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.
The first portion of this assignment is a three step process:
1.) Find your place. This should be one single setting at one particular time. Do not use multiple places. For instance, if you want to write about your house, do not describe your entire house. Choose one particular room, or one particular view. Also, do not use different times. If it’s morning in your positive paragraph, it can’t be evening in your negative paragraph. If it’s completely sunny in your positive paragraph, it can’t be raining in your negative paragraph.
2.) Make a sensory chart of your place, recording all of the sights, smells, sounds, sensations, and even tastes (if applicable). Use your five senses to collect data, and be as specific as possible.
3.) Use the data you have recorded to craft your two descriptions, incorporating the Writer’s Toolbox to shape each of your paragraphs and thus the impression of the place. Remember that in the first paragraph your place should seem positive, while in the second paragraph, your place should seem negative.
The second portion of this assignment is the rhetorical analysis. In the rhetorical analysis, you will explain how you used the five features to make the same exact place seem so very positive in one paragraph and yet so negative in the second paragraph.
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 can’t find two examples of the other features in each of your descriptions, you’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. “I used a great deal of word choice in each of my two descriptions.” Then you’ll want to follow that claim with examples. “For instance, in my positive paragraph, I described the sun as “gleaming,” which implies that the light was pleasantly bright. However, in my negative paragraph, I described the sun as “glaring,” implying that the light was too bright, and in fact painful to look at.”
The last portion of this assignment is simple. Reflect on what you’ve done. Why does any of this matter? How do these tools relate to other writing you’ve done, other writing you’ve read, etc.? How does (or how will) any of this apply to you?
The following is a student example of the first portion of this assignment:
“Nature’s Symphony at Pillsbury Crossing”
Nature’s beauty surrounds me. On a calm, mostly sunny day, the leaves flutter 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.
Delicate water birds chitter and trill, voicing their opinions and contributing to the symphony of nature. Two children play at the water’s edge. Their shoes are off, and they dip their toes in the creek’s relieving temperature with delight. Meanwhile, I bathe in the sun like a flower in the springtime, absorbing all the comforting sun’s rays, while the gentle puffs of a relieving breeze soothe my skin and the back of my neck. I sip some iced tea to quench my thirst and sigh. What a perfect afternoon.
“Grim Times at Pillsbury Crossing”
Death has had her way here. On a partly cloudy day at the end of the tropical summer, the leaves look withered and dry, parched by days of scorching sun. A blast of wind brings some of the foliage to its final resting place on the cracked ground. A waterfall sits not far from this leaf cemetery, clogged by clumps of mossy overgrowth and mud. Though this should be a place of relaxation, the noisiness of nature overwhelms me: water crashing violently again rocks, water fowl quacking and flapping in confrontation, bugs buzzing, and worst of all the screaming of a couple of unruly kids. Though the signs clearly warn “stay off the rocks,” these two juvenile delinquents have left their shoes like litter on the shore and seem to be shoving each other in a game of chicken on the slick boulders. Loser gets a trip to the E.R. Attempting to ignore them, I take a swig of my iced tea and sigh in disappointment. It’s warm. Though I’ve been trying my best to attain solace here, all I’ve found is annoyance, three mosquito bites, and a reddening sunburn.
Here’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 an amazing natural environment, but it can also be less than relaxing at times.
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 “Nature’s beauty surrounds me,” emphasizing the beauty on can find in a place such as this. In contrast, for my negative impression, I wrote “Death has had her way here.” 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 sun’s rays and how they are “warm” and “comforting.” These words make the sun’s rays seem pleasant and positive. However, in the negative description, the sun’s rays were “scorching.” This description emphasizes the fact that the sun’s rays can be harmful and dangerous. I also describe the leaves in both paragraphs. While the leaves were colorful, reflecting “green, yellow, and brown hues” in my positive description, they were “withering” and falling to the ground to create a leaf “cemetery” 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 sound of bugs buzzing and the fact that I had mosquito bites by the end of my observation. I did not include the bugs in my pleasant paragraph because it did not fit with the positive tone. In the unpleasant impression, I left out how the breeze cooled my skin. By simply describing the wind’s ill-effects on the leaves and omitting its comforting sensation, the wind seems 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 “the leaves flutter as if they were applauding the breath of the land.” I wanted to make Mother Nature have a personality. By using similes like “symphony of nature,” it gives Mother Nature a graceful, caring attitude, which makes the description seem more pleasant. In the negative paragraph, I describe the fallen foliage as a “leaf cemetery.” This makes Mother Nature seem like a wrathful, murderous force.
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. “Nature’s beauty surrounds me” contrasts sharply with “Death has had her way here.” In most of the rest of the descriptions, I used longer sentences, which allowed me to truly show the reader my place. For instance, in the sentence “Delicate water birds chitter and trill, voicing their opinions and contributing to the symphony of nature,” I stated the object being described, described it, and tried to elaborate as much as possible.
Here’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 reader’s perceptions. For example, I’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 year’s pace, so he wasn’t technically “losing” the home-run race.
Presentation of facts and phrasing of observations can be vital to crafting a good story that grabs the reader’s attention; it can
also sway the reader’s opinions in many ways.
Second, I strongly recommend you get some feedback on your complete draft.
In this unit, you will want to revise your own work to the best possible quality. I strongly recommend that in addition to reviewing your work yourself, you find yourself an outside reader—someone who will read your work and offer you suggestions for revisions.
You have two options in choosing an outside reader:
* You can find someone on your own to read your work (ie. your spouse, one of your kids, a friend, a neighbor).
* You can sign up for the Peer Review Option by emailing me. (I’ll set up an email list, so that you and 2-3 of your classmates can email each other your drafts and get feedback.)
Here are some questions you’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 Writer’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?
What is the Writer’s Toolbox?
The Writer’s Toolbox simply refers to five rhetorical tools that writers can use to convey their meaning: direct statement of meaning, selection/omission of details, figurative language, show vs tell, and word choice.
1.) A direct statement of meaning is a very direct statement that conveys your overall attitude about the place to the reader. For instance: “This is paradise.” “What a pit.” “I wish I could stay here forever.” “Why did I come to this dump to begin with?” You will want to limit these to one sentence per paragraph, and you will probably want to use your overt statement of meaning either at the beginning or end of your paragraph, to emphasize your positive or negative impression.
2.) Selection/omission of details is one of the tools used in the Royals example included in the introduction to this unit. What we choose to leave out or put into a description of a place can have a profound impact on a reader’s impression of that place. For instance, we might choose to leave a mildewed, overflowing dumpster out of our positive description, but include it in our negative description. On the other hand, we might choose to put a playful, baby bunny into our positive description, but leave it out of our negative paragraph.
3.) Show vs tell is the difference between describing in detail and summarizing. When we show readers something, we allow them to really see, hear, feel, smell, even taste the things that we are describing. We give them enough details to paint a sensory picture of the place. When wetell readers something, we state it directly, summarizing the situation and leaving out details. The following is a show sentence: “Clouds pile upon clouds, the sky an ever-darker gray, vague rumbles of thunder building in the distance.” If we wanted to tell readers the same thing, we might simply say “A storm is coming.” In most of your written communication, and in this assignment in particular, you will want to do a great deal of showing and very little telling. In your two descriptions, for instance, you will probably want to limit yourself to one tell sentence per paragraph. (And, in fact, your one tell sentence may be the same as your overt statement of meaning sentence.) Rather than simply telling us about your place, you will need to show us.
4.) Word choice can be used to describe the exact same thing in two very different ways. For instance, if you live in a small house, you might describe it as “cozy” implying that the place is comfortable and pleasant. In contrast, you might describe it as “cramped” implying that the place is too small, and therefore uncomfortable and unpleasant. Here’s another example: On a sunny summer day, you might describe the sun as “gleaming” or you might describe it as “glaring.” Both describe the same thing—the light emitting from the sun. But “gleaming” seems much more positive than “glaring,” doesn’t it? This tool will especially come in handy when you are describing details that seem neutral—not inherently positive or inherently negative.
5.) Figurative language includes similes, metaphors, repetition of sounds, and personification. Similes and metaphors can be used to make a comparison between two unlike things to emphasize some quality of one of those things. “Betty was as big as a house” is a simile, using like or as to make a comparison between Betty and a house and thus the enormity of Betty. “Betty was a house” conveys the same idea, but this is a metaphor, as the sentence does not use like or as. We all understand that Betty is not literally a house, but we also get an impression of how big she seems to the speaker. Repetition of sounds can be used (in moderation) to emphasize a tone of either peace or discord. Softer sounds like “s” and “b” tend to imply peacefulness. Think of “the soft song of a swallow” or a “babbling brook.” Harder sounds like “c” and “r” tend to imply discord. Think of “cars cluttering” a parking lot, or “raucous rebels raging” against society, spraying graffiti on those same cars. Personificationcan be used to give human qualities to something that is not human. Think of a “proud, sturdy oak, stretching his arms to the sky.” Trees aren’t proud, they don’t stretch, and they don’t have arms. But personification can be used to emphasize their majesty.
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