Comparing The Perfect Family, by Alice Hoffman, The Sanctuary of School, by Lynda Barry, Dog Lab, by Claire McCarthy, and Education by Jake Werner
What we learn at home, at school, from our peers, and from entertainment can have great effects throughout our whole entire lives. There is no such thing
as a perfect family
, human being, or society, yet we are able to live our lives with the enjoyment of peace and harmony. What we see on television may simulate a perfect family, but, of course, not everything we wish to see is true. Not everyone can have the lives that everyone wants. In reading the essays "The Perfect Family" by Alice Hoffman, "The Sanctuary
of School" by Lynda Barry, "Dog Lab" by Claire McCarthy, and "Education" by Jake Werner a realization occurred. These authors came down with comparable results. Two authors have similar styles of writing while the others had a contrasting style.
"The Perfect Family" by Alice Hoffman was about how she was faced with the adversity of being raised in a single parent family. She never gave up on believing her mom and herself, which is the reason who she is today. Alice Hoffman had a straight-forward strategy in writing her essay. In her style of writing, she included many details in describing her childhood history. It was from the introductory paragraph where I figured that this story was going to be descriptive in the sense of trying to constrain us by sympathizing with her and other families. In addition, she gave images such as "Roses grew by the front door...We had glass bottles filled with lightning bugs and brand-new swing sets in the backyard, and softball games at dusk."(pg --) Using this type of technique in writing her essay gave a clearer understanding of what she is trying to do. She was setting the table. Also, she gave a brief history of how marriages are supposed to be, how divorces are uncommon during that time, and the type of jobs a wife should be committed to. This technique was useful in her essay because if she did not include that history, maybe the reader would not understand the point of writing this essay, or may be confused on what is going on. A historical background can help greatly in helping the reader understand what is going on and can answer some questions to why this essay is being written. Furthermore, another way she is being descriptive is she explains how her mother was like a father because she took care of the house, took out the trash, cared for her, and kept a job. She even gave statistics such as, one out of 19 families is made up of a wage-earner father and a mother who does not work outside the home and consists of two or more children. Everything she wrote about praised her mom. Never once did she mention any of her negative traits or qualities. She is setting it up to make us think that she had the perfect mother and everything was okay. Unfortunately everything is not okay for one reason. Hoffman was not able to have many friends because of her mother's qualities. She says that her friend's father would not allow his own daughter to to hang out with her because she, the author, had a weird family. His reason was that her mom was different than the rest of the other mothers because she took the job of what a father does. Yet, her friend gets beat up by her dad for dating this boy.
At this point, she tries to make the reader sympathize and also create tension in the story. This is a great strategy to use because she was able to position herself in a way that would mend the tension she created. For example; she said,
"There are still places where softball games are played at dusk and roses
grow by the front door. There are families with sons named Bud, with
kind and generous fathers, and mothers who put up strawberry preserves
every June and always have time to sing lullabies. The truth of it was, we
lacked for little."
What this says is other families had everything they needed, but it does not mean that they are better than a mother who works very hard to help her child and herself. Another one of her strategies was to bring the past to the present. She uses empathy to describe the present by saying that she now has children of her own and knows how it feels to be a mother. She knows it is not easy at all. She ends the essay with something a reader is able to think about, such as "The rest, no one can judge." Meaning we should not judge families because it is wrong to judge families when first, it is not your business, and second, it is wrong to compare a family to another when we do not know the family well enough to judge. How are we to say that a family is not qualified to reach our standards in society?
Lynda Barry, writes an essay entitled "The Sanctuary of School" which in, a way is similar to Alice Hoffman's essay. She, too, starts off with her childhood, but her description is not as detailed as Alice Hoffman's childhood background. What is more vivid and seems to be more interesting is that she seems to be more imaginative. Barry included details that was not necessary such as, "We watched Steven Allen's mouth moving. We watched Johnny Carson's mouth moving." As you can see, she is very tedious because she included details that is irrelevant to her point. What this strategy does is it keep us in suspense of what will happen next even if it is irrelevant. The suspense makes the story more interesting to read. Barry describes a scene saying, "I walked the alley, breaking thin ice over the puddles with my shoes", is an example of imagery. Throughout her essay, she uses a lot of imagery to make us feel her pain, her sorrow, and what she is going through. Her technique compared to Alice Hoffman's seems to be much more effective in presenting her essay that have an approach to the same topic "Innocence and Experience". She and her brother had many problems, due mainly to her parents neglect. They resolved their problem by watching television. It helped keep them entertained and updated to current events. The television became a substitute for a family life. That is another way of how she tries to persuade the reader in sympathizing with her. She talks about the problems she is facing caused by the neglect of her parents. Her subtle approach of her life was based around her peers and teachers was all she had. She shifts to the present and talks about schools today. This strategy enabled to turn the essay around on what it is mainly about. At first, she describes herself, her parents, and how school was a sanctuary, but her childhood was not the real issue. The story was not about her past life, but about how school helped her. Barry wants the schools to be the sanctuary for troubled kids because she knows how it feels to have problems at home. Schools may not be the answer to everything, but it is a place to ease one's pain that has no cure. Unfortunately, schools are not being as effective as she would like them to be. She complains that the public school's budget is being reduced. Because of this, fun activities, such as music and art that students want, are fading away. Their talents will never be revealed. The lack of activities will have a great impact on their lives. This assertion is valid. Through my own personal experience, I knew a few student who have talents and were just dumped in the garbage because of reasons like not having those activities at school. It is very sad. As a writer detective, Lynda Barry was very persuasive through using these techniques and strategies. Her choice of words and phrases carried much weight. She first made me believe that this essay was just about her life and how school helped out a lot, when in actuality, it was about society not putting enough effort and trust in anymore.
So far, "The Perfect Family" and "The Sanctuary of School" started off with the authors childhood. The strategies were quite similar in exploring the same topic of "Innocence and Experience". Claire McCarthy explores the same topic, but in a different style of writing. Claire McCarthy does not start off with her childhood experience, but starts off with her college experience. In comparing, "The Perfect Family" and "The Sanctuary of School" essays with this essay "Dog Lab", McCarthy, too, uses imagery. She explains the anatomy of a human body like, her curiosity of the nervous system, the way muscles move, and the wisdom of the kidneys. In addition, unlike the other authors, McCarthy actually talked about her title "Dog Lab". "Dog Lab" was always discussed. She described "Dog Lab" as a popular thing because everyone talked about it negatively. The reason was because nobody wanted to cut a dog open. They thought it was wrong and unethical. McCarthy uses reflections of actions that has transpired. An example of that strategy is "As the last part of the exercise the sleeping dogs' chests would be cut open so we could actually watch the hearts and lungs in action, and then the dogs would be killed, humanely." The author purposely uses this technique to make us feel and think that it is wrong to kill a dog and do an experiment on it. McCarthy's use of vivid details manipulates the reader to make it seem like she is very busy and has a lot on her mind about "Dog Lab". She tries to distract the reader by stating why it is wrong and why it is right to kill the dog. The reason for the technique is to show the reader how much the author is involved with the subject. Furthermore, she discusses ethics by talking about anesthesia and its role. The purpose of anesthesia is to put someone or something, like the dog, to sleep without feeling pain. She does not know if putting a dog to sleep is the right thing. It is another reason to persuade the reader to think if it is wrong to use the anesthesia. Subtlely, she puts humor in her essay by putting herself in a predicament. She is arguing with herself by, if performing this task, what types of feelings will come about, whether it is feeling guilty or feeling nothing. But if she does not carry on, what would she be missing? In summing up this essay, I find it intriguing that overall, it is a regret essay. Whatever is decided whether it is performing the experiment or not, she will regret what she have done or not done. In addition, she uses an example of hindsight in reflecting upon the past and explaining certain happenings. In using this technique, it enables the readers to get an idea of the consequences of "Dog Lab". The point of her conclusion was to tell the reader that you must try not to decide what is wrong or what is right. Draw the line. If there is no tool to draw the line, then keep searching until you can find that tool. This means, everyone has a limit to their tolerance level. If you feel that you can not exceed with the experiment, then do not attempt it. McCarthy's conclusion was very strong in persuading the reader by giving her own assertion of how she felt when it was over. It made the reader wonder many things about morality.
Jake Werner composed an essay about education (http://pubweb.acns.nwu.edu/~jww990/essays.html).
This essay was very specific about the education in society. Through his experience, he reflects upon what he thinks of the education system from the past and present. Obviously, education makes people smarter which Jake Werner believes. He also believes that education is the only way people are able to survive in society. This essay is mainly about his opinion of education. Jake Werner's composition structure is quite similar to the structure of the other essays. He includes the history and compares it to the present. He says:
"For centuries knowledge was used to II keep the massive lower
class in its supine position. Knowledge truly is power, as evidenced
by the way tyrants held and in many countries still do hold their
position by depriving their subjects of information. Happily, this is
not true in our country. The ideals of popular rule helped overthrow
the monarchs of the past. Today, more than at any other time in
history, democracy is king."
Throughout his essay, he is very opinionated and strongly backs up his reasons with facts. He tries to make it more of a theory than a hypothesis of his opinion. Reading this essay, it persuades the reader in believing that he is right and should take his side of what education should be about. We all know how education shapes society by giving children and young adults a richer life. Werner talks more of common sense of how education is suppose to be, enabling him to say that common sense is not seen by many people because, people overlook those facts about education. If you noticed, this is a subtle technique that is being used. To be more clear, here is an example: Someone tells you that this school is falling apart. The first thing that should come to your mind is that the school needs to be renovated. This is the type of strategy the author is trying to display. The reason he bring this strategy into play is to help us realize the obvious so that we do not make the same mistakes in the future. Learn from the history. His choice of words and phrases, compared to the other essays, is too wordy. By doing that, he makes himself look like he knows what he is talking about. Also, it gives the reader a harder time to argue his opinion.
In conclusion, writers who write about the same topic have comparative and contrasting structures of technique and strategies. Writers all have a message they try to convey explaining certain stories, as seen here with the different essays. These essays were different, but yet, related to the same topic of "Innocence and Experience". There is a purpose for each authors writing, in that they try to make you see things in their eyes. It is not an easy job to win people over in seeing their point of view. The moral of these essays is not to tell us what they are about, but to show us how authors can explore the same topic with different approaches.
Barry, Lynda. “The Sanctuary of School.” from the The Blair Reader. Web. 29 June 2015.
McCarthy, Claire. “Dog Lab.” from the The Blair Reader. Web. 29 June 2015.
Hoffman, Alice. “The Perfect Family” from the The Blair Reader
Kirszner, Laurie and Stephen Mandell. The Blair Reader. Longman, 2013.
Jake Werner "Thoughts on education"