Published on February 14, 2008
Composition 101: Composition 101 “For me, writing is an exploration; and most of the time, I’m surprised where the journey takes me.” ~ Jack Dann By: Bridget Smith Table of Contents: Table of Contents Essays Definition of a narrative essay My narrative essay Definition of a description essay My description essay Definition of an exemplification essay My exemplification essay Definition of a process analysis essay My process analysis essay Writing the essay Methods of Invention Clustering Freewriting Forming an Outline Essential Elements of an essay About the author Slide 3 Slide 4 Slide 5 Slide 6 Slide 7 Slide 8 Slide 9 – 13 Slide 14 Slide 15-17 Slide 18 Slide 19 Slide 20 Slide 21 Slide 22 Slide 23 Slide 24 Essays: Essays Narrative Description Exemplification Process Analysis Narrative: Narrative A narrative “tells a story by presenting events in an orderly, logical sequence” (Kirszner 83). Rich, specific details; chronological order, verb tense, transition words. Narrative Essay: Narrative Essay “ Recurring Nightmare” I never fully understood my lifetime fear of bridges over deep rivers. The recurring nightmare that revolves around this trepidation has been both vivid and frightening since my youth. Although I may never comprehend its meaning, one thing remains certain – when this nightmare occurs it unleashes feelings of morbidity and dread. It is late evening and the sky is foreboding and overcast. Cumulus clouds invade the sky, like monstrous warriors in armies of black and gray, and continuing to push closer and closer with each passing moment. I am nestled in a black car wearing a red full length gown of silk and taffeta. Suddenly, I realize I’m on a bridge and am overcome with uncertainty. With the dense fog swarming around me and the glare of flashing headlights, I feel even more uneasy and my stomach begins to churn. I look out my window and everything is a blur. The muffled voices of passengers coupled with the obnoxious sounds of car horns make my head pound. Although my windshield is ordained with moisture and fog, I am able to see the river rapidly rising. Short, choppy waves of murky water move in a succinct rhythm like a band of soldiers. I close my eyes for a moment, trying to remain composed as a trickle of sweat runs down my neck. A sudden wave of panic and nausea rushes over me as my breathing becomes rapid. I become intently focused and listen: there’s a huge cracking sound and something plunges into the water. Screams follow shortly thereafter, evidently close yet sounding so far away. I realize that the bridge is collapsing. Out of terror, I pray to God to spare my life and end this disaster. The bolts of the bridge are coming unscrewed as if an unknown force is tearing the bridge apart, causing this catastrophe. I attempt to remove myself from the vehicle but my effort is useless. I begin to feel myself gradually slipping until the vehicle plummets into the water below. Everything seems to occur in slow motion. Even though I’m the person in the car, I feel as if I’m outside looking in, watching the incident play-by-play. Once I hear the strident splashing sounds as tons of cars fall into the water, I instinctively know that I’m going to die. I find myself stuck in an underwater world where nothing can be seen except the swirling mixture of dirt, sand, and muck. I somehow manage to remove myself from the car, but I am unable to swim to the surface no matter how hard I try. I struggle and struggle but my body is so weak! All I can see are shades of brown and the vibrant red material from my dress. There is a bright light that shines down into the water and I reach out for it as if it holds some sort of key to my survival. But I am weak, so vulnerable and powerless to the river that I let it take over as its waters permeate through my nose and mouth. I know I am dying and nothing can be done. Before I know what actually happens, I awake. To me, this nightmare reveals an intense fear that stems from an unknown source. My mom informed me that she used to have dreams like this one when she was younger. It has occurred for a number of years, sometimes randomly or when I’m stressed. I’ve never had a direct experience even close to this; however, the thought of spending my last moments being under siege by the river’s powerful currents scares me terribly. Slide6: A description essay “tells readers about the physical characteristics of a person, place, or thing and relies on the five senses” (Kirszner 143). Depicts sights, sounds, touch, taste, smell. Words convey sizes and directions. Slide7: Photographer Eugene Richards captures an intense moment in his black and white picture entitled Tending to A Stabbing Victim Who Ultimately Survived. This snapshot stole a moment in time when pure physical pain was at its peak. The general image is of a man in dire suffering, but as we look closer and observe the details of the photograph, we can only imagine being the victim in this image. I believe that another’s suffering can be experienced through art and photography. This picture features a man sprawled out on a narrow table with IV’s attached to various places on his body. Napkins and cloths are used to stop the heavy flow of blood. Even though the photo is in black and white, dark spots can be seen on the cloths, a stark reminder that portrays the reality of a suffering man. Hands dressed in latex gloves tend to the victim, working quickly to spare his life. When one looks at this photograph, the pain felt by the victim is remarkably evident. His eyes are shut tightly, head tilted back, and mouth wide open obviously releasing screams of distress. This is when we see the human body at it’s weakest. As one observes his facial expressions his screams seem to be heard, overshadowing the voices of doctors exchanging their medical jargon. The man struggles to stay alive, using all the energy his body contains. His arms tighten, hands clench, as he feels his own blood ooze out of his body and the soft fabric of cloth trying to stop it. He can feel the rubbery latex against his dark skin and more blood that trickles down his hip. The tastes of antibiotics mixed with blood linger on his tongue. Anyone can look at this photograph and describe it based on what they merely see. Richards goes above and beyond by portraying what humans fear: pain. The sense of physical pain is so dominant in this photograph that it seems to hide the general image itself. The victim breathes, tastes, touches, feels emotion and physical suffering. Richards proves a point we can all see: on some levels, this man is just like you and I. Slide8: An exemplification essay “uses one or more specific examples to illustrate or explain a general or abstract point” (Kirszer 203). Examples help to explain, clarify, add interest, persuade, and support the thesis. Exemplification Essay: Exemplification Essay In the eye-opening essay “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society” author Jonathan Kozol discusses the limits illiterate citizens face in their daily lives. Kozol introduces a strong usage of exemplification and rhetorical techniques to support his ideas. Exemplification is a pattern of development where “one or more examples illustrate or explain a general point or an abstract concept” (Kirsner 203) and may be used as “an effective way of persuading people that what you are saying is reasonable and worth considering” (Kirsner 205). In regards to rhetorical technique, one must examine rhetoric as a whole and how it functions in Kozol's essay. Rhetoric is best defined as “the art or practice of persuasion through any symbolic system, but especially language” (“Rhetoric”). This essay will examine Kozol's use of exemplification, rhetorical strategies, and how they support the author's ideas. Kozol supports his thesis by applying exemplification in the following ways: statistical studies, examples, and personal quotes. Statistics provide a wide basis for Kozol's ideas because the numerical values deliver proof that illiteracy is a major problem within the U.S. For example, Kozol states “so long as 60 million Americans are denied significant participation, the government is neither of, nor for, nor by the people” (Kirsner 253). Kozol proves that illiteracy is a major issue since millions of Americans are deprived of reading skills. Furthermore, what kind of government, who claims to be of, for, and by the people, cannot find ways to solve this growing problem? Exemplification Essay Cont.: Exemplification Essay Cont. The concept of exemplification is to illuminate one's point with specific examples. Kozol provides his audience with several examples which highlight how illiteracy affects all areas of a person's life. With each instance, Kozol makes powerful connotations that may evoke empathetic responses from the reader. Consider Kozol's statement about living an “uninsured existence”: “Several women I have known in Boston have entered a slum hospital with the intention of obtaining a tubal ligation and have emerged a few days later after having been subjected to a hysterectomy. Unaware of their rights, incognizant of jargon, intimidated by the unfamiliar air of fear and atmosphere of either that so many of us find oppressive in the confines even of the most attractive and expensive medical facilities, they have signed their names to documents they could not read in which nobody, in the hectic situation which prevails so often in those overcrowded hospitals that serve the urban poor, could even imagine” (Kirnser 254). After reading this passage, the audience may become shocked and outraged because some illiterate citizens are robbed of their own rights. More importantly, readers may fall in line with Kozol's point of view due to the emotional responses elicited from the passage. Once the author has captured a sense of emotion from the audience, his thesis and ideas gain more strength throughout the essay. This method is called pathos and is the rhetorical technique which uses “emotion to alter the audience’s judgment” (“Rhetoric”). Aside from rhetorical proof, Kozol's exemplification strategy continues with the use of repetition. With each example, Kozol begins with the phrase “Illiterates cannot...” For example: “Illiterates cannot read the menu at a restaurant” (Kirsner 254). “Illiterates cannot look up numbers in a telephone directory” (Kirsner 255). “Illiterates cannot read the notices they receive from welfare offices” (Kirsner 255). The use of repetition serves a purpose: to reiterate the point that as a result of illiteracy, individuals are negatively impacted in all areas of life. By using this strategy in the exemplification process, Kozol's idea that illiteracy is a major problem in America is strongly enforced upon the audience. Exemplification Essay Cont.: Exemplification Essay Cont. Just as Kozol used narrative examples that appealed to the audience's emotions and effectively supported his ideas, he added quotes from illiterate citizens for the same reasons. Adding quotes is an effective exemplification strategy because Kozol wants the audience to comprehend what the illiterate population thinks, feels, and how their lives are impacted by illiteracy. For example: “I've lost a lot of jobs,” one man explains. “Today, even if your a janitor, there's still reading and writing ... They leave a note saying 'Go to room so and so...' You can't do it. You can't read. You don't know” (Kirsner 257).This statement proves that as a result of illiteracy, illiterates cannot even feel secure at lower status jobs. There is always the looming sense of uncertainty. The audience can read and analyze statements like these throughout the essay and think, “That's what it is like to be an illiterate functioning in society.” As discussed in the opening paragraph, rhetoric is the art of persuasion through language. Kozol uses three rhetorical devices (or strategies) in his essay to persuade his audience to analyze or think about the “human cost of an illiterate society” (Kirsner 252). The first device Kozol uses is an anecdote. An anecdote narrates a brief experience with the purpose of “revealing a truth more general than the brief tale itself” (“Anecdote”). In Kozol's essay, the following anecdote is used: “Since I first immersed myself within this work I have often had the following dream: I find that I am in a railroad station or a large department store within a city that is utterly unknown to me and where I cannot understand the printed words. None of the signs or symbols is familiar. Everything looks strange: like mirror writing of some kind. Gradually I understand that I am in the Soviet Union. All the letters on the walls around me are Cyrillic. I look for my pocket dictionary but I find that it has been mislaid. Where have I left it? Then I recall that I forgot to bring it with me when I packed my bags in Boston. I struggle to remember the name of my hotel. I try to ask somebody for directions. One person stops and looks at me in a peculiar way. I lose the nerve to ask. At last I reach into my wallet for an ID card. The card is missing. Have I lost it? Then I remember that my card was confiscated for some reason, many years before. At this point, I wake up in a panic” (Kirsner 253). Exemplification Essay Cont.: Exemplification Essay Cont. This anecdote serves a larger purpose: to provide parallels between the character in the anecdote and illiterate American citizens. Just like the character, illiterates cannot interpret the world around them through signs and symbols. Written language appears confusing, and they are intimidated by society to ask for help concerning their problem. Illiterates feel overwhelmed and panicked with no sense of knowledge or direction. The function of the anecdote in terms of persuasion is to influence the audience to create these parallels, and to delve into the circumstance of illiteracy. The audience will notice that Kozol's essay exhibits a strong use of diction. Examine the following excerpt, for example: “Surgical denial of the right to bear that child in the first place represents an ultimate denial, an unspeakable metaphor, a final darkness that denies even the twilight gleaming of our own humanity. What great violation of our biological, our biblical, our spiritual humanity could possibly exist than that which takes place nightly, perhaps hourly these days, within such overburdened and benighted institutions as the Boston City Hospital? Illiteracy has many costs; few are so reversible as this” (Kirsner 254). Powerful diction and vocabulary usage seem to emphasize the cost of illiteracy. In this example, strong diction includes “ultimate denial,” “twilight gleaming of our own humanity,” and “great violation” (Kirsner 254). If the essay was narrated in simpler terms, it would otherwise lose its affect. Strength of word choice, in no matter what form of composition, can have a tremendous effect on any audience. Language is used to persuade, and Kozol effectively persuades his audience to grasp the issue of illiteracy and pay attention to his message through the use of language. Exemplification Essay Cont.: Exemplification Essay Cont. The final rhetorical device involves the use of questions. Kozol directs questions at his audience as he forms his conclusion. For example: “Stephen now faces twenty years to life. Stephen's mother was illiterate. His grandparents were illiterate as well. What parental curse did not destroy was killed off finally by the schools. Silent violence is repaid with interest. It will cost us $25,000 yearly to maintain this broken soul in prison. But what is the price that has been paid by Stephen's victim? What is the price that will be paid by Stephen?” (Kirsner 259) Consider this example: “This is a society that most of us did not create but which our President and other leaders have been willing to sustain by virtue of malign neglect. Do we posses that character and courage to address a problem which so many nations, poorer than our own, have found it natural to correct?” (Kirsner 259). These questions are a positive rhetorical strategy since they not only provide a well-developed conclusion, but because they persuade the reader to critically examine The Human Cost of illiteracy. Furthermore, the final question challenges the audience, and may persuade folks to take action in order to change the problem our society faces. It can be determined that rhetoric and exemplification co-exist. While rhetoric involves persuasion through language, it can be almost impossible to persuade an audience without the use of well-developed examples (exemplification). Since these devices have been analyzed from “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society,” one can conclude that Jonathan Kozol's use of exemplification and rhetoric constructs a strong foundation for a dynamic and provocative essay. Process Analysis: Process Analysis “A process essay explains how to do something or how something occurs” (Kirsner 267). In class, our essays reflected how a process was carried out. Ex: How the Cult of Thinness Shapes American Culture Process Analysis Essay: Process Analysis Essay How the Cult of Thinness Shapes American Culture I vividly remember going through the check-out line at Kroger while the flawless face of Nicole Kidman stared back at me. She had stolen the cover of Vanity Fair with her dainty nose, high cheek bones, wavy blond hair, and astonishingly thin physique. Her toned arms, lean legs, and protruding collar bone caught my attention; I was reminded immediately that I did not resemble her in any way, shape, or form. Instead, I was the pudgy 14-year-old known by my peers as “fatty,” “lard butt,” or “the chunky cheerleader.” I took another look at Nicole Kidman and thought about the hurtful remarks before purchasing a Slim Fast shake and vowing to fit into a size two. I had been recruited unknowingly into the Cult of Thinness, which contains extreme power in shaping American Culture. Sharlene Hesse-Biber, author of the book Am I Thin Enough Yet? interviewed a young woman who said, “If you are thin and firm you're more socially accepted, you have more self-confidence and you can achieve your goals more easily” (62). It's not surprising that many people would agree with her, since being thin is the cultural norm. How is this cultural norm established? First, the Cult of Thinness confirms that being thin is more socially acceptable. According to Hesse-Biber, the capitalistic diet, cosmetic, and fitness industries; along with modern patriarchy, “controls women with the pressures to be thin” (26).While capitalistic industries use their messages to control women, they also instill body image stereotypes within our culture. The stereotypical image, of course, is to be fit and thin. This concept has become ingrained so deeply in our culture that according to professor Paul Campos “we see normal people as fat. We are so disgusted by fat that the only perfectly acceptable prejudice is prejudice against people who are overweight or obese” (DeNoon, par.15). Our culture has become so accustomed to the thin body type that anything but thin is abnormal or wrong. Therefore, American culture develops prejudices against those who do not meet the thin standard. In fact, the prejudice against those who are not thin is taken on by society's younger generations. A recent study was conducted among children who were six or seven years old. When presented with pictures of muscular body types and overweight body types, the children showed a preference for muscular body types. A second study among children of the same age group revealed that overweight children were judged by their peers as being less physically attractive than children with physical disabilities (Sloan, par.28). Process Analysis Cont.: Process Analysis Cont. The general American society is not the only group influenced by the Cult's message; the family unit is influenced as well. Since family is a child's first interpreter of the outside world, parents have the power to reiterate, modify, or amplify the message that being thin is more socially acceptable (Hesse-Biber 84). In some extreme cases, parents may amplify our culture's value of thinness. Case in point: My mother was speaking to another woman when the topic of weight loss was mentioned. The woman and her daughter engaged in chronic dieting and shared the same weight-loss obsession. One evening, the daughter asked her mother to stop her from eating a meal. In response to her daughter’s question, the mother spat in her food. Behavior like this exhibited by parents may cause children to develop poor eating habits or eating disorders. Besides how the Cult of Thinness confirms that being thin is more socially acceptable, and how its message is utilized by the family unit, the Cult of Thinness shapes American culture through mass media. Females are exposed to the culturally ideal body through images in magazines, television, and billboards. They are presented with an image of the typical fashion model: Caucasian, five-feet-ten-inches tall, and thirty pounds less than the average American female. Ironically, these looks are relatively rare; so rare in fact, that only one in 40,000 naturally have a model's body type. However, since women's magazines have 10.5 times more images of the ideal body than men's magazines (Sloan, par.30), this particular image is so consummate that females can hardly avoid it. As a result, females constantly compare their bodies with the media's inescapable image. Since the female is a consumer, she is more likely to come in contact with ads and commercials for beauty or weight loss products, which encourage her to change or alter her appearance. In reality, these advertisements promote body insecurity. Advertisements in fashion magazines and commercials for Covergirl, Revlon, and Maybeline feature thin, flawless models – candidates for admiration and “worship” among members in the Cult of Thinness. Does this singular concept of beauty and pervasive facet shape perceptions of body image in our culture? A study conducted by Sherry L. Turner and her colleagues revealed that “women's body image satisfaction is influenced by their exposure to the thin ideal presented in fashion magazines” (Turner, par.21). Turner and her colleagues studied two groups of college women: women who viewed fashion magazines and women who viewed news magazines. Afterwards, both groups completed a body image satisfaction survey. While comparing the surveys, the results revealed that the group who viewed fashion magazines prior to taking the survey “desired to weigh less and perceive themselves more negatively than those who read news magazines” (Turner, par.21). Turner’s study is one form of proof that media influences body image perceptions among females. Process Analysis Cont.: Process Analysis Cont. In addition to the stereotypes formed by capitalistic industries and the messages conveyed by the mass media, the Cult of Thinness shapes American culture by recruiting its members during the most vulnerable point in their lives: adolescence. Adolescent girls instill our culture's body image ideals at a time when there is “an increased value placed on peer acceptance and approval, and a heightened attention to external influences and social messages about cultural norms” (“Adolescent Girls and Body Image,” par.1). Desperate to conform to the cultural decree of thinness, young females engage in cult-like behavior, “worshiping” the perfect body they so desire and engaging in the “rituals” which include excessive exercise, binging and purging, and abuse of laxatives or diuretics (Hesse-Biber 82). The eccentric and extremely dangerous habits often evolve into a full-fledged eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia. When an individual suffers from anorexia, she or he exhibits an intense fear of food and weight gain. She or he may limit calories or not eat anything at all. Prolonged anorexia leads to depression; anxiety; dry, brittle skin; heart tremors; and even death (Sloan, par.16).When an individual suffers from bulimia, she or he endures frequent cycles of binging and purging. The purging phase can include vomiting, excessive exercise, or use of laxatives to rid the body of the food. Both disorders lead to psychological effects such as strong feelings of guilt or shame (Sloan, par.20) The Cult of Thinness has such a powerful grip on American culture that 10 million females and 1 million males suffer from anorexia or bulimia in order to achieve the Cult's high standards (“The Prevalence of Eating Disorders,” par.1). Many who fall victim to the Cult's message rather do harm to their bodies than carry extra pounds – a “sacrifice” they must make in order to achieve thinness. A young female interviewed in Hesse-Biber's book said, “I will never be satisfied with what's in the mirror. When I see other women I want to be better, thinner, than them. I would rather be anorexic than not” (70). The young woman chose to make thinness a top priority. The Cult of Thinness had such an extreme power over her that she chose anorexia in order to pursue the Cult’s thin ideal. In summary, the Cult of Thinness holds immense power in shaping American culture. Members of the Cult of Thinness conform to a rigid doctrine to achieve the ideal body, and are driven by the pursuit of bodily perfection the Cult promises. Through the stereotypes generated by capitalistic industries and the Cult's message that being thin is more socially acceptable; the use of mass media to convey one ideal body image; and targeting adolescents as potential “cult members,” the Cult of Thinness reigns as one of the most influential forces in molding American culture's idea of the “correct” body – and that correct body is thin. Writing the Essay: Writing the Essay Methods of Invention: Methods of Invention *Clustering *Freewriting Brainstorming Journaling *Forming an Outline (*the methods we used in class) Clustering: Clustering The writer visually arranges his or her ideas so that the main topic is in the middle of the page and is surrounded by major points related to the main topic. Freewriting: Freewriting Letting ideas flow by writing nonstop for a fixed period of time. Forming an Outline: Forming an Outline Outlines organize the writer’s major points and suggest the shape of the essay. Outlines may be informal or formal. Outline of Stages: I. The Cult of Thinness enforces the idea that being thin is more socially acceptable. 1. Body image stereotypes are formed by capitalistic industries and modern patriarchy. 2. The "be thin and fit" stereotype is deeply ingrained in society. A.) Society forms prejudices against those who are not thin. 3. Families have the power to reiterate, modify, or amplify the "be thin" message. II. The Cult of Thinness shapes American culture through mass media. 1. The mass media promotes the ideally thin body type. 2. The mass media targets female consumers with ads and commercials. A.) Ads and commercials promote body insecurity. III. The Cult of Thinness recruits its members during adolescence. 1. Adolescent females attempt to conform to our culture's standard of thinness. 2. Females engage in cult-like behavior. A.) "Worship" the ideal body image. B.) Engage in dangerous eating habits. 1. Sacrifice food in order to lose weight. C.) May develop eating disorders Essential Elements of an Essay: Essential Elements of an Essay Thesis Body paragraphs Conclusion About the Author: About the Author I’m Bridget Smith, a freshman at West Virginia University – Parkersburg. I plan to major in Nursing with a minor in Sociology. The essays featured in this presentation were composed for my English 101 course. I enjoy reading, art, and photography in my spare time. Slide25: Images provided by: *http://www.squeep.com/~fek/mis/sepia-backgrounds/writing-2.png *http://www.lesley.edu/gsass/creative_writing/content/creative_writing.jpg *http://www.efuse.com/Design/meeks-flow.gif *http://www.mcb.uct.ac.za/report%5B1%5D_files/1846704.jpg Works Cited: Kirszner, Laurie G. and Stephen R. Mandell. Patterns for College Writing: A Rhetorical Reader and Guide. Bedford/St. Martins. 2007. Boston.