This is our class discussion page for thinking further about the rhetorical analysis you’ll be turning in on November 14th.
From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)
The whole process of spraying seems caught up in an endless spiral. Since DDT was
released for civilian use, a process of escalation has been going on in which ever more toxic materials must be found. This has happened because insects, in a triumphant vindication of Darwin’s principle of the survival of the fittest, have evolved super races immune to the particular insecticide used, hence a deadlier one has always to be developed—and then a deadlier one than that….
From Paul E. Ehrlich’s Population Bomb (1968)
Of course, population growth is not occurring uniformly over the face of the Earth. Indeed, countries are divided rather neatly into two groups: those with rapid growth rates, and those with relatively slow growth rates. The first group, making up about two-thirds of the world population, coincides closely with what are known as the “underdeveloped countries” (UDCs). The UDCs are not industrialized, tend to have inefficient agriculture, very small gross national products, high illiteracy rates and related problems. That’s what UDCs are technically, but a short definition of underdeveloped is “hungry.” Most Latin American, African, and Asian countries fall into this category. The second group consists of the “overdeveloped countries” (ODCs). ODCs are modern industrial nations, such as the United States, Canada, most European countries, Israel, the USSR, Japan, and Australia. They consume a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources and are the major polluters. Most, but by no means all, people in these countries are adequately nourished.
Doubling times in the UDCs range around 20 to 35 years. Examples of these times (from the 1970 figures released by the Population Reference Bureau) are: Kenya, 23 years; Nigeria, 27; Turkey, 26; Indonesia, 24; Philippines, 21; Brazil, 25; Costa Rica, 19; and El Salvador, 21. Think of what it means for the population of a country to double in 25 years. In order just to keep living standards at the present inadequate level, the food available for the people must be doubled. Every structure and road must be duplicated. The amount of power must be doubled. The capacity of the transport system must be doubled. The number of trained doctors, nurses, teachers, and administrators must be doubled. This would be a fantastically difficult job in the United States a rich country with a fine agricultural system, immense industries, and access to abundant resources. Think of what it means to a country with none of these.
From Simon & Schuster’s blurb about Miranda Sings’s Self-Help (2015)
In this decidedly unhelpful, candid, hilarious “how-to” guide, YouTube personality Miranda Sings offers life lessons and tutorials with her signature sassy attitude. Over six million social media fans can’t be wrong: Miranda Sings is one of the funniest faces on YouTube. As a bumbling, ironically talentless, self-absorbed personality (a young Gilda Radner, if you will), she offers up a vlog of helpful advice every week on her widely popular YouTube channel. For the first time ever, Miranda is putting her advice to paper in this easy-to-follow guide, illustrated by Miranda herself. In it, you’ll find instructions on everything: how to get a boyfriend (wear all black and carry a fishing net), to dressing for a date (sequins and an orange tutu), to performing magic (“Magic is Lying”), and much, much more! Miranda-isms abound in these self-declared lifesaving pages, and if you don’t like it…well, as Miranda would say…“Haters, back off!”
The next sentence introduces an extended metaphor, which will weave through the rest of the paragraph. The authors metaphorically relate their study to an infrastructure:
The decision to stay off the common thoroughfares where possible, and to go instead through certain half-deserted streets, is of course partly expedient—it cuts down the mileage—but it is also a choice based on our sense of the imbalance of contemporary social analysis and commentary, with its preponderant (and wholly justified) attention to political derelections and other clear and present dangers.
They compare their study to the way we travel on roads; they will “stay off the common thoroughfares” and focus on the “half-deserted streets.” And, in the image of “half-deserted streets,” readers see the bleakness of the world. The streets are not full of life but abandoned, forgotten. The streets and thoroughfares not only reinforce that the authors’ study does not repeat what others have done (they are going down the road less traveled), but using streets and city imagery helps readers understand the subject by presenting it in light of a familiar topic; in this case, it is urban decay.
The extended metaphor of streets continues in the next sentence:
Although we do not presume, like Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, to go boldly where no man has gone before, we have attempted to go where too few explorers have gone before; or where, in our opinion, they have not gone quite far enough or brought back sufficient hard evidence of the dangers and demons that lurk out there—beyond the circle of light, behind the cool facades and beneath the paved streets of the social order, in the widening cracks of civilization: at the modern heart of darkness.
Streets are a metaphor for civilization and eventually link societal degradation to potholes as the “demons” and “dangers” of dehumanization lie “beneath the paved streets” and “in the widening cracks of civilization.” The cracks are like potholes—a common problem for roads and a major clue that a city is decaying—but they are also like the fissures created by earthquakes, ready to swallow humankind.
The above discussion is an attempt to help you think about how you will analyze the rhetorical effect of the prose selection you’ve chosen. How about we discuss your passages as a larger class. If fact, pull them out (or up on the screen). Discuss them with a partner as I come around to see who has what.