118 Part 1 Writing About Reading Is the writer hesitant or assertive? How much knowledge does the writer assume the reader has? Overall Structure What holds the writing together as a whole? How does one paragraph, one chapter, or one part lead to the next? Does the text progress by chronological narration? by grouping related topics? through the steps of a logical argument? by comparison? association? repetition? by accumulation of detail? by analysis? by the breaking down of the subject into parts? Content Choices What parts of the subject are discussed by the author in great detail? What parts are summarized? What statements does the writer assume as given (and therefore does not back up with extensive support)? What relevant topics are ignored? What topics could have been discussed but were not? Expansion of Topics In what ways are individual topics developed? Are arguments given? Are anecdotes told? Is the reader asked to believe certain ideas or to take certain actions? Is the reader asked to imagine consequences? Does the expansion of statements prove the statements? help the reader understand? keep the reader interested or amused? obscure the issues? develop implications? Choice of Evidence What types of information are used to support main statements: statistics, anecdotes, quotations, original observations, scientific theories, legal or philosophical principles, definitions, appeals to emotion, appeals to the imagination, appeals to common sense? Uses of Reference How extensively does the writer rely on other sources? (Are there frequent mentions of other books or articles?) Do you notice any indirect reference to the work of others? What methods are used to refer to other works: reference by title only, paraphrase, summary, or direct quotation? How complete is the documentation? the bibliography? What kinds of material does the writer cite: contemporary newspaper accounts, private diaries, government documents, specialized scholarly studies, theoretical works, best-selling nonfiction books, statistical reports, literary works? What purpose does the reference serve in the writing: does the reference provide specific evidence? quote directly a person being discussed? provide an assertion by an authority? present an example for analysis? explain a point? supply the background of a new idea? distinguish between conflicting ideas? place current work in the context of previous work? present an idea to be argued against?
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 119 Level of Precision Is the subject simplified or presented in all its complexity? Are all important distinctions brought out? Are many supporting details given or are only broad principles stated? Are potential difficulties in the argument discussed? Sentence Structure Are the sentences short or long? simple or complex? Are the sentences declarative statements? Do they set up a complex condition (if . .. then …)? Do the sentences have qualifiers (even though . ..)? Do the sentences describe actions (Sandra runs; or Gear c transmits the power to drive wheel d.)? Do they describe physical qualities (Sandra has a pulse at rest of63; or Gear b and gear c are in a reduction ratio of12: I.)? Do they relate actual events to abstract ideas (The disagreement of the leaders over the terms of the treaty marked the beginning of new tensions between the two countries.)? Do they discuss only abstractions (International organizations are formed in part to resolve disputes between countries without resorting to war.)? Word Choice Are the words short or long? common or unusual? general or technical? emotionally charged or scientifically objective? Evaluating the Effectiveness of Technique Having observed a writer’s technique, you will be able to determine whether that technique is appropriate for the writer’s purpose, whether stated or implied. You will begin to notice how the successfully comic writer makes you laugh by piling up absurd details. You will notice how carefully the scholarly historian has gathered together evidence, has weighed alternatives, and has progressed to a well-argued conclusion. You will notice how the thought-provoking philosopher uses a precise vocabulary in an attempt to minimize confusion about abstract meaning. In certain instances you may notice a discrepancy between the stated purpose of a book or article and what is actually achieved in print. A book that claims to present new findings may, on closer inspection, rely heavily on previously discovered evidence put together in a familiar pattern. The comic writer may not pace jokes correctly or may be too predictable. A detective story may unfold so tediously that no one would want to spend leisure hours reading it. An author’s evidence might prove only part of the thesis. Writers may fail in their purposes in an infinity of ways, and even the best of books have weaknesses. However, weakness is relative: a book that does not live up to a grand purpose might tell you more than one that fully achieves an extremely small goal. Misjudgment, lack of skill, or an attempt to do too much may explain these unintentional differences between a writer’s intended purpose and actual accomplishment. Other times an author sets out to mislead us, and we must understand the deception to understand the true design. Beneath a pile of evidence may lie a prejudiced assumption: when a reporter advises against building a community college in a poor neighborhood because that community has not previously produced many college graduates, the writer’s prejudices may have translated the local lack of opportunity into an assumption that the residents of that
120 Part 1 Writing About Reading community are not college material. Thus the reporter’s recommendation to deny opportunity may be made to sound respectable and evenhanded to nonresident readers while still delivering its unjust message. The outright lie, the partial lie, and the partial truth will continue to appear in print. Deception can be achieved in many ways, and it helps readers to be aware not just of the deception itself but also of the motive behind the author’s deception. AN EXAMPLE OF LOOKING AT TECHNIQUE The article “Retreads on an Old Problem” (see page 207) pursues its goal of enlisting support for solutions to an environmental problem by using many different techniques. We have already noticed how the author tries to interest readers in the problem by starting with an amusing title, a light-hearted opening, and unusual photographs, and also how the author tries to build alliances by praising supportive government officials and agencies. But the article works in many more ways at every level to help the reader become involved in the issue and supportive of certain programs. First, by adopting an easy tone, the author, John C. Turner, helps engage the recreation-minded reader in a serious problem without turning the reader off with too somber a tone or too weighty a presentation. Of course, given the amount of detailed information to be conveyed and the kind of trust in the author’s expertise the article needs to evoke, the author must come across as a knowledgeable authority. But at the same time he is careful to adopt a friendly, easygoing style, referring to everyone’s common memory of cartoons. He is also careful to select easy-to-grasp but striking ways of conveying information, as with the visions of used tires encircling the earth. Sentences tend to be reasonably short and use familiar vocabulary, as in “Some companies are shredding tires and using the rubber to make new products.” Concepts are also explained simply and directly, as in “Made from petroleum, tires have a high energy value.” A number of simple and direct stories are told about what different cities and states are doing. The entire article is structured around the idea of a problem to be solved. Even the title uses the word problem. The opening cartoon reference identifies the problem, then statistics are used to show the size of the problem, and finally the bad effects of the problem are discussed. Once the problem is thus fully established, we are told how governments have been at work on the problem and what alternative methods have been and are being tried. The reader is first made to be concerned about something that was previously just a joke, but this concern is relieved by programs that could solve the problem. Thus the reader will naturally wish to support those programs, agencies, and politicians that are taking the necessary steps to allow the angler to hook fish rather than tires. In fact, the last paragraph is a direct appeal to support efforts toward solution. The selection of material is directly determined by the same problem-and-solution approach. After laying out information on the size and nature of the problem, the article concentrates on describing the various methods used to dispose of the problem. And, as noted earlier, because support of government action is being enlisted, many details are chosen to highlight the role of state agencies and officials in seeking solutions. There does not appear to be any deception involved in this article, and there is no reason to disbelieve any of the information presented; moreover, the author carefully notes where he is unsure of the effectiveness of any proposed solution. Nonetheless, we still need to be aware that this article is urging us to a particular point of view through its selection, organization, and presentation of the material. Although this article argues its case so persuasively that it is hard to
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 121 imagine anyone who would be against getting rid of old tires from our lakes and streams, people not so interested in pushing government action in this area or with specific objections to certain of the proposed solutions would tell a different story. EXERCISES 1. Using the Check List of Techniques on page 117-119, identify the techniques of-each of the selections cited below. a. Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” (pages 47-48). b. Katherine Corcoran’s essay “Pilloried Clinton” (page 54). c. Robert Keyes’s discussion “The Future of the Transistor” (page 65). d. The Declaration of Independence (page 46). e. The anonymous essay “It’s Over, Debbie” (page 74). 2. Bring writing examples from the following categories into class, and identify the techniques used in them (refer to Check List of Techniques). Newspaper/headline stories Newspaper editorials Information pamphlets from a government agency Political campaign brochures Advertising brochures from banks, product manufacturers, service companies, or any other type of business Junk mail Magazine articles College textbooks Religious inspirational articles Writing an Essay Analyzing Purpose and Technique Perhaps in literature classes you have already written a literary analysis discussing how certain aspects of a story, such as character development or the use of irony, contribute to the overall meaning of the story. The task of literary analysis is similar to an analysis of purpose and technique, except that your subject is a piece of nonfiction prose rather than a poem or short story. In this type of analysis, sometimes called rhetorical analysis, you show how the details of technique contribute to the larger purposes of the writer. Journalists and other political commentators often analyze politicians’ rhetoric, or purposeful use of words, to reveal exactly what the politicians are trying to do. Sometimes intellectual arguments, as well, depend on rhetorical analysis rather than on points of fact. Whenever you need to understand how other people’s use of words pushes your thinking as a reader in certain directions, analyzing the writer’s purpose and technique will give you the necessary perspective and understanding. In most situations, the need to understand a text deeply suggests that you must analyze the text’s rhetoric. When you are assigned an essay of analysis as part of your course work, however, your first task will be to select a suitable text to analyze. If you choose a selection in an area about which you have some knowledge, you will already have a sense of the typical purposes and techniques of writing in that area. If, for example, you have followed a presidential campaign closely and are familiar with its issues, you already have the background against which to consider any single campaign speech. If you pick a selection related to a larger project that you
122 Part 1 Writing About Reading are engaged in, such as a term paper, you may have additional motivation for doing the analysis. Finally, you should choose a short passage with striking features of purpose and technique so that you can focus your essay easily and can cover all the details in a relatively short paper. As you become more adept at this type of analysis, you may wish to tackle more subtle or more extensive texts. In the beginning, however, analyzing simple short passages will be difficult enough. Your second task is a thorough reading and understanding of the selection. In order to analyze a text, you must know the text in detail, paying attention to every word. Thirdly, once you understand both the complete meaning and the organizational structure of the text, you are able to focus on identifying the details of technique. Marginal annotation is especially useful here—to help you remember details you identify as you read. In the margin, you can number the steps of an argument and comment on the relationship of one point to the next. You can comment on the type of evidence, on the sentence structure, on unusual word choices—or on any hunches you have about the writer’s purpose. These initial marginal reactions may lead you to further thoughts and observations. Particularly useful is questioning anything that seems unusual: “Doesn’t this example contradict an earlier example?” or “Why does the author linger on this point?” Any clue may lead you to a recurrent element or a general pattern. After noting the various techniques of the selection, as a fourth step you should sit back and think of what overall purpose the author may have had in writing—what purpose all the details serve. A journal may help you work out the connections among the separate elements you have noticed. Begin to think about writing your essay only when you have a consistent idea about how the selection achieves its purpose. In the fifth step you must decide on a main analytic statement-that is, a central idea controlling the essay, much like a thesis statement. You must decide whether you will limit yourself to one element of the overall design or will consider all the related elements in one selection. Then you must select your supporting statements and major evidence. Again use journal entries and random jottings to sort out your thoughts. Your sixth step will be to reread the selection again with the following tasks in mind before you begin actually writing the essay: Check to see if your analytic statement fits all the evidence of the selection or explains only a small pan. Figure out how you will assemble your own ideas and evidence as an accurate representation of the original’s design; let the design of your own paper crystallize by making a final survey of the selection to be analyzed. Fill in details of evidence that you missed in previous readings or that have become more important in light of your analytical statement. Only with your thoughts beginning to take shape and your evidence assembled are you ready to write. If you skip over any of the six preparatory steps just described, you may run into problems. Selecting an inappropriate text to analyze may create an impossible task for you. Without accurate understanding of the text, your analysis will be misguided. Without calling attention to specific details of technique, your discussion will slide into summary or generalizations. Without careful thought about the order in which the parts of your analysis fit together, your essay will be a disorganized jumble. Without deciding on a main analytic statement, you risk losing control of the essay. Finally, without verifying your analysis against the original text, you may miss important evidence or may make misleading claims. Writing a
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 123 complex essay, such as an analysis of a writer’s purpose, requires you as a writer to do many different kinds of preparatory tasks in order to develop your ideas fully. Only when you have completed all the preliminary tasks are you ready to communicate in writing your findings to your readers. The Structure of the Essay of Analysis The main purpose of your essay is to present a major insight into the overall design of a selected passage of writing. That insight is the analytic statement of the essay, similar to a thesis statement or topic sentence. To flesh out the analytic statement, you must explain what you think the writer’s purpose is and must give specific examples of writing techniques employed in the original text. In other words, your task is to show your readers the pattern of purpose and technique that you have discovered in a given selection. Because this analytic task is such a specific one, you must take care that you do not gradually slide into a different task, such as a summary or argument. If your essay begins to sound like a paraphrased or summarized repetition of the original selection, you should stop and rethink what you are doing. In the course of your analysis, you may need to summarize or paraphrase a small part of the original as evidence for a claim you make, but such repetition of the original must be limited and have a clear purpose. Similarly, if you find yourself responding more to the content of the piece than to its design, you need to stop and think. Any personal reaction or response that you discuss should be directly related to the overall design. In this kind of essay, you do develop your own thoughts and opinions, but these thoughts and opinions must concern the purpose and technique of the selection’s author. Introduction The introduction of your analytic essay identifies the passage you are analyzing with the title of the book or article and the author. Include a copy if possible; otherwise cite exact page and line references. Next, your analytical statement should clearly state the major purpose and the major techniques of the original. This analytic statement will control all that follows in your essay. Development: Two Approaches The body of the essay should elaborate the separate elements that make up the larger design. Here you enumerate all the techniques you have discovered and support them by specific examples, using quotation, paraphrase, summary, or description. You must relate each technique to the overall analytic statement so that the reader sees how each detail is tied in to the larger design. Transitional statements at the beginning of each paragraph Guidelines for Preparing to Write an Analysis of Purpose and Technique 1. Select a suitable text to analyze. 2. Read the selection carefully, with attention to detail. 3. Focus on details of the writer’s technique—use marginal annotations. 4. Reflect on the overall purpose the author may have had—a reading journal may help you there. 5. Decide on a main analytical statement and select supporting statements and evidence. 6. Before you begin writing the essay, reread the evidence.
124 Part 1 Writing About Reading (such as “Once again the author misleads the reader when he implies …” or “The emotional anecdote discussed at length prepares the reader for the direct appeal for sympathy in the last paragraph”) help tie parts of the essay together. Also useful are extended discussions of the relationship of each technique to the overall purpose, as in the following example: “This particular use of statistics focuses the reader’s attention on the issue of economic growth, while it excludes consideration of the effect on individual lives, which the author earlier stated was not accurately measurable. By admitting only statistical evidence and limiting the way it may be interpreted, the author can offer clear-cut—but one-sided—evidence for continuation of the current policy.” The connections you make between the details of technique and the analytical statement are what will give your essay its direction and strength. There are two main ways to proceed in the body of the paper: you can (1) describe the techniques used throughout the selection, discussing them one by one, or (2) describe all the techniques used in each small part of the selection, moving from the beginning to the end of the selection. In the first method your cumulative paragraphs establish all the relevant techniques one after the other. You should plan carefully the order in which you present the examples of techniques. In one analysis, for example, an early examination of a writer’s attempts to slander through word choice may establish the ideas necessary to expose the disguised strategies of organization. In another analysis, the smaller details of technique may fall in place only after the larger organization is examined. The second method, covering all the techniques in each small section at one time, results in analyzing the original selection in chronological order. This method is particularly useful if the text goes through several distinct stages. The chronological method explores how the writer builds each point on the previous ones by adding new elements, by shifting gears, or by es-tablishing emotional momentum. The danger of the chronological method, however, is that you risk slipping into summary by just repeating the arguments in their original order. Beware of transitions like “the next point the author makes is … backed by the next point that….” Such transitions indicate that you are forgetting your analysis and are reverting to repetition of the original argument. A way to avoid this problem is to show how the character of the writer’s argument shifts and develops by stages. Always keep your analyst’s eye on purpose and technique. Thus the weak transition cited above might be improved in the following way: “At this point the author initiates a new stage of her argument. Up to here she has been arguing smaller separate points, but now she brings them all together as part of a broader conclusion.” Make sure you are not carried away by your example. Tell only enough to support your statement; otherwise, the ever-present temptation to summarize may overcome you. If you find the temptation to slip into summary too strong, avoid chronology altogether and organize your essay around specific techniques. This safer method forces you to rearrange and rethink the material. Conclusion In the conclusion of your analysis, do more than simply repeat your main points. Drive home your analytic statement in a striking way that grows out of all you have said previously. After having shown the reader all your ideas and specific evidence, you should be able to make a more penetrating observation than you could at the beginning-before you laid out the evidence. If you have additional moral, ethical, or intellectual reactions to the selection, the conclusion is the place to express such reactions. Since there is no single, all-purpose way of concluding, feel free to experiment. The only important point to remember is that the essay’s conclusion should grow out of and reinforce the analysis.
Chapter 7 Analyzing the Author’s Purpose and Technique 125 A STUDENT EXAMPLE FOR DISCUSSION The article below from the “Personal Business” column of Business Week is immediately followed by an analysis by student writer Gary Niega. Try to analyze the purpose and technique of Baum’s article before reading Gary’s essay. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Sample Analysis of Purpose and Technique How to Offer Advice: An Analysis of “How to Be Smarter than the Boss and Keep Your Job,” by Laurie Baum Near the back of Business Week magazine every week there appears a “Personal Business” column providing practical information for readers on their investments and careers. Usually the information is about financial opportunities, tax laws, or new products: things the reader would benefit knowing about but which do not threaten the reader directly. The June 29, 1987, issue, however, presents a trickier kind of useful information: personal advice on how to act when feeling frustrated by a boss you feel is stupid. For the advice to be useful it must be accepted by the reader, yet nobody likes being told how to behave, especially in a frustrating situation. The short piece “How to Be Smarter than the Boss and Keep Your Job” uses many techniques to make the reader feel the advice might be personally useful. From the beginning of the article, the author, Laurie Baum, empathizes with the reader’s position. Two characters appear throughout the selection: you and your boss (or him). By speaking directly to you, the reader, about your problem with him (the obstacle to your success) the author takes your side in the struggle. The boss is portrayed as not understanding, not as smart, uninformed, having a special language, wanting to get credit for your idea. He is the bad guy and you are the good guy. Laurie Baum also makes you feel she is on your side in more direct ways. She sympathizes with your emotions. She recognizes your feelings of frustration, tension, desire to do something, any ambition. She also flatters you by accepting your feeling that you are smarter than the boss from the very title on. The opening sentences put together all these elements in taking your point of view in the situation: You are brilliant; he does not understand; it (the situation) is frustrating. However, with the phrase “It’s frustrating” Baum begins a gradual process of leading you to a less personal view of the situation. She does not say you are frustrated, but the Situation is frustrating. She then raises a series of reasons why the boss may be behaving as he does: he is politically wise; he is not as close to the facts of the case; he is thinking about other problems. None of these reasons directly challenge your view that you are smart, but they do raise possibilities of the boss being less stupid than you thought. Only at the very end does Baum raise the possibility that the boss had good reasons for looking “dimly on the idea” and that “it’s not as brilliant as you think.” Only the idea is less than brilliant, but not you. By creating some objective distance between you and your ideas, Baum encourages you to let go of the idea, while still not challenging your intelligence. Halfway through the piece, Baum also shifts from sympathetically describing a situation to telling you what you might do. She starts putting the burden of responsibility for the situation on you. You need to manage the tension; you need to communicate with the boss and sell your idea; you need to develop an end-run strategy; and finally, you need to judge whether your idea is really all that brilliant. This section is filled with do’s and don’t’s phrased as imperative sentences: “Tell your boss …”; “Make sure. “Don’t play the martyr….” Seven out of the final fifteen sentences are commands, whereas only one of the first eleven sentences is. To encourage you to be cautious, Baum repeatedly suggests the dangers of the situations throughout the piece, starting with the title’s reminder that your goal is to keep
126 Part 1 Writing About Reading your job, not lose it. The second paragraph points out that you will not be rewarded for showing your intelligence, and that you would be better off to develop political wisdom. The third paragraph mentions the disruptive effect of your greater knowledge on the business hierarchy. And the final paragraph raises the threat of your seeming to be both stupid and disloyal if you go behind your boss’s back with the wrong idea. Baum offers the advice throughout in simple, direct language, sometimes even using very informal words, such as dimwit, smarts: stupid, and lingo, so that the advice will seem like ordinary good sense. She does, however, back it up with the quoted words of experts in business management to show that the ideas are more than just personal opinions. In fact, she gives over the larger part of three paragraphs to these expert quotations. Moreover, she very carefully sets out credentials for each of the experts, so we will be more likely to believe their wisdom; two are professors and the third is an author. By flattering your intelligence and being sympathetic to your feelings, Laurie Baum gradually leads you to move beyond your own sense of superiority and frustration. She gradually helps you evaluate your boss’s strengths, your responsibilities, the quality of your ideas, and your real goals. She helps you see that keeping your job and advancing your career are more important than proving you are smarter than your boss. Being cautiously aware of dangers, opportunities, and your options is truly being smart. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS 1. Analyze the purpose and technique of a short article you have read as part of your research for a major research project. The audience for your analysis will be someone who shares your research interest. 2. In an essay of 500 words, analyze the purpose and technique of a chapter in an elementary textbook on a subject you know well. Consider how effectively the chapter introduces the subject to a beginning student. The reader of your analysis will be a teacher who must decide whether to use the textbook in a course next semester. 3. In an essay of 500 words, analyze the purpose and technique of one of the following selections. The readers of your analysis will be your classmates. Later compare in discussion with your classmates the different designs of the three selections. a. Yale Kamisar’s argument against active euthanasia on page 74. b. Cheryl Smith’s argument for active euthanasia on page 74. c. The anonymous essay “It’s Over, Debbie” on page 74. 4. As a college student majoring in political science, you have been invited back to your high school to discuss with a tenth-grade social studies class how politicians appeal to voters. Find in a newspaper a recent speech by a local or national political figure the students would recognize. Prepare a short talk for the class explaining what the politician is hoping to accomplish in the speech and the techniques the politician uses to achieve this effect. 5. On an issue you feel strongly about, find two written statements in speeches, articles, pamphlets, or the like that forcefully present two opposite positions. One side you approve of and the other you oppose. In order to convince your classmates that yours is the more rational or otherwise preferred position, analyze both statements to show how the statement you oppose uses underhanded techniques to enlist reader support, whereas the statement you agree with gains reader support through honorable, reasonable, or otherwise better means.
127 8 EVALUATING THE BOOK AS A WHOLE: THE BOOK REVIEW book review tells not only what is in a book but also what a book attempts to achieve and how it can be used. To discuss the uses of a book, you must explore your own reactions, for these reactions reveal how you have responded to the book. Thus, in writing a review, you combine the skills of describing what is on the page, analyzing how the book tries to achieve its purpose, and expressing your own reactions. The nature and length of the review depend on the book, the purpose of the review, and the anticipated audience. The shorter the review, the more succinctly you must present your judgments. By writing reviews, you will develop your critical skills as a reader and researcher, and you will be mastering evaluative writing, which you will find useful in many situations beyond the book review itself. A
128 Part 1 Writing About Reading Books as Tools Books are tools for communication between two minds. Through the words and pictures of a text, the writer wants to do something to or for the reader. The reader is or is not affected by the text, sometimes in the way the writer wanted and sometimes in a different way. A book reviewer, by sharing his or her reactions to a book, can let you know whether that book worked as a communication tool between the author and that one reader. The reviewer can tell you not just what the book says, but what the book did to him or her. Thus a book review’s evaluation is both an objective matter of what the book presents and a subjective matter of what the book does to the reader. This text has thus far kept methods of developing your subjective responses separate from methods of gaining objective knowledge of a text. Marginal annotations, journals, and the argumentative essay have encouraged you to look into yourself for personal reactions, which you have then developed. On the other hand, paraphrase, summary, and analyses of voices and purpose have sharpened your ability to see exactly what appears on the page—outside yourself. Actually, the division of labor isn’t that simple. The more deeply you understand what is on the page, the more you will react. Conversely, the more engaged you are in a subject, the more you will want to understand what others have written. An animated conversation is a two-way affair. In the evaluative book review, these two streams—an accurate reading and a strong response—come together, for the reviewer should indicate what is in the book and what the contents might mean to a reader. The reviewer’s own reaction reveals to the book buyer the potential of what may be gained from reading it. If the reviewer does not go beyond a summary of the original, this dull restatement gives the reader no clear direction to follow. If, however, the reviewer indicates the kind of communication that passed between two minds via the primed page, the reader can decide whether the book offers the kind of mental interaction he or she wants. Writing a book review helps you read a book carefully, understand it better, and think about what the book means to you. Writing a book review as part of the work of a college course provides you with the opportunity to interact deeply with a writer’s extended statement and to relate it to the subject matter of the course. Although you may never write formal book reviews after you leave college, in most professions and careers you must evaluate documents, whether business reports, project proposals, legal briefs, reorganization plans, or annual reports. You also have to write evaluative reports about personnel, projects, or products; evaluative reports are not unlike book reviews. What a Book Review Does The way a review represents what a book does, evaluates how well the book does it, and responds co the challenge the book presents is best ‘illustrated by a strong review written in reaction to a strong book. Randy Shilts’s book on the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On, came out at the height of public controversy over how well the U.S. government and others responded to this medical crisis. Shilts’s book, a detailed critical history of such response, was widely reviewed both for the general public and for many specialized audiences concerned with the AIDS crisis. The medical community, of course, has been deeply involved in responding to AIDS, and the following review appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the foremost medical journals in the United States. Notice how the reviewers, a lawyer and a physician, in describing the contents evaluate the thoroughness and credibility of the book. They first identify what Shilts has and has not done; then, midway in the review, they turn to the
Chapter 8 Evaluating the Book as a Whole: The Book Review 129 challenges the book presents to the reader and to society. In addressing these challenges, the reviewers make known their own concerns and tell how the book has focused and strengthened those concerns. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] The review’s evaluation of the historical accuracy and completeness of Shilts’s research lets us know to what extent the reviewers accept Shilts’s account and to what extent they accept other views. Although they have some reservations, Gleason and Grady take Shilts’s account very seriously. In discussing Shilts’s own involvement in the gay community and the events discussed in the book, the reviewers help identify the concerns the book is addressing and the kinds of arguments its author is trying to make. And in examining how the AIDS Story continues, the reviewers make clear how the story related in the book should influence our own decisions about the future. Both the book and the review bring together scholarship, the personal concerns of the writers, major issues of public concern, and policy choices. By asking what the book does and how well it is done, the review then poses the question of what we as individuals and as a society ought to do now. after reading the review, we not only know the outline of Shilts’s historical account, we also know that the reviewers believe we ought to pay serious attention to what he has written. Reviews as Evaluations The most common type of review helps us decide whether or not to buy a book, watch a movie or television show, or purchase a product. Such reviews help us evaluate what we ought to pay attention to, spend time and energy on, pay money for. Some reviews do not pass judgment directly, but simply give information upon which we can base our own decisions. Yet often reviewers share their evaluations with us: what the thing being reviewed did to or for them. But in all cases, though, the review is aimed at assigning value; that is, at evaluation. In our consumerist society where we must make many decisions about how to spend time .and money, we are surrounded by evaluative reviews. Computer magazines contain reviews of the latest software; auto magazines review the latest cars. Consumer Reports regularly reviews a wide range of products, from cosmetics to air conditioners. Before selecting your college, perhaps you looked through one of the many books giving evaluative reports on institutions of higher education. Newspapers daily carry reviews of the latest movies and television shows. There are even magazines specializing in reviews of the latest entertainment, ranging from music to video games. In each case the review evaluates or rates something in relation to the kind of thing it is. Television situation comedies are reviewed in terms of how much they make someone laugh or the kinds of satiric attitudes they express. Police dramas are ranked in terms of the excitement and suspense they generate. Soap operas are reviewed in terms of characters, plots, and emotional impact. A book review, similarly, can identify the type of book being reviewed, how well it achieves what that kind of book is supposed to, and what you would experience or gain by reading it. A mystery thriller will be evaluated in terms of how well it engages the reader in the mystery and how many chills it raises. An advice book for college students is appropriately reviewed by indicating the kind of advice it offers and evaluating how useful the advice is likely to be. The following short review of Joshua Halberstam’s Acing College: A Professor Tells Students How to Beat the System follows just such an evaluative strategy.
130 Part 1 Writing About Reading [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] In this review, evaluation is mixed with description through such words as down-to-earth, entertaining, particularly valuable, and convincingly. The closing line drives home why the book is good and who would profit from reading it. Reviews in College: A Different Kind of Evaluation The reviews you will most likely be assigned to write in college carry out a different kind of eva1uatioo. In most cases your reader, probably the instructor, will not be using the review to decide what to read. She or he will be looking instead for what value you found in the book and how carefully and critically you have read it. The instructor will note what importance you attach to the book’s main ideas, what you thought of those ideas, and how you relate the book and your thoughts to the course. In some courses, you may be assigned descriptive reports of books (or occasionally, documentary films) to determine whether you have read attentively and can restate what you learned. Far more frequently, though, you are asked in a college course to do serious reviewing—evaluating and reflecting on what you have just read. Thus it is important to go beyond the simple descriptive report with which you may start the review and enter into serious dialogue with the book, its credibility, meaning, and implications. The books you are asked to review will no doubt be related to your courses’ subject matter, extending your knowledge through supplementary readings. Moreover, the method of evaluation and the kinds of ideas you develop in your response to what you read also need to be relevant to course material. Thus in a history course, where you are asked to make connections among various historical texts you have read, your review should consider how a particular book extends, enriches, contrasts with, or otherwise relates to other course material. For a sociology course which emphasizes evaluating the research methods that produce results, before interpreting the meaning of those results, your review should give serious attention to the research methods described in the book, then evaluate the results and interpret their meaning in light of the method. For a psychology course which applies to practical situations the theories you have learned, your review should address both theory and practical applications. Thus course-assigned reviews evaluate a book in terms of the ideas, topics, skills, practices, or other concerns of the specific course. The kinds of reviews you write for college courses are similar to the kinds of reviews that frequently appear in academic journals, where books are evaluated for what they add to the knowledge of the field. The following review, published in Social Science Quarterly, identifies the book’s detailed sociological description of the animal rights movement as its strong point. But the review finds weakness in ideas that add little to those of previous books and theories. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Reviews as Debates The final judgment of the review of The Animal Rights Crusade is that the book opens a debate over animal rights disputes but does not yet engage in the debate. Often, however, scholarly reviewers go beyond objective evaluation to enter into lively discussion. They may directly follow up on the points made in a book and explore the broader implications, or they may argue against the stance the book takes, perhaps by turning the facts presented in the book against the
Chapter 8 Evaluating the Book as a Whole: The Book Review 131 argument the author makes. This kind of discussion review is often assigned in college courses, to give students the opportunity to begin addressing important issues presented in course materials and publications in the field. Writing a review rather than just stating an opinion helps you become engaged in a serious and focused debate. The following pair of reviews of a book on the politics and policy of affirmative action in recent United States history find important truths in a book they evaluate as well-researched. However, the truths each reviewer finds are different and point toward opposite positions on affirmative action. Thus in evaluating Equality Transformed: A Quarter Century of Affirmative Action by Herman Belz, these reviewers not only carry on a debate with the book, but also participate in the larger continuing debate over affirmative action policies. The reviews first appeared in scholarly history journals, the Journal of Interdisciplinary History and the Journal of American History. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] This first review, by Harvey C. Mansfield, starts with a sentence identifying the subject of the book in a way that sets up the reviewer’s argument Mansfield is calling affirmative action a change from “race-blind to race-conscious measures.” Mansfield then argues for the anti-affirmative action position that he shares with the author of the book. This argument, while making use of historical material from the book, is presented in abstract terms of legal philosophy, The reviewer next outlines the book’s account of how the United States government moved away from the principles he approves to the policy he opposes. He uses the review as a vehicle to carry forw.ard the policy argument he wishes to make. Because the next reviewer, Tony Freyer, takes an opposite position, he makes a more complex use of the book. While defining the limits of the history the book presents, he at first praises the fullness of the account. While outlining the history of affirmative action presented in the book, Freyer postpones stating his own position. Not until the second half of the review, after he has described Belz’s historical account and identified Belz’s argument, does this reviewer raise the questions that lead to conclusions contradicting those of the book. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] By examining from an alternative position the issues raised by Belz, Freyer is able to reinterpret some of the facts offered in the book. He points out what parts of the story Belz has failed to tell and calls Be1z’s own conclusions into question. In the closing paragraph, Freyer redefines affirmative action in a new way, one suggesting that Belz has not seen the real issue. Even while arguing against the conclusions of the book, however, the reviewer praises it as the most serious history we have of affirmative action; in all future studies. he says, it must be taken into account. The book review that enters into debate with the book grows out of the evaluative review. The debate helps identify the worth of the book to someone thinking through the issues being discussed. Reviews you are assigned to write in college courses are extensions of the conversations of the class, conversations among assigned readings, the students, and their instructors. Reviewing allows you to add your own comment to the statement of a book.
132 Part 1 Writing About Reading Writing a Book Review In order for you as a reviewer to write the fullest and most considered response to a book, your reading and thinking must go through several stages. The more questions of interest the book poses, the more time you should devote to developing your ideas before actually writing the review. When first reading a book for meaning, pay special attention to its preface or foreword and to any other information that will give a clue to the book’s overall purpose and its general context.”As you reread the book, annotate it with comments on the author’s technique and your own reactions. After having developed some thoughts through journal entries, look through the book one more time. Then clarify your thoughts by writing down answers to the following questions. Once you know your reactions to what the book is and what it does, you are ready to outline and write the first draft of your review. The Shape of Your Review Beyond a few items that must appear in a review, what you include and how you organize it is up to you. Many reviews, however, do follow one general pattern that includes all the important elements of a review. The required items are all a matter of common sense. The reader must know what book you are talking about, so head the review with a bibliographic entry. It is helpful to include not just author, title, and publication information but also the number of pages and the price of the book, because readers like to know what commitment of time and money it takes to read the book. The ideal format of this entry is as follows: Title. Author. Place of publication: publisher, date of publication. Number of pages. Price. Sometimes, for the convenience of librarians, the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or Library of Congress Catalog (LCC) number is listed. The first time you mention the book in the review, repeat the author and title so that the reader does not have to refer back to the bibliographic entry. The body of the review must give a clear overview of the contents of the book, the special purpose for the audience of the book, and the reviewer’s reaction and evaluation. Though reviews show a wide variety of form and organization, a typical opening is a direct statement about the Questions to Answer Before Writing a Book Review What seems to be the author’s main purpose or point? Is this purpose aimed at any particular group of readers? What information or knowledge does the book convey? What personal or practical meaning does the book have for you? What are the most appropriate terms by which to evaluate the book? On the basis of the criteria you have just selected, how successful do you think the author was in carrying out the overall purposes of the book?
Chapter 8 Evaluating the Book as a Whole: The Book Review 133 kind of book being reviewed and its main topic—followed by a few words of the reviewer’s evaluations. If the book raises any special problem that the review win explore later, this may be briefly mentioned here. Thus, in the first few sentences, the reader learns where both the book and the review are headed. The next paragraph or section often includes background that helps place the book in context, either by describing the general problem the book addresses or by mentioning earlier books by this or another author. Here is also an appropriate place for the reviewer to discuss criteria by which to judge the book, for the context helps define what the book attempts to do. Next, a summary of the main points of the book—highlighted by paraphrase and quotation-gives an overview of the book’s content. The reviewer’s reactions may be included with the ongoing summary of the contents, or all evaluative comments may be saved for the end. Even if a personal reaction is withheld, the reviewer’s manner of describing the contents often gives a clear impression of what he or she thinks. In any case, it is important to distinguish between the ideas of the author and those of the reviewer. Careful labeling (Dorothy Nelkin continues … ; This reviewer believes … ) keeps the reviewer’s ideas separate from the author’s ideas. Confusion between the two weakens the value of the review to its reader. In the final part of the review, the reviewer is free to carry on the discussion in a variety of ways, evaluating how well the book has achieved its goal, musing over the possibilities suggested by the book, arguing with specific points, discussing matters the book has left out, even exploring a personal experience related to the subject. No matter how far afield the comments stray, they usually return in the last few lines to a more direct comment on the book and tie together issues raised in the review. Although some trick endings are clichés, a final statement that leaves the reader with a sense of completion—with a musical cadence—lends a desirable grace to the review. That grace is important, for we should consider the evaluation of another person’s work not as a cold measurement but as a civilized act of human society. A STUDENT EXAMPLE FOR DISCUSSION In the following review Jess Hopkins, a college student pursuing environmental studies, considers the usefulness of the book Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, in helping her understand and respond to environmental dilemmas confronting the global community in the late twentieth century She finds that the book, by vice president Gore, raises important questions about current national and international environmental policies and challenges the ways American citizens think about their relationship to the earth. However, she is troubled’ by the book’s emphasis on political solutions to these global environmental problems. Although Jess agrees with Gore’s insistence on the urgency of the problem and the need to change ways of thinking in order to effect real change in the world, she still is uncertain about what the government-level solutions offered in the book mean for her own actions and long-term career goals. Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit by Al Gore. Plume/Penguin Books, 407 pp., $13.00. ISBN 0-452-26935-0 Reviewed by Jess Hopkins In his introduction to Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., describes the book as “part of a personal journey … in search of a true understanding of the global ecological crisis and how it can be resolved” (1). This is a
134 Part 1 Writing About Reading personal journey on which Gore would like his readers to accompany him. The book does just that: it challenges us to change the way we see the world in order to change the world we see. Gore’s assessment of the problem and insistence on the need to radically alter our ways of thinking about OUI relationship to the earth inspires action. However, his emphasis on the central role that governments must play in solving the earth’s environmental problems made me wonder what I could do beyond voting, paying my taxes, and providing moral support for those responsible for putting the policies needed to effect real change into practice. Earth in the Balance has been praised as an inspirational call to spiritual renewal and political action and denounced as a piece of election year political propaganda. It has been applauded as a concise and plainly written description of the current state of the global environment and attacked as bad science and foolish idealism. Whatever it may be, it is neither political propaganda (the book was written before Gore was placed on the Democratic ticket) nor a scientific treatise. Gore’s targeted audience is the average American citizen; while his political bias is moderate to liberal, he attempts to appeal to readers with assorted political leanings. His stated goal is to empower his readers to change their minds and their practices, but he also clearly intends to persuade them to see things his way and support his agenda for resolving global environmental issues. Gore divides his book into three sections. The first two address the problem—what the threat to the global environment is and what has caused our blindness to it—and the third addresses Gore’s ideas for solving this problem. In the first two sections Gore draws on a variety of disciplines—”the earth sciences, economics, sociology, history, information theory, psychology, philosophy, and religion” (269-270}—to explain the global ecological crisis, and in the third section he examines the potential for resolving it in the political arena. In “Balance at Risk,” the first section, Gore outlines the “strategic threats” to the global environment—from global warming to toxic pollution to overpopulation—in order to show the urgency of the need to “change our civilization and our way of thinking about the relationship between humankind and the earth” (163). The specific evidence Gore provides is a combination of anecdotes, analogies, first-hand experience, and scientific research. Although some of his projections for the future may be based on data open to alternative interpretations, the quantity and quality of this evidence makes his claim about the urgent need for change compelling. Even if we may have questions about the threat of global warming and the greenhouse effect, the accounts of the effects of the depletion of the rain forests and air and water pollution are convincing, and frightening. In the second section, “The Search for Balance,” Gore systematically and convincingly illustrates the failure of our current ways of thinking about the relationship between human civilization and the earth: emphasizing the positive elements of technology and ignoring the negative; neglecting long term hazards in order to achieve short term benefits; and viewing human beings as separate from and even superior to the environment they inhabit. These assumptions, Gore argues, have resulted in a spiritual imbalance in individuals and in society at large, and have contributed to the global ecological crisis we now face. He believes that in order to insure a healthy and productive future we need to shift from a philosophy of consumption to a philosophy of “stewardship” and “sustainable development.” This new way of thinking, what Gore calls an “environmentalism of the spirit,” is necessary for balancing the earth’s ecological system—and begins with ordinary citizens like you and me. This section helped me put together many of the issues I had been thinking about and reconfirmed my commitment to environmental studies both as part of my own personal development and to help other people come to understand their relationship to the environment. The final section, “Striking the Balance,” however, confused me as to whether individuals like me really would playa significant role in coming to environmental solutions. In this section Gore shifts from the realm of the individual spirit to the realm of national and international politics and from the theoretical to the practical. Here he challenges the United States to provide leadership in implementing a “Global Marshall Plan.” Although Gore acknowledges that this plan begins with individuals who dare to act, he focuses on the role governments—in particular the government of the United States—must play in implementing five “strategic goals” for saving the global environment: stabilizing world population; developing “environmentally appropriate” technologies; changing the way we measure growth, productivity, and progress; negotiating international treaties and
Chapter 8 Evaluating the Book as a Whole: The Book Review 135 agreements; and establishing a plan for educating the global community about the environment (305-306). While these goals are admirable, they are, as Gore admits, presented from his vantage point as a politician. He places a great deal of faith in the ability of governments to take the lead in solving the problems outlined in the first two sections and he asks his readers to share that faith. A1though Gore’s pl~ for dramatic changes in thought and action is compelling, it ultimately leaves me wondering whether what I can do as an individual ultimately will make a difference in the global environment. I know, as the cliché goes, every little bit helps. I know that recycling waste is the right thing to do. Still, in the face of global catastrophes like the destruction of rain forests and overpopulation, separating out my glass, aluminum, and paper from the rest of my garbage, and choosing to drink my coffee out of a paper cup instead of styrofoam sometimes seem insignificant. I know that how I think about my relationship to the earth affects how I act: because of my convictions about the importance of preserving our environment I have chosen to pursue a career in environmental education. In this career I hope to contribute to the kinds of changes that Gore advocates in his book. but I worry that education will be slow to reach those in power. Given the urgency of the situation, and the irreversibility of some of the changes that the earth is now experiencing, I sometimes fear that it, may be too late. Gore’s book is inspiring, and even empowering, but only up to a point. Even as it inspires and empowers, it paints a bleak picture of the current imbalance in ourselves and in our environment and places responsibility for making the future better in the hands of those who have helped to paint the picture to begin with. Despite these shortcomings, Gore is to be commended for making the environment a central political issue and giving it the attention it deserves. Although I find it difficult to share his sense of optimism about the future, I share his concerns and admire his courage. Short Versus Long Reviews The middle-length review of five hundred to a thousand words, which we have been considering, is the most common kind in newspapers and magazines. It allows the reviewer room to present contents and reactions with substantial supporting examples and discussion. In any fewer words, the reviewer must get right to the core of the book’s argument and to his or her reaction. Without space for lengthy support or involved explanations, the short review must rely on straightforward statements; precisely phrased judgments can be backed with only a few well-chosen examples. When the book is found wanting, the reviewer can express distaste by making a blunt judgment or by taking an ironic attitude. The following capsule review from the Los Angeles Times, through Some overview statements and a few very brief and pointed examples, lets you know exactly what kind of book is being discussed and makes clear that it lives up to the author’s goals. At the same time, the reviewer, Kenneth Turan, raises questions about the value of just such a book by using an ironic tone, This review both praises and damns in the same sentence. The opening quotation about the book’s goals almost seems to raise questions about itself, making you wonder about people who would be interested in such details. Are you real1y such a reader?’ The ironic attitude is built up by apparently positive comments, such as that the author is «determined” and that “there seems to be no reason to seriously doubt” the claims of the book. Every sentence has a straight-faced zinger, making you wonder who would take such trivia so seriously. The closing sentence caps the ironic judgment-given the foolishness of the first book, it is astonishing to think of a second volume. Another Capsule Review A book worthy of serious consideration can be characterized well enough in a capsule review to give the reader a sense of its content and value. The following review from Choice, a book review journal for academic libraries, in a short space announces the
136 Part 1 Writing About Reading book’s merits and impact, presents the main findings, and gives a sense of the range of evidence employed. Within about two hundred words, the reviewer has painted a substantial picture of a complex, detailed book and made a solid recommendation. [COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL REMOVED] Writing capsule reviews will develop your ability to react to and place a book. You will learn to get to the core of your reaction in a few words, for otherwise the review will be finished before you get to your evaluation. Learning to characterize books succinctly and to make pointed estimates of their value will enable you to find your way more easily among the variety of books available when you come to gather materials for your research paper. Even very short reviews—fifty or fewer words—will further sharpen your instincts about books and prepare you for placing books in relation to each other, a skill needed for preparing a review of the literature (see Chapter 10), as well as an annotated bibliography (see Chapter 11). The Full Review At the other extreme, the long review allows full discussion of all aspects of a book and the reviewer’s estimate of it. Not every book warrants detailed comment, but when the book raises interesting, complex questions or when the argument needs careful weighing, the long review permits all issues to be explored to their logical conclusion. To write an extended review that looks deeply into the issues of a book, the reviewer usually needs to have substantial knowledge of the subject, of the other books in the field, and of the previous work by the same author. The more deeply one looks into any book, the more important it is to understand how: the book fits into earlier “conversations.” One can find examples of fun reviews in many scholarly journals and in book review journals such as the New York Review of Books. WRITING ASSIGNMENTS 1. Select a book that you remember enjoying as a child. Reread it and write a 500-word review directed toward parents who are choosing books for their children. Then write a 150-word review directed toward children, explaining why they ought to read the book. 2. For your college newspaper, write a 300-word review of a book you have read recently that was useful, amusing, or thought provoking. 3. Write a 150-word review for your classmates about the worst book that you have read in the past few years. Make it clear why readers should stay away from this book. 4. Write a 500-word review of a book you are using for a research project for either this or another course. Direct the review to the teacher and your fellow students to let them know how valuable and reliable a source the book is. 5. Choose three books from a research project you have worked on or from an area of special interest for you. Write a short, 50-word review of each to let people who are just becoming interested in the area know what books are worth reading. 6. Choose a course you have taken that had several books on the required reading list. For each title assigned in the course, write a short, 50-word review to help your instructor decide whether to assign the same books in future semesters.
Chapter 8 Evaluating the Book as a Whole: The Book Review 137 7. Write a 150-word review of a movie you have recently seen. Direct your review to your classmates and make clear why they should or should not see the film. 8. Find two reviews in your college library of a book you have read or a movie or television show you have seen. Write a 50-word summary of each, describing the nature of the evaluation and explaining which review you find more accurate or more helpful and why. 9. Write a review of Part 1 of this textbook to let the author know to what extent this book is useful to you and where it might be improved. Mail the review to: Charles Bazerman, c/o College Division, Houghton Mifflin Company, 222 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116.