The Moment I Realized My Life Has No Purpose (Common App)

I’ve always struggled with the concept of having a purpose in life. Learning about life in biology increased these existential questions, and having conversations with friends with different viewpoints only confused me more. I always wondered why humans feel that everything’s purpose on this earth is to serve us. This past year, I found music that helped me grow more comfortable with the possibility that we have no purpose in life. While this realization is not necessarily profound, it has put my mind at ease; I am finally able to provide myself with the proof I needed to convince myself that life very well may be purposeless.

    We have a very limited definition of life. In biology, something is considered “living” if it fits the specific criteria of a simple list. Viruses have DNA and are capable of reproducing, and evolving, but because they aren’t made of cells and can’t maintain homeostasis, respond to stimuli, or grow and develop, we don’t consider them living. This upset me because no matter who I asked, none of my teachers could tell my why they exist. They just float around, occasionally infecting specific cells and reproducing, but they’re not alive? After looking into it, I found an article on BBC titled There are Over 100 Definitions for Life and All of Them are Wrong, and as it turns out, some scientists do consider viruses as living organisms. However, the fact that viruses essentially have no purpose for existing didn’t bother me as much as how much it contradicts our own purpose in life. I would often wonder why I felt so confident that no other organism had an evident purpose in life, yet I continued to insist to myself that humans must. Of course, it makes sense that either everything has purpose, or nothing does, and all the evidence so far points to the latter. However I am still stubbornly struggling with the misconception that life picks favorites; a select few organisms graced to have meaningful lives. After hearing the line “There are 7 billion, 46 million people on this planet/ and I have the audacity to think I matter/ I know it’s a lie, but I prefer it to the alternative” in the song Tiny Glowing Screens Pt. 2 by Watsky, it dawned on me that my life really could be just as meaningless as everything around me. I vividly remember the thought that crossed my mind: Oh, the reason I can never justify my own purpose in life is because I don’t have one. Which makes the most sense, seeing that I can never find a purpose for anything else. I was outside when I felt this shift in the core of my beliefs, and I find that being outside always helps me come to terms with insignificance.

    Online articles aren’t always as engaging as discussions, which is why I occasionally bring up these questions that seem to always hang over me when I am with close friends. One of my favorite talks was with my catholic friend, who was able to share her view on our purpose in life. She described how her religion can offer her life meaning because she can always strive to be happy and fulfill God’s intentions for her, which is to care for others and proclaim her religion. However, I appreciate her versatility because she was also able to take a look at life from an existential perspective. She explained that it’s possible that life truly has no meaning and her religion is just something we created in order to give purpose to our own lives. After having talks like this, I feel emotionally exhausted, yet eager to know the truth. I often end up mulling over the conversation for a few days before deciding there’s no way I can ever be sure. At this point, I’ll usually bring it up with another friend who has a more cynical view of life. In our conversations, she always comes across as comfortable with the concept of having no purpose, meanwhile I stay sure of myself that we are an anomaly in life as purposeful beings. I ask her why we seem to have a higher level of consciousness than other beings, and I ask how we acquired it. I ask her that if we are made up of living cells, can we be considered a single living being, or is our consciousness coming from every cell in our body? These are not questions she can answer, in fact no one has been able to help me with this. That is, until I found Watsky. In his song Talking to Myself, he sings “There were these pure arresting moments/ when you stepped outside…/ the need to get it, get it, you will/ never get it, that’s okay.” I found this line especially comforting because I was constantly pondering everything around me, and these questions of mine only brought me more grief.

Another way I considered rationalizing my own purpose was by giving purpose to everything else, in such a way that it favored my existence. Many people agree that animals exist to feed us, which gives them a purpose they otherwise lack. Additional self-centered views of the world could include that trees exist to produce oxygen, specifically for humans, and water, which we biologically define as non-living, exists to provide us with nutrients. This kind of thinking is second nature to humans, it only makes sense I would try it out. Until proven otherwise by Nicolaus Copernicus, we were the center of the universe, following a geocentric model. Even today, we continue to give little thought to the consequences of our actions; we destroy forests, pollute our air and water, all for self-gain. By assigning purposes to my world, I was able to solidify my own purpose. However, this method did not satisfy me for long, instead it raised the concern: if everything is special, then nothing is. I could also never find a purpose for everything, which, from an objective view, is a pretty large task I set out to do at the age of 17. I always ended up with the conclusion that nothing has a purpose, which before hearing that song, did not ease my discomfort. I now realize that it makes sense that I always ended up in the same meaningless dead end; as of today, it is the truth that I will define my life with.

I find it curious that we as humans are so concerned with finding a purpose in life, meanwhile there are unicellular organisms unaware of their own existence, even as they perform the same functions we do at the microscopic level. It is almost comical, with so many of us scrambling about, trying to find something that was never there. I am occasionally able to acknowledge that none of this matters, or, to quote Watsky, “nothing matters, so it doesn’t matter if nothing matters.” This has always been my go-to way of thinking when I become overwhelmed because it has never failed to calm my never ending stream of impossible questions. I can always answer the question “does it matter?” with confidence, and I therefore ask it the most. Even so, with my newfound perspective, I can answer some of my own questions for myself. Curiously enough, I know it won’t be long until I am plagued by more onerous questions, which I will feel an insatiable desire to answer.

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Labels and Words Will Break My Bones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will surely hurt me as well. The power of words is often ignored, we claim that words will never hurt us and yet we define ourselves with labels and we have assigned names to every aspect of life. In Toni Morrison’s novel, Song of Solomon, the power of labels pushes the story forward, enforcing the belief that labels and words drive our actions much more than we think they do. Milkman is plagued by his embarrassing name for most of his life, Pilate carries her name with her religiously, and even we limit ourselves with labels.

Nicknames are a common trend throughout Song of Solomon. Milkman’s name gives him and his father much shame, and his son’s name is one of the reasons why Macon Dead II is so distant. Guitar’s name is what defines him when he first meets Pilate, it’s a first impression he cannot shake. On the topic of Pilate, she carries her name in a box on her ear, because she knows the importance of naming things. As How to Write About Toni Morrison, elaborates, Pilate has the strongest sense of self compared to all the characters because she owns her name, and therefore owns herself. Milkman however, does not begin to be “reborn” until he learns the story of his past, and how it all relates to the poem, Song of Solomon. In an essence, learning the names of his past free Milkman, symbolized by his leap at the end of the novel. Flying throughout the entire novel is a symbol of freedom. In the beginning, the Mr. Smith commits suicide by jumping off the hospital roof, planning to “fly away on his own wings.” This flight of Mr. Smith will release him from the restraints of life, freeing him from the labels his skin color have put on him.

In the same way that Milkman is negatively labeled as a mama’s boy, we pin labels on ourselves and others that define us. According to Psychology Today, researches didn’t start studying the effects of labeling until the 1930s, when Benjamin Whorf proposed the linguistic relativity hypothesis. According to Whorf, the words we use to describe what we see are not just placeholders, they actually determine what we see. In Toni Morrison’s nobel lecture in 1993, she discusses the importance of language. She mentions the dangers of language when it is misused, how it can be violent. When we begin to use language to restrict ourselves, to restrict others, it becomes very harmful. When we call others names, we are defining their limits; how much they can achieve, how greatly they will fail. Labeling others is another way to misuse language, and it occurs often in Morrison’s novel.

The labeling of blacks and whites is a recurring struggle the characters of Song of Solomon have to work through. Guitar claims that being white is enough to define all white people, and therefore any white person deserves to pay for a crime that a specific white person committed. Milkman has a skewed view of what it means to be black, and is often alienated from his own culture. In fact, in order to finally be comfortable with himself and the labels that define him, Milkman must first learn the names of his ancestors. Milkman values the names so much because they help him feel closer to his origins. In an interview with Toni Morrison, she discusses the importance of naming things, saying “Each thing is separate and different; once you have named it, you have power.” Therefore, if you can name yourself, as Pilate did, or learn the meaning of your name and ancestors, as Milkman did, you can begin to have power over your life.

As Shane Koyczan expresses in his poem To This Day, the rhyme that claims names will never hurt us is wrong, they will. Words hold so much power, they are what drive Milkman throughout his journey of rebirth, they give power to Pilate, and they also tear us down everyday. That is why it is so important to be using language effectively. In the case of Song of Solomon, language is there to connect Milkman with his family, to share the stories of his ancestors. We must do the same. In order to use language not as a tool of destruction but as a tool creation, we should use words to share experiences, to tell stories. Enough definitions, labels, and limits. From now on, words are powerful not because of how we use them to hurt one another, but instead because of how they connect us to one another.

 

Works Cited

Alter, Adam. “Why It’s Dangerous to Label People.” Psychology Today, Sussex, 17 May 2010, http://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/adam-alter. This is a good secondary source for my essay. It specifically discusses how labeling people as “black” is harmful which I can use when discussing labels in Song of Solomon. I also like how it talks about the research done by Benjamin Whorf, I plan on incorporating that in my essay as well.

 

Burton, Zisca Isabel, and Harold Bloom. Bloom’s How to Write about Toni Morrison. E-book, New York, Chelsea House, 2008. I already wrote this. In the chapter on Song of Solomon in Bloom’s How to Write About Toni Morrison, Bloom provides the reader with many helpful strategies on writing literary analyses. He discusses how to stay away from basic summaries, and instead think critically. He provides the reader with essay topics and strategies that directly relate to the themes he also discusses. I plan on reading the suggested text, the Tanakh, as it is a direct reference to the title of the book. He also provides in-depth descriptions of the characters that will help me further my analysis. He provides various themes explored in the Toni Morrison’s novel that will help my understanding of the book.

 

Morrison, Toni. “The Language Must Not Sweat.” Interview by Thomas Leclair. New Republic, 20 Mar. 1981, newrepublic.com/article/95923/the-language-must-not-sweat. Accessed 19 Apr. 2017. This will be really helpful as it is includes Toni Morrison’s own opinions and thoughts on her book. I have decided on my question and it will surround the idea of the importance of names, as shown through the novel Song of Solomon, and the interview has an entire section where Morrison talks about naming in the book. She discusses why she chose certain names which I can use to explain the importance of names in the real world. She also mentions how naming things gives you power over it, which I would like to explore in terms of labels. I think this will lead me to do further research on labels, which won’t necessarily focus on the novel itself but rather problems in the world.

 

—. “Nobel Lecture.” 7 Dec. 1993, Stockholm, Sweden. Lecture. In her speech, Toni Morrison directly discusses the power of language, which is what I aim to focus my paper on. The fact that it is coming from Morrison herself is beneficial to my essay because she is the most credible source when discussing her literature. I especially want to utilize her attention to how language can be violent, and use that to show how the labels in Song of Solomon are limiting.

 

—. Song of Solomon. New York, Vintage International, 2004. This will be my most helpful source, because I can directly cite the book and use it as a primary source. The characters Milkman, Macon Dead II, and Pilate will be most helpful as their characters struggle with identity and the importance of names. I can use their experiences and superimpose them onto the real world, where I can include outside research.

 

Rebuttal for Campus Carry Editorial

Dear Dennis McCuistion,

In your editorial discussing Senate Bill 11, you state that campus carry will make college campuses safer. Increasing the number of guns, however, does not simultaneously decrease the number of times those guns are used. In fact, campus carry does the opposite of what you suggest; it promotes gun violence and risks the lives of anyone on a college campus. What we should really be focusing on is decreasing gun violence without necessarily increasing the amount of people carrying guns.

In June 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed SB11, allowing any CHL holders to carry a weapon to class. The fact that you believe this will prevent gun violence suggest that you are anticipating gun violence, and that your big plan to combat gun violence is more gun violence. You state that the law wants to help prevent mass killings on university campuses. I can think of multiple, more effective ways to prevent the unnecessary deaths of innocent students and college professors. The first would be tighter gun-control laws. The fact that there is a direct link between gun ownership and firearm homicide, as shown in a 2013 publication in the American Journal of Public Health, cannot be ignored. Arguing against this by bringing up your CDC research and the different types of gun related deaths completely misses the point of your own editorial. If we are going to defend SB11 as a method of preventing gun violence on campuses, what good does it do to point out that not all gun violence are mass shootings. All of these numbers you toss into your argument are still human lives that are being lost at alarming rates. Additionally, the data you provide does not even add up, as you claim that the CDC reports 33,878 deaths, but then proceed to provide the following data: 11,208 firearm related homicides, 21,175 suicides, and 505 accidents, which adds up to 10 higher than the initial CDC report. Provided that you cannot relay simple numbers into your own argument, it is difficult to trust any of the other data you claim is accurate throughout your opinion piece. Besides, at a certain point this discussion goes beyond universities; it becomes a discussion of morality and whether or not we want to decrease the amount of gun violence everywhere.

This brings me to my second method of preventing shootings on college campuses. Keeping track of students’ and professors’ mental health as frequently as physical health would not only help decrease risk factors, but maintain a healthier populace in general. As Professor Emeritus Daniel Hamermesh pointed out, professors of large classes cannot possibly keep track of the warning signs coming from any one of their students. If students will be allowed to have guns on campus, as SB11 allows, they should be required to have mental check-ups along with physical check-ups. You mention that it is unlikely that CHL holders are unlikely to be involved in criminal activities, however the UCLA Higher Education Research Institution found that college students’ mental health is at its lowest since 1985. Jeffrey Swanson, a medical sociologist and professor of psychiatry at Duke University, performed a study that proved there is a link between the mentally unstable and violence, but continues to encourage fair treatment and non-discrimination. Therefore, the CHL holders at college campuses are much more at risk than the CHL holders that you reference in your piece. Providing counseling for students would therefore be great way to prevent gun violence, as well as improve their quality of life as a whole.

It is essential for the progression of society that we are able to recognize flaws and correct them. It is unacceptable that any lives must be lost due to loose regulations on guns that when there are so many ways to prevent these deaths. Why hand out more guns in hopes that a random CHL holder will be able to kill an attacker in a dangerous situation. Why not prevent someone capable of committing mass murder from ever reaching that point. We should be creating sustainable solutions, starting with tighter gun control laws and improving each other’s mental health. Increasing the number of guns being carried around in order to prevent gun violence is hardly a solution, and would only work from case to case.  We can either fight fire with fire, or we can use water to put it out altogether.

Sincerely,

Lily Yepez

 

Crisp, John M. “Arms in Class Too Risky for One Prof.” Dallas Morning News [Dallas], 2 Oct. 2015. Dallas News, http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2015/10/12/john-m.-crisp-arms-in-class-too-risky-for-one-prof.

Kitzrow, Martha Anne. “The Mental Health Needs of Today’s College Students: Challenges and Recommendations.” NASPA, vol. 41, no. 1, 2 Dec. 2003, pp. 167-81. Ebsco Student Research Center, naspa.tandfonline.com/doi/citedby/10.2202/1949-6605.1310?scroll=top&needAccess=true. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Konnikova, Maria. “Is There a Link between Mental Health and Gun Violence?” The New Yorker, 19 Nov. 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/almost-link-mental-health-gun-violence. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Siegel, Michael, et al. “The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010.” AM J Public Health, Nov. 2013. National Center for Biotechnology Information, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3828709/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

Rhetorical Analysis of George Wallace’s Inaguaral Address

In his 1963 inaugural address, George Wallace appeals to his audience’s white supremacist values, uses his authority as governor and a christian, and uses logical statements to form a compelling argument that segregation is justified and should be continued. His speech does a great job getting his message across to his audience of religious, white Alabamians, of whom he is their new governor.

Wallace immediately ties his argument to the founding fathers, stating “This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers.” By saying that the founding fathers would agree that segregation is a good idea, he gives his argument authority. This makes it easier for his audience to agree with him as he can prove to them that his claims are justified and have been supported since the very start of the United States. Every time he uses religious reasoning, he is adding further authority to his argument because he is able to claim that God is on his side, and therefore his way is the only way. This works because his audience is made up of evangelical southern Christians, who will readily trust someone who believes in the same God as them. On page eleven, Wallace references multiple influential southerners, and by doing these he borrows their glory. He creates a connection between himself, and more importantly, his argument, and southerners that his audience looks up to. Near the very end of his speech, Wallace begins using personal pronouns that enforce his authority because he is speaking for himself as Governor. He states “I shall ‘Stand up for Alabama,’ as Governor of our State…” which does a good job of reminding his audience of the high position he holds over them, while still making him appear humble and “of” the people.

George Wallace’s use of “if, then” statements give his argument a logical flow that makes it easier for the audience to understand and support. On page nine he mentions that if they become more like communists, then they will lose the enrichment and freedom that they currently experience in their lives. By providing this clear connection between a common enemy and an unpleasant future, Wallace makes it easy for his audience to see the why segregation is the most beneficial for everyone. His biggest appeal to logic occurs on page ten, when he references their southern ancestors and how they reacted to hardships. More simply, he is stating that if their grandfathers didn’t need communism to triumph through the hardships of reconstruction, then communists today should be doing the same hard work that the south’s ancestors did. This works especially well to convince his audience because it also appeals to their southern pride; it is more than just a logical flow of thought. He also references numerical data on page ten, and by just saying “public FBI record” he makes his argument appear more factual than it actually may be. However minimal, his use of facts does its job to make his argument appear factually sound. His audience will be more easily convinced if they believe that there are facts supporting his opinions.

Wallace’s most effective strategies are his appeals to southern pride and white supremacist ideals. He knows his Alabamian audience very well, and uses their religion as a way to connect with them as well. When Wallace states “This is the basic heritage of my religion, of which I make full practice…for we are all the handiwork of God.” he is using their common values as Christians to not only justify his argument, but to appeal to the religious members of his audience who will greatly appreciate his references to God. He references the south’s struggle for reconstruction after the civil war in order to appeal to his audience’s southern pride. His description of their hard work is very timely as he is able to make a clear connection to the current question of communism and the different views on how to help those who are struggling. Southerners are very proud people and hearing Wallace talk about and share their heritage with them encourages a connection between the audience and the speaker. He does this again when quoting Rudyard Kipling, “‘There in the Southland… lives the greatest fighting breed of man… in all the world!’” This only enforces their boundless pride in themselves and their history, solidifying their belief that their views are the most righteous. They will be more convinced that segregation is justified when they are reminded by Wallace how the south has always been in the right. On page eleven he repeatedly uses the words “us” and “we” when discussing their duty as southerners. These terms unify his audience and even suggest the age-old ideal of the white man’s burden. He convinces his audience that it is their duty as citizens of Alabama to take control of the current political “crisis.” These references to current events make his audience feel important and empowered, such as when he says “..let us not fail in this…our most historical moment.” The more powerful Wallace can make his audience feel, the more willing they will be to take heed to his advice and make the changes they want to see.

George Wallace has created a very convincing pro-segregation, “equal, but separate,” argument using his authority, appealing to his audience’s emotions and common values, and making reasonable, logical statements. The state of Alabama surely responded positively to their new governor thanks to his compelling and motivating speech.

 

Influences on Judgement

Every day we constantly pass judgement and withhold judgement on the world and those within it, often subconsciously. The Great Gatsby, a fiction novel written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, focuses on what causes the nature of our judgements. Fitzgerald suggests in his work that our perception is very easily influenced and shaped by our environment. Almost every character in The Great Gatsby supports this claim, however Nick Carraway is the prime example of this, as he undergoes a change in judgement, escaping the influences of his high class relatives Tom and Daisy Buchanan and falling under the influence of Gatsby.

While everyone has their own opinions on what is moral and right, there are certain aspects of life in which there are clear lines. Adultery, for example, is considered a sin to many and frowned upon by others. However, depending on who has done the deed, we may judge them more harshly or leniently. When the reader learns of Tom’s mistress in chapter one, Nick’s narrative experiences no pause, there is no questioning the morality of Tom’s actions, “‘Tom’s got some woman in New York.’ ‘Got some woman?’ I repeated blankly.” Through this plain response of Nick’s, Fitzgerald shows how easily influenced we are by the ideals of the social classes we are raised in. Later in the book, Nick helps Gatsby and Daisy form an affair, never questioning the morals of his actions. “‘He wants to know,’ continued Jordan, ‘if you’ll invite Daisy to your house some afternoon and then let him come over.’” It is unclear why Nick would agree to this, perhaps he really believed there was nothing odd or amusing about both Tom and Daisy cheating on each other, however it is more likely it was the kind of world he grew up in that taught him this was ok. If the environment we are placed in shapes our character so greatly as it did Nick’s, we must ask ourselves how much of our personality is truly our’s rather than our surroundings that have rubbed off on us.

It is difficult to rank specific degrees of wrongdoing; yet, we judge others for committing sins more harshly than we judge ourselves because of our surroundings. Tom’s harsh opinion of Gatsby is greatly based on the assumption that he is new money, and therefore less entitled or powerful as Tom is. There is a complete lack of regard for whether or not this is a worse crime than Tom’s own decisions, as Tom’s high class and sense of superiority convince him that Gatsby’s money is worthy of judgement. “‘Who is this Gatsby anyhow?’ demanded Tom suddenly. ‘Some big bootlegger?’ ‘Where’d you hear that?’ I enquired. ‘I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.’” p.69. Tom is surrounded by people just like him—old money, as they like to call it—who cheat just like him, yet Gatsby’s form is cheating is worse simply because it is different. Through this judgement, Fitzgerald suggests that part of our judgement of others stems from how similar they are to us and our upbringing. On page 67, when the pretty lady invites Gatsby to supper out of politeness, Gatsby does not realize that they do not actually want him to come, nor do they respect him. “‘My God, I believe that man’s coming,’ said Tom. ‘Doesn’t he know she doesn’t want him?’” Tom’s statement shows just how superior they all felt towards Gatsby, and this is only because Gatsby is of a different world than them. This type of judgement is ever present in our lives, with certain people feeling entitled because of the color of their skin and other physical or material aspects of life.

Throughout the whole book, Nick is always withholding judgement on all of Tom and Daisy’s actions, while constantly judging Gatsby, until the end. His change of heart is thanks to his change in environment, specifically to Gatsby for pulling him out from the hazy old rich society. “I found myself on Gatsby’s side, and alone.” p.104. This sudden shift is also thanks to the fact that Tom and Daisy, the biggest influences on Nick second to Gatsby, skipped town and were no longer there to influence Nick so strongly. Nick not only chooses a side in his friendships, he experiences a complete shift in his view of the world; seeing it as dreary and hopeless, “… I began to have a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all.” p.105. This quote does an especially good job displaying how Gatsby has transformed Nick’s perspective to more cynical, as Nick describes “them all,” his friends and possibly everyone else, with such a hateful tone. Just like anyone, Nick cannot be free of the influences of his surroundings, but he can change his surroundings in order to change his view of the world and the people in it. Even though not all characters are able to escape their societal influences, such as Daisy who chooses Tom’s money over Gatsby’s love, Nick’s ability to do so proves just how influential the people around us can be on how we judge others.

Judgement is a constant throughout the Great Gatsby and life itself. Almost every interaction contains positive and/or negative judgements; rarely do we completely lack any opinion on a subject. Through The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald proves to his readers how little we can sincerely claim these judgements as our own. Every way we turn we will find an influencing factor: the internet, music, advertisements, friends. Similar to the characters of The Great Gatsby, we often pass judgement that is morally wrong and withhold judgement, saying nothing, when there is a better, more moral course of action. Now, if we want to be moral and good, which is not always so easily defined, the first step would be to ask ourselves what our perspective has been shaped by the next time we find ourselves judging something.

 

Analyzing Michelle Obama’s Political Rhetoric

In her speech campaigning for democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, Michelle Obama uses multiple effective strategies in order to convince the audience of her message: that as women, they must be ready to go to work in order to have a desirable outcome for the upcoming presidential election. This message is especially important to the topics of her speech, including Donald Trump’s treatment of women and the tape of Trump’s words released just days before her speech. Her use of contrasting diction, as well as her use of repetition, and parallel structure magnify the importance of the message she delivered this October 13th.

In the very beginning, she appeals to the audience with her word choice, warming them up to her, and she does this by saying “I am so thrilled to be here with you all,” and “this is like home to me.” She continues to follow a theme of contrasting diction throughout the rest of her speech. She starts by using negative words, such as “obscene,” “basic human decency,” and “violation” when describing Trump and his actions; imposing the feeling of anger towards Trump. By describing his actions with negative diction, she also creates unity between herself and her target audience: women, they are women facing degradation and abuse, together. However, her tone shifts on page 3, as this is when she starts describing Clinton, and everything she stands for. Mrs. Obama poses an uplifting tone, choosing words such as “heal wounds,” “meaningful,” and “successful” which promotes positivity throughout the audience. These two contrasting halves work to first unite the audience towards a common goal, enraging them with her negative diction; then directs their feelings towards something productive, she calls the audience to action, leaving them feeling positive and uplifted with her word choice.

Repetition drastically helped Mrs. Obama drive her points home. On page two, she repeats the words “we” and “we are” consistently. This brings the audience to feel a connection with her; they are grouped together in Michelle Obama’s “we,” they are united. Later, on page four, she repeats familial words and concepts, such as “our children,” “our kids,” “us parents,” and other phrases along those lines. This not only unites the audience as parents, it touches their emotions and their instinct to protect their children. So by mentioning kids, and what it means to be a parent, the first lady plants ideas in the minds of the parents in the audience: that protecting their children, their daughters, means voting for Hillary. Then again on the first page, she repeats phrases like “at the White House,” and “as First Lady” which provide the audience with a reminder of her authority, encouraging their respect and trust, willing them to accept her message and take action with little resistance.

Mrs. Obama’s use of parallel structure is another vital aspect of her argument. On the fourth page, the fifth paragraph consists of sentences that all start with the uniting third person plural: “We have knowledge. We have a voice. We have a vote… We as women, we as Americans, we as decent human beings can come together…” adds emphasis to the fact that the audience and the speaker are together as one. Despite Michelle Obama’s clear authority, she includes the audience which makes them feel important, which in turn makes them willing to do what she asks them to. On the last page, she structures the last paragraph with consecutive questions. This gets the audience’s attention, and the rhetorical nature of her questions encourages her audience to get up on their feet and do what she’s asking them to do.

The contrasting diction in her speech gives Mrs. Obama the power to guide her audience to agree to her requests without question, while also giving her authority. Her repetition of words and ideas strengthens her message, and also adds a lasting effect to the messages she wants them to remember. Lastly, with the use of parallel sentence structure, Michelle Obama is able to create powerful statements that flow in such a way that it draws the audience in. All of these aspects help Mrs. Obama put together an effective argument to convince her audience to take action, knock on doors, and do their best to make a difference in the election.

Citizen Vessels

 

I have created a visual representation of the vessels two types of American citizens carry with them, one is a white citizen’s and the other is a black citizens. Both contain 4-5 items within them, each representing something unique to that citizen. The intention of these comparisons is to encourage the realization that racism is still present, and incredibly harmful in the every day life of a black American citizen; because the first step in stopping it, is acknowledging that it is there at all.

The Black Vessel contains three unique items, and two that are used in comparison to the white vessel. The hanging black person represents the lynchings that plague black citizens’ past, it stands for the unjust treatment overlooked in the past and even today. The image of Trayvon Martin represents not only police brutality, but racism so ingrained into our society that leads to people still justifying his death.The image is in black and white because of the statement in Citizen “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” p.52, which is well represented with a picture of Trayvon Martin, as the feelings expressed in that passage from citizen are shared among many black citizens, presumably including him. The speech bubble was inspired by this passage in Citizen: “What did he just say? Did she really just say that? Did I hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my mouth, his mouth, your mouth?” p.9, because the passage describes the thoughts of disbelief after a racist encounter, which especially reminds me of the vulgar slur used to insult black citizens. The television, which can be compared to the white citizen’s television, has a frowning face on it because it represents the misrepresentation/lack of representation altogether of black citizens in the media. This created an invisibility for black citizens, as they are commonly portrayed with untrue stereotypes, and are rarely depicted accurately. Lastly, the wilted flower is used in comparison to the two vibrant flowers in the white citizen’s vessel. It represents the overall oppression of black American citizens, in the entirety of our country’s history. It should be noted that the vessel has a large volume, suggesting that if all these memories and events and symbols were converted into liquid, the vessel would be so full it would be nearly overflowing. The fullness of the vessel means it has a large impact on the black citizen, as they have to carry around this heavy vessel of sadness with them every day of their lives.

The White Vessel contains two unique items, and two that are used in comparison to the black vessel. The crown represents the power white citizens have, not only in politics but in every day life, such as the freedom to express themselves in ways black citizens cannot. This power is symbolized by a crown because it should remind us of the unquestioned authority of a monarchy, and how white citizens share this privilege. The dollar bills represent the unequally high respect and privilege white citizens have economically. There are minimal stereotypes that prevent them from getting jobs, and this type of situation is represented well by the following passage from Citizen,  “…he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.” p.10, which shows that it is not uncommon for a black citizen to be hired out of pity, or because of a need for more “diversity,” whereas a white citizen is considered qualified from the get-go. The television with a smile on it should be compared to the television of the black citizen’s vessel, as the white citizen has a much happier one. This is because white citizens are often represented as happy families, as successful professionals, etc. They have mostly accurate and very positive representation in the media, and they have role-models on television and in books; black citizens have much less of this. The two flowers represent not only the continuous growth and acceptance of white privilege, but also the abundance in comparison to the one, wilted flower in the black citizen’s vessel. The vessel is neither full nor empty; it is instead at a stable half way point, suggesting that the contents of the vessel maintain an equilibrium within themselves, being the perfect amount of events and memories and symbols for a white citizen to carry around with them every day.