Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
The Ways to Persuade a Reader in Consider the Lobster by David Wallace
In David Foster Wallace’s article, “Consider the Lobster,” he persuades the audience that cooking lobster and eating them is cruel and that it is wrong to eat lobster “alive for our gustatory pleasure.” Wallace applies thought provoking information that exhibits whether it is right or wrong to boil lobsters “for our gustatory pleasure.” Wallace emphasizes with details the various ways lobsters are cruelty prepared. He also provides the readers with outside resources and calls attention to the of the MFL and how they mention that Lobsters have no pain, ” no brain, no cerebral cortex, which in humans it is the area of the brain that gives the experience of pain,” but Wallace claims to be “incorrect.”
He supports this case with multiple further reasoning. Although, Wallace article portrays a controversial view, he can persuade the audience to reflect on the morality of boiling lobsters alive for food consumption. Wallce relies on facts and descriptive details, pathos, logical reasoning, which praises his view on lobsters to an audience of those who attend the Maine Lobster Festival, gourmet food eaters, chefs, those against animal cruelty and the public.
Facts and Details
Wallace uses an immense of detailing to exhibit the the concerns of pain in lobsters and how unnecessary the deaths are, specifically at the Maine lobster festival, also providing factual support for his argument. Wallace depicts how Lobsters are prepared at the Main lobster event and in ones kitchen.Wallace goes into great detail explaining the environment surrounding the Maine lobster festival in order to convey the idea that people ignore the massacre of thousands of lobsters right beside them. When it comes to cooking at home wallaces describes “the lobster will try to cling into the container or even hook its claws… like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof.” he bluntly affirms how lobsters act just like any human that is in pain would.
To prove that Lobsters feel pain Wallace includes sources that confirm lobsters pain. In his article he corrects sources that said Lobsters do not feel pain, when they do, allowing his article to be more credible, and therefore having the audience to really appreciate his knowledge on Lobsters. To further strengthen his point, Wallace points out how when a Lobster is is scrabbling, this shows an important indicator of suffering, concluding that Lobsters do in fact feel pain. According to an article by U.S. News, “Some say the hiss that sounds when crustaceans hit the boiling water is a scream (it’s not, they don’t have vocal cords)” (Koebler, 2013). This leads to an assumption that consumers think lobsters may feel pain as they enter boiling water, but perhaps we do not care enough or enjoy the flavor too much to care.
In addition, Wallace creates appeal to pathos and connects to the readers emotions. When comparing the Maine Lobster Festival to how a Nebraska Beef Festival the audience draws a sense of guilt. Wallace states, “at which part of the festivities is watching trucks pull up and the live cattle get driven down the ramp and slaughtered right there…” Most times people will feel sorrow for the cattles, but what about the Lobster? Wallace applying the context of the cattles and how one feels bad for them but not the Lobsters, also ties with hypocrisy. He outlines this to accurately show the hypocrisy of people’s attitudes surrounding the mass slaughter of the lobsters when they find the mass slaughter of any other animals horrific.
Again, wallace adds a dreadful metaphor, The lobster will sometimes cling to the container’s sides or even hook its claws over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of a roof,” which really shows how inhumane the general cooking method can seem when envisioning the process of boiling lobster. Another comparison used by Wallace is when he mentions how Lobsters were for the lower class and how feeding lobster was thought to be cruel, once again using a simile, “like making people eat rats.” This draws a sense of disgust and discomfort to the readers.
As Wallace bring disgust to the readers, there are numerous other people who will fully support Wallace. “Lobsters are very good as article of commerce, and pretty enough to look at, after they are boiled but, as to eating them, I prefer castoff rubber shoes” (King, Paragraph 7). Wallace metaphors can be triggering to the audience which can enable to really understand the wrong in boiling lobster what they go through, and but oneself in the perspective of a lobster.
Furthermore, Wallace seeks logical reasoning to properly expand the readers knowledge on Lobsters. When gaining knowledge on Lobsters readers can comprehend and come to realize how unethical and inhumane it is to boil Lobsters. Wallace provides research about the large well-known and highly acclaimed Maine Lobster Festival which thrives each summer. After mentioning the Main Lobster event and including horrifying aspects to the event many individuals may not want to participate in the event after reading Wallace argument. Wallace is able to give the audience clarity and a new understanding to what takes place to have a lobster in one’s plate. Although Lobsters Wallace “discuss the boiling of lobsters with a negative viewpoint, there are many people who truly enjoy eating Lobster and feel no need to stop. Many individuals view Lobsters as “more than food: It is an idea, an event, a challenge, a happening, a celebration and Indulgence” (Phillips, 2013).
Ultimately, Wallace provides support using facts, appeal to pathos, and logical reasoning to why Lobsters should not be boiled/cooked for consumption. Wallace exhibits how Lobsters feel pain and how inhumane it is to kill a Lobster. He is incredibly convincing and allows the audience to truly “consider the Lobster.” After reading Wallace essay one is convinced to really think about the morality of boiling Lobster for consumption and to really ponder about the food one puts in their mouth, partially a lobster, because it was once a living breathing creature.
Reverse Sear: a Rhetorical Analysis of “Consider the Lobster”
Gourmet magazine had originally intended for David Foster Wallace to write a harmless review of the annual Maine Lobster Festival (MLF). As the essay continues, the reader notices the transition of a review of the festival into a topic on to the ethics of food consumption, specifically that of the lobster. The rhetorical aim of this essay is not to convince the culinary foodies to abandon their current eating habits, but to tell them that they need to reflect on the culture and ethics of food consumption and how people generally have little sympathy for what they eat. Wallace is able to create a thought-provoking debate, while remaining fairly neutral, through his use of diction, irony, imagery, and persuasive appeals, with an authentic, informative tone throughout the essay.
The diction that Wallace uses begins with rather simplistic word choice. References to the lobster are often negative, calling them “eaters of dead stuff” and ” chewable food” (Wallace 2). The purpose of this word choice is to initially give the readers little to no opinion on lobsters. Over time, Wallace’s diction evolves to become more sophisticated and uses scientific and anatomical words associated with lobsters. He does this because his diction is very much like his readers. It becomes far more articulate and knowledgeable, all in a bid to assimilate with the audience. They may not have an opinion of lobsters in the beginning of the text, but Wallace is slowly able to inject himself into their environment with his word choice, and allow him to change their views on this crustacean. Wallace then uses grotesque diction in the hopes that it will spur some sort of emotion. A “home-lobotomy” (Wallace 6) or a “medieval torture-fest” (Wallace 7), this graphic diction will now be more powerful to the audience now that have adopted Wallace. He proves himself capable of being just as interested in the ethics of lobster as they are with food, and hopefully this diction may have achieved Wallace’s goal, to question the culture and morals of food.
Wallace possesses an authentic, informative tone. Throughout the entirety of the essay, Wallace does not pick a side. The essay composes language that is impartial, and his tone distinguishes him as a moderate. The reader is capable of seeing that he is not like the typical food critic who usually fill up their reviews with pretentious, bloated language. On page 7, Wallace admits that he sees animals as a lesser in comparison to a person. Considering this is a food magazine, many authors would probably put animals on a pedestal. The readers are able to see that he is incredibly truthful in his writings; they can trust that he is not trying to pull any tricks on him. Anything that he is saying here is genuine and has some information to back it. Wallace is now able to get them to realize the deeper meaning to this article and will most likely get them to think critically about the topic, much like how he has exhibited through his writing.
Wallace’s use of persuasive appeals is prevalent throughout the entirety of the essay. He utilizes a series of emotion appeals to get the reader to sympathize with the animal. The main point of conflict in this article is that there is no clear answer as to whether these lobsters would experience the same pain as a human would. Piled together, huddled in a corner, running away from incoming people, these are some of the observations of the lobsters stuck in the glass tanks at the festival (Wallace 7). This paints a vivid picture in the mind of the reader. The actions of the lobsters in the tank are like that of many animals, including humans. Wallace is able to show to the audience that these animals are distressed, they are suffering, and that their struggles need notice. Prior to this, most would not care for a lobster in a tank, but they are now questioning the possibility of lobsters experiencing the same emotions humans do. Some lobsters cook in a microwave after having been poked with “several extra vent holes in the carapace” (Wallace 6). What Wallace is trying to do here is to provide the audience with horrifying details of the cooking process. While some may still not be moved, Wallace’s main goal is to get the pot simmering; he wants people to think about what they eat. He admits that even he will most likely not change his eating habits, but he certainly has a new view of food now.
Wallace employs irony as a way to get the reader to further question the culture of how people eat food. The MLF claims that lobsters are both a healthy food choice and creatures incapable of feeling pain. Wallace refutes these claims by stating that the festival sells lobsters with ounces of butter and unhealthy sides (Wallace 3), and that lobsters contain body parts that may allow them to experience pain (Wallace 6). Doing this allows Wallace to show the readers that the festival is presenting a false imagination for the visitors. Some may even interpret this as a blatant lie in trying to reel in more attendees. Wallace provides them with the possibility that this is a cash grab, and humans have little to no morals of the animals that they consume.
Wallace’s use of imagery allows him to provide the audience a new perspective of the food festivals that they hold very near and dear to their hearts. Considering that these foodies have most likely frequented these events in the past, they typically have a generally positive opinion of them. Wallace ruins this by meticulously describing some pitfalls of the MLF such as “aisle-blocking coolers” or the death match for “NyQuil-cup size samples” (Wallace 3). The readers are able to recount all the events that they have attended themselves. It is not shocking when they see that most of the festivals have some aspects to it that spoil the entirety of it. Wallace then presents the readers with a hypothetical cow festival, similar to the MLF, where he refers to it as the “World’s Largest Killing Floor” (Wallace 5). He utilizes this to get the reader to question why they even bother to go to these festivals. They all seem to have some sort of negative connotation with them, yet they still go. Switching the type of animal being killed makes these festivals appear as a glorification of slaughter. All of these negatives enable the readers to have second thoughts on the purpose of these events.
Wallace wants the audience to take a look at the ethics of food and the culture associated with it. Through his excellent use of emotional appeals and style, he is able to give the readers with a rather profound effect that causes them to think critically of how low people hold the food they consume. The effect of the article will vary among the readers, but it certainly has affected Wallace, and he hopes that carries on to them. The readers all have new perspectives on food consumption thanks to Wallace, regardless of whether they change their eating habits.
- Wallace, David Foster. “Consider the Lobster.” Consider the Lobster, Aug. 2004.
An Act Of Harming Animals in an Article By David Foster Wallace
Consider the Lobster
David Foster Wallace is a well-known American writer, that discreetly challenges reader’s moral view points in the article “Consider the Lobster”. Through his creative writing style and his structure of the article, one can assume his stance on the moral issue if boiling a lobster alive is just or not, but one could argue both sides of the debate. The Maine Lobster Festival is a yearly tradition that receives a lot of attention, some bad, some good. The Maine Lobster Festival was once a huge celebration until the group PETA came to bring awareness to the inhumane actions of boiling a lobster. After reading “Consider the Lobster” I was compelled to agree with the underlying thesis, questioning the inhumane actions of boiling a lobster when concrete evidence shows that lobsters indeed feel pain, and from their behavior it proves that lobster do suffer.
Lobster is a species that are a delicacy to have eaten. What if people knew that this delicacy caused pain to the creature, and what if you were the one that directly had to inflict this pain and torturous death? It’s easy for some individuals to eat food and mentally block out how this tasty lobster roll ended up in their hand, but they may be ignoring an inhumane action. Human species should question whether what we are doing is humane or not. “The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals thinks that the morality of lobster-boiling is not just a matter of individual conscience” (Wallace 60). First, one must acknowledge that we are only able to feel the pain we receive; we can’t feel the pain our friends or family or other species feel, so we should not be so quick to assume and act on our assumptions. Pain is a subjective mental experience, and from this experience we can tell what is painful to us and from observation we can tell what is painful for others. When a chef puts a live lobster into a pot with boiling water and hears scratching and sees that the lobster is clinging to the top and a chef must leave the kitchen it’s clear that the chef is uncomfortable. This uncomfortableness is a sign that boiling a live lobster is wrong, and to deal with this one tends to avoid thinking about what is truly happening. If the chef that must leave the kitchen had to do a self-examination of his or her actions, it would be clear that they conflict with their actions. This proves that boiling a lobster is not natural, and it causes conflict with one’s morality creating this uncomfortable feeling. Imagine going to a festival but rather than eating lobster there was cat and dog being served. Most likely more people would have a problem with physically having to boiling a cat or dog and couldn’t bar the sight of it. How is boiling a lobster any different? Therefore, the only way people can justify boiling a lobster alive is just for their own enjoyment and gustatory experience. This is not a moral justification to dismiss the cruel and immoral actions of boiling a lobster.
Lobsters are a part of the aquatic arthropod within the Crustacea family which comes from the phylum Arthropoda. The species in this phylum lack a centralized brain and spine assemble. They have an exoskeleton composed of segments similar to a giant insect. “The nervous system of a lobster is very simple, and is in fact most similar to the nervous system of a grasshopper” (Wallace 62). Lobsters and grasshoppers are similar because the both lack a centralized brain like humans. Creating the argument that they do not have a nervous system similar to humans is a difficult and not relatable comparison being that we come from different species. A lobster’s nervous system operates from multiple ganglia making them extremely sensitive to touch especially along their underbelly. The Maine Lobster Promotional Council tried claiming that there is no cerebral cortex in lobster, which in humans is the area of the brain that gives the experience of pain. Later this claim was proven to be “fuzzy or false”(Wallace 62), creating no evidence that lobsters have no nervous system or a sense of pain. Lobsters do indeed have a nervous system and are highly sensitive creatures that can detect change. Since they have clusters of ganglia it actually makes then more sensitive in certain areas than humans. In order to keep a large amount of lobsters in a tank they have to be tied up and bandaged to keep them from hurting themselves or other lobsters in a tank due to the stress of captivity. If lobsters didn’t have a nervous system, they wouldn’t’ t be able to detect a stressful situation therefore supporting that lobster have a nervous system.
A clear assessment to determine whether an animal is capable of suffering is observing the animal’s behavior to see if it has any association with pain. When a lobster is trying to be placed in a steaming kettle, it first tries to attach its claws onto the rim of the kettle to try and prevent being placed in boiling water. The lobster then tries to cling onto the containers’ sides- trying to escape. A chef can hear the lobster rattling around, creating a lot of unsettling motion indicating that they are in tremendous pain. Lobsters can also detect change in temperature, because they migrate out into deeper water for warmth in autumn. This is a clear indication from their behavior that a lobster can feel pain and do suffer. David Foster Wallace gives the comparison that lobsters react very similar to if a human were to be placed in a pot of boiling water. Therefore, one can conclude that lobster do indeed experience suffering.
Finally, from the arguments of David Foster Wallace regarding whether boiling lobster alive is morally wrong are proven through not only the actions of a lobster and the biological evidence from their nervous system but from the natural uncomfortable response from humans. Overall, David Foster Wallace has the reader consider moral choices, and with the information provided, it is hard to argue against the fact that killing a lobster is humane. If one believes that killing a lobster by boiling it alive is humane, then they must apply this belief to all species, and ask themselves if it is okay to kill any innocent animal this way. This is a larger ethical question our society has proposed multiple times, as arguments for vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise. As a society, we do not have the right to dictate another species life and end innocent animals lives simply for the pleasure of our own.
David F. Wallace’s Fight for Animal Rights in His Work Consider the Lobster
Animal-rights’ is an important, but touchy, subject. No one wants to feel that they are intentionally doing something wrong or harmful; which can possibly include eating an animal that was killed specifically for their consumption. In a Gourmet article issued in August of 2004, readers are spiked with controversial, thought-provoking ideas about animal rights. They are provided with the example of how lobsters are cooked alive at a festival in Maine every year. David F. Wallace effectively grasps the reader in Consider the Lobster by his use of pathos in his diction, quotes, and thought-provoking structure about how and why it is wrong to treat animals inhumanely, but is ineffective in supporting this idea, and shows logos in his tone, because he does not provide solutions to treating them this way, and changes his diction about his views towards animal’s rights.
In an effectively powerful way, Wallace shows how treating animals inhumanely for consumption is wrong by simply posing the question, “Is it alright to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?” (Wallace, 60). By providing this question, he makes people really think about the issue of inhumane animal treatment by using examples of pathos. When he poses this question, people are given the image of an animal being boiled alive, and it instantly connects with their emotion and creates mental images. Wallace talks about how the Maine Lobster Festival is a festival that publicly cooks and consumes live animals right in front of people. He appeals to Gourmet reader’s minds when he compares the Maine Lobster festival to a theoretical one, “Try to imagine a Nebraska Beef Festival at which part of the festivities is watching trucks pull up and the live cattle get driven down the ramp and slaughtered right there…” (Wallace, 62). His premise is very strong and appeals to the readers of Gourmet magazine because it compares the Lobster festival in a parallel way with any other animal in a similar situation. He shows us that for some reason it would be a more horrific sight to be able to pick out a cow rather than a lobster, and watch it be slaughtered and cooked right before the consumer’s eyes. He adds a quote from an outside source, “Lobsters are extraordinarily sensitive. To me, eating a lobster is out of the question” (Wallace 60). By including this quote stated by Mary Tyler Moore, David Wallace adds power to his argument on why treating even lobsters is wrong. He shows that others support the animal rights aspect of his argument and that it is a big controversial topic amongst most humans.
Using logos, Wallace begins to contradict his feelings about animal-rights, and is ineffective in supporting his fist ideas. He does not give ideas on how to solve problems about how animals are treated wrongly before they are set on the dinner table. In the article Wallace states, “Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge that the questions of whether and how different kinds of animals feel pain, and of whether and why it might be justifiable to inflict pain on them in order to eat them, turn out to be extremely complex and difficult” (Wallace, 62). Although his strategy here may be to show that their pain may not be intense enough to hurt them that much when being boiled alive, he shows that he has no proof of the pain they may feel. Here he begins to explain that lobsters may feel pain differently than any other animal, but also that it is unknown what kind of pain they feel or how intense it may be. He is only making the reader think about how animals feel pain in different ways, but no solution to his initial claim on how terrible it must be for that dying animal. Throughout this paragraph, he describes different nerve receptors they have, and what kind of pain they could possibly feel, as he also does on the following page, “…it’s more that they feel it (pain) but don’t feel anything about it…There is, after all, a difference between (1) pain as a purely neurological event, and (2) actual suffering” (Wallace, 63). He continues to show how pain could be inflicted on them and what they feel, but no ideas on how to solve the issue of animal cruelty that he rants on about. On the very last page of his rhetoric, he writes, “…I have an obvious selfish interest in this belief, since I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it, and I have not succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient” (Wallace, 64). Here he is even admitting to not showing a real explanation at what could possibly be done to justify the wrong treatment of killing animals for consumption. He is showing that he is ineffective in providing a way to solve the problem itself, and changes his diction to one that is opposite of his original argument.
Throughout David F. Wallace’s, Consider the Lobster, it is shown that this man obviously cares enough about animals to have written a seven-page rant about it for Gourmet magazine. He begins his article using diction that shows that he feels bad for these poor lobsters that are cooked alive. He later changes his diction and shows only possibilities of how they may experience pain. Although he is effective in showing his concern for lobsters and other animals that may be treated inhumanely, he is ineffective in providing any sort of solution to how this problem could be fixed. He is almost ironic in his words because he preaches about why this is wrong. Initially, the article is one that supports animal’s rights, and questions if it is savage to treat them wrongfully and intentionally inflict pain on them. By the end of the article, Wallace, it seems, changes his mind on how he feels about this topic by admitting he has a “selfish interest” in eating animals, even considering the consequences they wrongly experience.
“Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace
Lobster is one of my much-loved seafood dishes due to its delicate rich flavored meat, however, after reading this article I have a change of mind. “Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace is a controversial article to whether or not it is humane to drop a live lobster in a pot of boiling water. He brought up the question is it right to boil a live lobster just for one’s desire, quite thought-provoking. Thus, he had convinced me to his viewpoints on logos, ethos, and pathos. I believe Wallace uses description to deliberate the meaning of pain to convince and gain my heart he includes definitions about taxonomical terms and references to prove his point while he compares and contrast different viewpoints on this specific matter. In order for Wallace to get his point across in the first paragraph he described what Main Lobster Festival was, he expressed it in the first person which allowed me to see stuff from his perspective and to understand how he felt towards this subject.
In the article, it’s evident Wallace tends to show pathos the most, where he includes foot and end notes voicing his opinion and stance on a precise segment of the article which allows him to bring a new perspective up. To get his stance across he uses a lot of rhetorical strategies that I myself had to contemplate. His strategies made me ponder on several other viewpoints such as the lobsters, chefs, and meat lovers. Wallace captures the use of pathos in a way that would be very convincing as he compared and contrasted the lobsters to humans. He drew me in when he stated, “the lobster will sometimes cling to the container’s sides or even to hook its claw over the kettle’s rim like a person trying to keep from going over the edge of the roof. Giving me a sense of remorse for the lobster as if I were the creature being placed into a pot of boiling water.
In addition, he compares the Main Lobster Festival to Nebraska beef Festival. he states a few of the festivities but the one he emphasized most on was “watching trucks pull up and the live cattle get driven down the ramp and slaughtered right there” screening that image in my head I naturally had the tendency to feel guilty which was Wallace’s main point to why is it that one feels bad for the cattle, but not the lobster, there is not a difference in my eyes. Furthermore, that is when Wallace introduced me to the ethos side of the argument where he sways me that it is, in fact, inhumane to boil a lobster alive when he stated “It is difficult not to sense that they’re unhappy, or frightened, even if it’s some rudimentary version of these feelings,” showing we should not judge and treat the lobster better or worse based on what pain level they feel. His perspective made me consider the lobster more just by that consideration.
However, Wallace brings up the argument that one may think they have the rights to eating a lobster because they are not human. Wallace proves this theory that people defends that assumption. At the Main Lobster Festival, there was a” Test Your Lobster IQ Test” conducted where it stated that lobsters have simple nervous systems like those of a worm or grasshopper. He explained a particular case where he questioned a man named dick whose son in law so happens to be a professional lobsterman and one of the Main Eating Tent’s regular suppliers who argues that lobsters are simply just a large sea insect he goes on to say “there’s a part of the brain in people and animal that lets us feel pain and lobsters don’t have these parts” Wallace denies Dick’s son in law beliefs by giving his own insight in his footnote elaborating on why the cerebral cortex in the human brain is actually not what gives experience of pain “ the cerebral cortex is the brain-part that deals with higher faculties like reason, metaphysical self-awareness, language etc.” He goes on to give in his own opinions how pain is experienced by articulating someone accidentally touching a hot stove and yanking there hand back do not involve the cortex the brain is bypassed altogether and all the neurochemical actions take place in the spine.
Not to mention some consider “lobsters are not human” to the motive to why lobsters do not need ethical concern. Which brings me to the conclusion that if lobsters aren’t human neither are cats and dogs. Wallace has me curious as to why is that we humans are defensive when it comes on to cats or abused dog but not a lobster they are all non-human creatures. On the contrary, Wallace began to shift his ideas to Logos which is the “appeal based on logical or reason”. According to precise evidence, lobsters have neurotransmitters that are more similar to those in a human which allows them to register pain.
Do Actions Speak Louder Than Words in Consider the Lobster by David Wallace
In this passage from David Wallace’s Consider the Lobster, there are many deep thoughts ingrained within the passage and the author himself discusses many of his actions with regards to what he is saying. Given this, he is not always recognized for being consistent – at points he will address a section stating something about it and then he seems to act in the opposite manner when continuing on with his footnotes. But do his actions speak louder than his words in this sense or are they just looked upon differently?
He starts off this particular excerpt with a strong sentence stating, “the issues surrounding ‘correctness’ in contemporary American usage are both vexed and highly charged, and that the fundamental questions they involve are ones whose answers have to be literally worked out instead of merely found” (293). This relates back to how actions have some stance with that of words, in that sometimes to better understand what someone is trying to communicate, it is best to experience it yourself. Some of Wallace’s experiences are discussed in the footnotes, particularly ones about how he is a college professor himself, and how he has to engrain information into students proper English the beginning of each semester. But at the end of the day, what he lays out for students could be completely disregard until it pertains to them later on in their life. Wallace kind of critiques Garner for not necessarily connecting with his audience, as Wallace acts in a manner through his passage to make more of an effort to do so.
As readers ourselves, Wallace brings up a strong point when he mentions that, “we regular citizens tend to go to The Dictionary for authoritative guidance. Rarely, however, do we ask ourselves who exactly decides what gets in The Dictionary or what words or spellings or pronunciations get deemed correct” (295). This is a fault of pretty much any person that has used a dictionary, we as a society depend on it when we aren’t clear and just trust what is presented before us. Alongside this, Wallace praises Garner for his creation, then the next he degrades him by critiquing how said words are spelled. He attacks his actions with regards to numbers in the footnotes, when Garner uses numerical symbols for words after “ten”, when Wallace emphasizes he was taught it was correct to physically spell out the number until it reached “nineteen”. At another point right after the quote above, Wallace includes in his footnotes that we do not question what is laid out in front of us, and includes a personal story about how his father is still mad at those who decided decades ago in 1984 that meringue should be spelled the way it is. This creates a discrepancy for what Wallace expresses for readers, where at points they are torn with to side with Wallace himself or with Garner. On one hand, Wallace creates this personal connection or relationship with readers themselves, per say while Garner is distinguished on paper and has his accomplishments with the dictionary he got published. Based off his footnotes, it seems as though Wallace has a great appreciation for Garner and for his work, but he brings into the question of why is what he says what follows for the remaining society. By incorporating these experiences and opinions, Wallace is encouraging readers to not always accept what is plain said, and how people get more out of a simple definition when it relates somehow to them.
As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words”, but it is clear that this is not always the case with this given passage. David Wallace uses his words in the passage, his footnotes more specifically, to connect with readers and allow for a stronger understanding of the ideas being conveyed. Yes, at a few points, his actions with his experience can tend to shy away from what he has previously said, but as a whole Wallace uses this way of communication to leave readers with a bigger message to walk away from the excerpt with.
An Analysis of the Morality of Boiling Lobsters Alive in Consider the Lobster, an Article by David Foster Wallace
When a meal is placed before you, you do not usually think of the journey those ingredients went on to reach you. You do not consider how far the corn traveled or the pain the lobster went through in order to become your food. David Foster Wallace’s article, “Consider the Lobster,” delves into the controversy surrounding the live boiling of lobster for human consumption. In order to effectively get his point across, Wallace outlines the Maine Lobster Festival and connects human experience with the lobster’s experience.
Initially, Wallace goes into great detail explaining the environment surrounding the Maine Lobster Festival in order to convey the idea that people nonchalantly ignore the massacre of thousands of lobsters right beside them. He outlines this to accurately show the hypocrisy of peoples’ nonchalant attitude surrounding the mass slaughter of the lobsters when they may find the mass slaughter of any other animal horrific. Further, he attempts to initiate compassion in his readers by gruesomely portraying the killing of the lobster. He does this in a way that sparks fear, disgust, and uneasiness within a reader who may see it as analogous with one’s own pain and experiences.
In summation, David Foster Wallace gets you thinking about the morality of boiling lobster alive for consumption through the portrayal of Maine’s lobster festival and the depiction of pain experienced by the lobster. We see how mindlessly people act when difficult matters concern their food and the morality of it. Also, we do not often pay attention to the pain animals may experience before they reach our plate. Thus, Wallace’s article encourages us to think before we eat.
Priority and Perspective in “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s”
“The View From Mrs. Thompson’s” is an account of the author’s experiences in Bloomington, Illinois directly following the 9/11 attacks. Largely based around his thoughts while watching events unfold on TV at a neighbour’s house, the essay contains descriptions of the clips shown and insight into the reactions of the people surrounding the author. The word “view” can mean either a sight or a mindset, and it is clear that both meanings resonate in Wallace’s essay.
At first, Wallace concentrates not on the tragedy itself, but on his efforts to purchase a flag to display in the event’s wake. Although they’re everywhere in his hometown, uniting citizens across lines of class and geography, he’s unable to find one, and fears that the sight of his home without a flag will appear to be a negative statement on his part. Questioning his neighbours as to their reasons for hanging up flags, he notes that their statements are fairly identical: it’s about unity, support, and pride. Although he eventually creates a makeshift flag from paper and Magic Markers, the power of appearances and images to variably unite and isolate is an important theme in the essay, and one that seems especially relevant considering the racial profiling that occurred in the name of national security following 9/11. At the moment, however, this is not yet a concern. Wallace is watching the news in Mrs. Thompson’s living room, surrounded by other neighbours and fellow church members, and his description of the scene calls to mind an observation from the opening paragraph: it’s as if everyone’s standing there watching the same traffic accident. Despite their different opinions and mindsets, this tragedy is a shared horror.
Furthermore, the essay indicates that what people see and how they react to it can effectively reveal their priorities. For instance, although footage of skyscrapers crumbling were upsetting, they were still viewable, whereas the clip of people falling from the North Tower was shown once, and never rerun. As it plays, Wallace tells us that the people in the room with him looks traumatised, simultaneously terrified and jaded, and finally moves on, unsure what to say. Although he and his neighbours could handle the large-scale destruction of buildings, the sight of people jumping from them–almost but not yet lost–is too much to bear. Perhaps this is because people are naturally predisposed to sympathise with those in peril, or perhaps it’s because it could just as easily have happened anywhere, but these reactions to the images of tragedy on Mrs. Thompson’s television show that despite the increased consumerism and greed in American culture, when it comes down to it, humanity still matters to us infinitely more than property.
View could also refer to the differing opinions and perspectives which informed the American public’s responses to 9/11. In many cases, these differences are based on age, as that greatly affected the ability of people to comprehend the situation. For instance, Wallace mentions a woman who said at first her sons thought the tragedy was just a movie, until they noticed it was playing on every channel. This innocence caused them to react with less anger and grief than many adults, even after learning the truth of the matter.
Wallace also discusses how differences in geographical location affected people’s mindset with regards to the tragedy. He says that people in the Midwest tend to spend less time together, choosing to watch television at someone’s house instead of going out to a party, whereas the East Coast is much more focused on meeting people face-to-face. This likely creates a sense of distance and detachment in places like Bloomington, and increases the contrast between everyday life and the sense of unity that followed the tragedy. This isolated viewpoint also causes the tragedy in New York to seem more distant–if they choose to turn off the TV, the events are still happening, but they are less immediate and therefore less terrifying. New Yorkers, however, would not have had the luxury of that remote viewpoint. Their altered skyline is evident and viscerally felt, not merely an image on a screen.
The last difference in viewpoint that Wallace explores is the contrast between his cynicism and the prayer of the women in the room with him. Silently, he critiques Bush’s lacking speech and notes how as time wears on the networks seem to be presenting a manufactured reaction. However, he ultimately notes that it may be preferable to believe in Mrs. Thompson’s view of the president, the images on TV, the power of prayer, because that means America as a nation would be better than he believes.
Critiquing English Literature
There are a countless number of authors that critique contemporary English usage to the highest extent they possibly can in order to ensure one’s writing is flawless. David Foster Wallace and George Orwell are two of the many authors that criticize modern English literature and offer solutions for what they believe to be common literary mistakes. Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” focuses on writing clearly, in a simple fashion and the mistakes one is prone to make if they do not write in this style. On the other hand, “Authority and American Usage” by Wallace discusses the ongoing Usage Wars of modern English writing and the importance of authority and credibility in writing, while drawing a clear line between usage and ethics. Although both authors believe there are many flaws in English literature, their literary styles both differ from one another and they do not offer the same solutions to their much different critiques. As a result of this, neither Orwell nor Wallace would agree with each other regarding the issue of common literary mistakes and the techniques necessary to solve these problems.
Orwell starts off “Politics and the English Language” by claiming that the English language is going towards the wrong path by stating, “Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way.” Orwell blames this decline on bad habits that are “spread by imitation.”The bad habits that Orwell mentions throughout his essay are the use of dying metaphors, operators/verbal false limbs, pretentious diction, and meaningless words. The reason he claims these habits are the cause of the decline is because they complicate something that can be written more simply. “As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is even easier–even quicker, once you have the habit–to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.”Orwell believes, and tries to persuade the reader, that these habits will cause the writer to lose meaning of what is being written. He criticizes modern English by saying that writers use words and phrases that are commonly used, or have been used before by someone else, not because they relate to what they are writing but because it is much easier to do as opposed to sit down and actually think for yourself. This ends up causing the written work to end up scattered and not clear, which is the opposite of what Orwell preaches about–clear writing. Orwell also mentions that insincerity in writing is a cause of clear writing. He says, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like cuttlefish squirting out ink.” When a writer is not sincere in their work, it creates a barrier between the writer’s real message and the message that they actually get across to their audience because they start spewing out random, meaningless words and phrases which then results in writing that is anything but clear.
Although Orwell feels that the English language is going down a bad path, he believes that it can be saved. “I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable.”He lists six specific things that will improve contemporary English for most situations. The list says: i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.iii. If it is possible to a cut a word out, always cut it out. iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active. v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. vi. Break any of these rules sooner than saying something outright barbarous.”
This set of rules, in Orwell’s opinion, will better one’s writing and will also help save modern English usage but it may take a while to do so. Orwell does not think one’s writing will change immediately because people have “grown used to writing in the style now fashionable.”With these changes Orwell believes writing will become more unique. “One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase–some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse–into the dustbin where it belongs.”Instead of copying phrases and words that are commonly passed around, writers will begin to think for themselves and write more creatively and clearly.
Unlike Orwell, Wallace does not care much about clear writing as much as he does drawing a clear line between usage versus ethics, which are the causes of the “Usage War” that he mentions throughout his essay. The Usage War is a fight between Prescriptivism (usage), or SNOOTs, and Descriptivism (ethics), two styles of writing that are the total opposites of one another. In his essay, Wallace refers to Prescriptives as “linguistic conservatives,” Wallace who believe that there should be a set of rules to determine what is correct or incorrect in English usage, wheres Descriptivists are labeled as “linguistic liberals” that do not believe in set guidelines regarding what should be considered right or wrong and favor ethics over logic. Wallace believes in order to solve the problem between usage and ethics, one must build credibility in order to have authority over the reader, which is why he is such a huge fan of Bryan Garner’s A Dictionary of Modern American Usage. He describes Garner as “a genius because the Dictionary of Modern American Usage pretty much resolves the Usage Wars’ Crisis of Authority. Garner manages to control the compresence of rhetorical Appeals so cleverly that he appears able to transcend both Usage Wars camps and simply tell the truth, and in a way that does not torpedo his own credibility but actually enhances it.”Garner is able to solve the Usage War by creating credibility in his writing which thus creates authority. “In fact, a large part of the project of any contemporary usage dictionary will consist in establishing this authority. If that seems rather obvious, be apprised that nobody before Garner seems to have figured it out — that the lexicographer’s challenge now is to be not just accurate and comprehensive but credible. That in the absence of unquestioned Authority in language, the reader must now be moved or persuaded to grant a dictionary its authority, freely and for what appear to be good reasons.” What Wallace is trying to say here is that a writer must be able to build credibility in order for the reader to be able to hand over his trust to gain authority. Garner has completed that by creating enough credibility in his dictionary which causes the reader to believe his work.
Reviewing both Orwell’s and Wallace’s critiques of contemporary English usage and their solutions, one can clearly see that they do not agree on what is wrong with English nor how to fix these problems. Orwell’s problem with modern writing is described in this passage: “the writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not.”Orwell is claiming that the main problem is caused by the writer not being able to get his point across clearly enough. On the other hand, Wallace claims that the biggest problem is the “Usage War,” which is a fight about gaining authority in writing. “These Wars are both the context and the target of a very subtle rhetorical strategy in A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, and without talking about them it’s impossible to explain why Garner’s book is both so good and so sneaky.”Orwell states that contemporary English usage will be saved only if we write clearly and stop being lazy, whereas Wallace believes that the problem is not about the way you write but about how you can gain authority over what you write about.
Although Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” and Wallace’s “Authority and American Language Usage” both critique contemporary English usage, they are both very different from one another and they would not agree with each other regarding what is wrong and how to solve these problems. While Orwell focused more on writing clearly, Wallace devoted most of his paper to the Usage Wars; however, both authors critiqued and solved many problems that are present in contemporary English usage.