Purpose: This paper assignment has several purposes. As the first major paper for this class, the Point of View Essay is designed to re-engage you with the fundamentals of all good writing, including using lush sensory details to show the reader a particular place (rather than tell them about it), basic organization, clear focus, etc. However, this unit does not function as a mere review. The Point of View Essay will also introduce you to the concept of “thinking and seeing rhetorically, and analyzing writing rhetorically”–using the Writer’s Toolbox described in this unit to improve your writing and critical reading skills. Finally, the Point of View Essay allows you to reflect on this process.
1. Pleasant/Unpleasant Description of the Place: Choose a place you can observe for an extended period of time (at least 20-30 minutes). Use all of your senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, even taste if possible) to experience the place, and record all of the sensations that you experience. As you record your data, you may wish to note which details naturally seem more positive, negative, or neutral, in terms of tone. (For instance, a stinky and overflowing trash barrel swarming with flies in a nearby alley might seem more inherently negative than a little white bunny rabbit hopping playfully across the lawn.) Then, you will use this information to help your write descriptions of the place: one positive, one negative. Both descriptions should be factually true (same real time and real place), but you will want one description to be positive in terms of tone and the other to be negative. In addition to including the information and sensory details you’ve collected as the basis for these descriptions, you will also use the Writer’s Toolbox to create your two contrasting impressions for this assignment. (The Writer’s Toolbox is explained in the Lecture Notes section of this unit.) As you revise and refine your descriptions, please be sure you are “showing” your readers your place (really putting the readers “there” in the moment and in this scene), rather than simply “telling” them about it. You will also want to try to eliminate unnecessary linking verbs as much as you can, incorporating verbs that show “action” whenever possible.
2. Rhetorical Analysis: Looking back at your descriptions, analyze how you created these two very different impressions of the place (one positive, one negative) without changing any of the facts. How did you make your place seem so positive in one paragraph and yet so negative in the other paragraph, without changing the facts? Discuss how you incorporated each of the tools from the Writer’s Toolbox, and cite examples of this from each of your descriptions. (This analysis should be at least 400-500 words in length.)
3. Reflection: In one to two paragraphs, consider at least one of the following questions: What have you learned about writing through this assignment? How might you apply this knowledge? Has this process of using the Writer’s Toolbox affected your vision of various information media–for instance, television and print news sources, magazines, etc.? If so, how so?
The following is a student example of the first portion of this assignment:
â€œNatureâ€™s Call at Pillsbury Crossingâ€
Natureâ€™s beauty surrounds me. On a calm, mostly sunny day, the bristles the leaves as if they were applauding the breath of the land. Green, yellow, and brown hues sparkle in the warm sunlight, offering a mosaic reflection on the water. A short waterfall branches like a limb from the pond, whisking the water down into a misty creek. The clear water rushes through the mossy rocks and falls, creating a soothing melody.
Different bugs whistle and chant around me, voicing their opinions and contributing to the symphony of nature. The tall sunflowers rise by the water, trying best to place their roots so they are not washed away when natureâ€™s cool drink falls again. Two young people sit in inflatable chairs, drifting above the crystal clear water. Their shoes are off, and they dip their toes in the pondâ€™s relieving temperature. They bathe in the sun like flowers in the springtime, soaking all of the sunâ€™s warm, crisp rays. Short blasts of relieving wind soothe the skin and the backs of their necks. They sit and enjoy the day as the sun passes through the clouds, absorbing all the comforting rays before the sun is whisked away.
â€œGrim Times at Pillsbury Crossingâ€
Death has had her way here. On a partly cloudy day at the end of the tropical summer, the withering leaves fall from a dried tree that has been suffocated by days of countless painful sun rays. The gust swishes again and brings more brown leaves to their final resting place on the cracked ground. A waterfall sits not far from the leaf cemetery, filled with rotting garbage decaying to the roots of the hungry plants. As bugs swarm, a bright flash of lightning sparks the distant sky, serving as a warning for nature to take cover. Thunder bangs through the clouds like a cannon, echoing off the hills of the horizon. The old, moldy stench stealthily slithers in before the rain droplets hit the floodplain. All of nature will get their drink, but most will drown in the water to cover the fractured land.
The second portion of this assignment is a two step process.
1.) Review your two paragraphs noting each of the places you used any of the tools in the Writer’s Toolbox. Try to find at least two examples of each of the tools from the Writer’s Toolbox employed in each descriptions (except for tell sentences and direct statements of meaning, which you should have limited to only one per paragraph). If you canâ€™t find two examples of the other features in each of your descriptions, youâ€™ll probably want to revise your initial description, adding more of those features.
2.) Write your rhetorical analysis, devoting at least one paragraph to each of the tools in the Writer’s Toolbox. You will probably want to begin each paragraph of the rhetorical analysis with a general claim. â€œI used a great deal of word choice in each of my two descriptions.â€ Then youâ€™ll want to follow that claim with examples. â€œFor instance, in my positive paragraph, I described the sun as â€œgleaming,â€ which implies that the light was pleasantly bright. However, in my negative paragraph, I described the sun as â€œglaring,â€ implying that the light was too bright, and in fact painful to look at.â€
Hereâ€™s a student example of the second portion of this assignment. (This is the same student who focused on Pillsbury Crossing in his positive and negative descriptions.)
I chose Pillsbury Crossing for my descriptions in this paper. I enjoyed writing about Pillsbury Crossing because it seemed to offer many positive and negatives, and I had never been there before. This allowed me to record my own first impressions, both pleasant and unpleasant. The floodplain is very peaceful, yet it is scarred by humankindâ€™s misuse of the nature park.
I wrote my first sentence as an overt statement which explained the mood of the rest of the paragraph. For my pleasant impression, I stated â€œNatureâ€™s beauty surrounds me,â€ emphasizing the beauty on can find in a place such as this. In contrast, for my negative impression, I wrote â€œDeath has had her way here.â€ The notion of death immediately makes the tone grim and unpleasant, even though death is also a fundamental aspect of the natural world.
With my tone clearly established, I next had to consider my word choice very carefully. In order to show the reader what I experienced, I had to choose words that fit the mood of the description as set by my overt statements of meaning. In my pleasant description, I discuss the sunâ€™s rays and how they are â€œcrispâ€ and â€œrelieving.â€ These words make the sunâ€™s rays seem pleasant and positive; however, in the negative description, the sunâ€™s rays were â€œhazardous.â€ This description emphasizes the fact that the sunâ€™s rays can be harmful and dangerous. I also describe the leaves in both paragraphs. While the leaves were colorful, reflecting â€œgreen, yellow, and brown huesâ€ in my positive description, they were â€œwitheringâ€ and falling to the ground to create a leaf â€œcemeteryâ€ in my negative description. This helps maintain the mood of each of my respective paragraphs.
I also left out details from certain paragraphs to keep the mood and tone consistent. In my pleasant description, I omitted the observation of garbage â€œdecaying to the roots of hungry plants.â€ I did not include the garbage in my pleasant paragraph because it did not fit into my description of the gorgeous scenery. If I had included the garbage and trash in the positive paragraph, the reader would picture a nice place filled with a bunch of filthy waste. This is not what I wanted. In the unpleasant impression, I left out how the bugs whistled and chanted. By simple describing them as â€œswarmingâ€ and omitting the beauty of their sounds, the bugs seem to be only an annoyance in the negative paragraph.
Similes and metaphors were helpful as well, allowing me to create an impression that nature was either alive and comforting or dead and disturbing. In the pleasant description, I wanted the impression to be welcoming and lively, so I wrote â€œthe wind bristles the leaves as if they were applauding the breath of the land.â€ I wanted to make Mother Nature have a personality. By using similes like â€œsymphony of nature,â€ it gives Mother Nature a graceful, caring attitude, which makes the description seem more pleasant. In the negative paragraph, I compare thunder to a cannon, â€œechoing off the hills of the horizon.â€ This portrays thunder as a menacing force, roaring through the landscape, making Mother Nature seem mean, stingy, and threatening.
Throughout my descriptions, I also paid attention to sentence structure. I start each paragraph with a short, tell sentence, to make sure the reader knows exactly what impression I have of this place. â€œNatureâ€™s beauty surrounds meâ€ contrasts sharply with â€œDeath has had her way here.â€ In the rest of the paragraph, I used longer sentences, which allowed me to truly show the reader my place. For instance, in the sentence â€œDifferent bugs whistle and chant around me, voicing their opinions and contributing to the symphony of nature,â€ I state the object being described, describe it, and try to elaborate as much as possible.
Hereâ€™s a student example of the last portion of this assignment. (Again, this is the same student who focused on Pillsbury Crossing in his positive and negative descriptions, and whose rhetorical analysis was included above.)
While writing this assignment, I noticed that while we observe things everyday, choosing the right words to describe and observation is difficult and important. While walking in the park the other day, I noticed how the wind picked up, and I tried to think about how I would describe it. I realized that my descriptions would differ, depending on whether I was in a pleasant or unpleasant mood. I also noticed how choice of words can influence a readerâ€™s perceptions. For example, Iâ€™ve recently read several articles on the home-run race. One author reported that Sammy Sosa was beating Mark McGwire, but another focused on Mark McGwire, writing that he was ahead of last yearâ€™s pace, so he wasnâ€™t technically â€œlosingâ€ the home-run race. Presentation of facts and phrasing of observations can be vital to crafting a good story that grabs the readerâ€™s attention; it can also sway the readerâ€™s opinions in many ways.
Here are some questions youâ€™ll want to keep in mind when revising your Perspective Paper.
The Two Descriptions
1.) Do the two descriptions offer contrasting impressions of your place, without changing the facts?
2.) Do each of the descriptions incorporate all of the tools of the Writerâ€™s Toolbox? Are each of these rhetorical tools used to their fullest advantage?
3.) Are both descriptions well-organized, and easy to follow?
The Rhetorical Analysis
1.) Are each of the five rhetorical tools discussed?
2.) Does each paragraph follow the claim-support structure, making a general claim that clarifies the feature to be discuss, and then offering examples of how the feature was used and to what effect? Do these examples seem adequate and appropriate?
3.) Are transitions used to move the reader from paragraph to paragraph?
1.) Is the reflection at least one paragraph long, using appropriate transitions to move us from idea to idea?
2.) Does the reflection offer a sense of why/how the concepts of this assignment matter, beyond the classroom setting?