Commonplace Entry #9

” PERHAPS, the Well-regarded Rabbi said, raising his hands even higher, his voice even louder, WE DO NOT HAVE TO SETTLE THE MATTER AT ALL. WHAT IF WE NEVER FILL OUT A DEATH CERTIFICATE? WHAT IF WE GIVE THE BODY A PROPER BURIAL, BURN ANYTHING THAT WASHES ASHORE, AND ALLOW LIFE TO GO ON IN THE FACE OF THIS DEATH?

But we need a proclamation, said Froida Y, the candy maker.”

 –Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, p.13

Stylistically, the author chooses not to use quotes, but italics, to indicate dialogue throughout the whole story. He also places text in all caps in sections in where the character is speaking LOUDLY, so as to convey to the reader that the character is speaking loudly. I think it’s a strong effect as I’m imagining this old orthodox rabbi shouting at people as he’s talking while I read.

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Commonplace Entry #8

“Craig, where are you?”

It’s funny how people ask that as soon as they get you on the phone. I think it’s a byproduct of cell phones: people–girls and moms especially–want to nail you down in physical space. The fact is that you could be anywhere on a cell phone and it shouldn’t be important where you are. But it becomes the first thing people ask.

It’s Kind Of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (p. 232-233)

I like this passage. The author comments on an experience everyone (almost everyone) has. He makes a truthful and honest social commentary. His usage of words (particularly “nail you down”) illustrates the narrator’s emotions in this exchange he has with the person who calls him. The text doesn’t explicitly say if he’s annoyed or not, but through these subtle uses of figurative speech and negative particles (“..it shouldn’t be important where you are.”) one can observe the author’s attitude about this interaction.

A Visiting Professor

Be interesting and be interested.

-Dr. Mesle

Last Friday, an English professor from UCLA came to speak with our writing class about writing. She spoke about why we write, what we write for, and shared many useful tips and insight to help one’s writing process.

What I took away from her talk with us are the following points:

  • Be careful with being a perfectionist when it comes to writing, because this often prevents the writing process
  • When selling a pitch to someone who can potentially hire you to write for him or her, submit your pitch in the appropriate writing style.
  • Learn WordPress–BLOG!
  • Know your readers and know how you influence them
  • Be interesting and be interested.

That last point stuck with me. “Be interesting and be interested.” She mentioned that to write, these are important and basically essential if you want to be a successful writer. By reading interesting internet web sites (like BuzzFeed), and just being with interesting and talking with interesting individuals will help shape your writing and the things you write about. This point raises my awareness of what I read on the internet now and helps me to steer towards the type of writing I want to emulate and appreciate.

Dr. Mesle writes for the LA book review and has created her own site that reinvents the book review.

Commonplace Entry #7

“She came naturally by her confused and groundless fears, for her own mother lived the latter years of her life in the horrible suspicion that electricity was dripping invisibly all over the house. It leaked, she contended, out of empty sockets if the wall switch had been left on. She would go around screwing in bulbs, and if they lighted up she would hastily and fearfully turn off the wall switch and go back to her Pearson’s or Everybody’s, happy in the satisfaction that she had stopped not only a costly but a dangerous leakage. Nothing could ever clear this up for her.”

-p.16 of “My Life and Hard Times” by James Thurber

James Thurber humorously describes his grandmother in this passage. The ethos he projects about his grandmother is an ill-informed and a paranoid individual. The emotions he elicits in the reader (pathos) includes feelings of amusement, curiosity, and  pity. This short description is written in the medium style, used to entertain and tell a story. I appreciate James Thurber’s clever figures of speeches (one can only consider if electricity leaks without its bulbs or not).

Rhetorical Analysis of “Braveheart” Speech

Braveheart is an epic film from 1995. If you haven’t watched it or heard of it before, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of epic war movies (think Gladiator, 300, Troy, etc.). It tells the story of the true events of William Wallace, a Scottish warrior who led his country in the first war of Scottish independence from England. Though the film has received criticism for its historical inaccuracies, William Wallace is not a fictional character, and one could imagine the heroics demonstrated in the film as actions he very well could have enacted in that time. Throughout the film William motivates his conspirators and army men with wise sayings that eventually inspire them to act to culminate in these heroics. Right before the climatic battle between the Scottish and the English for Wallace’s countrymen’s freedom, he gives a speech to them that ultimately inspires them to go into the battle not knowing whether they would live or die.

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This speech will now be broken down by rhetorical analysis—specifically, the ethos (what kind of image the character projects to his audience) and pathos (how the character moves the emotions of his audience) of the movie’s speech will be examined, as well as the tropes (figurative uses of words through various expressive devices) and schemes (how words are arranged in a sentence) interwoven together that helps make this speech rhetorically significant. Before I continue, it is also worth mentioning what kind of style this speech is given in. Roman rhetorician Cicero distinguished three levels of style a speaker can choose to speak in: a low style (used for teaching), a middle style (used for entertainment), and a high style (used to move an audience). For obvious reasons, the speech delivered by William Wallace is observed to be given in the high style, because, as a result of his speech, his audience was moved to action. The speech will now be broken down line by line with an analysis of each item mentioned before (ethos, pathos, tropes, schemes).


 

“I am William Wallace.”

It is worth noting that prior to William giving his speech, most of the Scottish army had never seen him before. In the film, many of the warriors in the crowd speculated and discussed who he was and how he looked before he even revealed himself. When William finally does, he says it in the most matter-of-fact way. In this simple sentence, he made his ethos known. As this average heighted person galloping about the crowd on his horse, he simply introduces himself. He doesn’t do it in a very majestic way, eliciting from the crowd some sort of reverence he deserves. He simply makes the statement. In this way, he projects an image to his audience, the Scottish army, as one who is just like them, one who isn’t a seven foot tall monster, as some in the crowd had speculated, but one who looked as Scottish as they did

“And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny!”

A trope can be observed in this sentence. The use of a metonymic device (substituting a thing with a closely associated thing) is used in this exclamatory sentence. William states that he sees his Scottish people assembled in an army and they are assembled here in defiance to tyranny, which actually is a cruel and oppressive government. Tyranny substitutes what they are actually defying against—the English. The English have been ruling over the Scottish during this time period as depicted in the movie, and the way in which they ruled, the Scottish saw it as tyranny. William Wallace had just echoed what his countrymen have been sensing from their ruler. In this way, supporting the high style that Cicero defines, William Wallace moves his peoples’ oppressed hearts. On that note, the pathos in this statement can be observed. A term like tyranny has a negative connotation associated, therefore Wallace’s usage of the term as something they are going up against creates a sense of justification in their emotions, riling them up to take action for a “just” cause. After all, defiance against tyranny means righteousness.

“You have come to fight as free men. And free men you are!”

The scheme observed in this sentence is an antimetabole (a sentence arrangement in which items are repeated in reverse order). The sentences are essentially reversed. The object “free men” in the first sentence is seen as the subject in the second sentence. William, in phrasing it this way, tells the audience that they have come to fight as ones who are free, free from the tyranny mentioned earlier, free from the English, no longer under their rule, and repeating, in an unexpected manner, that they are in fact free. This adds onto the pathos, how the audience feels, because the meaning is conveyed that they are free men, not meant to be under the oppressive rule of the English. This also adds to William’s ethos, because he speaks as one who has seen this truth and declares this truth over his people. Most of his countrymen see that he speaks from his heart, speaking honesty.

“What will you do without freedom? Will you fight?”

After having built his audience up by declaring those last couple statements, William elicits this rhetorical question—“What will you do without freedom?” Essentially, what would they do if they were not free people? Would they fight for their freedom? By asking these questions, William gauges his countrymen’s commitment and willingness to act for their country.

“Two thousand against ten?” –a warrior in the crowd shouted, “No! We will run – and live!”

A hyperbolic (intentionally overstated) question made by one of the audience members that summarizes the situation at hand. There are not literally two thousand of the English opposition, neither are there only ten Scottish warriors, but the exaggeration is made to emphasize their fear, their lack of faith.

“Yes!” Wallace shouted back.

William shouts back an affirmative response immediately to the question raised by one of the warriors in the audience. This response of his also adds onto his ethos, that he is no coward, and that he is a man of faith. A man who believes that their “ten” are able to go up against the English’s “two thousand.”

“Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile.”

William answers the second part to that statement made by the warrior in the crowd. He tells the audience honestly what might happen if they fight, as well as what truthfully might happen if they don’t fight and run away. They would live, but not for long, but a while. An antithesis (contrasting items side by side) is observed in these sentences. Two options that contrast—fight or run—but both show essentially the same outcome—death. William conveys the meaning that would they rather die fighting for something of great weight, or run away and die later for something lacking in weight.

“And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”

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In William’s concluding statement before the audience is literally moved to action in battle, he makes one last emotional appeal. First, he creates an image in the minds of his listeners, an image of death on a bed. Then he offers up a trade. This trade includes all the days in between that day of death on the bed and the day they could face their enemies and tell it to their face what they really want to say. “You can take our lives, but you will never take our freedom.” This last emotional appeal (pathos) stirs up the audience to cheer and move into battle in a unified spirit.

William Wallace’s purpose in delivering this speech was to give his audience the truth, that they are free men, that they are doing something right (opposing tyranny), and that they might die doing it. Granted it is a movie speech and was scripted, it is well executed in the context it’s given (Scottish independence) and does a good job depicting how warriors ought to be moved prior to giving their lives for the ideals of freedom. William’s ethos is clearly established, the pathos observed in his speech emotionally drew in his audience, and the stylistic devices (tropes and schemes) helped to tightly wrap up his message to be delivered rightfully.

Here’s the clip of the speech from the movie (start from 1:35):

Commonplace Entry #6

“Our Grill Masters expertly craft our new Signature Chicken Salads to deliver a variety of authentic Mexican-inspired flavors. Each salad is prepared with ingredients like savory black beans, hand-sliced avocados, fresh mango salsa, crispy bacon or crumbled Cotija cheese. And since there are four delicious salads to choose from, you might just have to try them all. Some say the lengths we go to are crazy. We say it’s Crazy You Can Taste.” –El Pollo Loco advertisement from the week of 5/5/14

I was eating lunch today and reading what came in the mail. I saw this El Pollo Loco advertisement for this week that included its coupon and promotional items for the month. This quote is from their description advertising their new “Signature Chicken Salads, Fire-Grilled.” I noticed a few things about the quote. Their food preparers are referred to as ‘Grill Masters,’ implying that there is a mastery of the grill (which I do not doubt). And the last two lines jumped out at me especially. ‘Crazy’ is a state of mind. When one is described as crazy it is the same as saying that person is mentally deranged. Here the fast food restaurant describes that you can taste this mentally deranged state, meaning that you taste it and you could very well be crazy afterwards. It’s a funny statement, because who wants to be crazy? But in today’s culture these types of meanings are double, and in this case, you very well will be crazy after eating their food…crazy for more…more chicken.

Commonplace Entry #5

“To this day, I prefer to believe that inside every television there lives a community of versatile, thumb-size actors trained to portray everything from a thoughtful newscaster to the wife of a millionaire stranded on a desert island. Fickle gnomes control the weather, and an air conditioner is powered by a team of squirrels, their cheeks packed with ice cubes.” –p.33 of “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris

Mr. Sedaris’s imagination is wildly described through this passage. He dissects how the inside of a television set really functions, that there are actually tiny little people who are able to fit any and all the roles that we have seen through programs before. He also goes on to explain how mythical creatures control whether it’s sunny or cloudy, if there’s rain or drought, and even speaks of squirrels being the reason why the air conditioner blows cold air–that is, because of the ice cubes inside their cheeks! For obvious reasons, this passage made itself known to me in many ways. The descriptions are clear enough that an image of each idea is readily made in my mind and helps me envision these strange and inspiring pictures.