“Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace Questions
- If David Foster Wallace was invited into the discussion in our classroom, I think one of the very first questions I would ask would be: why lobsters? My take from his essay was that it’s main focus was upon the cruelty of how lobsters are prepared to eat. Yet there are countless numbers of animals that are cruelty slaughtered all because people think that they “taste good” and that they are above them. So therefore why choose lobsters above an animal such as cows who can be more personified and have been proving capable of feeling pain. The essay overall sheds light on the horror of boiling lobsters alive, which many people try to ignore. However I feel as though this essay may be overlooked by many simply because it is about lobsters, an animal which not many care or have feelings for. Another question I might ask would revolve around the idea of: why advocate for a cause that you do not even truly support? Toward the end of the essay, his true opinion was revealed stating that “I believe that animals are less morally important than human beings, and when it comes to defending such a belief, even to myself, I have to acknowledge that (a) I have an obvious selfish interest in this belief, since I like to eat certain kinds of animals and want to be able to keep doing it, and (b) I haven’t succeeded in working out any sort of personal ethical system in which the belief is truly defensible instead of just selfishly convenient.” Personally when I was reading through this essay I thought that it was advocating for people to rethink eating lobster because of how cruel they are harvested and cooked but then I was shocked to read this at the end. Although I myself do not partake in indulging into our animal friends, I do not force my beliefs onto others and I respect their opinions.
- I think that the limits of a written discussion are dependent on the information and research available to the author. If a topic with vast information available was chosen you could touch upon multiple aspects or really get into depth with just one. The more cold hard facts and research that you can accumulate the better your discussion will be. But if a topic was limited to solely opinion based research, there would be no solid base for your discussion. Another limit could be the topic itself that is chosen. For example, if you were to choose a controversial topic vs a non-controversial topic, you would have much more to write about because you could explore the topic from both sides of the argument. To anticipate your audience’s questions when you write is to first answer your own questions about the topic. If allowed, the easiest solution would be to talk with someone about your paper and see what they have for questions pertaining the topic. A truly great writer is able to put themselves in the shoes of their audience members and predict what it is they may have questions on.
- One of the passages with which I do not agree with is the second paragraph on page 505. In this passage David Foster Wallace talks about how his “own way of dealing with this conflict (of eating animals) has been to avoid thinking about the whole unpleasant thing.” This is the common problem among the majority of people, when an uncomfortable controversial topic is brought up, it is almost immediately ‘swept up under the table.’ As humans we would much rather ignore the problem than confront it. People refuse to open their eyes to see how cruel the meat industry and the devouring of animals is. If you were to ask someone why it was that they still ate meat, they would most likely reply “because they like the taste.” All they know is that it tastes good and therefore they will continue to eat it and not think about their meat’s background. I don’t think it would be fair to press my non-meat eating beliefs on others but I do believe that more should be educated about the cruelty of animal slaughter.
- Another passage with which I do not agree with would be the second paragraph on page 507 where David Foster Wallace discusses a common killing method. This paragraph depicts what is another popular method called the “knife method.” Basically a knife is driven in just between a lobster’s eyestalks which allegedly “kills the lobster instantly or renders it insensate.” On the surface this method may appear to be better than boiling lobsters alive but if you were to take a closer look, lobsters have nerves wired all down their body so stabbing them between the eyestalks would only disable their frontal nerves. Biology disproves that this method of slaughter does not usually result insensibility or death, so why are we still using it?
- A passage with which I do agree with would be the third paragraph on page 500 where David Foster Wallace describes the Maine Lobster Festival. I would say that I agree with this passage to a certain extent because of the diction he used to describe the festival in such a negative way. For example words like “masticatory,” “sagged,” and “dribbling” all tend to have this negative/gross connotation to them. Hopefully this passage may have deterred a few who may have been considering going to the fair because they would rather not be crowded by “chewing and dribbling” and other various “petty inconveniences.”
- Another passage that I happen to agree with would be the final paragraph on page 506. I agree with the “two main criteria that most ethicists agree on for determining whether a living creature has the capacity to suffer and so has the genuine interests that it may or may not be our moral duty to consider.” The two main criteria are whether or not the animal exhibits behavior associated with pain and how much “neurological hardware” the animal has. I think that it is fair to say that all animals have pain receptors and can feel pain, maybe not as much as we do as humans, but to a certain extent. Behaviors such as “struggling, thrashing, and lid-clattering” are all undeniable pain exhibiting behaviors. Lobsters demonstrate both of these criterias so this would beg the question: do lobsters truly have the capacity to suffer?
Images, From Telling to Showing
It’s a friday afternoon, your professor has let you out of class early and you walk across the parking lot to your little old silver CR-V, a “mom car” as many call it but still nonetheless trustworthy. You run your hands along the smooth exterior before grabbing the handle and climbing in. Almost immediately after closing the door, you’re hit with that familiar smell of Dunkins iced coffee, a true massachusetts staple that brings back memories from home, from a long expired air freshener. The steering wheel and seats are almost too hot to touch but you’re eager to begin the drive the home so you figure a little burning sensation is worth it. You might describe yourself as a stereotypical Massachusetts driver, overly aggressive, likes to speed, and most importantly always has the right of way. So from right off the bat you know it’ll be an anxiety filled ride home. Merging onto the highway has always been a nightmare for you, having to check all the mirrors, looking over your shoulder, people speeding past you only to slow down for the toll booth. The thought of potentially colliding with another car makes you grind down hard onto your teeth, scraping each molar against the next. The trek home is almost a three hour drive without traffic, with traffic however, it is a complete nightmare. Other drivers are all in a rush to get to their destination, swerving from lane to lane passing every car that dares to slow them down. Out of the corner of your rear view mirror, you see a silver Saturn come flying from the slow lane, crossing the travel lane and into the fast lane. Eventually she catches up to the truck on your left and rides their bumper until they decide to cut you off, causing you to slam hard on your brakes. Your tires screech down the black pavement and soon the Saturn is cutting off the truck in front of you. The Ford truck in front slams the brakes but the accident is inevitable. They rear end the Saturn, completely crushing their trunk. Afterwards a series of bone-chilling metal on metal grinding, tire skidding, horns honking, ring through your ears. Your vision is a blur as your car spins due to a last minute attempt of trying not to collide. You got lucky, and somehow you manage to spin your car into the breakdown lane but other cars behind you aren’t as fortunate, they too slam on their breaks but there wasn’t much time. The Saturn, still being forced by the momentum of the truck, strikes the left hand side guardrail causing it to condense as easily as a soda can. From what you could see traffic was at a dead stop behind you at this point, pieces of metal debris scattered each lane and the smell of burning rubber and iron poured in through your air vents. The truck appeared to have the least damage of the two cars, the front bumper was mushed, but it wasn’t anything a body shop couldn’t handle. The driver appeared to be okay as well, wearily opening the door to limp over to the Saturn. The driver and passenger in the other car had yet to reveal any signs of motion. Essentially their car was totalled, the front and rear bumpers were smashed, windows broken, shattered glass all over the interior and ground. You observe as the driver of the truck hurries over to the Saturn and tries their best to pop open the driver’s door. You watch as the driver’s limp arm falls out with a perfect red stream running down as the door slowly creaks open. It wasn’t until this moment, that you reach for your phone to call for 911.
Being considered “vegan” often tends to be linked to being very liberal, if not crazy. They see vegans as oppressors who try to push their beliefs and practices onto others, attempting to make those who still eat meat and use animal byproducts feel about themselves. On the contrary, this is not meant to say that there are not some who take veganism to the extreme. For the truth is that there are many vegan organizations, like PETA for example, who are infamous for taking things too far in wild demonstrations. Perhaps the real question is how far is too far? In this essay the ideas of veganism and the “madness” behind the extremists will be explored.
In the introduction to “They Say/I say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, Gerald Graff and Cathy Berkenstein provide templates designed to enhance the typical college student’s writing ability. Specifically, Graff and Berkenstein argue that the types of writing templates they offer are to provide the student with a broader set of instructions on how to craft an essay. As the authors themselves put it their book is designed to “help you succesfuly enter not only the world if academic thinking and writing, but also the wider words of civic discourse and work.” In sum, they insist that the templates they provide are extremely useful.
I would have to agree. In my view, the types of templates the authors recommend do come in handy when writing essays. For instance, my junior year english teacher was obsessed with the “They Say/I say” book and we would use the templates they provide to structure our papers. Some might object however and say that by using their templates, it is plagiarizing. Yet I would argue that the templates are so generic that they are replicated easily without even seeing the template to begin with.
Responding to “A Small, Good Thing”
The first value that comes to mind after reading this short story would obviously have to be family. The bond between parent and child is virtually unbreakable and arguably one of the strongest forces in nature. The way that Scott’s mother and father never want to leave his bed side despite the fact he was not going to wake up any time soon and how they feel guilty for leaving even a second shows how much they care for their son. Often times when people are grieving, they forget to take care of themselves which is what was happening especially to Scott’s mother. This is why she kept being reminded by not only her husband but the hospital staff as well that it was important she get some rest and eat something. Food may be the last thing you would think you’d want in a time of crisis but in reality it could even be helpful. A favourite meal can go a long way. Even a meal such as a birthday cake has it’s values. A birthday cake is a a tradition for all birthday’s no matter the age, it just holds a certain meaning to it. Birthday cake holds a positive connotation not only because of the fact that it tastes so good, but because it is always shared with family and friends in a safe, fun environment. Typically everyone has good memories involving birthday cake. In a way the story almost comes full circle, the story both ends and begins with food in the bakery. The short story starts off with an a rude meeting ordering a cake from the baker and ends on a more sentimental note sharing cinnamon rolls with the baker.
Important passages from “A Small, Good Thing”
An important passage from this short story would have to be the first paragraph on page 217. During this passage the baker becomes an almost opposite man from what we originally make him out to be in the beginning of the story. He is more open with the family and tries his best to comfort them even though he had been “childless all these years.” In this passage the cooks also makes a comment that he’s glad he’s not a baker, and that “it was better to be feeding people,” and I just think that this could really relate back to our classroom theme. It is better to be feeding people because food brings people together, it makes them feel good; especially his food because he specializes in food such as birthday cakes and wedding cakes which are a huge part of celebrations.
Another important passage would be the first paragraph of this short story on page 203. Personally I just believe that the first paragraph is always important because it sort of sets the scene for the rest of the story. The first paragraph tells the reader that their is going to be a celebration involving birthday cake for a boy named Scotty. The reader is able to infer that the woman ordering the cake is the boy’s mother because of the care she puts into getting a cake the child might like despite the baker’s abruptness with her. By also setting the scene like this it put’s the reader in a mind set where they feel as though they can safely predict what will happen next in the story so when the reader does get to the ‘car accident scene,’ they’re a little shocked. This passage has strong imagery as well, especially when describing the chocolate cake that makes the reader’s mouth begin to water and stomach begin to growl because what college kid wouldn’t love bakery fresh cake.
As for a third important passage I would have to say that paragraph three on page 207. The passage begins by describing the doctor, a “handsome, big-shouldered, tanned” man. Personally I think the doctor is described as looking like he just walked off set of some dramatic soap opera that your grandmother might watch. He kept repeating “he’s alright” (referring to Scotty) but he does not appear to have a very reassuring tone. He gives the parents vague answers and gives off the impression that even he is unsure as to what is going on with Scotty and why he won’t wake up.
Responding to They Say/I Say
After reading this passage I can say that I really liked how they talked of the construction of an argumentative essay. Essentially they remind you that this type of essay is sort of like a conversation, both sides must be explored and it is wise to introduce the “they say” as soon as you can in your text and “reminds readers of it as your text unfolds.” After you introduce your own opinion on the topic as to not keep your reader suspenseful of what your views. To put it simply the purpose of putting others views first helps to clarify the topic of your essay. There, of course, are other ways to begin your essay too. One of my favorites would have to be beginning with an interesting quotation, anecdote, or some type of statistic or fact. During high school, when I was using this book for my English classes, I would always tab the pages with useful templates like on pages 24 and 25. I always feel as though I am plagued with writer’s block (or just a distracted teenage brain) but templates help me to get my essay off the ground and running. It is easy to take an idea and go off topic with it so I think this is why the authors of They Say/I Say keep urging their readers to “keep responding to their claim,” and include “return sentences.”
They Say/I Say “The Art of Summarizing”
After reading the beginning of this passage it made me realize that it can be a little tricky when it comes to finding that ‘happy medium’ of summarizing. It is so easy to lose your own voice in a summary and simply copy the writer. A good rule that they bring to light is that “a good summary requires balancing what the original author is saying with the writer’s own focus.” A problem that I know I have struggled with in the past is writing “typical list summaries,” which happen to be particularly boring to write as well as read. So now I know that I need to reflect upon my own views more and less upon the source when I am summarizing. To be able to write a good summary, one must also be able to put themselves in anothers shoes, which I didn’t really understand at first but now that I read it through a few times I think I understand why. If a writer is not able to put themselves into anothers shoes when writing a summary, the summary becomes biased and its credibility is undermined. Summaries are typically thought to be short, one to two sentences or so. But to really drive the point across to readers, summaries have to be long enough to fully introduce an author’s argument so that the reader can begin to process their own opinions of the topic before reading yours.
They Say/I Say “The Art of Quoting”
After reading it was kind of comforting to know that I am not the only one who has a “hit-and-run” problem. Often times I find myself just dropping in quotes for the sake of adding quotes and not really explaining why I added them in the first place. I have to find that “happy medium” place that is between analyzing the quotes too much and analyzing the quotes too little. I liked the analogy they used about the “quotation sandwich.” Every quotation should be introduced and set-up, and then it should be followed up with an explanation as to why it is important/relevant. After reading this I also feel like I realize that I use basically all of the “How Not To Introduce Quotations” templates. So this is probably something I will try avoiding for future papers, so the templates they introduce on page 46 will definitely come in handy for some of my next papers.
Journal #10 – Mapping Wendell Berry’s “The Pleasure of Eating”
- Throughout Berry’s essay “The Pleasure of Eating,” the importance of “understanding the connection between eating and the land in order to extract pleasure from our food” is explored. They also bring up the topics of politics, ethics, and esthetics of food. Berry integrates the concept of what it really means to eat responsibly throughout their piece as well.
Berry claims that “eating is an agricultural act.”
“Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth.” What many people might not realize is that by eating food, they are now a part of the agricultural process (or cycle). As Berry states, society sees themselves as simply just consumers.
Eating should be a pleasurable experience.
The “consumer” should be able to know how and where their food was raised and be comforted by this fact instead of horrified. It is honestly hard to enjoy eating something when you’re unaware of how inhumane or poor the food was treated.”A significant part of the pleasure of eating is i ones accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes.”
There are politics to eating, just as everything else.
“But we have neglected to understand that we cannot be free if our minds and voices are controlled by someone else.” Berry argues that by eating more responsibly, we are making our own choices instead of just being a passive consumer of food. So in turn by “eating responsibly” we are choosing to live a free life.
There are food ethics and esthetics.
“But if there is food politics, there are also food esthetics and food ethics, neither of which is dissociated from politics.” I found this to be important because in the paragraph this is from, Berry discusses our “quality of life” nowadays. We are constantly hurrying through meals (and life too), industrial eating is viewed as poor yet many of still eat it simply because it’s just easier and there.
Journal #11 – “Movies As A Form Of Education”
After initially reading this, I feel like I was a little confused and I had to go back and reread several sections just because it was almost a lot to take in. I suppose I never really realized (or actually even thought about) the kinds of restrictions that used to be placed on movies. Nowadays you can basically show anything you want in a movie and just slap an ‘R’ rating on it, but back in the 1930’s people were much more conservative. I almost laughed at the little list they have of “Don’ts and Be Careful’s (1927)” because it was just such a general and vague list. A lot of the rules were even a bit comical like the one about how they were not allowed to positively portray ‘being the bad guy’ and that the ‘good guys’ are always required to win. So basically from my understanding of this article, the Hays code was an attempt to introduce censorship for films in the United States. It was very biased to the church because it was created by Catholics.
Journal #12 – Mapping Thoughts Michael Pollan
After reading Pollands essay I would have to agree that it was a lot ‘easier to digest’ than the previous essay we just read. I found his writing and ideas to be fairly straightforward, and many of which I would agree with. As a child my upbringing was similar to that of his son Isaacs. McDonald’s was always a very rare treat for me, but I feel that now that I’m older I have it a lot more often, which I admit I am not very proud of. The food is clearly over processed but there is just something about it, as Pollan would put it “fast food has a fragrance and flavor all of it’s own,” it is engineered to be irresistible. I used to love McNuggets growing up, but now I will probably think twice about ever ordering them again or even letting my friends order them. I would rather not eat something that has been sprayed with an antioxidant derived from petroleum, there is no way that can be good for one’s health in the long run of things. I had never really stopped to think about exactly how much corn we digest in a fast food meal, so Pollan’s concept of corn calculation was strange but still intriguing. Just about everything on the menu has some ties back to corn, the burgers are injected with corn syrup, the fries dipped in it. But why? The big idea behind Polland’s essay is the big question of: What is exactly behind our McDonald’s meals?
One claim would be that the ‘concept’ of eating McDonalds is a lot more common today than it used to be. I would argue that now “one in three children have McDonalds a day” because it is just such an easy meal to obtain. It requires no effort to make/order, and it is in your hands within minutes. It is a meal that is appealing to all age groups, even the building it is located in appeals to both adults and children. People even have the option of where they would like their meals, for there or to go. People don’t even have to set their tables for this meal, they can just eat right in their car, which happens to be where 19 percent of meals are eaten nowadays.
Another claim would be that the ‘meat’ they serve at McDonald’s is hardly even meat. One of their biggest advertisements is that their nuggets now contain ‘all white meat,’ but exactly how much meat is in their nuggets after all the processing that they go through? Chicken McNuggets are made up of a shocking 56% corn, which only leaves room for about 44% chicken so in reality your really eating Corn Nuggets. The remaining chicken meat they do use however is drenched and processed with so many (unnecessary) chemicals that it hardly even tastes like chicken anymore when you really contemplate the taste.
We live in a society where everything is constantly in motion, we hardly ever take time to slow down. This is why fast food is so appealing to us, because we don’t have to slow down our lives to eat it. We are able to “multitask,” we can have a cheeseburger in one hand the steering wheel in the other. It is arguable why even bother setting up for a meal when you can one delivered to you right at your fingertips?
Journal #14 – “Three Ways to Respond”
After reading this section I felt as though the points brought up were very accurate. Often times people, even including myself, can be hesitant to simply just agree with someone without actually stating their very own opinion due to the lack of originality. However it is possible to agree with someone but restate their argument for support. However one can agree with someone stating their own reasons, and still have an original argument.
Journal #15 – They Say/I Say “And Yet”
Subsequently reading this section of They Say, I Say, I realized a little bit more about how important it is to be a more active reader. Readers should be more alert when it comes to who is actually speaking within a text, writers often leave subtle clues in their writing that only the “deeper reader” will find. “Voice markers” are important as well to pick up when reading because they will help to deepen one’s comprehension of what they are reading. Also while I was reading I found it useful of them to say that as a writer, you do not have to specifically state “I say” or “I argue” to identify your view. It will probably take me some practice but the ultimate goal is to inform one’s readers of your own ideas without actually telling them. The templates they introduced will hopefully come in handy in the future. The usage of “yet” makes for a really great topic, I almost never write it in my papers or read it in my peers. This could make for a really good tool to use for switching opinions more clearly. Now that I am in college writing these “college-level” papers, I have found myself writing “I” in more and more of papers, which is something I never did in high school. However, not all my college teachers accept using “I” in papers so the templates provided of when you’re “not supposed to use I” could still be potentially useful.
Journal #16 – Re-considering the Lobster
To be completely honest, I feel as though my opinion has not really been swayed from the beginning of the year when I wrote my “Consider the Lobster” journal. I still have the same thoughts and attitude towards the subject of the Maine Lobster Festival and the process of cooking/eating lobster. I know that we have read over several articles during the course of the semester, all of which could in one way or another tie back to David Foster Wallace’s article, but I am a bit confused as to why my opinions would be swayed from their original course. If anything, my opinion might be stronger. However, the “unsure ending” that closes Wallace’s article makes a bit more sense to me now. Wallace, like most people, is a bit stuck in the “troubled middle” which was introduced by Herzog.
Journal #17 – “Skeptics May Object”
Journal #18 – “Thinking Seriously About Food”
What many of us do not realize is how much of a role food plays in our lives. All of us have our own favourite dishes, our favourite meal times, and our favourite memories associated with these meals. For me there are a lot of meals that I associate with my childhood and have very fond memories of. A lot of the memories I have of these said dishes are comforting and make me think back on happier, simpler times in my life. I aspire to keep old family recipes and traditions alive with my own family one day, and to maybe even create new ones as well. I really hope to pass down my mother’s homemade mac and cheese recipe one day for it is special to both my sister and I. I do not have many “family recipes” other than one’s my mother has passed down to me, so I hope to one day create my own despite the fact that I am both a terrible chef and baker. I think it would be an important lesson for the next generation to realize the underlying importance of a meal. Strong bonds can be created over something as simple as a home cooked meal. Food is a universal language spoken by all. After coming out of this class, I think I would like for future generations to come to think about where their food came from. I realize that being a vegan or vegetarian is not the easiest sacrifice for everyone, but the reality of what food such as McNuggets and Big Mac’s are made of is a bit horrifying. I just want future generations to be more considerate about where their food is coming from and the process it goes through. As for lessons to pass down, I would hope to do my best to drive home the concept of empathy, which yes is natural for humans, but I would like to dig deeper than just surface level. It may be a little unconventional but I would like them to consider the suffering that animals, such as lobsters, are forced to endure all for the “pleasure” of eating. What is it that makes our lives so much more valuable than that of an animal? After all, in the end we are all animals.